8:30 am EDT, January 27, 2017

‘The 100’ showrunner teases ‘dark, relentless, but surprisingly hopeful’ season 4 (exclusive)

Should the fans also be 'hopeful' about a season 5 renewal?

The 100 season 4 sees Clarke, Bellamy and the gang face their biggest foe yet: Earth itself. How will they get out of that one?! Find out what Jason Rothenberg can tease about season 4 and beyond.

Season 4 is so close now, I can taste it. It tastes like ash, because the Ground is burning — and so are all my questions! Luckily, I was able to pose just a few of them to showrunner Jason Rothenberg, and here’s hoping his answers will help tide the fandom over until the premiere episode on Wednesday, February 1 at 9/8c on The CW.

Want to learn more about what happens in The 100 season 4, episode 1? Make sure to check out our spoiler-light preview! You can also listen along as Hypable’s Hype Podcast watches each season of The 100 leading up to the season 4 premiere, starting with our season 1 and season 2 discussions.

‘The 100’ showrunner Jason Rothenberg previews season 4

Hypable: One of the absolute high points of season 3, for me, was seeing the delinquents all coming back together near the end. But clearly they’ll be splitting up again in season 4, and in the first few episodes we’re already seeing the beginnings of what could be a big ideological divide for the group, based on whether they’re willing to do whatever it takes to save as many people as possible, or if they’ll be more focused on saving individual lives one day at a time. Can you talk a little bit about how that divide will affect the main relationships?

Jason Rothenberg: Well, first of all, nobody can ever really agree on much for very long, because that would be boring (laughs). But there is for sure going to be an ideological divide along those lines: What’s the right thing to do in a situation where you’re faced with a threat that’s essentially gonna destroy the world and end everybody’s lives? Do we save ourselves, do we save our people? Or do we try to come up with an answer to save everybody?

I think both points of view are valid, and to me, The 100 is at its best when it’s asking questions that there really is no good answer to. [In season 4, episode 2], Bellamy has to make a choice between saving who he can save today and sacrificing [redacted] to save his people — and how do you argue against either of those positions? That’s what’s interesting to me. And we’ve obviously done that time and time again throughout the show.

And then there’s Clarke’s position this season: She’s sort of transcended her tribalism; she’s risen above just being Skaikru. In large part this is thanks to her relationship with Lexa and what Lexa taught her about life in the world. Clarke now views everybody as one people and is looking for a way to save everybody. And that’s gonna be problematic for the people who are still sort of dug into their sides. That’s where some of the interesting conflict and drama comes from this season, for sure.

The 100 season 4 Roan Indra

Could you tell me which characters’ storylines you’re most looking forward to seeing fans react to in season 4? And is there anyone whose arc might be particularly surprising?

In terms of surprises, I think Octavia’s journey this season is awesome — I mean, her journey’s been awesome since day one — but this season, in particular, it’s really great. Echo is a character that has been surprising to me personally, and Roan is another one.

Clarke, as always, is the center of it all, her journey this season and Eliza [Taylor]’s performance is stunning. And Bellamy… (laughs) I really don’t have favorites, it’s really hard for me, because I love them. I love them all so much. Even the ones that are dead! To me, death is not the end of a character. It’s not like, ‘Oh my god, I’m killing them because I hate them.’ To me, death is part of the fabric of the show.

Leading off of that, it’s no secret that season 3 was a rough year for the show and for you as showrunner. Could you tell me a bit about how that, as a learning experience, has impacted your approach to season 4 and the choices you’ve made?

The thing I will say, as far as what I learned from last season, is just that the way I see things and the way I see the show isn’t always the way that the fans see the show. I look at a character or relationship ending tragically as a good thing dramatically. To me, the greatest love stories of all time are tragedies. But not everybody looks at it that way. Other people want happy endings. But this is not a show for happy endings-people. It’s not a happy endings-show. So that’s something I learned for sure.

But, you know, the show inspires passion, and it’s really been an honor and a pleasure to be involved with something that people get so emotional about. And sometimes that emotion is hard, sometimes that emotion is negative towards me personally, but I can handle it. I think it’s exciting to be a part of something like that.

