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“Survival of the Fittest,” the latest episode of the CW sci-fi drama The 100, proved to be a key turning point for several characters on their journeys through the post-apocalyptic landscape in ways both promising and chilling.
With plotlines thickening, new allegiances being formed and old bonds tested, and the gulf between the Arkers and Grounders slowly being bridged, creator and executive producer Jason Rothenberg and actor Ricky Whittle, whose stoic character Lincoln who makes a fateful choice in the episode, gathered with reporters to break down the implications of “Survival of the Fittest” and the road ahead for various factions. (If you haven’t watched this week’s episode, be warned that spoilers lurk ahead.)
On where the show is headed after “Survival of the Fittest”:
Jason Rothenberg: What we saw in this episode is the beginning of a journey towards the City of Light that’s going to unfold over probably the rest of the season and beyond. I can’t spoil anything about it – It’s going to take them awhile, and it’s going to be hard. Once Jaha came down, he was looking for his place and he was looking for his mission or reason why all of this happened. He doesn’t see that happening at the camp that bears his name. He’s always about saving his people, and he feels like they’re screwing it up, so he’s going to go find a way. And I love the pairing of Isaiah [Washington] and Richard Harmon.
Ricky Whittle: Richard is amazing. If you ever meet Richard, you’ll realize how fantastic he is because he’s nothing like that. He’s an absolute sweetheart. He’s an incredible being, and he’s seriously talented.
Rothenberg: The only thing I’ll say about the City of Light is that we obviously like to change things up on the show. Season 1 and Season 2 are very different, and you can probably bank on Season 3 being as different from Season 2, as Season 2 was from Season 1. I think that’s going to be a hallmark for us.
Whittle: There are always parallel worlds going on, which keeps things fresh for a versatile audience. Some people are into the forest stuff. Some people are into the space stuff. Now, we have Mt. Weather, this year. The City of Light and that journey seems to be another path we’re taking now. The world is getting larger. It’s Earth, at the end of the day. We’ve seen, from the first season, how much the world grew from just the drop ship. They realized that people were alive, and then you had the different clans. That’s going to continue to grow, as we start to really investigate what else is out there.
On multi-story convergence:
Rothenberg: We intercut stories, a lot, in the show. With Season 1, we went back and forth between the ship and the kids on the ground. Season 2 has four or five storylines that are really like a rope intertwined. It works, in my mind, and it’s exciting for me to watch that.
Whittle: It works on screen, too.
On what Mt. Weather holds for Bellamy and Lincoln:
Rothenberg: Well, Lincoln is obviously dealing with some heavy stuff. He’s addicted to the Red, so much so that he just imperiled Bellamy.
Whittle: One thing Jason and the writers do is that they’re good listeners and they take everything on board. Drugs are a real problem, and we wanted to be true to that. You see a lot of TV shows where sometimes things just disappear. We wanted to stay true to the fact that he was a drug addict. He was weaned onto this Red drug, and that’s not something that will go away.
When it came to the moment, you have Lincoln, who’s a character with a great moral compass and inner and outer strength, succumb to the drug. He wasn’t strong enough to fight it, despite everything on the line. Bellamy was right in front of him. The Grounders were all counting on him, and he was too weak. It’s a great credit to Jason and the writers for keeping that great consistency of character there.
Rothenberg: It’s something he’ll deal with for the foreseeable future. And Bellamy is a prisoner now. He’s going to find himself in a bad way, going forward. They were flying by the seat of their pants, a little bit. Their plan was to kill everybody, and then he was going to go in the door, but it didn’t materialize that way.
Whittle: They closed the door very quickly. The plan sucked. It wasn’t the best plan. Bellamy and Lincoln didn’t really think that one through. We didn’t have the code. I’m fast. I wasn’t sure about Bellamy. I could have run.
Rothenberg: So, it’s going to be bad news for a while, for both of them…The chapter of the book for this season is Mt. Weather. That’s where we’re going. There’s a big conflict coming. Whether they make it out or not is hugely in question. Bellamy is a big part of the plan, obviously. Now, they have their inside man, but he’s not exactly going to be very helpful, right now. He’s not going to have the same journey inside the mountain that Lincoln had. Lincoln became a Reaper, and Bellamy’s journey is different.
On the evolving relationship between the two characters:
Whittle: They had quite a journey in the first season … They started off on bad terms, but Bellamy was just trying to find the antidote for Finn. It wasn’t something that he wanted to do. You saw that torture in him. He wasn’t a bad person. It was a means to an end. He was just looking for the cure. You saw the pain in him when he had to strike Lincoln and do all of that.
And then, throughout the end of the first season and the beginning of this season, he’s seen Octavia and Lincoln and the passion that they have for each other. When Lincoln was captured several times, the strength that Octavia showed in trying to find him and the determination in his little sister, who arrived as a spoiled little brat that he had to look after, who’s now this sword-wielding little warrior. He’s seen that Lincoln is good for her, and that he’s brought this strength out, but Lincoln always saw that strength. He was just able to coerce it out a little more and allow her to be more of herself.
Rothenberg: It’s not just because Octavia is a beautiful girl that he’s doing all of this. I wanted to add some meat to the bone of Lincoln’s backstory for why he’s doing this.
