About That ‘3 Body Problem’ Ending…

As quickly as it started, Netflix’s eight-episode “3 Body Problem” ends, in a blur of VR headsets and scientist murders and that one time they sliced up a ship like bologna.

Though it hasn’t been greenlit yet, creators David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo have plans for Season 2, and Cixin Liu’s book series is a trilogy. Even if this is the end for now, the story remains open-ended. So what should viewers make of the finale?

More from IndieWire

What matters most is the foundation laid in previous episodes. An alien civilization called the San-Ti is headed toward Earth, expected to arrive in over 400 years. Though their original goal was to conquer Earth and escape their own tri-solar system, they realized that human technology would advance and likely surpass the San-Ti’s by the time they arrive. “This is a funeral procession,” their VR avatar says in a previous episode. They’ve sent sophons — multidimensional protons, don’t worry about it — to surveil and deceive humanity in the mean time, but the most large and loyal faction of these followers is now disbanded. To turn humans against each other, the San-Ti have to start from scratch — and no matter what, they can’t breach the boundaries of the human brain.

As such, the finale focuses on three key elements, as contained an episode as most without feeling too massive in scale or scope. We break down those plot lines below.


This sloppily assembled plot is likely the byproduct of “3 Body Problem” turning one book character into half a dozen different leads for the TV version. Everyone besides Saul is in on the Big Plan to Fight Aliens, so he’s mysteriously selected by a global council to be one of three individuals who get to brainstorm humanity-saving plans and exploit endless resources in the name of doing so. “Why Saul?” you may ask — and he asks, and the world asks (“Who is Saul Durand?” Jake Tapper declares on in-universe CNN). No reason! “Let’s just say the enemy knows why” is what he’s told, but the show does not have an answer to give you while all of humanity raises the question. It gets to the point that the writers seem to be reaching through the screen and asking; every time the plotline is placed in the rearview, someone brings it up again. Jin asks Saul how he ended up in company with a Chinese general and a Kurdish war hero, and Saul finally says he has a theory.

“Nah,” he says a moment later. “Stupid.”


Lost in Space

Similarly shoehorned into a useful role is Will (Alex Sharpe), who technically died in Episode 7 so that Wade’s (Liam Cunningham) grand plan could harvest his brain and shoot it into space. Will’s brain sets sail according to Jin’s (Jess Hong) carefully crafted but hurriedly executed plan: a series of nuclear explosions will accelerate the craft once it leaves Earth’s atmosphere, helping it get to 1.12 percent of light speed on its way toward the San-Ti fleet.

But all does not go according to plan, and when one of the fixtures on Space Will comes undone, the vessel goes off-course. Will won’t intercept the San-Ti, nor will he ostensibly cross paths with any other life form or celestial body for lightyears. Jin stews in her guilt, regret, and newfound love for him.

Return of the Lord

After severing ties with humanity via Mike Evans (Jonathan Pryce), the San-Ti have chosen their latest liaison in Tatiana (Marlo Kelly). First they intercepted her TV signal, then they sent her to China to ostensibly murder Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao) off-screen in between episodes, but in Episode 8 they finally invite her to play the Three Body game. This is treated as one of the most pivotal scenes in the finale but the significance isn’t clear; as part of Wenjie’s group of San-Ti followers, Tatiana should already know the basic facts of San-Ti civilization as laid out in Three Body, so why is she this excited to play? Will the game unlock new depths for its chosen human leader?

For most of the series, Wade reigns unchecked — whether he’s ordering around Da Shi, assembling a task force, or slicing up a ship full of people (including children!). The San-Ti contact him directly in the finale, telling him that there will be a place for him when they arrive in 450 years, but also that they’ll be everywhere he goes for the rest of his life. This is as vague as everything else regarding the San-Ti’s inexplicable omniscience (explored in more detail in IndieWire’s book to series comparison), and plays more as a shock value visual than anything else when Wade sees himself with bloodied, empty eye sockets. What actually happens when the countdown runs out? How do the San-Ti watch everyone all the time? These are questions with no answers, and this is a scene with no purpose.

“3 Body Problem” Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.