The 100 creator Jason Rothenberg speaks about the season 5 premiere “Eden,” some of the biggest character developments, and the recurring phrase ‘There are no good guys.’
After a year-long hiatus (it’s felt like six), The 100 season 5 is finally almost here. The premiere episode, “Eden,” airs next Tuesday at 9/8c on The CW, revealing a post-Praimfaya world and a much happier, healthier Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor).
— The 100 (@cwthe100) April 19, 2018
Lucky The 100 fans attending the WonderCon panel in March have already seen the first 10 minutes of the premiere episode, which detail Clarke’s struggle through the wasteland before finding her promised land.
We know from interviews and sneak peeks that this is also the episode in which Clarke meets the Nightblood child Madi (Lola Flanery), and in which the mysterious Eligius prisoner transport touches down on the ground. Check out Hypable’s preview article for even more hints and teases about the season ahead.
This exclusive interview with showrunner Jason Rothenberg will give you a bit more insight into the production of the premiere episode, as well as some hints about upcoming storylines and relationship developments. Note that the interview contains mild spoilers for The 100 season 5, so keep reading at your own risk!
As the first episode spends a lot of time with just Eliza Taylor’s Clarke, alone on screen and commanding the narrative for really quite a remarkable amount of time, I wanted to get Jason Rothenberg’s thoughts on why they made this creative choice, and what their aims were in telling this story.
“The ability to tell that story, which is so different from anything we’ve ever done before, was exciting,” says Rothenberg. “And it was an easy choice, just because we set up at the end of season 4 that she was the last person on Earth.”
“The idea of Eliza Taylor just getting to carry the show for 20 minutes, by herself — obviously knowing how talented she is, and knowing that it would be riveting and a challenge for her — was exciting,” he continues. “I know that she and [director Dean White] talked a lot about how they were going to keep it alive, and how they were going to keep it interesting, and the various sort of levels of emotions she plays over that journey.”
The season 5 premiere is remarkable not just as an episode of The 100, but as an episode of television in general, because it forgoes its entire ensemble cast in order to shine a spotlight exclusively on the female lead character, who is completely alone on screen for practically half the episode.
When asked how the network reacted to them pitching the story of “Eden,” Rothenberg says, “I think everyone recognized that it was a fairly epic and cool story! But there was no pushback creatively. Everybody is on board with us telling the story as we see it now. I think after five seasons, we’ve earned the trust of the people at the studio and at the network.”
However, he does acknowledge that “it’s always tricky when you’re not seeing everybody in an episode. Though this episode does eventually get to everybody. I think. For the the most part. Sort of.”
Over the course of the episode, Clarke goes through a lot of highs and lows, and she has to get very low before she finally reaches her new home in Shallow Valley. Fans who watched or read about the WonderCon footage already know what happens:
“Just seeing her systematically being chopped down, to the point where she nearly kills herself, because she’s just had it… only to then be delivered into the promised land, where she finds her most important relationship, really, ever? That was hugely exciting, and a challenge,” says Rothenberg. “I’m glad people seem to think it works.”
Clarke’s most important relationship is of course with the Nightblood child named Madi (Lola Flanery), whom she finds early on and who grows up to be like a daughter to Clarke. Lola Flanery plays Madi in present-day, with Lina Renna portraying a younger version of the character.
Setting up those first scenes between Clarke and Madi, Rothenberg says, “aside from the challenge of having Eliza by herself, we also wanted to [use the episode to] tell the story of how Clarke and Madi met, so that we could really understand why Madi is as important as she is. We know she’s Clarke’s almost-child, and we sense that relationship between them. And the idea of [how they met] just felt right.”
Bellamy and ‘Blodreina’
In The 100 season 5, Bellamy has been separated from his sister Octavia for six years. When we meet him at the start of the season, Rothenberg explains that his goal is to get to the ground and rescue her, but eventually, “Bellamy will realize that Octavia has become this other thing, this new thing, that he is ultimately very surprised by.”
While “hopefully, he’ll come to understand” this new version of his sister, Rothenberg says that “a part of Bellamy’s journey this season is going to be trying to reconcile the little girl that he once knew with this new thing — this ‘Blodreina’ — standing before him.”
