'The 100' EP Jason Rothenberg on That Octavia Cliffhanger, Clarke's Mental State & Season 7
[SPOILER ALERT! The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The 100 Season 6 finale, "The Blood of Sanctum."]
Well, The 100 fans, how are you feeling? Heartbroken? Worried? Excited? Confused? After a finale like “The Blood of Sanctum” and that gigantic cliffhanger, the entirety of the human emotional spectrum is pretty justified.
We chatted with showrunner Jason Rothenberg about what that ending means for Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), how Clarke (Eliza Taylor) will handle her most recent soul-shattering loss, what went into crafting Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) and Abby’s (Paige Turco) final moments and a "fun and relatively disturbing" storyline involving Murphy (Richard Harmon) in Season 7.
First off, I believe a sad congratulations are in order. I’ll miss The 100, but congrats on being able to end it on your own terms with Episode 100. That’s perfect for this show.
Jason Rothenberg: Thank you, I agree. Episode 100 is definitely an oddly symmetrical milestone. My first goal, as we were trying to figure out what we were going to do for Season 7, was to get the network to order 16 episodes because I knew that would take us to 100. We’d done 16 before, so we know how to do it, it’s just a slightly higher mountain to climb. It’s exciting, and I agree with you — I’m sad about it, too. It’s bittersweet.
In the Season 6 finale, the conflict between the Primes and Clarke's people comes to a head and the anomaly claims a life…or does it?
How did you decide Season 7 was the right time to conclude the story?
The truth is, we reinvent this show so often that it always stays fresh to me. There’s never been a time when I’ve been like, “Oh my God, I’ve gotta do other things.” But it’s time, you know? I feel like when you’re telling such a thrilling, serialized show, it’s hard to keep that going forever. At some point you get adventure fatigue. How many more crazy things can happen to this group of people?
So before we ever get to that, I want to go out while people still want more and while we’re still telling the story well and not feeling like we’re repeating ourselves too much. We’ve probably done some of that already; I know we often refer back to stories we’ve told before. But that’s really the goal for any serialized showrunner: to keep it fresh and know when to get out.
Absolutely. I do want to talk about Season 6 now, and specifically that last scene with Octavia. I think many fans will be wondering what happened to her. Is she dead? Where did she go?
I can’t tell you where she went or if she’s dead — that’s kind of the point of the cliffhanger at the end. I will say that we do answer those questions pretty quickly in 7x01.
Aw, OK. Well, I had to ask!
What fun would it be for me to tell you now? [Laughs]
This season we lost the last Season 1 “adults,” so to speak, in Kane and Abby. Had Paige Turco and Henry Ian Cusick expressed a desire to pursue other projects, or where those character deaths storytelling decisions?
Well, I don’t really like to get into “why we do things” as much as some, but Ian obviously did go to do something else. That drove how often we were able to work with him last year.
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For Paige — for Abby — it was driven 100 percent by the story and wanting to have there be consequences for what (Abby) had done. Somebody that we cared about had to become a Prime. We needed to explore the horrible side of what Sanctum was all about. We didn’t really do that with Kane because Kane didn’t accept it, so we never really saw any of the Primes resurrected other than Clarke and Josephine, and that was something that didn’t take. So I think that was what was behind it: really feeling the emotion of what that would be like.
So that was what fueled the decision to kill off both of them, rather than giving them a happier, off-screen ending like Harper and Monty?
On this show, we try to make the character deaths hurt. It’s a tragedy. And we do things to increase the emotional devastation of the audience—I’m not being cavalier about it, but we do things within the context of an episode to make the audience see the character differently or come to love the character before we kill them, because we’re trying to maximize the impact of that death. Sometimes it’s a heroic death, but sometimes it’s just tragic and senseless and sudden, the way that we experience death in life. So with Abby, I think it was all of those things. With Kane, I think it was all of those things. It’s never going to be wrapped up in a bow, it’s never going to be pretty. It’s always going to be painful.
Speaking of characters who’ll be affected by this tragedy, poor Clarke. She’s coming off what I can only assume is the biggest personal loss she’s endured so far on this show. Is she going to have to push her grief aside in Season 7 to deal with the next problem, or will she still be working through it?
She’s definitely going to be working through it. We’ll see that affect her in a big way. A lot of us, in life, that’s the natural order of things. We eventually lose our parents, god forbid. That is a natural passage, and she’s now going through that. She’s going to have a lot of responsibilities as always and she’ll need to compartmentalize her emotions, too, but I think you’ll see in Season 7 that she has time to grieve and work it out thoroughly and often.
I also wanted to take a minute to talk about Murphy. I spoke with Richard Harmon earlier this year, and he told me this was his favorite Murphy season. What went into crafting this storyline for his character, and will we ever find out what Murphy saw when he died?
That’s a good question! I don’t think so. In my personal headcanon — which counts — he had some kind of a glimpse of Hell. He was not going to the good place. It scared the crap out of him, and he kind of reset his compass to the “I will do anything to keep myself alive” side of things, which really reinforced what he was all about anyway. I love Richard, and I think his performance last year was amazing. I always think he’s amazing.
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What he loved so much about it was that he really got to explore what that meant, emotionally. We talked about his character last year in terms of the Cypher character from The Matrix, who wanted to go back into the matrix. Even his heel turn in the middle of the season was classic Murphy: He was conflicted about it. He never fully went dark. He did the right thing, eventually. He was always able to rationalize what he was doing—he was getting something out of it, but he was doing what he thought was best for his friends. Until he decided it wasn’t, when he found out Clarke was alive.
At the end of this episode we saw that Jordan (Shannon Kook) was holding a mind drive, and several of our main characters now have Sanctum tech in their heads. How significant will that be, going forward?
Very significant for Jordan’s character, that he’s got that in his hand at the end of the season. That tees up the direction we’re taking him in. Clearly, Murphy and Emori are Primes now, they’re not part of the original Primes but they have immortality, so that will be something that continues in the story. One of the things we’re playing with is this idea of cognitive dissonance; that people believe things so strongly that even when you tell them the truth, they refuse to believe it’s the truth. We will see a stubborn band of true believers in Sanctum who come to worship at the feet of Murphy and Emori, which will be a fun—and relatively disturbing—story we’ll tell going forward.
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Ah! I’ll be on the lookout for that, then.
[Laughs] Come on, it’s Murphy living in a castle. It’s going to be awesome.
The 100, Final Season, 2020, The CW