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By this point, I think my assessment of “The 100” is pretty clear. I’ve written a number of pieces about the show, in its first and second season, praising its pace, its cast and its commitment to its premise about survival in an unforgiving, post-apocalyptic world.
Strangely enough, despite being one of the critics spreading the word about how smart this show was about putting its themes and its premise to work, I was shocked by the ending of “Spacewalker.”
Let me put it another way: I was both surprised and unsurprised by the ending, but either way, I only have positive thoughts about what occurred. It’s not that I enjoy watching a core character die, of course. I just think that too many shows shirk from having characters suffer realistic consequences for their actions, and ever since Finn (Thomas McDonell) massacred 18 Grounders in a small village, I have thought he would have to pay a very big price for that action.
Not that that’s the kind of act that can ever truly be atoned for, but if “The 100” had let that incident slide, I would have thought much less of the show. Brisk pacing and good twists are one thing, but a show accrues more substantial emotional weight when the characters have to struggle though events that are hard to process and accept. What occurred in “Spacewalker” was hard to watch — but in a good way, given that it will deepen the characters and make their lives and their dilemmas even more challenging going forward.
As I said, I wasn’t surprised that Finn had to pay a price for his actions: That lines up with the moral universe the show has been building for two seasons. I was somewhat surprised that that price was death. Despite much evidence that it’s not interested in conducting TV business as usual (unless that suits its purposes), I expected “The 100” to behave like a typical broadcast network drama and find a way to avoid killing off a popular character in the middle of the show’s second season. What “The 100” did is quite rare, though I do think it was the right decision under this particular set of circumstances.
That said, many aspects of Finn’s fate landed like a punch in the gut. The hardest thing to watch: Clarke as the person who ended Finn’s life. There were so many reasons it had to be that way: Practically, a quick death via Clarke’s knife was better than slow, horrific death courtesy of the Grounders, and of course, Clarke and Finn cared about each other a great deal. For her to be able to comfort him just before his death was so important.
And on reflection, I’m not shocked that Clarke did what she did: From day one, the character has had to make tough calls and has often had to choose among impossible options. What’s great about Eliza Taylor’s performance — and the show’s willingness to be subtle — is that you see the cost of those choices on her face. Given the same set of options, I think Clarke would make the same decision, but you could see, in that final scene, that she hated herself for doing it and that she’d never get over it.
All in all, what occurred in “Groundwalker” was both surprising and inevitable, a combination that’s hard to achieve but when it works, as it did here, it can be powerful and even moving.
More thoughts about the second season of “The 100” and “Spacewalker” are contained in a Talking TV podcast and in this interview with executive producer Jason Rothenberg:
Well, I’m doing not doing too well, because I just watched the episode again and I was crying, so I cursed you.
I can’t say that makes me sorry, actually.
Nor would I want you to. Kudos all around on the episode. There were some brave choices in there and the cast did an incredible job.
Thank you very much.
My first question is, is Finn really dead? There’s not going to be some miracle battlefield surgery, right? He won’t magically come back to life?
No, sadly, he’s really dead. He could come back in a flashback kind of way, but he’s no longer part of the show. It’s sad. When that happens, it’s like you lose a member of the family. It’s harder on us probably than it is even on the fans.
“Ultimately it lands on Clarke. She’s haunted. Literally she will be broken and haunted by that for the rest of her life, and certainly for the rest of the season.”
I get that, but I really respect that choice. After the episode with the massacre in the village, I turned to my husband and said, “I really hope the consequences of this becomes an ongoing story line.” You know, this can’t just be brushed aside, like, “Well, they had one more close call with the Grounders!” This was something different, and I really hoped that the consequences of that encounter would become an ongoing thread on the show. And even though “The 100” has made other brave decisions in situations like that, I wasn’t really sure what the show would do. So what happened — I can’t think of a bigger consequence for the characters in that world to pay, especially Finn.
