FULL SPOILERS for The 100 series finale follow.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve been warned!
After an appropriate 100 episodes, The 100 has come to a close with an eventful series finale that saw humanity’s final fate revealed.
By the end of the finale, “The Last War,” it was revealed that humanity would in fact be granted transcendence and leave their physical form – but not only was one person left behind, but others then chose to return, even as we learned they would indeed be the last humans to ever.
Fandom spoke to The 100’s Executive Producer and Showrunner, Jason Rothenberg, about the events in the final episode, deaths that didn’t happen, a major death that controversially did happen in the final season, a very big surprise guest appearance in the finale, and much more…
DECIDING THE END
It was announced before production began on Season 7 that it would be the final year for The 100, but asked when the idea for how it would end first began to formulate, Rothenberg revealed, “I feel like it was probably sometime after Season 5 when we were beginning discussions [with the network] to have them let us end the show at a specified time so that we could write to an ending. The show had been so dark; certainly some seasons perhaps even relentlessly dark. We were saying something about tribalism and how tribalism is bad by holding up a mirror to us and seeing how violent we can be. But I also didn’t want that to be the sort of the takeaway in the sense of, ‘Yeah, tribalism is bad.’ I also wanted to say that until we overcome tribalism, until we realize that we’re all in this together, we are doomed. And so it started to suggest an ending where they put down their weapons, they transcend tribalism, and then something happens. And as we begin to formulate what the Anomaly was and what the stones were, and playing with those types of hardcore sci-fi concepts, this idea kind of coalesced.”
Though Raven at one point argues for humanity to at least get more time to move forward, Rothenberg said he didn’t really consider not having transcendence actually occur, explaining, “I wanted to say that it was real. I wanted to see it happen. Is it a little upbeat for the show? Maybe, but I also wanted the audience to leave with a more hopeful feeling at the end of the show. Yes, that could have been a way to go where they just say, ‘Okay, you get to keep playing the game,’ and nobody transcends and that would be the end of the story. But it felt to me like this notion of Clarke, a broken protagonist, winding up kind of the last person on Earth, a la Moses not getting to go into the promised land, and then realizing that because of how much she sacrificed for them and how much they loved her, her friends sacrificed transcendence itself in order to stay with her… There was something about that that felt on show and beautiful to me that I wanted to try to play.”
Rothenberg also noted that while we are meant to briefly think Clarke (and Picasso!) will be the last ones left on Earth for the rest of her days, that wasn’t a path they ever actually wanted to follow. “I think when the idea hit, the idea hit kind of full bore, fully baked. She was going to see her friends at the very end because that’s what the show has been about, on some level, is this found family. And to be able to put them all together like that on the beach, having made this choice, like I said, and to give something up in order to do that, that felt right to me.”
SURVIVING THE FINALE
The 100 is known for being rather merciless when it comes to character deaths, but in the final episode, aside from villains like Cadogan and Sheidheda, no one is truly lost, with Emori’s physical body dying (and Murphy then having her mind drive put inside his own head) and Levitt and Echo both badly injured, but all three ultimately saved from true death by transcendence before their return to Earth at the end.
Rothenberg said that was also locked in early, noting, “There was never anybody who was supposed to die that doesn’t transcend. This notion is that as long as your consciousness is still alive, which is the case in the mind space for Emori, or if your heart is still beating, there’s still a chance – Echo just beat the clock.”
Some incredibly dramatic and emotional moments occur in the final episode for Murphy and Emori and Rothenberg remarked, “Those particular characters and their journey became hugely significant. And they’re both such amazing actors and amazing people. And I have to say, the idea was something that Richard pitched to us. He made a video, which I’d love to be able to share at some point, where he had an idea for how to end their characters. We were already thinking about how do we pay off the mind drive. And so it just struck me as brilliant and beautiful and it worked. And Richard was so good in the episode. I directed it and it was my first time and that performance, you don’t have to do anything – you just say ‘Action.” And it’s there. He’s just so good. They’re really all that good. But that was a particularly challenging role for him in the episode, just how emotional it was losing her, and he does it all so great. It’s such a luxury to have people like that.”
