The 100 season 5 premiere episode, “Eden,” premieres April 24 on The CW. We’ve seen the first four episodes, and can tease what lies ahead!
“There is no way to prepare for The 100 season 5.”
Sachin Sahel, who plays Jackson, told me this in a recent interview. Similarly, on Twitter, showrunner Jason Rothenberg regularly tells fans that we are “not ready” for what is about to happen.
Does all that sound very promising? Absolutely. Was I somehow still a little bit skeptical? Yes. After all, haven’t they been training us for four seasons to be prepared for anything and everything? Haven’t we fought those battles already? Haven’t we proven our readiness?!
What I’m trying to say is that I am very stubborn, and fully believed I was indeed ready for The 100 season 5. I was… what is the word? Wrong? (Shocking, I know.)
The 100 has always pushed its own limits and challenged its audience to trust and follow it to new and thought-provoking places. And I have usually been willing to follow it when it ventures past the possible and into the impossible. Whatever the specific story developments, I always take a lot of joy in watching the writing and story crafting process unfold on screen.
The season 4 finale, “Praimfaya,” took a greater leap of faith than the show has ever taken before, ending the world for a second time and propelling the audience six years into the future, picking up with lead character Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) as the only ‘Grounder’ left on the planet’s surface, her friends exiled either in space or in an underground bunker.
The season ended with the arrival of the newest group of survivors: prisoners that were sent to a mining colony more than 100 years ago, and have only just now found their way back to Earth.
The ‘6 years later’ reveal was shocking. It was exciting. It was a little nerve-wracking. The 100 had just written a massive blank check — would season 5 be able to cash it? (After all, there are plenty of shows that use the time jump plot device as a stand-in for actual progress and development!)
The short answer is yes.
The slightly longer answer can be found below. Whether you are a fan of the show curious about what lies ahead, or a not (yet) a fan, but wondering if it’s worth giving The 100 season 5 a chance, read on…
This article contains very minor spoilers for the first four episodes of The 100 season 5.
6 years was, indeed, a long time
The first four episodes of the season went out to press last month, and I’ve been trying to wrap my head around them ever since. There is a lot to digest — I’m on my third viewing, and still picking up on new details. (I flat-out refuse to believe that “Eden” is only 42 minutes long. There is something timey-wimey going on here.)
The cast and crew have been emphasizing the fact that season 5 feels like ‘a new show,’ and I would say the viewing experience reflects this, to a point. There is a fresh energy and sense of excitement and possibility in season 5 that marks a welcome change from the increasing bleakness of one overwhelming, devastating catastrophe after another.
But I wouldn’t say the show feels fundamentally different because of this. For all its faults, The 100 has always been raw, fearless, ambitious and full of heart, and it is still all of those things in season 5. And overwhelming catastrophes will certainly continue to rain down on our heroes, just the way we like it.
The only significant way in which I would say the show has truly changed this year is that it has matured alongside its characters. This is a version of The 100 that knows exactly what story it’s telling, and who its characters are: what they want, need, fear, and stand for.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, this is no longer a show that is finding its footing or ironing out the kinks. The story, the emotion, the complexity, the intensity, it all works, right from the get-go and through all four episodes. This is a version of The 100 that lives up to the full potential of its ambitious premise, with complete confidence in the story it’s telling.
Where season 4 was in some ways reactionary to season 3, and in other ways building towards Praimfaya (aka. the conclusion of the first chapter of this story), season 5 wipes the slate clean and re-draws everything with brighter colors. And it seems like the writers have made really smart choices in terms of what parts of the show’s ‘baggage’ to hang on to and what to let go of.
This metaphorical spring cleaning allows for a newfound crisp narrative clarity that The 100 arguably hasn’t had since season 2. And I suspect that a lot of that is because of that six-year time jump — but not for the reasons you might think.
Yes, the time jump reinvigorates the narrative formula and shakes up the character dynamics. Yes, it was a great WTF moment in the season 4 finale. Yes, it allows the actors to play characters closer to their actual ages.
