The 100 season 5 finale wrapped up the show as we knew it and keyed up a brand new adventure. Showrunner Jason Rothenberg tells us what to expect in season 6!
So. How is everybody doing after that intense The 100 season 5 finale?!
Earth is gone. Monty and Harper are gone. “Book 1” of The 100’s epic saga of humanity is done, and our heroes are facing their biggest challenge yet. No, not a brand new planet and potential new foes in the form of Eligius III, but the notion of having to actually be the “good guys” that Monty believes they can be.
Season 6 is set to reinvent The 100 in more ways than one, shooting the show into outer space and leaning into harder science-fiction elements, while also seeking new horizons as far as the story and themes are concerned. To facilitate this big shift, showrunner Jason Rothenberg has filled his writers’ room with many new voices, describing the turnover as a “reboot” that he hopes will translate onto the screen.
“New” and “fun” and “different” are words I have now heard used several times over to describe The 100 season 6, which tracks both literally – space! New planets! Aliens!? – and thematically, after a season where the series’ trademark cycles of war and violence were finally made textual, and after a finale that seemed to promise a fundamental shift away from those cycles.
The characters are now aware that they keep making the same mistakes as the people that came before them, and they have vowed to do better. The 100 season 5 finale ended with Monty Green telling his friends to “be the good guys,” and to seek the same peace and happiness that he and Harper found.
Will Bellamy and Clarke lead humanity into a better tomorrow? Have the two suns risen on a brighter day? Only time will tell.
But before we settle in for our long sleep between seasons 5 and 6, here are some words from showrunner Jason Rothenberg reflecting back on narrative decisions made in season 5, and looking ahead to the upcoming sixth season of The 100.
Previewing ‘The 100’ season 6 with Jason Rothenberg
Hypable: Bob Morley said recently that “Damocles, Part 2” could have served as a series finale. Do you agree? Is it kind of the series finale of the show as we know it?
Jason Rothenberg: Well, yes. By putting ‘End Book 1’ at the end of the episode, I was trying to say: ‘We’re shutting the book on that adventure.’ Earth is gone, and these same characters now get to travel with us into their new world.
When I started to think about what this finale was going to be, I didn’t know whether it was going to be the series finale or the season finale, which as you know is often the case, so I needed to end it in a way that could serve as both. And landing them above this new world was something that was going to be an easy launch point for a new adventure.
But the finale also had to become about how we thematically wrapped up their journey up until that point in a satisfying, emotional way. And when we landed on this notion that Monty and Harper would live out their entire lives, and have their lives pass before our eyes during that series of videos, I knew it would feel very satisfying, as an emotional exclamation point of the character journeys. And that Monty was going to be the one to wrap things up and to ask them to be the good guys and to do better.
Why did you decide to give Monty and Harper a (bittersweet) happy ending? And how might Jordan carry their legacies or memories into season 6?
Monty wanted peace. He wanted to be back in space where he was happy. The idea of giving them a full happy life together, while the others slept, struck me as so beautiful and sad at the same time that we went for it. I know Chris [Larkin] and Chelsey [Reist] loved the idea, too. As hard as it was to say goodbye, they were excited and emotional about the idea of living happily ever after in a show that has none of that. At least, until them.
And the idea of meeting their son, Jordan (Shannon Kook), as a contemporary of our heroes was also just so sad and beautiful, as you say bittersweet, that I knew it would be something that moved the audience as well. So as we say goodbye to two of our favorites, they leave behind a legacy. Not only of hope and peace, but a son who can hopefully carry that on. Plus, Monty cracked the frickin’ Eligius III file, making the entire season 6 story possible. RIP Monty and Harper.
Throughout season 5, there was a lot of talk about breaking the cycle and choosing to be better, the theme of rebirth in so many ways used as a metaphor for second chances, and starting over. Am I correct in assuming that the finale is the start of that journey, as you said, with Monty asking them to be the good guys and them actively deciding to do better?
Yes. Those are all things that they now take into the new world in season 6. Trying to make good on Monty’s plea with them to do better. They are going to try and make peace with what they’ve done, and hopefully be forgiven by people who they may have wronged. Whether or not they can, obviously, will be revealed soon enough. What we’ll learn pretty quickly is that you cannot escape what you’ve done, so that will take some time for them to work out.
How different can we expect this season to be from previous seasons, thematically, in terms of things like ‘us vs them’ conflicts and perpetuating that cycle of violence?