Of course, The 100 finale also had a couple of unannounced guest stars, as the “Judges” who decide humanity’s fate take on some familiar avatars – one of whom was a particularly big surprise, in the form of Alycia Debnam-Carey. Debnam-Carey hadn’t been seen on the series since her beloved character, Lexa, was killed off in a highly controversial manner in Season 3, except for what seemed to be one final appearance at the end of that season, via the Flame, back in 2016.
Rothenberg said that when it came to Debnam-Carey’s guest role in the finale, “We had lots of conversations about her coming back. I went through her managers first and then I talked to her a bunch of times. It was obviously a dramatic situation for all of us with her death and we wanted, and she definitely wanted, closure. We both agreed that we would not hype the episode based on her return and that it would be better as a reveal, as a surprise. And so I feel like the fact that everybody has kept their mouth closed is fairly amazing. Certainly on our show, it’s not been the case all the time. So, yeah, thankfully, it’s going to land as a surprise and hopefully a good one.”
Of course, Debnam-Carey returning for The 100 finale will also have many fans asking why they didn’t actually have Lexa return in some more legitimate manner and let her and Clarke be together at the end, in one world or another. When it comes to those feeling that, Rothenberg said, “I totally understand that and I’m aware, obviously, that that will definitely be the reaction that some people have.”
For their purposes, Rothenberg said, “We established the rules in the episode, which are that those people that the judges take the form of, as Callie explains to Cadogan, are your greatest love, your greatest teacher, or sometimes your greatest enemy. And she says to him, ‘And in your case, all three,’ with his daughter. And so it was Clarke’s greatest love and that’s why Lexa was chosen as the avatar for Clarke’s trial. We are saying with that that she was Clarke’s greatest love.”
But as for having Lexa truly return in some way after all this time, Rothenberg said, “It’s just not the way it works. People don’t come back from the dead in The 100. It just would not have been right.”
Rothenberg said that once they came up with the idea for how the judges would appear via avatars during the test that Cadogan, Clarke, and Raven all face, “When the suggestion came up of Lexa, it was sort of unanimous in the room. It was one of those [writers] room moments where I’m like, ‘What if we could get Alycia to come back?’ And everyone said, “Yes! Oh my god!’ That began the process of trying to make it happen and she was gracious and excited to do it. It was so much fun having her back.”
Paige Turco also returned as the judges’ avatar of Abby, who faces off with Raven, and Rothenberg said, “I love Paige and I love that she wanted to come back and was willing to come back. Paige was certainly one of the leads of the show nearly the whole time. And it was really lovely to get her back in Abby’s clothes again, even though it wasn’t Abby.”
As for Abby appearing to Raven, not Clarke, Rothenberg admitted, “It was a little wonky that it wasn’t for her [own] daughter, obviously, and to be honest with you, had I not been able to convince Alycia to come back, it probably would have been [Abby appearing to Clarke]. But we already did Clarke’s dad last season, in Kim [Shumway]’s brilliant episode in the mind space [“Nevermind“], and so we didn’t want to play that card again. And we already did Monty in that episode too, so we didn’t want to play that card again.”
ABOUT BELLAMY AND MADI…
One of The 100 Season 7’s most notable moments – and one that got them a ton of backlash – occurred in the fourth to last episode, when Bellamy (Bob Morley) was killed by Clarke, in the midst of trying to help her foe, Cadogan. Many were upset by a number of factors around this death, including Clarke’s decision to kill him, Bellamy not mending fences with his friends before he died, and the rather surprising fact that he was taken out of the story several episodes before the finale, having only returned to the series a few weeks earlier after an extended absence.