But why I think the time jump actually works so well as a narrative device for this particular story is not because it changes or resets the show. In fact, quite the opposite.
In my opinion, the writers have successfully used the time jump to re-center the story on these characters, their emotions, and their relationships to each other. Exciting plot developments and the promise of epic reunion scenes aside, the beginning of season 5 is all about what these characters have become, why they have become it, and what they have become to each other. And, as we move along, we will find out what they still have the potential to be.
‘The 100’ is dead, long live ‘The 100’
The 100 has always been about the construction and transformation of subjective realities, its societal norms and understanding of history in a constant state of flux. But the six-year time jump adds a whole new dimension to this, as the characters begin to mythologize each other and their own recent history.
One particularly impressive thing about season 5 is how various forms of storytelling are incorporated into the narrative to illustrate how old ‘truths’ are perpetuated — and how new truths are forged into being.
I suspect that identity, sense of self and hero worship are going to be major themes of The 100 season 5, as we find out how the legends that these characters have essentially become to each other over the past six years stack up against their real-life counterparts once they are reunited.
Along with trying to figure out what unity means to them, as teased by Tati Gabrielle at Unity Days 2018, a main question we will see the characters grapple with is what they owe to each other — and, indeed, what they are to each other.
Who is Clarke to Bellamy now, after six years of him making decisions in honor of her memory? (Clarke didn’t die for you to think she was dead when she wasn’t really dead, Bellamy!) Who is Bellamy to Clarke, after six years of waiting for him to come home?
Who are Harper and Monty to each other, after six years of sharing a confined space? How about Murphy and Emori? Murphy and Bellamy? Echo and Raven? Harper and Emori? Jaha and Octavia? Miller and Jackson? Abby and Kane? Who is Clarke to Abby now that Clarke is ‘all grown up’ with a child of her own? Who is Bellamy to Octavia now, after six years of… well, you get the idea.
These are the questions The 100 season 5 will be asking. These are the questions the audience will be invited to ponder. The shared history of these characters will not be forgotten. In fact, more than ever before, The 100 season 5 is leaning into core relationship dynamics in ways the audience has always wanted, but without compromising on its own vision or story trajectory.
I haven’t yet talked to a single person who has seen these episodes and not been impressed. I expect the fandom will feel the same way. Lauren Sarner from The New York Post observed on Twitter that every one of these episodes feel like “Praimfaya,” the undisputed best episode of season 4, and I think that is an absolutely on point observation.
Each episode — perhaps especially the formidable and emotionally overwhelming second episode “Red Queen” — somehow manages to deliver every beat, both predictable and not, in ways I just did not see coming.
Throughout the first four episodes of season 5, there is a constant emotional intensity that never lets up. It is relentless, but not for the sake of relentlessness. Everything is driven by how much these characters care about each other, and how desperately they want to help the people they love.
So far, season 5 appears to have struck that elusive balance between heart, humor, drama and genuine terror that The 100 has always striven for. I would not be surprised if The 100 season 5 turns out to be the best, most acclaimed season yet — and the one that finally puts this show on the map of top sci-fi series where it belongs.
I will of course reserve judgement until we’ve seen the whole thing; season 5 has fierce competition, and particularly season 2 will be a hard one to beat. But I can say without reservation that these first four episodes are my favorite first four episodes of any season so far.
The storytelling across the board is tight and economical. There are no filler plotlines. There are no lulls. There are, to put it bluntly, no Rileys in The 100 season 5.
Previewing the season 5 premiere ‘Eden’
“HOPE — In the fifth season premiere, Clarke (Eliza Taylor) struggles to survive on a desolate, scorched earth while her friends in space come across a long-awaited beacon of hope.”
As the first 15 minutes of The 100 season 5 aired at WonderCon in March, it is public knowledge that the season 5 premiere starts out with Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), alone on screen, for a solid chunk of time.
