Jack Rowand/The CW; Inset: Robby Klein/Getty Images

Showrunner Jason Rothenberg also talks how long the series could last

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April 23, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT

The fiery death wave has come and gone, but no safe haven is truly safe when season 5 begins.

Six years after Praimfaya, as glimpsed in the season 4 finale, the Bunker remains unopened, the Ark’s still above the atmosphere, and Clarke (Eliza Taylor) faces a new threat when a prison ship lands carrying a group of criminals. “The believe they’ve done their time and made it home, and it’s their planet as much as it is anybody’s,” showrunner Jason Rothenberg explains. “They want a second chance, and they’re going to fight for it.”

Below, Rothenberg teases the season to come — and how The 100 might end.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 5 opens with the time jump we saw at the end of season 4. Why jump six years specifically?
JASON ROTHENBERG:
 We wanted to shake things up, especially in a show like ours where from the beginning of the show until the end of season 4, less than a year has passed. Now we’ve separated them for six times that amount, so you get the opportunity to really play with these characters and change them in interesting ways. The trick of that is you have to be consistent while being different, if that makes sense.

As for six years, in season 4 we were obviously playing with this idea of the death wave coming and it was going to render everything uninhabitable for five years. So we were tied to that number of five years, and then we added a year and seven days just because it felt like an element of mystery as to: Wait a second, they could have come back a year ago, why didn’t they? Are they dead are they alive, are they stranded?

Let’s talk about Clarke. As we saw in the season 4 finale, she’s now taking care of a girl named Madi (Lola Flanery) and surviving the wasteland of Earth on her own. What made you want to give Clarke such a maternal arc?
As a parent myself, I know what it’s like to have your priorities shift dramatically when you have children of your own, and I felt like we’ve always seen Clarke doing what was right for the greater good, you know? To sacrifice the few to save the many has kind of been her thing from the beginning. Well, when one of those few is your own child, you’re not going to do that. So it was creatively interesting to turn Clarke’s clan into a clan of one, essentially, and shift her priorities that way.

And that’s going to be interesting all season long. That’s a relationship that drives her in a way that nothing else has. When what’s right for Madi isn’t right for Wonkru, then that’s going to be a problem. We’re putting them on opposite sides of a struggle.

Michael Courtney/The CW

Speaking of Wonkru, Octavia is now the leader of the united clans, which means she also has a bit of a maternal arc—
I don’t think I would describe her as maternal. She’s definitely sort of their queen mother? She’s in charge and loves her people.

That’s a better way of putting it. “Queen mother,” not “maternal.” 
I guess “maternally” isn’t wrong, it’s just I hadn’t thought about it like that before. She loves Wonkru and she wants to do what’s right, so just like Clarke is willing to do whatever she has to do for Madi, Octavia likewise would do whatever she has to do for Wonkru to get their promised land. She feels that they’re the chosen ones, and they’re the ones who deserve the last valley. They’ve survived hell and they’re not going to come out and settle for anything other than that real estate.

Trouble is, there’s not enough room for everyone, not even in the Bunker, and definitely not on the ground, especially after that prison ship lands. What makes Charmaine (Ivana Milicevic) different from previous villains we’ve met? 
I apply that word “villain” loosely to her. Really, all of the characters that would fit that description, we really try to make them as complex and as nuanced as possible so we understand where they’re coming from. She’s someone who, as a character, I think some people are going to root for.

What are her people like?
Her people are a little bit screwed up, because they’re all maximum security inmates who have overthrown their jailers on this long duration space mission and come home to a world that they obviously didn’t anticipate being post-apocalyptic. They thought they were going to come back to the world that they left, albeit a long time later. So when they find this last little valley after having scoured [the globe] orbitally looking for a place to land, they believe that it’s theirs, too. They believe that they’ve done their time and made it home, and it’s their planet as much as it is anybody’s. They want a second chance, and they’re going to fight for it.

For many of the characters we’ve come to know since the very beginning, this is their third, or fourth, or fifth chance after surviving multiple apocalypses, evil A.I., and everything in between. With that in mind, have you thought about how you would ultimately want to end the series? How long would you ideally like The 100 to last?
Well, that’s hard to say. [In the five years of writing the show], I did have an end point in mind, and that end point has been reached, and yet we broke a whole new story wide open. When this season comes to an end, it sets up a whole new adventure in a way that surprised me. We do keep reinventing the show every year — every year is a new adventure, a new set of bad guys, a new set of goals for our heroes. So as long as we’re blessed enough to make it… I think the twist at the end of this season is bigger than anything we’ve done in the past, let’s put it that way. It could set us up for a long run.

The 100 returns Tuesday, April 24, at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.

After a nuclear apocalypse, a group of people who have been living in space return to Earth—and quickly learn they’re not alone.
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