Well, very. Thematically, we’re trying to play with something new. It’s not about sacrificing the few to save the many; it’s not about what will you do to survive. Of course there will always be that aspect of it, that’s really been what the show was about for the last five seasons, but we wanted to freshen it up thematically, too. It’s really a new canvas, and in many ways I’ve been talking about it as a new pilot, that we are entering into with the characters we already know and love so much.
In season 5, the six-year time jump, where they were awake the whole time, meant that they changed so much and had new relationships, and everybody’s priorities changed drastically. And that became the source of so much conflict, because everyone cared about different things: Clarke cared about Madi, Bellamy cared about SpaceKru, Octavia cared about Wonkru. I think you and I spoke at the beginning of this season about how what was good for Madi wasn’t good for SpaceKru, and how that was gonna be a problem, and it was. I was being very honest with everybody about that, and that’s what we saw unfold. In painful, painful ways. Deliberately so.
But in season 6, what I’m excited about creatively is that we have a 125-year time jump, but everyone’s kind of been frozen in amber during that time, so when they wake up, there is no difference emotionally. Everybody’s problems, everybody’s anger, or resentment, or whatever the case may be, is as fresh as it was when they went to bed the night before. So we really do get to continue their emotional journeys; we’re not starting these people in a new place. Which, as you know, was a very, very tricky part of doing the six-year time jump.
So despite the fact that we’re building an entire new world with new threats, and new astro-physical phenomena on this planet, and all of this hardcore sci-fi stuff that I’m dying for you guys to see, emotionally we don’t have to reinvent the characters — which is actually a relief! It means that we get to continue to play out those relationships, and try to heal them, or break them apart even further, whatever the case may be.
I also rebooted the [writing] staff, in many ways, because I just needed new thinking and new ideas and new tones. It’s just gonna be very, very different. And I think – of course, we have not shot a single foot of film yet – but we’re multiple scripts into the season, and I think people are gonna like it. I know I love it.
Obviously going permanently off-Earth is a huge new direction for the series. Why space? Why now? What possibilities does it open up to you to propel this show into this hard sci-fi direction?
It’s funny, because when I first started on The 100 — right before I was pitched the book, which hadn’t been written yet — I was already developing a potential show about a colonial mission to another planet. And I put that down when The 100 landed in my lap, because I realized that sending these 100 juvenile delinquents to the ground 100 years after a nuclear apocalypse really was like sending them to the ground of a new planet, and so I was telling that story.
But, in many ways, I’m creatively coming back to where I started, and getting to tell that story in a much bigger way than I ever dreamed possible in season 1. So that’s what’s exciting to me. It’s a totally new world. Eligius III, and what’s become of them, is obviously going to be central to the story. It’s been just over 200 years since Eligius III landed on this planet, and so… I mean, think about the difference between now and the Earth that our characters landed on 97 years after the nuclear apocalypse! A whole new culture was created with a whole new religion and everything. And that was only 97 years!
If [the Eligius III characters] are even still alive, these guys would have been down there for 200 years. So we could literally do anything we wanted. If we wanted it to be like Manhattan when they get down there, it could be. Look at the difference from when the colonialists landed in America, and then 200 years later; there were millions and millions of people here. So we could do that, if we wanted. I’m not saying if that’s what we do or not, but what we do ultimately reveal is fascinating and really, really… weird. And different. And fun. And also has very, very deep roots in the existing mythology of our show.
In season 5, the main focus character was Octavia, and to a certain extent Abby. Which characters would you say steal the spotlight in The 100 season 6?
Well, like I said, season 6 is different in many ways. But I would say, off the top of my head without spoiling too much: Eliza Taylor is going to be challenged as an actress, more than she has ever been before, and I have no doubt she’s gonna crush it. Eliza and I actually had a very long talk yesterday about the season, and what we’re going to be doing with Clarke, and she was like, ‘Oh my god, I need to start thinking about this now!’ And she started writing things down, and she told me that it looks like the crazy Carrie Mathison wall in Homeland. So… I know that’s a really weird tease, but it’s gonna be a big Clarke season, in so many ways.
But that said, it’s also a big Bellamy season. And Octavia is still reckoning with the fact that she wanted a battlefield death; she was sacrificing her life, and she didn’t get that. One of our writers compared it to Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump: he’s railing at God because he didn’t get his battlefield death. So there’s a sense of incompleteness there. Octavia needs to make peace with herself, with what she’s done, and hopefully she’ll be able to come out the other side. She will not ever be able to escape what she’s done, but hopefully she can make peace with it.