Well, yeah. The truth is, I knew going into the season that that was going to happen. I talked to Thomas [in May], and told him what the plan was — that we were going to take his character in a pretty dark direction and that he was going to leave us somewhere in the middle of the season. I didn’t know that it would be the mid-season finale. As you’re breaking the season [i.e. figuring out the overall storylines], you have certain stories that sort of want to be certain things, and this one just felt like a tentpole moment, a pivot point for the season. It lined up with one of our best writers, Bruce Miller, so all the planets aligned.
But yeah, I knew that he was going to have the massacre, I knew that he was going to have to die for it ultimately, and I knew that it was going to be Clarke [who ended his life]. That’s the most surprising part about it, to me. You know people are anticipating that Finn’s going to die because what he did was so horrible, but I don’t think anybody’s going to see coming what happens. Ultimately it lands on Clarke. She’s haunted. Literally she will be broken and haunted by that for the rest of her life, and certainly for the rest of the season.
I did think it was very interesting that it landed on Clarke, and having it be a choice that she made was so hard — you could see how wrenching that decision was. And I didn’t see it coming, not really, because broadcast network television just doesn’t do that very often. Despite everything else “The 100” has done with its characters in the past, I didn’t necessarily think the show would be that… I guess the word is “uncompromising.”
Thank you. I think that is sort of becoming our thing. Not to give away the formula, but if you look at episodes, we say we’re going to do something and then [we do it]. Most network shows, certainly most broadcast network shows, don’t follow through in the end — there’s the miraculous, eleventh-hour save. But we say we’re going to do something, and then we do it.
Episode 5 last year, which was also written by Bruce, was “The Calling.” That whole episode was about the fact that [the leadership was] going to kill these 300 people to make more oxygen for everybody else. “But maybe the kids on the ground are going save the day!” [But they didn’t and the Arc inhabitants died.] That lands really hard.
Similarly, with this story, the whole episode is about — Finn was going to die. “We have to give Finn up. The Grounders want Finn.” We go over five different ways that we’re going to try to save his life. And then we just do what we said we were going to do. On some level, that says something about broadcast television [i.e. about the usual desire for resolutions that aren’t nearly as dark]. It also says, I think, something about the kinds of stories that we want to tell.
It was especially bold, because you also had the whole flashback plot about Finn doing a selfless, kind thing — giving Raven the spacewalk. It turns out that his crime wasn’t really a crime — it wasn’t an irresponsible spacewalk for himself, it was for Raven. So even more than usual, you would think, according to the usual rules of broadcast network television — if you have done some work to bring some good character traits to light, surely things couldn’t go that badly for him.
Yeah. That was sort of designed. The fact that Raven took the spacewalk and Finn took the fall for it — that was something that we’ve known for a while, and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get it into the show. It just sort of lined up perfectly [for this episode], especially in the wake of the massacre, where the reaction has been kind of intense online. I follow it probably too much.
People are understandably enraged, a lot of people. We did that by design. It’s an enraging thing that he did. But [with the flashback], maybe it’s a little bit manipulative creatively, but we certainly were conscious of, “Okay, we need not to ‘win him back,’ but on some level, we need for people to care about him again before we pull him away.” His death would have been emotional anyway, because the characters we care about are so moved and messed up by it. But I think it’s even more emotionally devastating because of what you’re saying — we realize what a good guy he could be right as we kill him.
We did a very similar thing way back in Episode 3 in Season 1 with Wells. We told that flashback story that was kind of redeeming, and we see how he basically let Clarke think that he was the one that was responsible for her father’s death, so that she wouldn’t hate her own mother. And then we killed him in the same episode.
So what you’re saying is that you’re just a terrible person.
Yeah. [Laughs] I mean, you know what? The thing is — and I say this to the staff all the time — our job is to make people feel things.
“The thing is, our job is to make people feel things.”
Oh, I know.
Feel something. If I don’t feel something in a script that comes in, or even an outline that comes in, then I always send it back, because that’s the job.
Part of the reason I was feeling things at the end of the episode is because I watched the scene with Finn and Raven in the drop ship, and he says, “May we meet again.” He’s already decided at that point to sacrifice himself. To me what makes me more interested in Finn and his fate is that he knows he crossed a line and there’s really no way he could ever make amends for what he did. He knows how bad it was, on some level, and he feels torn up about it and he wants to at least do something to help other people. It’s the one good thing he can do.
