Jason Rothenberg is good at keeping secrets.
If he weren’t the showrunner for the CW apocalyptic drama The 100, I’d say he missed a calling to serve in the intelligence field, or at least in politics. He knows what he’s doing, teasing reunions between beloved ships and spouting off metaphors about gardens and serpents and new seasons filled with ambiguous villains. But he was nice enough to take pity on us when we spoke to him about the upcoming season of The 100 – one that kicks off with a six-year time jump and promises to pit fan favorites against one another for at least a few episodes. Here’s Rothenberg spilling all he legally can about season five’s new dilemma, why he likes to burn storylines to the ground, and the biggest obstacle to a certain ship’s happily ever after.
We’ve survived the end of the world, again. Does that kind of fresh start give the writers’ room to create even more ambitious storylines in season five?
There’s sort of, narrative reboot every season, but this one had the six-year time jump [which] really allows us to do pretty much anything we want as long as, I think, it still feels like these people are different but not totally different, if you know what I mean.
So the key to keeping things fresh on The 100 is to just burn everything to the ground as often as you can.
Well, you know what? It’s funny that you say that because [budget-wise] it’s not always the smartest thing to destroy your set every season, but we do that anyway. In the beginning, it was a challenge to say, “Yeah, we just spent a million dollars on this spaceship, and we’re going to destroy it,” but at this point, the studio is used to it.
One of the most anticipated storylines this year has to do with Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Clarke (Eliza Taylor) (or Bellarke) reuniting after years apart. You’ve said you don’t like love triangles, but how big of an obstacle is Echo (Tasya Teles) going to be for Bellarke this season?
I have said that I don’t like love triangles, but as I think about some of my favorite movies of all time, The English Patient, Casablanca, you know there’s some great love triangles in those movies for sure. So, I think just on its face, it’s a bit of a grand statement to say I don’t like love triangles.
I don’t really think about it [Bellamy and Echo’s relationship] in those terms. We’ll see what happens in terms of Clarke’s emotional state with Bellamy and vice-versa. I know I’m being kind of ambiguous, as I always am when I talk about things like this.
I’m just worried for Tasya, who’s such a good actress and who seems like a nice human being. You might be setting her up to get a lot of hate this season.
[Laughs.] Yeah, Echo was an antagonist for most of her run on the show and the people are right to not necessarily like her. I think if you are being honest about it, everybody on the show, for the most part, is doing what’s right for their people so, even though what was right for Echo’s people was diametrically opposed to what was right for our protagonists: Bellamy, Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), Clarke, etcetera, she was still, essentially, behaving just like they were. It’s not like she was innately evil, so I think that common ground is something that, when your goals are in the same direction, allows for people like Echo and Bellamy and Echo and Octavia eventually to sort of begin to row together. But yeah, it also makes things tricky.
Talking about characters working together, how are these relationships we’ve been invested in going to changes because of the six-year gap? Are we going back to season one Bellarke or is that shared history going to come into play?
They still love each other, they still care tremendously about each other. I mean, everybody, Bellamy and Octavia, Bellamy and Clarke, Octavia and Clarke, and so what it does is, what this six-year time jump does is, shifts everybody’s priorities. Clarke’s priority is now Madi (Lola Flanery), and Bellamy’s priority is now SpaceKru and Octavia’s priority is now WonKru. That doesn’t mean that it’s their only priority. They still care about each other as individuals too. The trouble, of course, will be when what’s right for one group’s priority is not what’s right for the other. Are you going to choose Madi over Bellamy when push comes to shove? It’ll be impossible, it’ll be heartbreaking, but that’s what you do. If something is going to threaten my family, my child, then anything is possible.
There’s a ton of Biblical imagery in the promos for this season. We’ve got an Eden, we’ve got two serpents in the garden, Clarke is above ground, Octavia is in the bunker which looks like literal hell. Is there going to be a showdown between Octavia and Clarke at some point this season?
The story this season’s fairly simple in the sense that there’s one survivable place left and everybody wants it. When Octavia finally does get out of the bunker and WonKru arises from the ashes, as we say, ultimately, they didn’t survive the hardship of the last six years to come out and live in a wasteland. And if there is one place left that’s got trees and it’s survivable, it belongs to them. She’s not going to rest until that valley is theirs. You know, unfortunately, there’s a force of nature in the form of these prisoners who occupied it, and so that’s the real thrust of the season. Those are the two serpents [Octavia and WonKru, and the Eligius prisoners] that we’re referring to when we say two serpents one garden, and Clarke and Bellamy and our other heroes are kind of caught in between those two.
Basically, our other heroes are stuck between those two powerful forces that aren’t going to let peace be a thing and it’s hard because Octavia is on one side of it. She’s not necessarily a good guy, because there are no good guys, but everyone needs to get over their shit so that they can live together happily ever after.
There are no good guys but, come on, are there really any happily ever afters on The 100?
[Laughs.] There might be one this season, but I can’t talk about who it is.
If you were living on Earth with these three groups, Octavia leading one, Clarke, and then Bellamy leading SpaceKru, who would you go with to survive?
It’s funny because all three of them are important and they all have flaws. If I were to answer that question, I would say probably Clarke. If Clarke is on my side, I know I’m going to make it, but Bellamy’s pretty awesome too and he’s definitely evolved by the start of this season to be someone who matches her in that regard. Octavia’s a little scary. I don’t know if I could live under her new regime.
A lot of the action on this show has been these groups fighting for their right to live on Earth. Is anyone going to wise up at some point and say, “Hey, maybe we should try a different planet?” I’m assuming space travel is possible at this point.
Well, I hope not. I feel like ultimately, this is a season about Earth. You have one last chance here you guys. There’s this valley that somehow escaped the tragedy from last season, and can you figure out a way to overcome your human instinct to do only what’s right for your side, and live there together? That is the challenge, and unfortunately, people have failed to do that on the show up until now, and whether they do this season or not, it’s something that obviously, you’ll have to wait until more episodes unfold to find out.
The 100 returns tonight on the CW at 9pm ET.