Clarke really went through the wringer this season. She’s been so isolated in her fight to protect Madi, and then Madi became Commander, and Clarke had to revisit Lexa and the Flame and all the pain that comes with it through her. Where does she land with all of this, emotionally, in the finale?
Yeah, her priorities have shifted so drastically. Her whole life for those six years was about this child. This child who, as she said to Madi in 5×12, kept her alive. Clarke says, “All this time you thought I saved you, when really, you saved me.” And at the end of that episode, she comes around to the realization that she has to let Madi transcend and become the Commander – so she can’t be a helicopter mom anymore; she can’t control her daughter’s life and schedule the way so many parents these days try to do. She needs to let her be herself and let her go and let her soar on her own.
And yet, she’s still fighting to protect Madi. She hasn’t flip-flopped; her priorities don’t change in that moment. That was really important to me, as I was thinking about that scene — which is one of my favorite scenes ever, act 5 of 5×12 — knowing that we were kind of trying to stick the landing on Clarke’s journey and pivot her on to the ‘right’ side, in many people’s eyes.
Because suddenly she was going to be fighting again, for the same goal as Bellamy and the rest of SpaceKru, and I needed that to be consistent with who she had been as a character throughout the season. So she realizes that she had to let Madi go, and yet her priority continues to be Madi, and that priority just happens to line up with everyone else’s.
And that’s where we leave her in the finale. She’s still going to do everything in her power to keep her child safe, but as Madi is the Commander, obviously that now means SpaceKru and Wonkru as well — and, by the way, the valley itself. Earth is the thing that is at stake this whole season, and certainly in the finale. And you know how that ends, now.
The Flame is now in Madi’s head, and will presumably continue to play a role in season 6. Could you talk a bit about deciding to tell that story with Madi, and what it might mean for her going forward?
It just made sense on so many levels. Madi is a natural-born Nightblood – and she only survived in the first place because she was a natural-born Nightblood. And the Flame is part of the show’s mythology, it’s a thing we’ve created that we weren’t going to just run away from because it was also part of a story we already told.
It would be crazy to me to not have a person become Commander, to not take advantage of what a Commander could do in the story, because of the last person who had the Flame in their head. We don’t want to shy away from Lexa, and we want to continue to tell that story, because it impacted Clarke in huge ways and continues to impact her.
Ultimately, the Flame is a real thing within this world. It’s technologically incredible and it endows the person that wears it with almost superhuman abilities. Certainly, the access to multiple real human consciousnesses: 27 or so minds, which upon first ascension kind of makes you crazy because you don’t have any control over it. They’re just bombarding you with images that they want you to see.
And that’s where Madi is on her journey of mastery. Over time, we will see her hopefully learn to master this thing that is in her head so that she can use it, as opposed to it using her, which happens a little bit in the finale and which will continue into season 6.
In the writers’ room, on the board for season 6, there was one episode that had the words ‘characters just sitting around talking about their feelings’ next to it, which was very exciting to me. How much can we expect that from season 6? People dealing with their issues, talking things through?
Yes. Yeah. There are some aspects of this new world that will force them to certainly reexamine who they are and what they’ve done to each other. The culture that they eventually encounter is different than anything they’ve ever had to deal with before, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a dark way. So yes, there will be opportunities for that.
There is actually an episode we’re breaking right now, which is a bunch of character scenes, people talking about their feelings, and getting emotional, and having sex. It’s crazy. I’ve yet to read the script and blow it all up, but that’s the intention.
Obviously The 100 inspires hugely intense reactions, of all kinds, from its audience. What is your approach to parsing through and dealing with all of that feedback?
I obviously do watch what people say, and that’s there in my thinking, but I am never telling this story to satisfy one group or the other. This is a story that we’re telling, and we’re trying to stay true to that story. So it’s about setting a course, and staying true to that course, trying to insulate ourselves as much as we can from angry voices — and happy voices, too.
But anybody can watch for whatever reasons they want, and interpret it any way they want. Once we’re done with it, and put it out there in the world, it’s open to discussion and interpretation. One of the things I love so much about that is watching the extremely intense differences between reactions: people either love it or hate it. They’re either really angry or really happy, there’s very little apathy. And we’re telling a story that’s supposed to make you angry, and it’s supposed to make you emotional — as well as thrilled, at times, too. And hopefully it works for people.
Thank you Jason Rothenberg for the reflections on The 100 as it was, and the teasers for The 100 as it will be!