Yeah, he’s not going to let other people take the fall for him. I think Thomas, as an actor, really elevated his game all season. He embraced the darkness of what we were doing with Finn, and showed side of himself as an actor that he didn’t know that he had. I really proud of him, and I’m going to miss him a lot, and so is everybody else in the cast.
I think that he did elevate his game, especially in this episode. It was very moving in the scene where Clarke kills him. He’s afraid, but when he knows what is happening, he says, “Thanks, Princess.”
That was tough.
Yeah, Bruce just did a really great job. Sometimes everything just sort of works. The idea, like I said, was there from the beginning and then you give it to the writers to put their spin on it, and Bruce is an excellent writer and really found the heart of that scene. I’ve seen it probably 20 times through [post-production] and every time I watch that scene, I get emotional. So I hear you.
It’s emotional because it has real weight. There are real consequences to his actions, and as much as his actions were unconscionable, it was hard to watch how his fate came down, for both of them. This is one of the things I look for in a drama — situations in which there’s no good choice and the characters are torn up by their bad options. For me as an audience member, it’s easier to invest in that kind of world — no matter what kind of circumstances the characters are in, that kind of heartbreaking challenge is relatable.
I should give a hat tip to the director, John Showalter. As I watch it, up until she says, “Can I say goodbye?” and then walks over — you’re thinking, “There’s no way. Something will happen. Someone will come in and save him.” She’s got a knife. We see that. “She’s going to kill [Grounder leader] Lexa.” That’s probably what most people are thinking. That’s certainly, by design, what we want people to think. So that tension really exists until that moment, and then, for me, it’s like, “Oh my God, are they really going to do this?”
I didn’t really expect it to go down that way. I thought, “Well, Clarke is one of the most resourceful people in this world. She’s going to cut loose his ropes and they’re going to run off into the forest and it’ll be some insane adventure.” But now, the cliffhanger is that the characters have to emotionally deal with the fallout. That is so much more interesting than, “Clarke and Finn run off, and we catch up with them in the next episode trying to evade the Grounders.” That is a mechanical cliffhanger, whereas this is an emotional cliffhanger, if you will.
Yeah. I can’t believe people have to wait until Jan. 21 to see the next episode, because it’s another outstanding one. Everybody on our crew and the cast is just firing at such a high level right now — it’s really exciting for me. But you’re right. It’s an emotional cliffhanger. Episode 9 is really the one where I felt like, okay, people are going to need to sort of take a breath and absorb what’s happened. It’s a very different kind of episode for us but it’s emotionally … not devastating, but almost cathartic.
It seems like you follow fan reactions online pretty closely. How would you characterize how that has been going lately, and do you have any guesses in terms of how people will react to this episode?
You know, I’m not surprised by the reaction [lately]. I feel like some people really got exactly what I was hoping they would get from Finn’s descent, which was that he was broken and that he was sort of suffering a little bit of PTSD from a fairly traumatic few weeks, from the Season 1 finale through the massacre, certainly. In that moment, he suffered a break and he was under the belief that his people had all been killed. In that moment he believed that, and he thought the people in this village were lying. Some people really sort of went with that and understood what he did, nevertheless believing it to be horrible and terrible and all of the things that it was.
Others though, you know — I feel like it’s hard to separate people’s feelings about a character and who they like the most and who they want Clarke to be with the most — to sort of separate those feelings and just go for the ride. I felt that was how it was divided — basically people who liked Bellamy and Clarke together sort of were almost rooting for Finn’s death after that. But again, it’s not surprising to me. The truth is, we as the audience were way ahead of Finn. We were watching this train wreck that we knew was going to happen because he was operating with the wrong information. We knew Clarke wasn’t there. We knew Clarke was trying to forge a peace with the Grounders and that Finn was barreling towards this really dangerous moment. And again, most shows would have had Clarke and company probably arrive before that massacre.
