3 Body Problem review: Episode 7, "Only Advance"

Wild sci-fi concepts, actual science, and painful partings combine into another good episode of 3 Body Problem. Only one left!
3 Body Problem. Liam Cunningham as Wade in episode 104 of 3 Body Problem. Cr. Ed Miller/Netflix © 2023
3 Body Problem. Liam Cunningham as Wade in episode 104 of 3 Body Problem. Cr. Ed Miller/Netflix © 2023 /

Warner: SPOILERS ahead!

Episode 5 shocked 3 Body Problem to life with the amazing set piece of the boat, and Episode 6 gave it a heart as Will Downing tried to make his life mean something before cancer took what remained of it. Episode 7, "Only Advance," keeps that roll going as humanity devices new ways to fight the San Ti while the Oxford Five further splinters, getting closer to convincing me that these are characters worth caring about.

Let's start with Will, who I initially thought was the most disposable member of this group and who is now carrying the emotional weight of the story on his shoulders. He gets a very weird offer from Thomas Wade, who needs to harvest someone's brain, put it in a probe and launch it into outer space for the San Ti to intercept. The hope — and I guess they're just assuming this — is that the San Ti, unable to resist the opportunity to learn more about humanity, will reconstruct this person, who will then learn what they can about the alien menace and find a way to get that information back to Earth. Since he's dying of cancer and he has knowledge of physics and stuff, would Will like to offer his brain up for this grand experiment?

He would, but not because of any loyalty to the human race, which apparently he does not have. Maybe his greedy sister put him off wanting to help people in general. He'll do it for Jin, for whom he's been carrying a torch since college, suffering in yearning silence as only the British can. Apparently this makes him an even better candidate, because the San Ti won't fear his betrayal.

I found Will's devotion to Jin touching — she finds out right at the end that Will spent millions of dollars buying a star in her name, but is too late to stop the brain extraction surgery — but the best scene is between Will and Saul, who's trying to convince his friend to reconsider his decision. What if the San Ti let Will float eternally through space? Or what if they reconstruct him only to torture him? Saul paints a pretty convincing picture of what could go wrong with this scenario, all while Will slowly clicks through the exercise designed to test if this is really what he wants; those beeping sounds carried a lot of dramatic weight.

In the end, it is what Will wants, and he and Saul hold hands here at the end of their friendship. It's an effectively touching moment that hits all the harder after the pair were joking earlier in the episode. 3 Body Problem has had some trouble finding human emotion in this story about space aliens coming to conquer our planet, but Will is turning that around one scene at a time. Godspeed his brain.

Sunset for humanity

The other character who reaches an emotional turning point is Ye Wenjie, who decides to return to Red Coast base, the place where she first made contact with the aliens, and end her life. The scenes of young Ye Wenjie being brought here at a low point in her existance remain some of the most powerful of the show, so flashing back during her returns hits. It reminds us how far the story has come in a short time. The Red Coast base is a profanely sacred space.

Ye Wenjie is still alive by episode's end, and although I doubt it, personally I hope she pulls through. (I read the first book in Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, but by this point the show has gone beyond the text, so I don't know what's going to happen anymore.) Before Ye Wenjie can fling herself off a cliff, Tatianna — that's the young woman who's fanatically devoted to the cult of the San Ti — comes to end her life on behalf of her alien overlords, who contact her through her TV screen in a very eerie scene. They end the episode by watching the sunset together, a quiet moment as humanity plunges headlong into a new phase. As Thomas Wade says, Only Advance.

We also get some cool scenes explaining yet more scientific concepts pumped up for this sci-fi epic. Of course, there's the notion of putting Will's brain in stasis and launching him towards the San Ti. The entire idea of stasis is demonstrated in a compelling scene featuring what is very obviously a CGI monkey. Whatever, monkeys are cool; I was happy to watch it walk around. Apparently Thomas Wade wants to put himself in stasis and come out for one week a year so he can manage the anti-alien defense project indefinitely. He's such a megalomaniac I'm honestly not sure if he's kidding. Liam Cunningham from Game of Thrones is having a great time playing him, though. Get it, Davos Seaworth.

Finally, we get a scene where Auggie, now dispossessed of her microfiber company, leaks all of the information about how to make the microfibers onto the internet, reasoning that this information should belong to the people rather than to her corporate overlords. She may be the character I'm least interested in, in part because Eiza González is among the weaker actors in the main cast — I had a hard time making sense of her flip-flopping between helping the anti-alien effort and rejecting it — but that is a baller move.

I'm sunk in now. This is a good show. I'm looking forward to the finale and dreading the wait for a second season that might not even come. Fingers crossed for a renewal.

3 Body Bullet Points

  • Once again, Clarence, née Da Shi, gets a single scene that's seemingly unconnected to the main plot. His layabout son is working on a new business idea that involves investing people's money in ways that will one day help them leave the planet before the San Ti arrive. Clarence is impressed but doesn't think the idea has substance. In response, his son says that he will keep trying to make it rich because he won't be condemned to live in what I guess we're supposed to think is intolerable squalor but which looks to me like Clarence's perfectly decent apartment. A weird scene I assume will go somewhere eventually.

Episode Grade: B

Next. ebp 8. 3 Body Problem finale review: Let's hear it for the bugs. dark

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