3 Body Problem finale review: Let's hear it for the bugs

The finale of 3 Body Problem brings the big sci-fi ideas, brings the juicy character drama, and even makes me happy to be human. Watch this show!
3 Body Problem. (L to R) Jess Hong as Jin Cheng, Jovan Adepo as Saul Durand in episode 108 of 3 Body Problem. Cr. Macall Polay/Netflix © 2024
3 Body Problem. (L to R) Jess Hong as Jin Cheng, Jovan Adepo as Saul Durand in episode 108 of 3 Body Problem. Cr. Macall Polay/Netflix © 2024 /

Caution: SPOILERS below!

3 Body Problem started in the past, exploring Ye Wenjie's traumatic experiences during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. It ends with a look into our potential future, as human beings mount scientific projects beyond anything most people have dealt with here in 2024, but plausible enough that we can imagine them coming to fruition within our lifetimes. Even in advance of an extraterrestrial invasion, even as some people turn against their own species, and even as our characters look at their failures and despair, there's something hopeful about 3 Body Problem. It's about people who believe that humanity can do more and then try to make it happen.

Not bad for a bunch of bugs.

Review: 3 Body Problem Episode 8, "Wallfacer"

Much of the 3 Body Problem finale revolves around Saul, who is chosen to become a "wallfacer," the latest in a string of cool concepts the show has thrown at us. First a virtual reality video game from beyond the stars, then a boat ripped to shreds by nanofibers, then freezing a man's brain and launching into space with the help of hundreds of nukes, and now this. I like how eager the show is to give us something new to think about.

The Wallfacer project is the easiest for us to get our heads around. As the Secretary General of the U.N. (played by perpetual "hey, that's the person from that thing" actress CCH Pounder) explains, the San Ti know everything we do and say to each other. But they can't read our minds. Herego, the world will choose three people with relative expertise to plan a defense for the planet Earth, all in their heads. Whatever they ask be done, will be done, without any questions about why.

The Wallfacers include a general, a war hero and...Saul, who for most of this show has limited himself to smoking pot, cracking wise, and sleeping around. He's trained in physics but not doing much with that training. But the human followers of the San Ti on Earth are trying to kill him, and whoever the San Ti want to eliminate, Thomas Wade and his colleagues want to empower. Thus Saul becomes one of the most powerful people on the planet whether he wants to be or not, and he definitely does not want to be. But since the word of a Wallfacer is law, everyone assumes that his protestations are just part of the master plan. It's a pretty genius idea that 3 Body Problem mines for both drama and comedy.

I underestimated most of the characters in this series. I didn't understand why Will was on the show at first, and he ended up having the most emotional journey of anyone. Saul seemed like a loose appendage, and now he gets handed the keys to humanity's survival. If 3 Body Problem comes back for a second season, and I hope it will, I think I'll just trust that the producers know where they're going.

The Perks of Being a Wallfacer

Speaking of Will, they load his brain into a rocket and blast it off towards the San Ti. This sequence was fun to watch because the show had already outlined the basic plan, and now we get to see the solar sail and the floating chain of nuclear bombs in action. It was always going to be a challenge for the show to visualize some of the out-there sci-fi concepts from the Three-Body books, and in scenes like this, they succeed.

And they don't forget the drama. Auggie's cables break, and the drone ship carrying Will's brain goes wildly off course; according to Jin Cheng, he could float for thousands of years before leaving the Milky Way. Jin and Saul are horrified by the mishap, and I felt for them, even though I kind of saw Raj's point about Will not really being Will anymore. Can I feel about bad about someone getting lost in space if it's just their comatose brain cooling at hundreds of degrees below zero in a little probe? Whatever, Jin and Saul believe it, so I will too.

This leads to the final scene of the episode, which is drawn directly from The Three-Body Problem book. Saul and Jin are feeling understandably despondent about Will's failure to launch. Clarence, who is now serving as Saul's bodyguard full time, dresses them down for despairing after one setback, and takes them to watch a flock of locusts buzzing around a swamp. Compared to the San Ti, we may indeed be bugs, but we humans have been trying to kill bugs for thousands of years without success. So have hope. Bugs unite!

I thought this monologue landed better in the books, where it was more specific, but I love the sentiment, and I think it's a good note to end the season on. Despite a couple of touch-and-go moments in the middle, I ended up really enjoying 3 Body Problem. I came around to the characters, I appreciated that it always had some new scientific idea for me to ponder, I liked the ambition and the sense of terrible awe before our alien overlords, and I might go so far as to say that it made me proud to be a human being. That's gotta be worth a second season at least. Right, Netflix?

3 Body Bullet Points

  • We're told that the word "Wallfacer" is associated with meditation, if you're wondering where that came from. Wallfacers like Saul are supposed to keep their plans to themselves, so they'll be doing a lot of silent thinking.
  • It's always creepy when the San Ti show up on your TV screen. I was scared for Thomas Wade when they chose to pay him a visit, although I'm confident he'll continue to fight them with his unfailingly gruff snark. And three cheers for actor Liam Cunningham for making this role fun! He's a long way from Davos Seaworth. He was great.
  • We get confirmation that Tatitana did indeed kill Ye Wenjie at the end of the previous episode. As a reward, she gets to play with one of the Three Body headsets, which overjoys her. The whole notion of people worshipping the aliens and following their commands unquestioningly is believable, although the show may guard against having all of these people come across as carbon copy religious zealots. That could get tiresome.
  • We check in only briefly with Auggie, who's making good on her promise to use her technology to improve the lives of ordinary people, using her microfibers to filter water in a Mexican village weathering a dysentery outbreak. She gets a call from Saul but ignores it. Okay. See you next season, I guess?

Episode Grade: A-

Next. 3bp 1. 3 Body Problem is a digestible remix of the sci-fi books, and that's a good thing. dark

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