But we wanted it to be the story that we knew we were telling, and I uncompromisingly set our compass and just drove for it. And by the way, the network — say what we will about broadcast television, and I have feelings probably similar to yours — has been incredibly supportive of everything. They’ve never balked at a single thing. It’s been kind of incredible, actually.
In terms of setting up the next seven episodes — what do you want to say about that? Is the alliance with the Grounders going to happen and is a war coming with Mount Weather?
Clarke will not let what she’s done in Episode 8 be for nothing. She will relentlessly drive forward until that confrontation happens. She’s not going to let the alliance fall apart. There will be a lot of people trying to pull it apart — the alliance between the Grounders and the Sky People [and the alliance between the Arc survivors and the Grounders]. Alliances are hard, you know. You don’t make peace with your friends. We’ll see that really coming to a head in the back half of the season. It really does become about rounding a bend and finally going after their people at Mount Weather before they can all be killed. Things are really heating up inside Mount Weather in a bad way as well. We took a week off for Episode 8 in Mount Weather, but off-camera, things are getting worse there.
No more cake in Mount Weather.
No more cake, definitely.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The last Talking TV podcast of 2014 is all about “The 100,” which I’ve also paid tribute to on my Tumblr. The podcast, in which Ryan McGee and I talk about “Spacewalker” quite a bit, is available here, on iTunes and below.
Hot Tip Alert!
Fans of “The 100,” there’s a very good chance you have questions about the Season 1 finale, which aired Wednesday on the CW.
HuffPost TV spoke with executive producer Jason Rothenberg about the first season of the show and the finale, and the first part of our chat can be found in this post, which also serves as an appreciation of the debut season of “The 100.” Though Rothenberg was cagey about a few things we discussed in the second part of our chat, he answered a lot of the questions about “We Are Grounders, Part 2.”
How many parts of the Ark made it down to Earth? Who is living in Mount Weather and how did those people get there? Will the cast expand when the show returns in the fall? Who’s alive and who’s not? How many episodes will Season 2 have? Read Rothenberg’s answers to those questions and more:
HuffPost TV: In terms of a learning curve from Season 1, what do you want to do more of and what do you want to do less of going forward?
Jason Rothenberg: Season 2 is going to be very, very different, obviously, for many reasons. The Ark is on the ground for the most part. The grown-ups are on the ground and we’re really beginning to widen the scope of the show and explain this world that these people from the Ark have been dropped into. So in Season 1, we lived in perspective almost exclusively, at least on the ground, of those 100 kids, and so we didn’t know anything. They’ve only been on the ground for something like 29 days by the finale, so we know as much as they do as an audience. Now they’re scattered and they’re in various parts of this world, and we begin to learn more about that world as they do. So that’s one of the things I think we’re going to lean into more — the sweeping adventure of it.
And then I think we told the story at a really, really rapid clip last season, which I think is an advantage for sure — it’s entertaining and the story doesn’t lag and it’s a sort of rip-roaring adventure. But some of that came, at times, I think, at the expense of real character exploration.
And so I think we’ll probably want to slow down just a little bit, just enough to really mine who these people are and what they’re going through and how it’s changing them and things like that. Which isn’t to say we’re going to spend that much more time on the soap opera of it at all. What I find fascinating is – it’s almost a fish out of water [story in that] these people were so wrong about everything that they believed and they’re forced to relearn everything. On the one hand, they’re utterly unprepared for what they’re being dropped into. And on the other hand, it’s not like life on the Ark was luxurious or fun by any stretch of the imagination. So ultimately I think what [the characters on the ground] realized this year and what everybody will probably realize in Season 2 is that that world of repurposing and a real lack of resources has prepared them, in an odd way, for being successful on the ground. So we will play with all that.
There has been this great sense of pace and that’s been one of the things that carried me along as a viewer, but the idea of more character work in Season 2 excites me, because I only care about the incidents as far as I care about the people that they’re happening to. So that balance going forward — I’ll be excited to see what you do with that.
Yeah. And by the way I think that [the term] “soap” gets a bad rap.
Absolutely. I think it’s a word that’s thrown at a show that people want to denigrate in some way.
