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THE 100 Boss Jason Rothenberg Talks Season 4, What He Learned From Season 3 and More

THE 100 Boss Jason Rothenberg Talks Season 4, What He Learned From Season 3 and More

Just because the world is literally about to end on The 100, that doesn’t mean The 100 is about to end.

The CW’s post-apocalyptic-turned-pre-apocalyptic series ended season three with a jarring, game-changing realization: the world’s nuclear power plants were melting down, and in six months the planet would once again be uninhabitable only 97 years after the first nuclear apocalypse wiped out human civilization. With a ticking clock hanging over everyone’s heads on a show known for keeping its promises no matter how dark or impossible they may seem, there’s no question that The 100 will follow through on this threat. But what does that mean for the future of the show?

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Executive producer Jason Rothenberg made it clear just before season two premiered a couple years ago that he has a rough plan for the entire series. He knows how it will eventually end, but he doesn’t have a specific timeframe for that ending just yet.

“When I said that a couple of years ago, I had this idea for how I wanted the show to end,” Rothenberg told us. “But it was scalable and that ending could have been at the end of season three, it could be at the end of season five, it could be at the end of season eight. Those decisions are not really mine. I don’t think that this is a show that runs for 10 seasons. But I love these characters and this world so much that it’s fresh for me every year. We tell a different story every year so we don’t get bored with it. I still have an end story in mind, but I don’t know when that end is going to be and I feel very, very confident that I’ll get to tell it eventually.”

The 100 has always been a buzz-worthy show, constantly making headlines with its brutal, no apologies storytelling and groundbreaking treatment of dynamic, strong, relatable and flawed female characters at the center of it all. However, halfway through last season the praise turned to criticism as fan-favorite lesbian character Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) was killed off via an accidental shooting just one scene after consummating her relationship with bisexual main character Clarke (Eliza Taylor). This was the first in a long line of LGBTQ characters getting killed off in the 2015-2016 TV season, and that troubling trend eventually forced the TV industry to take a good, hard look at what it means to have responsible representation and inclusivity on shows, hopefully putting an end to the unfortunate “Bury Your Gays” trope. The 100 was hardly the only show put under a microscope for this, but it did receive some of the harshest fan and critical response.

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“It’s hard to make a television show and keep it fresh for everyone,” Rothenberg admitted. “Some stories are loved and some are hated, and then some are loved again. Hopefully this is one for people that may have started to lose faith last season and will realize that this is something they should still be watching because ultimately it’s these characters that they love and they’re dealing with a situation that is incredible.”

Looking back on season three, Rothenberg “definitely” learned “some lessons.”

“I look at last season and I say it was a little too dark. It was relentlessly dark,” Rothenberg said. “We didn’t have the comic relief of Jasper [Devon Bostick] and Monty [Christopher Larkin], for instance. Their stories were really dark, and we always turn to them for [comic relief]. They were no longer a color in the crayon box, so we’re going to get back to that this season. There’s more hope, there’s more laughter, there’s more light for sure.”

He paused, then continued as a warning, “But it’s also still relentlessly dark at the same time. That’s always been our show. It’s a tragedy. Characters die. That does not change this season. We’re always learning, we’re always changing, but ultimately I have to just put my head down and tell the story and hope that the audience goes with it.”


If you’ve been watching The 100 for the past three seasons, you know that no character is safe from death, from background extra to main character. The stakes are high and real. And that means the big apocalyptic radiation meltdown promised in the season three finale will come to pass in season four.

“The M.O. of this show is we say that something bad is going to happen, and then that bad thing happens,” Rothenberg said. “But it just happens in ways that you didn’t expect. You can look across the history of this show, that’s what we’ve always done. The death wave is coming. But I don’t think you can predict the ways that that is going to impact the story or how it will change the characters or how it will be dramatized and realized. Ultimately, we get to see these characters that we love have to deal with yet another threat to their existence and figure out a way to find hope in that tragic scenario.”


After screening the first three episodes of season four early, it’s clear that having a new kind of problem for Skaikru to fix like an impending world-destroying event rather than fighting a physical antagonist has changed the show. The motivations feel different and so has the overall tone.

“For sure, it’s a different kind of story because it’s a different kind of enemy, this obstacle that they can’t stop,” Rothenberg said. “The clock starts ticking in the premiere and it doesn’t stop ticking until the finale when the death wave arrives. That means that the first group of stories – and maybe this contributes to why it feels different – deals with the threat looming out there, but it’s not there yet. There is this overarching sense of doom but at the same time, it allows for the show to breathe a little bit. As the thing gets closer and closer and the time gets shaved down and the environment begins to break down in tragic and nightmarish ways, it will be literally and figuratively harder to breathe as that clock ticks down to zero. We’re telling a story that has a time limit on it from the beginning to the end.”

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But Rothenberg already has something big planned for after the “death wave.”

“Of course, by the end we’ll figure out a way to open it up and tee up what season five’s story is, which is awesome by the way,” he said. “It’s game-changing and we’ll spin it all in a completely different direction that we’ll be talking about soon enough.”

As for how to describe The 100 now that yet another apocalypse is heading our way, Rothenberg has your answer at the ready: “It’s apocalypse part deux. It’s post-apocalyptic and apocalyptic at the same time. We get to see these people dealing with the fact that there’s no surviving what’s coming at them. That’s really revealing of character and allows for some unique situations that we haven’t seen before on the show.”

Want to chat all things The 100? Tweet me at @SydneyBucksbaum!

The 100 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

Images: The CW

The 100 cast previews season 4 at SDCC:

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