TV Review: 3 BODY PROBLEM: Season 1, Episodes 1-8 [Netflix] SuperNayr

Liam Cunningham Jess Hong Sea Shimooka Three Body Problem

3 Body Problem Season 1 Review

Netflix‘s 3 Body Problem: Season 1: Episodes 1-8 TV Show Review. Courtesy of Netflix, 3 Body Problem: Season 1: Episodes 1-8 delivers a science fiction adaptation of a novel by Liu Cixin. While I have not read the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, it becomes readily apparent that the series waters down more complex scientific notions to reach a wider audience. It makes for better TV, yes, but doing so not only invites pining over the book, but also discourages fans of the original to stick around for season 2. Well-designed cinematography, through use of geography and special effects, overpowers the viewer’s need for a substantive story by offering instead a somber and bombastic aesthetic of human’s impending doom. With the violent and political murder of her father which haunts astrophysicist Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao), the premise of the series sets up a consistently bleak look at human behavior in the face of possible total destruction.

Much of the show’s believability takes a heavy hit when the viewer is led to believe that the future of humanity depends on a group of conveniently befriended 20-something scientists. Dubbed the Oxford 5, their centrality in the show comes across as navel-gazing and painfully unrealistic. Poorly cast, it appears that the intention was to garner interest from younger audiences to make physics cool and appealing, with any deeper philosophical questions being rushed aside in the interest of adding pithy, trying-too-hard-to-be-quotable lines. Among these quips is Saul Durand’s (Jovan Adepo) remark that “science is broken.” Although the erratic scientific results to which Durand is referring are later revealed to be the work of Sophons, the San-Ti’s supercomputers, the viewer is intended to absorb this one-liner as some sort of profound, species-wide statement. Unfortunately, scientific brokenness is not a theme which is further explored, leaving it to be not more than empty words.

The show most definitely displays missed opportunities for thematic exploration. The worshipping of science would have been a worthwhile theme to explore, as the series of suicides that occur in the show in light of scientific failure does pose an interesting commentary about scientific ego. Unless a future season further elaborates on what motivates their suicides, inexplicability in their work lives is the only known catalyst, which suggests that so much of their identities is tied to the success of their experiments. The show’s near exclusive emphasis on the import of physics in saving the world (take, for instance, the decisions the United Nations makes in choosing the Wallfacers) undermines the value of other sources of knowledge and power to obstruct the San-Ti. Take, for instance, the aliens’ launch into confusion when humanity’s deceptive nature is made known to them. Indeed, when Mike Evans (Jonathan Pryce) recounts the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf to the San-Ti liaison, the extraterrestrials’ mistrust of humans becomes sealed in airtight fashion. I find it interesting that of all the technological advances to which the aliens have voyeuristic access, it is a fairytale (a work of literature) which plays a subtle but important role in solidifying their resolve to wipe out the species and colonize the planet.

There is so much vagueness and remoteness in the aliens’ motives, timelines, and modes of communication with humans. These points of indirectness are jarring when considering their blunt and over-the-top flexing and threatening actions, such as through the eye in the sky and implanting the countdown in Auggie’s (Eiza González) field of vision. The unanswered questions that arise from their surveillance on Earth are also at odds with their strange, twisted need to gain compassion for their plight. Why do the aliens send virtual reality explanations of their three-body problem using earthly creatures as an example instead of just revealing their own planetary conditions? If they are able to wipe out humans anyway, what do they gain in expending so many resources in explaining themselves? It all seems like a drawn-out cat-and-mouse game, or perhaps a Cuban Missile Crisis on steroids waiting to happen. Their announcement that they will arrive in 400 years creates a conflict between crisis and stagnation. If there is any place where the show should have taken more artistic license, it is in fine-tuning the aliens’ methods of communication (get rid of the VR headsets, please) and timeliness (maybe not a 400 year eviction notice).

Undeniably, there are several specific details in the series which would benefit from fine tuning. In light of the show’s well-managed optic contributions, the majority of these flaws rest in storytelling techniques. To begin, the night sky pattern being in synch with the countdown in the first episode seems, again, like more of the aliens’ flexing their tech muscles. Lack of recurrence means not even a leitmotif is established in this synchronicity. Crucially, Ye Wenjie’s decision to open the apocalyptic lines of communication between earth and the aliens 4 light years away is most probably rooted in her generational trauma. Without tending to this psychological facet of her character, the viewer experiences her behavior as odd, cultish, and grandiosely nihilistic. The Virtual Reality games illustrate the 3 body problem in a very cool way, but the story and its cohesion suffer tremendously because, again, an invader usually doesn’t send hand-wringing apologies 400 years early. To continue, Tatiana’s murderous ubiquity is supposed to be mysterious, symbolic and powerful, but the shallow construction of her character instead creates a pawn who is there to conveniently kill off people in the interest of the aliens’ ridiculous flexing. On that note, the gory end of the Judgment Day ship creates a distracting ethical problem in the story. Why would the United Nations commission the destruction of a ship with dozens of innocent victims for a bit of a hard drive with messages from aliens? Could the job not have been done more neatly without deploying nanotechnology to slice everyone into pieces? Once more, blunt solutions (blast a cryogenically frozen brain into space!) are implemented in a show where the detangling of problems is supposed to be slower paced and better thought out. To top it all off, the season ends with a bland metaphor about cicadas and their resilience—yawn. All in all, it takes three bodies to consume this show, one to watch, one to forgive, and a third to forget.

Leave your thoughts on this 3 Body Problem: Season 1: Episodes 1-8 review and this season of 3 Body Problem below in the comments section.

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