3 Body Problem Review | A Well Fleshed-Out Science Fiction Drama That Sets the Stage for Something Fascinating

The purpose of the first season of the latest Netflix science fiction series, 3 Body Problem, is to do world-building. Familiarising the audience about the fictional setting of a possible alien invasion is done pretty neatly here through multiple characters and familiar emotions. With the story peeling off its complicated layers smoothly to give you a clearer idea about the intricate concept, 3 Body Problem is one series where you won’t feel like taking a break between episodes.

The story is shuttling between the present-day UK and the ’80s China. In the present day, we have a police investigation happening around the death of certain scientists who all had written some encrypted stuff before their deaths. The suicide of another physicist makes the case more interesting for Officer Clarence, who was heading all the investigations. In the meantime, a nanofiber technology expert, Augustina Salazar, starts to get these crazy visions of a timer. And two other physicists get these fantastic VR head gears with unreal levels of simulation. What is the connection between all these parallel events, how it all started, and where it all is heading is what we see in 3 Body Problem.

It is only in the third episode of the series we get an idea that what we are witnessing is a possible story about an alien invasion. What is impressive is the fact that they have tried to make it look much more practical by not making it a visually gimmicky creation. When we are watching the initial bits of the series, your predictions are more inclined towards the possibility of bad use of AI, and even the characters acknowledge that. Then the series tries to create this antagonistic force, that has superior tech advantage compared to humans. What really works for the series is how the writing creates hype around these external forces who aren’t afraid of the reaction of the collective human force and are allowing us to act against them with zero fear.

SPOILERS AHEAD! What makes a good science fiction fantasy is how it looks at the characters within those realities. What we witness in 3 Body Problem are actually personal stories of these scientists in a backdrop where they are becoming a part of the human resistance against an alien invasion that could possibly happen 400 years later. I am not a science expert, and I don’t know what kind of hypothesis-support the concept they show in the series has. But in making creative content, what you really wish to see is conviction in the making, and David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo have definitely managed to attain that with this story. From those gaming initial chapters to identifying the enemy and eventually gearing up against the enemy, there is a compelling progression to the story, and that nanofiber attack on the ship was a brilliantly conceived action set piece.

The performances in the series are all really memorable, and to make it international, the makers have tried to assign a different ethnicity to some of the characters in the source material. Jess Hong plays the important role of Jin in the series, who seems to play a key role in the story’s progress. Even though that portion of the last episode looked a bit cheesy, Jovan Adepo’s Saul Durand gets to play an important character who was pretty much lost in the background of all the key events until that last-minute revelation. Benedict Wong’s character is pretty much the audience representative here, as he has no clue about the technical and scientific things happening. Rosalind Chao plays the really critical role of Ye Wenjie and was pretty good at portraying the remorseless decision-making of that character. Liam Cunningham, Eiza González, John Bradley, and Alex Sharp are the other major names in the cast.

3 Body Problem belongs to that category of science fiction shows that rely on character equations and overall drama to convey a high-concept story rather than using visual grandeur. Rather than spoon-feeding the audience with details, it makes the story a puzzle that we, as an audience, will enjoy solving, anticipating some unpredictable challenges. From the last-minute role assigned to Saul to what happens to a dying Will Downing, there are predictable patches in the writing. But when you look at what the series offers in totality those are minor shortcomings.

Final Thoughts

3 Body Problem belongs to that category of science fiction shows that rely on character equations and overall drama to convey a high-concept story rather than using visual grandeur.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.