Asked about both the decision to kill Bellamy and its timing, Rothenberg indicated off-camera circumstances were a factor, saying, “In a perfect world, the creative would drive everything, but this season was tricky for that character in particular. As I’ve said publicly before, Bob wanted time off in the beginning of the season. Literally, we were shooting the premiere [when he asked]. We had broken seven episodes and had written five episodes. We had the season mapped out and suddenly we lost, arguably, our leading man. And we moved heaven and earth to make that happen for him. And then there were several pivots down the road too. I understand the criticism of it. Hopefully, by the end of the show, we realize how important he was. He actually was right about transcendence. Is it consolation for the audience? Probably not. But the show was never designed to be something that makes people happy. It’s a tragedy. That particular relationship obviously ends tragically.”
As for another controversial Clarke-connected Season 7 moment, I brought up to Rothenberg that I had a hard time with Clarke’s decision to kill Madi after Cadogan left her paralyzed and unable to speak, given Levitt had just explained she still could hear and understand Clarke.
Replied Rothenberg, “Well, there’s a couple of things I’ll say about that. Initially, the second half of that scene [after Madi is found by Clarke] was part of the finale. I wrote it, I directed it. And ultimately, when I was in post, my episode was 16 minutes over, and I couldn’t get extra time, other than one minute, so I had to put that at the end of the previous episode. So because of that, it felt, I think, like she got to that choice fairly quickly. We’re not trying to say that it’s the right choice by any stretch of the imagination. Clarke is a broken protagonist at that point. That is the breaking point for her. She goes full Wanheda after that. She becomes the Angel of Death on some level and so I won’t say she’s thinking too clearly in that moment. It was designed, though, to feel like there was more time in between episodes, so I feel like it does feel a little bit rushed because of that.”
Clarke is the lead character on the show, so it’s not a huge surprise when she ultimately takes Cadogan’s place (albeit in a violent manner) to take the final test to save humanity – but what is interesting is that she then fails that test.
Said Rothenberg, regarding that struggle to save humanity, “We wanted it to be a team sport for sure, and Clarke, in that moment, is so filled with vengeful rage. Though justified because of her feelings about what this man did to her child, it’s even more important, I think, in the moment, to be able to not react impulsively and to not instantly turn to murder. We need to stop the violence and the killing, otherwise, as Octavia says, there’s going to be no one left to save. ‘I kill you, I kill myself.’ Really, it does all come down to Octavia’s speech and Clarke kind of is on the other side of that equation in the episode.”
While it’s seeing Octavia convincing the two sides to ultimately agree to lay down arms that finally leads to transcendence, it’s notable that Raven is the one who actually steps up and takes Clarke’s place in the test, arguing on behalf of humanity and serving as a guide in her own way in these crucial moments.
Said Rothenberg, “Raven’s always been kind of the backseat hero. She’s saved them so many times. It was important to me that Clarke failed because I feel like people are not expecting that, and then for Raven to kind of make an appeal to the judge, which is essentially what she’s doing when she goes in. And then it was Octavia who has the battlefield speech that leads to Raven being proven right. So it was a three-headed monster that led to the ultimate outcome.”
HUMANITY’S PEACEFUL END
Notably, Madi doesn’t return to Earth at the end with Raven, Octavia, Levitt, Indra, Gaia, Murphy, Emori, Echo, Jackson, Miller, Niylah, Jordan, and Hope, with the judges (in Lexa’s form again) saying Madi knew Clarke wouldn’t be happy if Madi came back to an existence without anyone her age to connect to and live alongside.
Elaborating, Rothenberg said, “There’s something really beautiful and peaceful about what transcendence represents. Although there’s a sadness and a missing of your child of course, that would be an ending for Clarke that she could live with, as opposed to had Madi chosen to come back just to keep Clarke company. As Lexa says to her there in the end, it made it easier knowing that she wouldn’t be alone and knowing that this is what Clarke would want for her. And so it just felt like the right decision, especially because this was the last generation. There would be no more people born. There would be no transcendence at the end. Those people were choosing to live out their lives together and that would then be it, and I don’t think Clarke would want that for Madi.”
