The 100 showrunner Jason Rothenberg breaks down the season 7 premiere episode, teases upcoming storylines and addresses the respective death and disappearance of two major characters.
After a long wait, The 100 is finally back on our screens, for the seventh and final season. “From the Ashes,” written by Rothenberg and directed by Ed Fraiman, aired last night — read our review of the episode, if you haven’t yet.
Airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW, season 7 will see Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and her friends embark on a wild quest across the galaxy to save their wayward friends, Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos) — the former of whom has been abducted by futuristic warriors with ray guns and invisibility suits.
We’ve definitely come a long way from 100 kids in a dropship finding gorilla skulls in the woods and thinking that blowing up a bridge would solve all their problems!
In this interview, The 100 showrunner Jason Rothenberg reflects back on that very different beginning, addresses some of the major developments in the premiere episode “Ashes to Ashes,” and teases how the story will ultimately end.
Selina Wilken: So much happened in the premiere episode. What was your favorite scene to write or film?
Jason Rothenberg: Oh, I have to pick two favorites, and they’re both Eliza Taylor scenes. No offense to the rest of the beautiful performances from the cast. But, when she finally loses it with Russell and punishes him for what happened to her mom and lets out all of the emotion of the loss of her mother that she’d been carrying and trying to bury the whole episode… I love that scene. I loved that performance in particular.
And then, in the scene on the balcony at the very end, when she’s addressing all of Sanctum, to me… there was standing ovation among the cast and crew when she did that. And she did it quickly. I think it was like one or two takes, and then we all got to go home early, because she’s awesome. It was definitely a powerful performance and one of my favorites. Eliza is always brilliant.
Russell is dead-dead now, right? He isn’t coming back to fight Sheidheda inside their shared mind like Clarke did with Josephine?
No, Russell is definitely dead. And Sheidheda is back.
How did Sheidheda get himself from the Flame and into Russell’s mind drive?
I would probably say Bluetooth is to blame. After the scene in the season 6 finale, where the code disappeared off the monitor, it went into the ether, into the system wifi on the ship. And it found its way into Russell’s mind drive.
If you re-watch that episode, we talk about how, now that they’re back in space, the mind drives have wireless capabilities, which we had never revealed before because of the Anomaly sucking atmosphere down on the moon. They also talk about how they can go to another planet and remotely upload the information on the mind drives from the other planets, which is the first hint that they are wifi-enabled.
Does Sheidheda’s master plan have anything to do with the Anomaly? Or are those stories unconnected?
Sheidheda’s master plan does not have to do with the Anomaly. He’s unaware of it at the time that he comes back to the body, as it were. Eventually it does connect to that story in a fairly significant way, but initially it’s unrelated.
There are so many characters I could ask you about, but let’s start with Madi. She had a very emotional scene with Clarke in the premiere episode where she tried to bond with her about their shared losses and totally got shut down, which was obviously very upsetting to her, and which didn’t really get resolved in the episode. And then, those drawings of the Commanders’ memories…
Yeah. First of all, that scene you’re talking about, Lola Flanery was so good in that scene. Oh my God. What a young, talented actor and what a long career she has ahead of her.
In that scene, she’s upset with Clarke because she just wants Clarke to express her grief. She knows Clarke is heartbroken, yet she’s acting as if nothing is wrong. And so, she’s worried about her mother figure — let’s call her her mother.
And the drawings are obviously significant as well. I’m not going to talk too much about what we should expect from Madi. But it’s an important storyline. Although she no longer has the Flame, she is still the last living Commander.
Clarke and Gaia both want to keep her shielded from it, for good reason, but it may come to that. I mean, nobody knows that Sheidheda is back. And we know that Wonkru still does follow the Flame. So…
Murphy’s arc is very intriguing to me this year as well. He has some interesting stuff coming up in the next few episodes.
Yeah. I think Murphy’s arc this season is fun, in a sense. He comes to care about things in Sanctum that perhaps he never imagined that he would care about.
And Richard Harmon, once again, delivers a magnificent performance. This guy’s talent has really no end. He has really crafted a phenomenally fun and compelling character.
And this season, we get to see a different side of him, for sure. He’s funny. And he’s Murphy. And that’s really all that needs to be said.
There’s already been a very homogenous fan outcry of “where is Bellamy”, based on his absence in the trailer and in the poster, and I imagine that will continue to shape a lot of the conversation going into season 7. I’m curious to know if you anticipated this reaction? Does it line up with what you want fans to be talking about?