I say this all the time around here — Indiana Jones had a girlfriend. “Star Wars” had a love triangle in it. Those weren’t the reasons why we loved those movies, but it was part of the the tapestry of it. And that’s, I think, where it lives in our world — it has a similar level of importance. [That makes our show] probably a little bit different from most of the shows on the CW in terms of the percentage of its importance, if you can put a percentage on those things.
As it stands now it seems that there are three factions the kids and adults from the Ark have to deal with — the Mountain Men, the Grounders and the Reapers. Are they all going to be adversaries or do you see them kind of as a rotating crew — some could be adversaries, some could be allies?
Yeah. By the way there’ll be others to introduce really quickly in Season 2, not to make things even more complicated. But one of the things we will definitely do, as I said, is begin to widen the scope and widen our understanding of the world. We will understand how those pieces all fit together and the ongoing conflict the 100 and now the population of the Ark have landed in the middle of. Those Grounders are warriors and they were that way long before the kids dropped down from the sky. We’ll understand the various sides of the conflict, what everybody wants. They’re all fighting for the survival of their own people from a very limited pot of resources. And so we’ll understand who’s allied and who’s sort of at war. The 100 will factor into that and so will the people from the Ark in Season 2.
The other thing is, we introduced these Grounders as this huge antagonistic force, but in Episode 9, we begin to peel that back a little bit and realized that they have their own point of view and that they’re complicated as a people themselves. They look at “The 100” as being provocative and as the ones starting this conflict. And then through Ricky Whittle’s character, Lincoln, I think it’s fairly clear that they’re not all bad and it’s safe to say he’s not the only good Grounder. So one of the things I knew I wanted to do was make them more complicated, and to do that and still have real antagonism in the show, I knew that we needed to introduce others that were worse. And sort of that’s where the Reapers fit in, in terms of this season anyway, but again we’ll understand [the antagonisms among the various groups in Season 2]. The Mountain Men, we’ll get to know them much better in Season 2, and we’ll understand what role each of them play against each other and with each other.
Mount Weather appears to be some kind of underground bunker. It occurred to me as I watched the finale — what if these people have been in hiding and sheltered their own civilization, hidden from the nuclear fallout, for all those years since the bombs stopped falling?
We’re talking at a time when I am in the middle of writing Episode 1 [of Season 2], and so I could say yes. First of all, Mount Weather is the place where the government of the United States is supposed to be taken to in the event of some sort of a cataclysmic, end-of-the-world situation. It’s a bit of a relic of the Cold War, but it’s a real place. A lot of conspiracy theorists have their own bizarre claims about it. Nobody’s ever seen it, it’s classified, etc. So it’s based on that.
And you can imagine, at the time of the bombs, people made it there unbeknownst to the Chancellor. His speech in the pilot says that nobody ever made it there, but obviously he was wrong. And I look at Mount Weather in Season 2 as almost a mirror or negative image of the Ark. Whereas the Ark was founded by scientists and astronauts, who were already in space at the time of the war, Mount Weather was founded by politicians and military people and powerful people who had connections and were able to get there in time. That may be a little spoiler-y, but we find that out pretty quickly in Episode 1 of Season 2.
One of the things that I love about the show so much and was important to me from the beginning was this juxtaposition of the claustrophobic, suffocating, airless world on the Ark, this dying spaceship, and the exploding-with-life, mysterious world on the ground. Obviously, because we’re bringing the Ark down, we lose that, or you would think we would lose that. What we get, though, is a very similar juxtaposition by using Mount Weather instead. So we’ll be able to cut to Mount Weather, where a majority of the surviving members of the 100 have been taken — we think as prisoners, perhaps that’s the case, perhaps it’s not — but it gives us, just on the most basic level, some continuity for the show. So it won’t feel like a different show, it doesn’t lack that [other place to go to].
Right. Another question I had is that — we saw Abby. Her part of the Ark survived, and then there’s this plume of smoke off in the distance. Is that another part of the Ark that survived or is that something else?
