'The 100' Boss Talks Season 4 Premiere: "The Death Wave Is Coming"

Creator Jason Rothenberg talks to THR about the decision not to do a bigger time jump and the scene viewers didn't see.
Diyah Pera/The CW

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday's season four premiere of The 100, "Echoes."]

In the climax of the season three finale, The 100 hero Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) was tasked with a choice: allow her fellow humans to move onto a digital realm called the City of Light, a place where they would be forever at peace and free from pain, if not exactly real — or force them to snap out of it and come back to Earth, just in time to watch the world burn in nuclear fire within the next six months. Never one to travel down the easy road, Clarke chose option B, banking on the idea that she and her allies will persevere as they always do.

Well, tell that to the gigantic death wave ripping through the other side of the planet.

The season four premiere makes it very clear that there are no tricks, no gimmicks involved when it comes to the imminent nuclear catastrophe. While some characters muse that the disaster might not be anything more than another one of season three villain ALIE's lies, Clarke insists it's the truth, and it's now confirmed for the viewers as well: The final scene of the episode takes the action to Egypt, where two people are incinerated in a quick blast of nuclear fire.

For more on the premiere, THR spoke with The 100 creator and showrunner Jason Rothenberg about the decision to start the countdown clock to armageddon in the episode's final scene, as well as a forecast of what this disaster means for the rest of the season.

The final scene of the premiere makes it clear: the nuclear threat is very real. There were some concerns among Clarke's crew that perhaps this was another ALIE lie. Why was it important for you to dispel that notion here in the premiere?

We wanted to put the monster in the water. We wanted people to see what was coming for our characters, and without a doubt, it's a real thing. At the end of the premiere, it's on the other side of the world, obviously. It's in Egypt. But it's coming. Every day and every minute and every second, it's getting closer. From beginning to end this season, that's what's happening. We could put a clock on this season. Six months, then they realize it's two months, then oh, my God! The time starts ticking down, and by the finale, it's here. It really does add this heightened urgency to every moment. It gets harder and harder to breathe. More and more symptoms and ramifications and fallout from this thing will start to happen the closer it gets to them. It was designed for that reason, to start the clock ticking.

We know that there are six months until it hits. That's the information Clarke has right now. Fair to say that's going to play out entirely across this season?

Yeah. I think it's safe to say … I'm not going to say that that number sticks. Their math is not that perfect. It may or may not be coming faster than they think. But for sure, what sticks across the season is that it's coming. The death wave is coming.

And that's what we're officially calling it? The death wave?

We do call it the death wave. I don't think the term appears in the show until late, late in the season, but yeah. It's a death wave.

The premiere begins almost exactly where the finale left off. It deals with the fallout of everyone snapping out from under ALIE's influence, free from the City of Light, and now forced to confront their pain and despair. Why pick things up so quickly from where the finale left off?

It felt to me that, ultimately, Clarke was just told this news and I wanted to reset the table quickly. Ultimately, rather than jumping ahead and getting them down [from the tower] and getting them back home and skipping all of that stuff, it felt like three months as a time jump for season three was difficult for some people, and certainly they felt like they missed some things. And also because the story already started. The opening gun for the season four story was in season three, when ALIE tells Clarke that it's coming and it's real. It felt appropriate to pick right up where that story left off. My biggest concern in the offseason was, how do I get them down from that damn building? (Laughs.) I decided that that would be the time jump. We jump just enough time to get them onto the ground.

Good choice. You don't need a full episode of getting these people back onto the ground.

It's funny. There's a deleted scene that may or may not ever be shown of the process of getting them down. We shot it, I wrote it, it was interesting, but it was slowing things down. Nobody cared about it but me.

Clarke unleashes the truth about the oncoming nuclear catastrophe to a trusted amount of allies: Bellamy (Bob Morley), her mother Abby (Paige Turco), and more. Did you ever consider keeping this as Clarke's secret for a little bit longer? What was the benefit of having this secret out in the open among many of the main castmembers this early on in the season?

Ultimately, they weren't going to tell people. She told Bellamy, because she tells Bellamy everything. They're allies and partners in this world and battle that's ongoing. Then, the circumstances of the premiere present themselves. The Ice Nation is here and no Skaikru is going to be allowed to leave. Ultimately they're going to have to fight a war in order to survive the day, let alone the time they have left. It became clear to me that the story in the premiere was about how do we solve our five-minute problem so that we can get to our six-month problem? The five-minute problem required Clarke to let some people in on the truth: her mother, Kaine (Henry Ian Cusick), Indra (Adina Porter), Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). Our core unit. And it required Clarke to make some deals that she would probably not make otherwise. She has to give up the Flame in order to buy Roan's (Zach McGowan) allegiance, so that she can go home to Arkadia and figure out this bigger problem. That's what it costs her in this episode, emotionally too.

It's striking that even with the world literally on fire, the Grounders and Sky People can't help but be at odds. Is that a theme of the season?

It is. It's human nature, unfortunately. I think people … as far as I view the world, people, when bad things happen, dig down into their own trenches. You fight for your family and you fight for your country, but you never fight for people writ large, you know? Those ingrained, innate conflicts just exist unfortunately between countries as much as anything else, certainly between religions. That's a story we're telling on The 100. To me, the bigger conflict that needs to be overcome is Azgeda and Trikru. The two of them will never, ever, see eye to eye. And if they can't? It's interesting. On some level, the story in season one in the pilot was, can these 100 kids overcome their internal bullshit and conflict with each other in order to survive the external conflict that was coming for them — which at that time was the Grounders. The show has not changed. In some ways, it's the same story writ large this year. Can the clans overcome their ingrained bullshit in time to save themselves from this external threat in the form of the death wave now that's coming fast for all of them? That's really the story of the show.