3%: Button

“I’m not a killer.”

I’m not sure how to start this review. I could either open it with “I knew it!” or “are you kidding me?”. But here I’m, gentle reader, talking to you about my inability to make a choice. Bear with me, I promise I will make some decisions through this piece, although by the end of it I probably won’t know how to rate the episode.

Our four main candidates are put through final tests, even though the official ones are over. Fernando falls very quickly, and by very quickly I mean right in the beginning of the episode. That caught me off guard. I worried that his innocent love for Michele would compromise him, but I didn’t expect him to go down that easily. It was clever writing that he didn’t pass the test he created himself, but it was also a disappointing end of journey for a promising character. I kept expecting him to realize it was a trial, but he went straight to his demise with no hesitation.

Where is Clarke Griffin when you need her?
Joana also got the chop, and that’s when I went all “are you kidding me?”. Okay, to be fair, I was spoiled she would be eliminated, because “ye who don’t binge shall be punished with spoilers”, says The Mighty Internet. But dear lord, do I hate Ezequiel more than ever. It’s one thing to put her through an extra test to see if she had the potential to become his private assassin or whatever, it’s another to ELIMINATE her because she didn’t meet his twisted expectations. Now that his sink is broken, he can drown his head in the toilet where it belongs.

You might be the King of the Process, but I'm the Queen of the World.
Even though I knew how it would end, Joana’s final trial was the tensest scene of the episode for me. I didn’t want Joana to kill the man and I did not know if she would be jettisoned for killing him or for disobeying Ezequiel’s command. Good for Joana that it was the latter, and good for everybody that she got to tell some hard truths to Ezequiel. She didn’t pass, but by refusing to murder the man, she gained back something much more valuable than Offshore could ever be: her sense of worth. She entered the Process seeing herself as a murderer, she left it knowing there is no assassin in her. Now she is on her way to join the Cause, which makes me a very happy Joana fan.

Rafael had no additional test, but he did have to make a tough call. It turns out the “Purification Ritual” is a sterilization process. I knew it! Or, you know, I theorized it. The writers dropped some hints on earlier episodes and they also made sure Rafael talked a lot about having kids, so that his final dilemma would have more dramatic weight. In the end, he decided to sacrifice his ability to have children for the greater good. Hey, Rafael, by the time you bring down Offshore, adopting is a valid option. :)

Now I know what my cat went through.
Rafael progressively became a better character from the third episode onwards. He might have had an approach of “the end justifies the means” by betraying his brother and stealing from another candidate, but I understand his mindset. He knows he can do something good in the world, something that neither his brother nor the other candidate would do, and by making the world a better place, he will make it better for them too.

Michele, however, might not help to make the world a better place. It turns out her brother wasn’t dead, it was all just a lie that old man with the weird thing on his face told her. That reminded me of how, on Continuum, Kagame did a terrible thing (which I won’t spoil here) to lure Sonya into his cause. Leaders lose track of decency even when their motives are good, most of the time because of power. In the cases of both 3% and Continuum, it’s the power of manipulation, of attracting followers, no matter what the cost is. The problem is that the cost can be the cause itself, which is exactly what happened with Michele.

"I'm your father." / "NOOOOOOO!"
Now, will she yield to Ezequiel’s proposal? What a great revelation that he had been part of the Cause in the past. He has chosen his path already, he truly believes in the system, in “merit”. If the death of his wife and taking care of her son won’t open his eyes, nothing will. Curious that he saw a chance to turn Michele into someone that thinks like him. He went from treating her as a foe to practically treating her as a pupil, and I’ll be interested to see what dynamic they’ll have next season. I do hope she doesn’t change sides, though, or that she finds her own path, independent from the Cause and from Ezequiel.

However good this episode was, there are still some things that are blurry for me. For instance, does it make sense to sterilize the 3%? When you think of the strict division between the 3% and the 97%, it is fair that everyone must go through the Process. But at the age of 20? That’s too old. How can Offshore be so advanced in medicine and technology if its citizens are educated so late? Unless they have state schools in the Continent that give the kids some basic education, I can’t see how Offshore would prosper.

And here is the thing, we just don’t know enough about the Continent and its relationship with Offshore, we don’t know a lot beyond “the Offshore is wealthy, the Continent is poor”. How does Offshore exploit the Continent? Are there state factories where the continentals work practically as slaves to produce goodies for offshorians? The relation of oppressor/oppressed needs to be better defined, so that the criticism the series wants to make becomes deeper and more relevant. The same goes for the Cause. What does it do exactly beyond vaguely plotting to take the system down? What did Old Man with Weird Thing on His Face do that made him so valuable? Did he explode my hypothetical factory? Attacked a past process? We don’t know.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this season. The main characters were well written and the Process was an interesting ride. There are pieces of the story that need more attention and, as we move forward to the second season and some of the underdeveloped threads become the focus, the writers have a chance to work on them. That’s it for now, gentle readers, we meet again on the Offshore next season.

Bits and Pieces

- Aline is locked up, but she is on her way to convince Luciana she is innocent.

