We watched the first episodes of The 100 season 4, and are ready to brace you for the end of the world. First step: Play Fallout: Shelter. (No? Just me?)

The 100 season 4 is only a few weeks away, but it’s felt like we’ve had to wait 97 years since the season 3 finale. We’ve spent most of that time speculating about the fates of our heroes on the Ground, who seem beyond salvation after the revelation that they have a mere six months until the Earth becomes uninhabitable.

Once the first episode of The 100 season 4 rolls across your screen, however, it’ll feel like no time has passed at all.

Warning: This season 4 preview contains mild spoilers! It is mainly focused on the first episode, but contains my overall feelings and impressions about the three episodes I’ve seen. But if you want to remain completely spoiler-free, stop reading now.

As was revealed at SDCC, the premiere episode of season 4, titled “Echoes,” picks up right where we left off in the season 3 finale. And what a relief that is. As much as I loved the time jump that kicked off season 3, there is precious little time to waste this year, and there is a lot of emotional fallout from the finale that it would be a shame to gloss over.

Related: Listen along as Hypable’s Hype Podcast watches The 100 season 1 for the very first time

Clarke and her friends may have defeated ALIE, but there’s no undoing all of the horrors that occurred while she was in control. The tentative alliance between Skaikru and the Grounder coalition becomes an immediate point of contention, with Echo blaming Skaikru for ALIE’s sins, and trying to convince Roan to kill Clarke to take her Wanheda power for himself.

But while peace with the Grounders hangs in the balance, other alliances are stronger than ever. After watching the season 3 finale, I honestly wasn’t sure what I thought about the idea of setting an expiration date on the world, but now I’m convinced it was a necessary extreme. It’s really going to put things in perspective for our heroes, grinding them down to the core of their beings and forcing them to make impossible choices that will reveal new sides of their personalities.

As the season goes on, I expect we’ll see even the most stalwart characters begin to break under the pressure that ALIE’s threat has put them under. It is under these circumstances that alliances can shift and friendships can be ruined — but, significantly, not all relationships will fracture. Some will, to borrow Clarke’s own expression, thrive.

The 100 season 4 Clarke Bellamy

As we enter season 4, Bellamy and Clarke are emerging from the tower of Polis side by side, already getting ready to wage a war against time, and debating their first of many big decisions: Do they publicize ALIE’s message of doom, or keep it to themselves to prevent a panic?

After years of will-they-won’t-they (be united in leadership), Bellamy and Clarke finally reached an important equilibrium in the latter half of season 3, recognizing that they truly are stronger together than apart, and working with their core group of trusted friends to bring down ALIE.

And this promise of “together” carries over to season 4 in a big way, a point of calm in the oncoming storm. As long as Bellamy and Clarke are on the same team, surely things can’t be that bad, right? Hopefully, the pair will be able to lean on each other for support in the rough months that lie ahead.

While Clarke is buckling under the weight of the world, Bellamy is still struggling with the guilt he feels about his involvement with the Grounder army massacre in season 3. Whether or not fans think he needs it, he is certainly craving redemption, and Bellamy’s ever-present uncertainty about whether he even deserves to survive at all is made explicit not just by himself, but by a number of characters around him. Clearly, people care about Bellamy, and it’s nice to have that vocalized.

The 100 season 4 Kabby

Another character who continues to fight for the redemption he feels like he needs is Marcus Kane who, despite the events of the season 3 finale, is still passionate about uniting the Grounders and Skaikru.

But it’s not all business: Abby and Kane take not one, but two important steps forward in season 4, even as their separate duties weigh heavy on them. Kabby fans will not be disappointed!

Kane also shares some scenes with his could-have-been daughter Octavia, whose newfound ‘assassin’ status grants her a new nickname, “Skai Rippah” — which, let’s face it, is a big step up from “Grounder Pounder.”

And this isn’t necessarily as negative of a development for her as we might have assumed; Octavia has risen from the ashes, as it were, with a newfound sense of purpose and belonging, which in a lot of ways is all she’s ever wanted. Knowing Octavia, however, it’s safe to say that things are never that simple. After all, as the season 4 trailer establishes, Octavia has a hard time distinguishing between justice and vengeance, and her anger and heartbreak are in no way diminished.

The 100 season 4 jaha

And speaking of rising from the ashes: It seems that for every new season comes a new raison d’être for our esteemed ex-Chancellor Thelonious Jaha, but this time, it might actually be a welcome change for the show’s most ambiguous antihero.

I have personally always enjoyed the character of Jaha, and find myself happier than ever that the writers have kept him around for this long. Having emerged from ALIE’s fog and seeing firsthand what he helped her do has left him more clear-minded and potentially helpful than he’s been since landing on the Ground, and his scenes are among those I enjoyed the most in this first batch of episodes.

In the first part of season 4, it also becomes obvious that Clarke and Jaha may have more in common than Clarke might want to admit to herself. They are both leaders, after all, in a time when their people are facing certain doom.

But Clarke has something Jaha didn’t: She has Bellamy, whose devotion to her is affirmed several times in the beginning of season 4. In fact, the first three episodes are practically book-ended by moments between the two of them that fans will love, if for no other reason than because it cements how much the co-leaders have come to need and trust each other.

The 100 season 4 Raven

Elsewhere, Raven continues to be ice and fire, taking on newfound responsibility as the first potential solution to humanity’s imminent problem presents itself.