What that word means, and what exactly Octavia has become inside that bunker… you’ll have to wait and see.
But it’s not just Bellamy and Octavia whose reunion and relationship reconfiguration will become a focus this season. “It’s also Bellamy and Clarke, and Bellamy-Octavia-Clarke,” says Rothenberg. “Everybody has new priorities now. And when what’s best is different for each of those other subsets, you’re gonna have issues, you’re gonna have problems, you’re gonna have conflicts.”
Rothenberg describes these conflicts as “a lot of the driving force of the season,” saying that the tension between the different factions will be “difficult to navigate … when what’s not right for Madi is right for Bellamy’s SpaceKru family, or when what’s not right for Bellamy’s SpaceKru family is what’s right for Wonkru.”
Speaking specifically about SpaceKru, Rothenberg explains that the seven people that went to space at the end of season 4 have ironically had the easiest ride out of everyone. Despite the algae diet and close quarters, “space was kind of a cakewalk compared to the bunker.”
Of course, more than a year after their planned return, clearly something has not quite gone to plan.
“They’re all stuck up there. They can’t get down,” says Rothenberg. “Raven is incredibly obsessed with the fact that she hasn’t been able to deliver them to the ground, and obviously Bellamy needs to get down to save his sister. Everybody wants to get home. ”
However, while some characters are itching to get back to the ground, a couple of them might not be so keen. Monty Green (Christopher Larkin), in particular, “is not quite so sure he wants to leave. It’s like, ‘who wants to go back to that hell?’”
Since landing on the ground in season 1 as part of the original 100, Monty has been one of the characters most severely scarred by his experiences. He was imprisoned in Mount Weather, he assisted in the genocide of the Mountain Men, he had to kill his mother twice, and in season 4, he lost his best friend Jasper to suicide.
But after six years in space, Rothenberg says, “Monty is happy. He is in love, he has his work, he’s become a farmer once again: he comes from Farm Station, and he’s now the algae farmer who’s keeping them all alive.”
When we meet Monty at the start of the season, “Monty has never been happier. He is at peace. And Harper feels the same way.”
Eventually, however, as set pictures and the trailer have shown us, Monty does end up back on the ground. And, according to Rothenberg, “[the Ark] really becomes something that he misses.”
And this, in Rothenberg’s words, is “the origin of his journey this season. It’s a really important storyline. And Chelsey Reist and Chris Larkin are great together, I adore both of them. Their performance this whole season is great.”
‘There are no good guys’
Finally, I ask Jason Rothenberg to expound on one of the over-arching taglines of the series, ‘There Are No Good Guys,’ which is something various characters have been telling each other since season 2.
When asked how the phrase represents the core message of the show, and what it means for season 5 specifically, Rothenberg says, “To me, what it means is that everybody does what they have to do to survive. That’s been the theme of the show really since the beginning.”
Of course, as The 100 is a story told primarily through the eyes of main characters Clarke, Raven, Bellamy, Octavia and everyone else, Rothenberg acknowledges that these characters are “our heroes, and what they do is what we’re rooting for to succeed. When they make a really hard choice to survive, what they do is, for the most part, acceptable.”
But the morality of one group is not necessarily superior to another’s. “Their ‘enemies,’ for lack of a better word, are just doing the same thing for their people to survive,” says Rothenberg. “And what one side does to survive is not any different from what the other side is doing to survive. No one is better than anybody else.”
While The 100 generally does not deal in “inherently evil, moustache-twirling villains,” Rothenberg teases that newcomer Paxton ‘Graveyard’ McCreary (William Miller) might be a rare exception, just as season 2 villain Cage Wallace (Johnny Whitworth) was an exception.
Ultimately, Rothenberg says that The 100 is “a show about survival,” and in season 5, “we distill that idea down to its essential element: there is one survivable patch of ground, everybody wants it, not everybody can have it, so what’s gonna happen? When I say it’s a show about survival, that’s what I mean. Not everybody can survive.”
Thanks to Jason Rothenberg for the insight! Watch The 100 season 5, episode 1 on Tuesday night at 9/8c on The CW, and look for the last bit of this interview after the following week’s episode “Red Queen.”