- It was unfair that Joana and Fernando had to go through additional tests, although I do understand why Ezequiel would want to check Fernando’s motivation after questioning him last episode. It doesn’t change the fact that Ezequiel is an ass.

- The newly approved candidates are Offshore’s “children”. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be Ezequiel’s child at the age of 20. Or at any age, really.

- Only fifteen candidates passed. Fifteen. That’s way too little. Either Offshore is bizarrely small, or there are processes happening on other locations.

- Michele will go to the Recovery and Treatment Center.

- Transport between the Continent and Offshore is underwater.

- Nice visual symbolism of the wine going down Ezequiel’s face as he remembers his wife’s death.

- I really like head of security Cássia, deftly played by Luciana Paes.

- Veteran actors Zezé Motta and Sérgio Mamberti, who played the Council members Nair and Matheus respectively, were mostly underused. I hope season two gives them more to do, since they won’t be limited to a computer screen.

- I also hope the costumes for the continentals improve, they were very amateurish.

- I like the opening credits and the title song, which reminds me a little bit of Battlestar Galactica’s.

- I’ve only noticed on this episode that the subtitles have been calling the Continent as “Inland”. I apologize if I confused you guys by calling it the Continent.

Quotes

Joana: “I’m trash?”
Ezequiel: “Yes.”
Joana: “Look at you. Telling me the Offshore was made for people like me. No. It was made for people like you. A sorry man who thinks he’s better than everyone else. But who’s just an asshole. A piece of shit. Who just has this shitty Process to play king with. Can’t you see how absurd this is?”
Ezequiel: “Get out.”
Joana: “There isn’t an ounce of humanity left in you.”
Ezequiel: “Get out.”
Joana: “Trash is what you are.”

So, let’s see. This wasn’t a firing on all cylinders type of season finale, but it was a good one. How many caps out of four, then? Three? Four? Something in between? I’ll leave it for you to decide.
--
Lamounier, whose New Year’s resolution included becoming a more decided person, which is clearly not working very well so far.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I had a mixed reaction, too. What happened to Joana was infuriating, and if she's not in the next season, I'm going to be disappointed. I was frustrated with what Fernando did, too. How could he throw it all away like that? Although yes, it was in character. Are they going to follow Joana and Fernando and the Cause now? (I did like how she wheeled him away, as if that would be a permanent thing.)

The sterilization thing was an "aha" moment. It completely explained the weird focus on children. I honestly thought Rafael would turn them down. So I actually am invested in seeing Rafael and Michele bring these turkeys down.

"Now I know what my cat went through." Lol.

magritte said...

I just finished watching the series and while it certainly had its missteps--much of the Process was absurd--by the end, I felt the four principal characters all had interesting arcs. I enjoyed the final episode, and all four final tests quite a bit. I'm not sure how much of Joana's decision was based on mercy and how much on defiance; she really doesn't like being pushed around. And I like the opposite trajectories of Fernando and Michele: the true believer and the revolutionary both forced to question their beliefs.

It's interesting that the only major characters who actually made it through the Process are the ones with the Cause. Because they wanted to make it through for more than just personal fulfillment, they were willing to make bigger sacrifices. They are (or perhaps in Michele's case were) the characters with faith, though not faith in the Process. Fernando lost his faith, and Joana believed in herself, not in the Process.

The show's focus on the Process for the whole season didn't leave much room for world-building. As Lamounier says, we really need to learn more about the Offshore, the Inland, and their relationship. And so I'd be very surprised, as well as disappointed, if the next season doesn't include Joana and Fernando. They're the only established characters in that half of the world.

When the money offer came up, my initial reaction was to wonder why anyone would choose to forego the known good life that the money would give them for a chance to go somewhere they know nothing about. But then I remembered the things people are willing to do for religious salvation. I'm wondering what sort of statement the writers are making about religion in our world, by choosing to create a world where the 97% are kept under control by the promise of a chance at paradise.

magritte said...

I enjoyed the final episode of the season quite a bit; it gave us satisfying character arcs for all four of the major characters. I would be very surprised, as well as disappointed, if we don't see Joanna and Fernando next season. As Lamounier points out, we really need to understand the societies of the Offshore and the Inland and their relationship to make the show work when the show stops being about the Process, and starts to focus on the Cause.

I liked the symmetry in the character arcs. Once a true believer in the Process, Fernando has lost his faith, and Michele's faith in the Cause may be shaken. And while Rafael has given up something that seems to be very important to his identity to serve the Cause, Joana refused to be bullied into sacrificing her own identity. She remained true to herself, even though it will put her in danger to return to the Inland.

A final thought: during the episode where they were offered money to drop out, my first reaction was that any sensible person would take the money. They don't really know anything about the Offshore; maybe they wouldn't even like it, so why reject something they know will give them a good life? But then I considered the sacrifices people make seeking religious salvation, and wondered if the writers are deliberately making a point about religion.

As far as education, I have to assume that they do educate the people in the Inland. That's probably how they indoctrinate them into believing in the Process, along with the preachers. As far as sterilizing the 3%, the meritocratic ideology would demand it unless people were to send away their children.