She’s struggling under the weight of the decisions that have to be made, and shows new sides of herself as she begins to understand just how tough it must have been for Clarke and the others to make the decisions they’ve had to make since landing on the Ground. Taking the moral high ground is easy when you aren’t the one whose morality is on the line, after all, as Raven soon comes to realize.

As for the rest of the characters? Well, I think it’s safe to say that this is the season when everyone will be tested. The world is coming to an end, and this knowledge will scrape every character down to the essence of her or his being. If you want to get an idea of what is to come, ask yourself what each character would do with the knowledge that, as ALIE warns, “death is inevitable.” Would they give up? Would they keep fighting? Would they make selfish choices, or continue trying to save everyone until the very end? At what point would they break? When would you break, if put in any of these characters’ shoes?

The 100 has always invited its viewers to ponder big moral dilemmas, but it feels like season 4 will truly be the season of choices — and there is rarely an easily identifiable ‘right’ answer to any given problem. Three episodes in, I’ve already found myself morally conflicted several times about what I would do in similar, impossible situations. I expect this will only get more intense as the season goes on, especially considering a potentially course-altering reveal early on in the season.

‘The 100’ season 4: Will it be better than season 3?

Look. I really liked season 3. Barring the deaths of Lexa and Lincoln, which were unequivocally awful, season 3 was the most action-packed, ambitious, high-concept season of the show to date. Was that a good thing? Not always. But sometimes it was extraordinary.

Season 4 kicks off with an initial boost of adrenaline, but from there seems to set a slower pace than the dizzying first half of season 3, and I actually think that’s great. There’s an action-reaction rhythm to the first few episodes that likely won’t last as external factors become more pressing, but at least for now, it gives us a chance to breathe and settle into the characters’ new reality. This feels desperately necessary: The characters (and in many ways the fandom) are exhausted, and if there hadn’t been an underlying sense of wary fatigue even as our heroes soldiered on, it would have felt disingenuous.

Clarke, in particular, seems overwhelmed, wrought with grief and emotionally spent, though of course she still meets this insurmountable new challenge head-on — she wouldn’t be Clarke if she didn’t. Raven is frustrated; Bellamy is guilty; Murphy is afraid; many of the other characters are aimless or simply unsure of what to do or how to act. None of their hurts have been washed away by the season 3 finale (despite the infamous shower scene y’all keep talking about), and there is no Jeep joyride to start the season off on a high this year.

But I like that. I like the feeling of pressing doom and frustration, and how committed the show is to the grimness of it all. And it is in the cracks of this doom that the best moments of levity and hopefulness can shine through.

A lot has been written — notably this brilliant article — about how The 100 season 4 will be very important television over the coming months, as the characters’ personal and political squabbles lose all meaning in the face of the very Earth turning against them.

In the real world, we just hear vague reports about the ice melting and the bees dying; in The 100, there’s no turning off the TV and ignoring the experts, because it’s all happening now, all around these characters we love. And it’s terrifying, as it should be. The characters, however clever and formidable, are insignificant in this context, helpless to stop what’s coming. All they have is each other, and that’s beautiful, but God knows it won’t be enough.

Even though the story picks up straight after season 3 and continues a lot of the same emotional trajectories, The 100 is reinventing itself and redefining its premise in more ways than one this year, and while it’s hard to make overall predictions based on knowing only a fraction of the story (as usual, the show slices through plot like butter), I think it will all be for the better.

The first three episodes of The 100 season 4 do feel in some ways transitional, as we navigate the new alliances and characters and introduce Roan and the Ice Nation as featured players. But the foundation is there for what could be the most somber, relevant season of the show to date. Those who cheered seeing the core characters come together in season 3b will love the beginning of season 4.

10 teasing tidbits from ‘The 100’ season 4

The 100 season 4 Echo

I’ll leave you with 10 additional snippets of information that should, hopefully, give you food for thought until the season 4 premiere. Presented without comment or context:

  1. In season 4, The 100 finally gives us a glimpse at what’s happening in the rest of the world. Lesson learned: Be careful what you wish for.
  2. The two new Grounders we spied in the season 4 trailer, Ilian (Chai Romruen) and Tati Gabrielle’s character, whose name I won’t mention, are brilliant additions to the show. I expect they’ll both become fan favorites.
  3. In the aptly-titled first episode, “Echoes,” Bellamy and Echo clash in quite a spectacular fashion, and they very specifically call back to a certain season 3 moment that, by all rights, should ruin any chance of a peaceful resolution between them. But who knows? The enemy of my enemy, and all that; certainly, Echo and Skaikru have a shared interest in getting Roan on the throne, even if they strongly disagree on how he’ll get there.
  4. If you’ve been paying attention to the development of the secondary and tertiary characters, you will be rewarded: Several things only hinted at in season 3 are poised to become very important emotional plot points in season 4.
  5. We’ve heard stories of Ice Nation’s brutality, but it’s quite another thing to see it on screen.
  6. Monty and Indra are probably my favorite characters so far this season, for very different reasons.
  7. Clarke gets an unexpected blast from the past.
  8. On the shipping front, sparks are definitely flying between one set of would-be enemies, and probably not the one you’re thinking of.
  9. Harper is such a badass. She was always a badass, but in this season she reaches a whole new level of badassery.
  10. “Who are the 100” is a question I’m currently asking myself.

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

Want more The 100 content? Check out our podcast interviews with book author Kass Morgan and Trigedasleng language creator David J. Peterson!

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