The 100 season 4 Clarke

Going into season 4, have the fan responses affected how you approach certain storylines, or are you sort of gonna go balls to the wall and tell the story you wanna tell?

Balls to the wall, for sure. We’re not going to change the way we tell the story. You know, this is a world where characters die, this is a world that’s about survival, it’s not just about relationships. But there are relationships, of course; people love each other and that’s a big part of the story.

And I will say that that I think there’s a more hopeful feeling to this season overall, despite this horrible thing they’re facing. You know, they say there are no atheists in foxholes. You find out what you believe and who you are when you stare down the barrel of a gun, and they’ve got one coming at them pretty quickly. So this season is dark and relentless, certainly, but it’s also surprisingly hopeful. And that’s different from last season, which was just relentless (laughs).

It’s obviously too soon to say since the season hasn’t even premiered yet, but based on your conversations with the network and just your overall sense of it, how would you rate The 100‘s chances of being renewed for season 5?

Well, of course those conversations are way above my pay grade, but I do feel like… Let’s just say I’m incredibly bullish about a season 5. The season you’re about to see ends in a way that keys up the next season in a big way. And I know that everybody at the network loves those stories and the potential for what season 5 will be. So I think the fans can… I think they should be hopeful, I think they should be optimistic.

Also, the show has done incredibly well around the world. Last season’s viewing pattern was identical to the season before, we start high and we end a little bit lower. And Netflix, +3, +7, all of those indicators are really, really strong. So I feel great about it. I’m hearing nothing but good things.

The 100 season 4 Bellamy

One of the key components of the show has always been the partnership and juxtaposition of Clarke and Bellamy, them representing different viewpoints and philosophies, and then usually needing to come together at the end of each season to solve the big problem. Can you give me an indication of how much we’ll see them working together in season 4?

Yeah. They’re together a lot this season. I think the show is at its best when Clarke and Bellamy are together, and when they’re fighting for the same thing. They don’t always agree — and they certainly don’t always agree on tactics — but a large part of the season’s journey, for all of the characters but for those two in particular, is to learn from each other.

You’ve said before that Bellamy is the ‘heart’ and Clarke is the ‘brain’ of the relationship. Will that balance shift in season 4?

Bellamy is still mostly heart. He doesn’t think enough when he reacts, and he needs to begin to do that so he can become a fully realized leader in his own right. That’s kind of his journey this season. But I think it’s unfair to Clarke to say that she doesn’t use her heart, cause I think Clarke is pretty much… well, awesome, in general. She’s obviously smart as hell, but she’s also very compassionate.

So it’s more about Bellamy’s progression, and about him trying to overcome some of the bad decisions that he’s maybe made in the past. As for Clarke, it’s going to be about her learning to rely on her friends and realizing that perhaps she can’t do it all by herself. That’s something we’ll see from her this season.

I’m re-watching season 3 right now, and I just got to the part where Pike becomes Chancellor. At the time, it seemed like a cautionary tale, but in light of the election and everything that’s happening in the real world, it suddenly feels a little too real. And now you’re facing an environmental catastrophe, which is also very real! So how do you, as a storyteller, try to reflect what’s happening in the real world and use the show as a vehicle for exploring some of the situations we’re facing right now?

Yeah, with the rise of Pike we for sure did not anticipate where we are today, politically, in this country. But, what we did sort of realize as storytellers is that, historically, in the wake of tragedies a lot of times people turn to the wrong leaders, or we go to war with the wrong countries. We make stupid decisions sometimes, based on our reaction to tragedies, like what happened at Mount Weather in the show. So that come from a historical perspective for sure. And yeah, we’re living through something similar to that now, I hate to say it.

And environmentally, I mean, the most important thing we have is this planet, the air that we’re breathing. And I think that’s gonna become a starker and starker reality if we don’t do something soon, if it’s not too late. Hopefully we as a world will be able to link arms and realize that we’re all in this together. The environment doesn’t respect a border. And on some level that’s what this season is [about], that’s what the characters are facing: Can we rise above our station, can we rise above our tribe and do what’s right for everybody before it’s too late?

The 100‘ season 4 premieres Wednesday, February 1 at 9/8c on The CW

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