The 100 showrunner explains how potential prequel series would tell more timely stories
"It's an almost perfect allegory for the times we're living through," Jason Rothenberg says.
When The 100 showrunner Jason Rothenberg first began developing this week's episode, "Anaconda," the world was a very different place. But the backdoor pilot for the potential prequel series airs Wednesday as an episode of The 100, and the story takes on a new kind of prophetic feel as characters deal with the immediate aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse that set in motion the events of the original series.
Fans will meet Callie (Iola Evans), the protagonist of the currently untitled potential prequel series, on the eve of Earth's first nuclear apocalypse in 2052. In her first scene, news stories playing on the TV behind her reveal that a viral pandemic that originated in Russia is ravaging the overpopulated world. Callie and her friend have also just returned from a protest that turned violent and are bandaging up wounds inflicted by police batons. It's all eerily reminiscent of events happening now, and it's not something Rothenberg could have ever predicted just a few months ago while making this episode.
"God no, of course not," he tells EW regarding the pandemic detail. "And Callie has just returned from a protest march against some government abuses and they were attacked on some level by the overaggressive police; the fact that the show is now unfolding in the wake from everything that's happening in the world with regard to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, [it's] just weird coincidences that of course we could not have predicted."
But what is intentional is the way the potential prequel series would tell more socially relevant stories than The 100 ever could, which is something that excites Rothenberg — if the project is ordered to series, that is.
"It is much more timely now than it was when we were making it," he says. "We're talking about people who come from before the apocalypse; they all are from our world, essentially, so they're much more like us than the group of kids and adults that came down from the Ark and met the Grounders. And because of that, we're going to tackle issues in ways that we never really did with this show because those issues are relevant to them, whether it's issues of race or sexual orientation or whatever the case may be. It's much different than Clarke and the gang who came down from space, and that'll be very different."
When the nuclear bombs hit, Callie finds herself stuck in the bunker that has been a major part of The 100's mythology for the past three seasons. But where we've seen that location serve as a home to Wonkru in seasons past, her story is told as a member of the Second Dawn group headed by Bill Cadogan (John Pyper-Ferguson), who built the bunker. The episode will fill in more blanks than expected about how that group survived, what happened to them, and how their actions shaped the world introduced in The 100's very first episode. The mythology and Easter eggs revealed during the episode deliver so many payoffs years in the making and will delight fans who have been waiting a long time for so many answers. To put it simply: This might be one of the best episodes of this series yet.
"It was so much fun to get to go back and tell a story that was closer to our time, and it was obviously a lot of fun laying in as many of those [references] as we could, from the beginning of Trigedasleng to the origins of Trikru," Rothenberg says. "We definitely had fun with that."
But the added relevance of the stories the prequel series can tell makes the potential new show even more important. "Science fiction holds a mirror up to us, to our lives, to our world, and it makes us look at ourselves sometimes at the ugly truth about the human race," Rothenberg says. "And it lets you do that in ways that aren't on-the-nose or preaching because it isn't our world, it's another world. This is definitely a story that has an added resonance now. [With] survivors who are holed up in bunkers… it's an almost perfect allegory for the times we're living through."
As of now, The 100 prequel has not been ordered to series by the CW. But Rothenberg is hopeful that this episode can inspire enough passion from fans to make the new project a reality. "We're talking about a show that we don't know if the series has been ordered yet, so we need to make some noise and make people want to pick the show up," he says. "I'm so proud of this episode, I'm so proud of the cast; Iola Evans is just a superstar waiting to happen. It would be really exciting to get to work on it, and it'd be a bummer if the journey stops here but I feel like it could happen. You never know. It's been an amazing ride if it ends here, I'll tell you that."
The 100 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.