One might initially assume these few people would begin repopulating the Earth, but as Rothenberg mentioned, that’s not the case, as the dialogue specifically states there will be no more babies born. As Rothenberg put it, “It’s either you transcend or that’s the end. And again, Lexa explains to Clarke on the walk on the beach, nobody’s ever chosen to stay behind, because it is a free will situation. It’s not like you’re mandatorily forced into transcendence if you don’t want to go. But nobody’s ever chosen not to before, which was intriguing and surprising to the judges.”
There were some signs early in the season that romance could be brewing for Clarke and Gaia, though scheduling issues with the busy Tati Gabrielle then kept Gaia offscreen for much of the year. As to whether something could happen for them in the future, Rothenberg simply said, “It was important to us that there were options left in the world so that Clarke wouldn’t necessarily be [romantically] alone. I think that’s where fanfiction will take over! But Tati’s schedule was very, very, very unforgiving. We got her as much as we could.”
Characters tended to change a lot on The 100, and when asked about which character’s journey surprised him the most from where they were when first introduced, Rothenberg replied, “Certainly I’m surprised by Murphy. Murphy going from the guy who was peeing on people in Season 1 and getting hung and all of the things that he did — he was literally murdering people in Season 1 — to being almost a romantic lead by the end, to me, is a pretty incredible arc. And all credit goes to Richard and the writers for guiding that for sure.”
As for other choices, Rothenberg added, “Octavia had an incredible journey. And Clarke’s journey on some level is one of my favorites. I feel like it’s controversial and that people aren’t necessarily comfortable with where she landed. That was by design. On some level, it’s fascinating to me that early in the show, certainly the Mount Weather moments, for instance, where she’s pulling the lever and committing genocide, the audience is with her. They’re cheering for her because we don’t care about Mount Weather or they’re the bad guys.”
As time went on, Rothenberg said, “We kind of engineered Clarke into putting us, as an audience, in Mount Weather‘s shoes. We now know what it feels like to be Mount Weather, based on how she killed Bellamy, frankly, and some of the things she did to protect Madi. And so, subversively, I think we guided her to a point that is surprising, certainly, to answer your question. Character development doesn’t always have to be positive. It can be destructive as well as constructive. I feel like taking her down that path was a risk. Certainly, we don’t avoid those on the show, and then people can be the judge for themselves with how they react to their hero doing some awful things to people that they care about, which is what happened with Clarke this season.”
THE FINAL DAYS
The 100’s final episode was produced under very dramatic circumstances, as the outbreak of Covid-19 was rapidly leading to all TV production being shut down that week, including in Vancouver, where the series filmed, with just a couple of days left to go on the finale’s schedule. It was only thanks to some very last minute reshuffling, and everyone agreeing to come in on a Saturday to get things done, that the finale was finished at all, as The 100 became the last Vancouver-based show to shut down that week.
Looking back on the last day, Rothenberg said, “You know, as you’re finishing a show, when an actor’s final scene is done, you clap that actor out. And we knew that we wanted Eliza to be clapped out last. And so the very last scene of the very last day was Eliza’s. It’s a nothing scene, really. It’s just her going, with the helmet in her hand, back to Earth in the stone room, with Cadogan dead on the floor. She walks in, she sees Cadogan. That’s the scene. But that was the last thing that we shot, because we wanted EJ to get her moment alone to be clapped out.”
Rothenberg added, “It was so emotional the whole [last] two days, really, because it was the end of an era for all of us. And we were racing to finish three days of work in two days. For me, certainly, and for most of the people that were on the crew, we didn’t have time to celebrate or take it in. So when it was finally over, there was a kind of and outpouring of emotion, for sure.”
OH, AND CUT MONTY SOME SLACK!
At the end of Season 5, when we saw the videos Monty and Harper recorded while everyone else was in cryo, Monty said that after nearly 30 years, he’d seen no indication the Earth would ever be livable again – but obviously that didn’t end up being the case.
So should we cut Monty some slack for getting that one wrong, considering how much he’d done for everyone? Rothenberg chuckled at the question, replying, “Yeah, I think you probably should! You know, as soon as he sent them on their way to Sanctum, the first green shoots started showing up. What, like a 100 more years have gone by since then? Another 100 years and life found a way…”
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