Whittle: He’s not a Grounder who fights first and asks questions later. He’s trying to understand the world, much more so than most. He says that the world has been trying to turn him into a monster, as long as he can remember. Ever since childhood, he’s questioned the Grounder ways and the brutality of it all, and then he found someone, wanted to care for them and wanted to learn. Lincoln is not just a warrior. He’s very much a curious young chap who wants to know more about different worlds, so that they can all help each other.
On creating a believable gorilla through CGI on a TV budget:
Rothenberg: I need to send some props to Zoic, who is our special-effects house. They did an amazing job on a TV budget and with a TV schedule. Planet of the Apes, which is obviously the gold standard for effects like that, had as much money as they could spend and had as much time as they needed to make it right. We had our budget and a couple of weeks, and I think it’s phenomenal.
Mark [Pedowitz, president of The CW] and I had lunch a couple of months ago, and he was like, “You know what people really like, Jason? Animals.” He wanted us to reveal more layers of the world, like the two-headed deer or the monster in the pilot. I said, “Well, animals cost a lot of money, so that’s why we don’t do them very often.” But I went back to the writers’ room and told them the story, and before I knew it, there was a story about a gorilla. So, we did it.
There was push-back along the way, because none of us thought it was going to be good. We were all very worried that the effect, because of time and money, wouldn’t be as good as it could be. The guy who does the sound for the gorilla is this amazing foley artist who does gorilla sounds. It’s bizarre. He’s a legend. It’s a relief, more than anything, to see that it’s as good as it is.
On the double-edged new path presented Octavia:
Rothenberg: I love that scene when Indra comes in and asks if she wants to be her second, which is a huge honor to bestow on a Sky Person. With that last shot, we cut to the close-up of Octavia, as Indra is leaving, and we see that look on her face where she’s smiling. In the script, it said something like, “She finally has a place.” She was never accepted. She was ironically a second-born child on the Ark, which meant she was persona non grata and had to live under the floor essentially as a secret, so she never belonged anywhere.
She felt a bit of belonging in Season 1, with the 100 and certainly with Lincoln. Now, she’s definitely drawn to the world of the Grounders. I think her arc is one of the most exciting in the show, from a spoiled kid saying, “We’re back, bitches!,” to where she is now. I could not imagine the character, as she currently exists, saying that line. I think she’ll find her place.
On the differences between Octavia and Lincoln’s journeys with the Grounders:
Whittle: You’ll see quite an opposite journey between the two. Lincoln starts off not even speaking. He’s a silent warrior who’s very stoic. You’ve seen him become more acclimatized to the Arkers. He listens to their ways and he understands that they’re not as brutal in their ways. On the other side of the spectrum, you have Octavia saying, “We’re back, bitches!” coming right to saying, “You can shove it up your ass,” and she takes a pounding from a Grounder and keeps on going.
She’s got braids in her hair, and it’s a whole transformation. She’s coming who she is. This is what she always was. She was always strong. Even in the pilot, she was a strong girl. So you see this journey that’s physical and emotional for Octavia. She’s becoming who she’s meant to be, which is this strong warrior. I guess that’s why she was drawn to Lincoln. She saw this strength in Lincoln, as he saw in her. They both seem to be coming more towards a middle ground.
Rothenberg: They’re bridge characters. They bridge the worlds.
Whittle: It’s not necessarily whether two halves can make a whole, but whether two individuals can make something better. They’re taking the best from each world and hopefully creating a superhuman race.
Rothenberg: I have always seen them as the romantic heart of the show. It’s the one real relationship in the show, romantically. Finn and Clarke were, but that’s a thing of the past now. To me, that relationship is symbolic of what two people can do. If they can make it work, then maybe the Grounders and the Sky People can make it work.
On the mysteriously name-checked “Ice Nation”:
Rothenberg: One of the things I like to do is drop little things early, and then they don’t come back until much later. The Ice Nation will definitely play a role in the bigger story, but maybe not for a while. They’re part of the coalition. There are 12 Grounder clans and, right now – despite what Lexa said they did to her girlfriend, she brought them to the table anyway. She was able to somehow overlook that and bring them to the table – so they’re a member of the 12, but who knows how steady that relationship is?
On where Monty and Jasper stand:
Rothenberg: Monty is screwed. He’s in a bad way. Whether he makes it or not, you’ll have to tune in and see. Obviously, Jasper is going to be at his wit’s end because his best friend is missing. But, that’s a story for the next episode. We get heavily back to the Mt. Weather story now, for the rest of the season.
On whether the battle at Mt. Weather will decide the war, or is simply one stop on the journey:
Rothenberg: The story gets told, this season. I like it when things change. Otherwise, I get bored, creatively and watching as a fan. We tell story very quickly. Some would say too quickly, at times. But we will resolve things. We’re not going to leave big mysteries out there, hanging for years and years and years. I don’t love that. We just finished making the finale, and we turn things around again, the way the White Room turned things into this season.
Because we’ve been amazingly blessed to have been told that we’re having a third season, it was already my plan to do it, but there were a few conversations about whether I should make a series finale or a season finale. Now we know that we’re going to keep telling the story and playing with these characters. I think people won’t be disappointed with the big turn that we take, next season.
The 100 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.