The 100: Creator Jason Rothenberg Breaks Down the Series Finale

Tonight saw the series finale of The CW's veteran sci-fi drama The 100. The series, which ran for seven seasons, had an emotionally charged and sprawling finale, that saw many of its fan-favorite characters judged by, essentially, cosmic wannabe gods. Along the way, we got to see some familiar faces, some callbacks to the earlier seasons of the series, and experience a big, twisty moment that closes out the years of drama. It's a show with a very vocal fan base and one that has reinvented itself so many times that it's hard to guess how the majority of the fans are going to see it.

So we wanted to jump into the finale, and see what the creators had in mind, how things came together, and what kind of reaction the series writers and producers are hoping to get from the fans. And also -- how did they keep those cameos a secret?

Rothenberg joined ComicBook.com to discuss tonight's finale.

Is there a sense of a deep exhalation now that this is finally out there in the universe?

A deep exhalation on my part?

Yeah. I mean -- Listen, I finished my work on the show months ago. I finished shooting in March. I finished [post-production] in June. I've been working on some other things between then and now, and still hoping the prequel goes, focusing on other things.

Creatively, I'm excited for the fans to see the finale, but once we're done with it and we put it out there, it's not ours anymore. It's theirs, and it's up to them to interpret it how they want, love it or hate it. I can't do anything about it at that point.

It felt. like a really classic-TV kind of finale, almost like Six Feet Under, giving each major character a quick thread. Was that intentional?

Well, obviously, you watch a lot of TV. We wanted to fit the ending for the characters and for the show thematically, and have it feel complete at the end.

There was that powerful little touch -- that was nothing of my doing, that our editor, Jeff Granzow, did -- where the very last shot, as we pull back above our heroes on the beach, is superimposed against the very first shot of Clarke on the floor of her cell drawing, and the whole full circle of it, closing the book on it. When I first saw that, when I first watched his editor's cut, I was like, "Holy..." That blew me away and I obviously kept it in the show.

So yeah, a sense of closure or a sense of... exhalation is a good word for it, I guess. Just being done with something that you're proud of, that's got a full beginning, middle and end. We weren't ended prematurely, which so many shows are unfortunately forced to do. I'm happy about it, proud of it, bittersweet that it's over, and it's time for everybody to move on.

The world of the show, and the cast, got huge over the years. But for the most part, the finale still focused on Clarke, Octavia, and Raven. What went into that decision?

I feel like Clarke, Octavia, and Raven are the three people who contribute most to the human race's ultimate transcendence. Obviously, Clarke almost doomed our transcendence, and then Raven makes the appeal to the judge, and then obviously Octavia has the final speech that gets us over the goal line.

But you have the John Murphy and Emori story, and there are other things happening in the episode that we were trying to emotionally find room for.

You're right, it's a big show, it's a big cast. It's always been hard to get screen time for everybody. There's so many fan favorites that don't get enough time. Unfortunately, there's still 42 minutes in an episode. In this one we have 43 minutes, we were granted an extra minute, but that's all we could get. Because you know, people have got to brush their teeth.

How kind of early in the process, I guess, did you know what actors you wanted to get back for the finale?

I think it really came down to who was facing the judges, and we determined that the rules of the test were that the judge takes the form of your greatest love, or your greatest teacher. Then it became clear that obviously Cadogan was going to see his daughter, Clarke was going to see Lexa and Raven seeing Abby perhaps is a little bit more of a stretch, but you know, when you think about who meant the most to her in the series, Abby was the one.

That's sort of what the determining factor was. Obviously had Octavia been the one that went in and saw the judge, it probably would have been Lincoln or someone, or her brother perhaps, Bellamy, but ultimately that was determined by who was taking the test or who was facing the judge.

You mentioned Bellamy. You know the fans of this show better than anybody, how incredibly passionate they are. When you guys were breaking story and realized, "Okay, we're going to fake kill him, and then we're going to kill him for real, like 10 minutes later," did you expect the kind of seismic reaction that you got from each of the three kind of beats in that?

Of course, we can anticipate it a hundred percent. That said, we never shied away from telling a story based on what we thought the fan reaction might be.

Obviously that's a tough story. That's a hard thing to watch. We have Clarke, who's our protagonist, essentially putting us in the role of people in Mount Weather. We cheered Clarke on when she pulled the lever in Mount Weather, but now she's aiming the gun at someone we care about, and we don't like the way that feels as much. That was by design, obviously.

Bellamy's story this season had to change a lot based on things we've talked about before and I've mentioned publicly before, we had broken something like seven episodes, written five, had the whole season mapped out when Bob came to us and needed to take time off. A lot of things changed after that that we had no control over, that we did our best to roll with and give him the space he needed.