Well, it’s safe to say that Mecha Station, which is the station that Abby and company came down on, will not be the only station that made it. It probably will be the only station that made it without any casualties. That was important to me, just because if Abby was going to enjoy that first breath of air, there couldn’t be people dead and suffering in the ship below her.
Most of the ships -– we saw many of them exploding on the way down, some of them made it probably only to crash and burn, with others, maybe we’ll find some survivors. Part of the Season 2 storyline will be finding those survivors. What’s cool is it gives us [possible future stories]. In “Lost,” they found the tail section in Season 3. Who knows when we could find other stations from the Ark on the ground? It could happen as early as the beginning of Season 2, it could be Season 4, if the good Lord is willing.
Jaha, Finn, Bellamy, Raven — their statuses are unclear at this point right, or are we clear on at least Jaha?
Well, he’s alive but seemingly not for long. He’s only got two weeks of air left up there. So if he were to continue as a character we would have to come up with a pretty compelling way and reason to bring him down. But yeah, all those other characters that you mention are definitely in limbo.
Do you want to comment on their status? I’m half-expecting you to say no, but I just thought I would ask.
It’s funny, we get a lot of credit for killing main characters, but I personally don’t think we’ve done that very much. So some people tease us about the fact that it’s only the redshirts, the people that don’t matter, that die and that’s something we’re conscious of. But yeah, I’d rather not reveal whether any of those people make it or don’t into Season 2. I love all those characters.
But I assume the cast is expanding in Season 2, via new characters and maybe through some actors becoming series regulars next season.
Yes. The cast is definitely expanding in Season 2. Whether or not that means we’re introducing new people or whether or not existing guest stars are becoming regulars, we’re extending the cast for sure, as part of extending the universe. Clarke and Monty are in Mount Weather; we know that. We will definitely meet people in Mount Weather and get to know characters in Mount Weather that have lived there their whole lives.
We will expand the Grounder world in Season 2. We may make it to see “Luna at the sea,” which is where Lincoln told Clark and Finn to go and where he theoretically is taking Octavia at the end of the finale. They may not make it that far, who knows, but it’s safe to say that we’ll meet other people.
One of the themes of Season 2 is that you can’t survive alone; you can’t make it by yourself, and that I think necessitates meeting others. And of course, we have the 100, and the idea all along was that we can pull people out of there that had been the whole time that we just suddenly meet. Same thing now that the Ark is on the ground — we’ll certainly meet people that we haven’t met before from the ship, some of the people we have met in minor roles may return, but they have a whole world that they’re building now. The dropship camp got burned up and one of the main sets in Season 2 is going to be built around one of these Ark stations. I talk about it like it’s “Deadwood” with a spaceship in the middle of it. There will be people living there and helping build it.
When you look back at the first season, what are some of your favorite moments or scenes or things that you think really worked?
What I think we did in Season 1 is explore difficult issues in which there are no really good answers. My favorite moments were the hanging of Murphy and what to do about Charlotte afterwards in Episode 4. Episode 7: Whether or not to torture Lincoln for information to save Finn, where Clarke says, “Do it,” and it’s Octavia who grabs the moral center in that episode. That was a really powerful one for me. Episode 10 and sort of biological warfare: Should we blow up the bridge with people on it or not? [The idea is to be] asking really good questions where both answers suck, frankly — where both options are not good.
That’s sort of the “Battlestar Galactica” model.
Yeah, for sure. I’m a huge fan of “Battlestar,” huge, as I think some of our casting would indicate. That’s one of the reasons why the show is maybe a little different for the network. It’s like we’re exploring some really difficult issues, which sci-fi lets you do. You can do a morality play about torture without it feeling like a morality play, which is fun for me.
My last question is, how many episodes are in Season 2?
I’m not supposed to tell anybody what the episode order is yet, for some reason. I’m not quite sure why they’re being secretive about it. But for me, [the number the network ordered] was the perfect number. We had 13 this season, and creatively 13’s great. It’s like a cable series. You get to really choose your story and the pace of it is never lagging. There’s no filler episodes.
Next season I think you can assume we’re going to do more. But the number will surprise people. So let me tease it like that — it’s more than 13 and fewer than 22.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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