TV Review – 3 Body Problem

It’s been a long-awaited answer to the question of what Game of Thrones series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would make next after they left cable giant HBO for a healthy payday at Netflix. And it seems that the same ambition the duo showed in adapting one of the most beloved and complex fantasy series of all time is still there in their adaptation of the award-winning sci-fi novel of the same name, 3 Body Problem.

Told through correlating timelines, one during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and the other in 2024, this science-fiction heavy epic follows a group of scientists in modern day England who are trying to make sense of a recent suicide that rippled through the scientific community, all while an otherworldly anomaly leads down a rabbit hole of consequences and ramifications caused by the ripple effect of one Chinese woman’s actions in the 1960s.

Auggie (Eisa Gonzalez), an incredibly intelligent and successful scientist, begins to experience odd and visceral hallucinogenic visions of a countdown right in front of her eyes. Not know why she sees these numbers, or what will happen when the countdown strikes zero, she enlists the help of a close friend and fellow intellect Saul (Jovan Edepo) to help her uncover the meaning behind her visions. 

Meanwhile, back in 1960s China, Ye Wenjie (the younger version of this character being played by Zine Tseng), another woman of great intelligence who also happens to be able to speak and write in English, a much-maligned combination for the Chinese during this time, finds herself embroiled in a secret Government experiment after witnessing the death of a close mentor who held dark secrets himself.

Investigating the suicide and the link between the scientists involved, Detective Da Shi (Benedict Wong) also begins to suspect something much more complicated, and potentially supernatural, is at play, despite the disapproval of his superiors. But the cases complexities arise after a worldwide phenomenon strikes.

Having spent the better part of a decade on arguably the largest scale show in the history of television, the 5-year hiatus for Benioff and Weiss didn’t see them working on their own smaller scale projects (outside of a few producing credits) like many other filmmakers do, but rather building a brand-new world in 3 Body Problem, and the scale of this story is felt on screen.

Knowing the incredible physical world that was built in Game of Thrones, it’s no surprise that 3 Body Problem is a brilliant looking show. Each episode showcases the expected cinematic quality from a high-budget Netflix series, with grandiose sets in multiple locations across the world, in different eras, serving as immersive visual eye-candy. Then as the series delves further into the science fiction elements, the stunning visual effects enhance the immersion and truly bring to life an ambitious science-fiction tale.

Navigating a story with two timelines, one of which has upwards of a dozen characters to deal with, is no easy feat. For the most part, 3 Body Problem is easy to follow. The pacing is a little all over the place in the early episodes as the story lays its foundations, often spending a fair amount of time in one storyline before jolting back to the other one in what seems more like an attempt to remind the audience that this is still important to remember, but it won’t be entirely relevant just yet. This isn’t a hinderance to the overall narrative as the two timelines begin to converge, but there is more confusion than mystery to start things off.

One of the shows strengths is the dedication to the science (and in a lot of ways, the fiction) element of the show. Supernatural anomalies caused by scientific experimentation that probably shouldn’t have happened, incredibly life-like augmented reality video games, being able to access the multiverse, creating new elements, the physical world of spirituality, and the inseparable bond of people in different times are just some of the themes that 3 Body Problem presents to the audience, and it’s not all surface level for the sake of “being smart”.

This is a complexly themed series that audiences who enjoy the challenges of questioning our existence and the existence of life outside of Earth will relish in the rabbit hole the characters of this story will go down. For a casual viewing experience, it will take a bit of work and focus, because there are aspects of the story that do get quite dense. At times, the focus on the science can take away from the overall drama, but it’s the interesting, unique (and at points, straight up strange) things 3 Body Problem creates that are engaging to watch.

3 Body Problem is a bold, ambitious follow up to Game of Thrones for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have once again not skimmed on scope and scale to adapt a dense, unique, weird, and intriguing science-fiction story. While the complexities and mystery of the narrative takes a few episodes to settle, the end is a satisfying conclusion for this story, but still leaves a desire to see what else could happen next.

All eight episodes of 3 Body Problem are available to stream on Netflix from March 21.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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It’s been a long-awaited answer to the question of what Game of Thrones series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would make next after they left cable giant HBO for a healthy payday at Netflix. And it seems that the same ambition the duo...TV Review - 3 Body Problem