Was it kind of painful to bring some of these terrific actors back, and then essentially not let them act, because they had to be these emotionless, robotic version of themselves?

Yeah, it was hard. It was hard for all three of the actors who played judges. We had to find it together.

I'm trying to remember the order that we shot it. I think we shot... did we shoot [Paige Turco's] first? To be honest with you, I just can't remember the order that we shot it in. As the director of this episode, I directed the episode too, so I had to find continuity between the three. There's a certain amount of the character in there, but you're right, it's also a step removed because they're not actually those people.

And it was tricky. I know it was hard for all of them to wrap their minds around it, but we spent a lot of time talking about it and what it meant and what it should feel like and I feel like they all found a way to find a balance.

Were you surprised those appearances managed to stay secret?

[The cast and crew] has come to understand all the cast in particular, and the crew. We don't talk about the show except amongst ourselves. Spoiler reveals are really, really important to us, and the cast is great at it by now. I've seen so many interviews where they look at each other, they know they shouldn't say they say anything and then they make a joke about it. And so they've gotten really good at it. I'm not at all surprised that that hasn't come out in that way.

But yeah, [Alycia Debnam-Carey] flew up to Vancouver. She was definitely seen in the hotel. The fact that it hasn't come out, to me, is still weird. The agreement that Alycia and I had that we were not going to publicize the appearance, because we wanted it to be a surprise.

There was a bit of the finale that felt like an indictment of religion, because these pseudo-gods are so imperfect, but at the same time it did feel like there were pieces of the episode where essentially you had these characters delivering these very impassioned speeches that almost felt like sermons. Was that dichotomy on purpose?

I think yes and no. Definitely, I wasn't trying to make an indictment of religion for sure. But we were trying to tell the story of how energy consciousness can evolve, right? Ultimately to me, this is the story of one potential way that the human race could transcend. I kind of believe in it myself.

So, it's not about religion. It's more about we were trying to kind of find a natural phenomenon through which to explain evolution to the next level of consciousness, whatever that may be. There will be some people who bring a religious interpretation to it, and that's fine. Again, once we put the story out, it's open to everybody's interpretation.

Why did you decide Clarke was going to be the only person who couldn't transcend?

Yeah. I feel like obviously we knew that Clarke's journey was going to be in a downward direction, I guess, would be the way to put it. She's definitely broken. She's gone through so much. She's borne so much so that everybody else didn't have to, as we said early in the series and it's broken her. She's devolved on some level and obviously, through having to kill Bellamy, to protect Madi and losing Madi anyway. Losing Madi in the way that she did really, I think, was the straw that broke the camel's back and we see her kind of like a recruiting as the angel of death.

You know, the commander of death is back, Wanheda's back at that finale. And, as a result of her actions, she doesn't get to go into the promised land with everybody else a la Moses to bring it back to religion for a second, not intentionally.

But ultimately she's then joined by her friends who have chosen to forego transcendence and immortality and whatever else lies beyond this plane of existence in order to be with her because she sacrificed so much for them. They're going to live out their days immortally and hopefully in peace. That was a choice that they made because obviously, you're not forced to transcend, it's just never been chosen before the judge tells us.

Octavia's speech really played, I think. Marie killed it.

Absolutely. I agree with you. Marie -- she's been such a champion this entire series, and I have to say that day that she did that speech on the battlefield was for me as the director, probably the hardest day that I had.

It was almost impossible, and had she not been pitch perfect, we would have been screwed. She was so good. She's always good, but she was so good on this particular day. It really saved us production wise too. I was proud of her and happy for us, and definitely proved how far she's come and how much you've learned as the character. And yeah, to give moments like that to other characters obviously was part of... by the time of the finale.

She's come so far, both as an actress and as a character. We go from "We're back, bitches", to "If I kill you, I kill myself". It's a long, long way in between, lots of different stuff along the way. It's been a fun character to write for sure.

This kind of reminded me of the end of Cheers. It was the thing where you spend the whole episode being promised that Sam is going to make one of two choices and then it's like, "No, I'm going to choose Choice C because that's where I belong".

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Did it almost... do you feel like that grounded these particular characters in a sense of humanity that brought them, no pun intended, back to earth after how big and cosmic and weird the last season got?

Yeah. First of all, even to compare it in any way to Cheers, that's such a nice thing to hear. I loved that show. Obviously, they're different shows, but all I remember the finale is them turning the lights out at the end, but I feel like it was really important to us that it was back on earth. It was back where they started on some level, obviously not on the ark, but on the ground and that they were together and that they were the found family and that they were going to have peace finally. That was what was important to me. They'd fought for so long and now their fight is over. I mean that both in a [inaudible 00:20:02] way and in a literal way. They're done fighting and obviously they don't get to transcend, and this is the end for them, but it won't be an awful life. It'll be a good life.