The 100 is always looking for new ways to push its own limits, but this season opener really shows an immense amount of confidence in the fact that female (!) lead character Clarke Griffin, on her own — no friends, no people, no goal but survival — is enough to hook the audience on season 5.
Of course it should come as no surprise to dedicated fans that The 100, and Clarke, is more than capable of living up to such a challenge. This is peak Clarke Griffin — “They dropped us on the wrong damn mountain”-Clarke, snapping the heel off in Mount Weather-Clarke, trapping a panther and killing it with a tiny knife-Clarke. And she is all this story needs.
“Eden” is not just a great season opener, but a great standalone episode. The cinematography is incredible. The emotional weight is immense. There is one particular scene early on that should, in a perfect world, get Taylor an Emmy nomination. Her performance will blow your mind.
As the episode stills indicate, “Eden” is not exclusively about Clarke. It also introduces Madi, a fantastic new character that feels as real and complicated as anyone else. Any worry I had about ‘the Dawn factor’ has evaporated; Madi has her own goals, dreams, and personality, and is anything but just an extension of Clarke.
I haven’t (yet) watched Shadowhunters, so this is the first time I’m seeing Lola Flanery in anything, but she is truly a gift to this show. The Clarke-Madi dynamic, which has certainly been hyped up a great deal by the cast and crew throughout the hiatus, is engaging and believable, and I am totally on board.
In the season 5 trailer, you’ll also have seen bits of the Eligius crew first landing on the ground, and the episode gives you a good sense of the dynamic between them. I won’t give specifics, but I will say that the vibe of them as a unit is sufficiently terrifying.
Everything in Eden is bright and colorful; the Eligius prisoners are pale and gray, and seem to almost suck the color directly out of the shots. Even though the parallels to the dropship landing are obvious, these are very different people, with very different agendas.
I predict that Zeke Shaw (Jordan Bolger) will emerge as an early fan favorite. Paxton McCreary (William Miller) is everything he has been described to be and more. And Charmaine Diyoza (Ivana Milicevic) is probably the best new character The 100 has introduced in a long time.
But it is in the interplay between these three characters that the Eligius storyline really pops. As Erik Kain recently noted for Forbes, The 100 is almost exclusively driven by character development and relationships, and that is as true for Eligius as it is for any of our established groups. We are not just watching them to find out how they will impact our heroes, but how they will impact each other.
There will be a lot more to say about all of these dynamics, and the story developments, after the episode has aired. This is one to watch live, both to help boost the show’s ratings and to avoid spoilers. This season, The 100 airs on Tuesday nights after The Flash, so make sure you plan accordingly. And tell your friends that if they’re not yet watching The 100, now is the time to start!
Believe the hype. You really are not ready for The 100 season 5.
10 teasers for ‘The 100’ season 5
Because I know this is what a lot of you have really been powering through this article to read, I will leave you with 10 tantalizing teasers for what lies ahead…
- Emori has some of the best lines in these episodes. In fact, Emori and Bellamy are probably my standout favorite characters of the season so far (and the competition is fierce).
- …But almost all my favorite scenes take place in the bunker.
- The fandom will be delighted to see their new OTP, Bellamy/looking out a window, being given some quality screen time. (♫ “I guess that’s why they call it window pain.” ♫)
- Keep an ear (and eye) out for diegetic music and noise being used in really smart ways to emphasize certain atmospheres or recall what has been lost.
- Octavia and Clarke have more in common than you might think. Charmaine Diyoza has a lot in common with both of them.
- Found family is a huge theme of the season. As is deciding with which ‘family’ your loyalties lie.
- “Well, there goes that theory” is something I thought about a dozen times over the course of these episodes.
- They really weren’t kidding about Paige Turco being amazing this season.
- Just because we’re jumping forward doesn’t mean the show can’t sneak in little nuggets of new backstory here and there…
- All hail the props team, who have truly outdone themselves this year. You are not ready (for these props).