Listen, I think the fan reaction is understandable, and it will continue to be. But the thing is, Bob [Morley] chose to take time off this season. And I know he was grateful that the studio was able to work it out in a way that he could. So that was where it started from.
And fortunately, we were then able to spin a story that has all the twists and turns, and especially the emotional intensity, that our show has always been known for.
Across the board in this episode, characters like Murphy, Gaia, and Echo, and Hope, and Clarke, and Gabriel all find themselves having to redefine themselves in different ways without the thing that shaped them as a person. And even humanity as a whole is kind of without leaders and gods, for the first time ever, I think, on the show. Is reinvention a recurring theme of of the season?
Definitely in Sanctum. I mean, it’s all about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. And it’s a good observation that they don’t have any leaders and their gods are all dead… or so they think. It’s an ongoing storyline, for sure, the sort of repairing of that civilization.
And I guess on some level it does apply globally to the characters as well. By the end of the season anyway, they are all trying to put themselves back together again and understand what it’s all been about. Really, the season does kind of conclude with the moral of the story, as all good stories do.
Without giving away what that moral is, how do you think it’ll influence how we’ll look back at the show as a whole?
Well, it is definitely satisfying, emotionally, and gets to sort of make the statement that I believe in, as a writer and as a person: not that people are awful, or ‘look how far we’ll go to save the people we love.’ There’s something, I think, deeper at work here. And we get to reveal that.
Do you think the moral you end up relaying is the same moral you would have given the show back when it started, if you’d thought the story needed one? Or have your experiences since then changed what you ultimately want the show to say?
It probably wouldn’t have been the same moral, to be honest with you. Back in season 1, when we made the pilot, we were just trying to get a series ordered. And when we got the series ordered, it was like, okay, now what do we want this series to be? We figured out what we wanted it to be over the course of that first season, and then we built from there.
And I feel like probably it wasn’t until the ending of season 5 when I began to say, okay, what do we want this to all have been about? Because season 5, if you recall, could have been the end. We didn’t know for sure at that point that we were going to get more. So we had the Monty montage, where he got older and eventually told Clarke and Bellamy to do better.
Then, fortunately, we were able to continue the story for these last two years. But I feel like that’s still roughly the area of the moral of the story.
Looking back on the show as a whole, what would you say is the most significant thing you’ve learned as a storyteller?
So many things. It’s really hard to boil it down. When I started in season 1, I’d never been on a television show before, period. And so, my first day in our writers’ room as the creator of the show was my first day in any writers’ room.
So I leaned very heavily on Bruce Miller, who was with us still at the time, and others, including our showrunners, Liz [Elizabeth Craft] and Sarah [Fain], just to of figure out how to do it.
And when I took over in season 2, I really came to terms with the fact that, when you run a show, there are tons of people around you that know more than you do, and you need to be able to delegate and trust them.
And you need to realize that there’s so much to do all the time, and that you’re going to fail. You are going to drop the ball. It’s just about which balls you can afford to let drop every day.
We’ve done this for seven years now. And it never gets easier. That’s another thing that definitely has been a surprise. We thought season 7 was going to be a victory lap, but in so many ways, it was the hardest one of all of them.
But you just have to focus on the story and the characters and block out all the competing new agendas and people screaming for this or that thing to happen. Try to listen to your gut, and tell the story that you want to tell, and hope that the audience comes along with you. Sometimes they do.
If you had to choose one character from the show, living or dead, to lead the human race, who would it be? And you don’t have to say Clarke.
I actually don’t know if it would be Clarke! I mean, I love Clarke. And Eliza performed that role so brilliantly. But I would probably say Raven. Raven is the one indispensable character who probably saved them more than everybody else.
She’s also the character who has suffered the most in a lot of ways — certainly physically — and she was never broken by it. She always put everybody else ahead of her and was someone who, until this season, was never morally compromised.
This season, we definitely tried to give her a situation where she was tested in a way that Clarke has been tested so many times, to see how she would react to it. And I think the way she reacted is surprising, and interesting, and emotional. And Lindsey [Morgan]’s performance this season is amazing.
I was going to say Indra, but I do like that answer.
Cage Wallace is a close third for me.
Thank you to Jason Rothenberg for his insight into The 100 season 7! I look forward to seeing how the final season plays out and discussing the developments with everyone. Watch The 100 live on The CW, Wednesdays at 8/7c, or the next day on The CW app.