3%: Mirror

"I'm not on any side. Is that a crime?"

After what feels like an eternity since season one premiered, 3% returns with a second season and it is better than ever.

It's a year later since the events of last season, only a few days before the next Process (105) starts. Joana is with the Cause, Fernando lost his faith in life, Rafael is playing cool and flying under the radar, and Michele is caught up in a conflict she doesn't want to be a part of. Oh, and Ezequiel is still a pig.

The premiere episode focuses on Joana and Michele. Before the opening credits, there's a terrific scene that follows the young women as they wake up. Michele, surrounded and annoyed by the comforts of the Offshore, and Joana, working her way through poverty and persecution (she's still wanted by the boss of the militia, whose son she accidentally killed). The scene is 3% in a nutshell, displaying the striking difference between the world of those who rule and the world of those who starve. One world is the inverse reflection of the other.

After the opening credits, the episode is broken into three acts: "Inland" (centered on Joana), "Offshore" (Michele) and the culmination of each story, where more parallels are presented. More on that later.

After she chose not to push the button and was unfairly eliminated by Ezequiel as a result, Joana went searching for the Cause. She tried to convince Fernando to join her, but he doesn't believe in the Cause nor in any other group or system. It's all the same from his perspective and he has a point. A group of people, a cause, a society, whatever it is, it needs people as much as it treats the individual person as disposable. The ideology comes first, its preservation too. The episode presents plenty of evidence to support Fernando's point of view: Joana is told more than once that she needs to be ready to give her life for the Cause, and then she learns that the Cause is planning to kill thousands of people to push its agenda forward. The situation is no different in the Offshore: it's all done in a way to preserve the ideology of the Founding Couple, even if it comes at the expense of people.


However it is, Joana is driven to do something, and she should. What Fernando fails to see is that you can be reduced to a blind follower, but you can also leave your own mark in the work of a group. Of course it's too early for Joana to do that, but she wouldn't be able to make a difference from inside the Cause if she hadn't joined it in the first place. She almost fails to join the Cause, though. Smart and skilled Joana is cut short by her individualism and doesn't realize that she is not supposed to beat the other candidate, they need to help each other out. But Joana is resourceful enough to turn it around, and she becomes part of the team anyway.

It isn't all good news, though, because Joana's first mission requires her to infiltrate the house where she killed a child. And this is one of the reasons why this episode excels: it goes deep into what troubles Joana and Michele the most, making their trials extremely personal.

For Michele, it's all about her brother. Remember that we learned last season that someone had committed the first murder in Offshore? Oh, yeah, that someone is Michele's brother. His punishment is a nightmare. He lives in complete isolation, inside a room whose walls are made of two way mirrors: anyone can see him from the outside, but he can only see himself.


Michele has been dealt multiple unfair hands. First she is recruited by the Old Man, who brought her into the Cause by convincing her that the Process had killed her brother. Then she is told by Ezequiel that that is a lie, that her brother is alive and well, and she should be too once she accepts his offer to turn against the Cause. She finally arrives in Offshore to learn that her brother is in complete isolation and she can't contact him. Being unable to actually meet her brother combined with her belief that he is innocent lead Michele to isolate herself. She is a total outcast and she doesn't mind it. When she says that she is not on any side, she means it. They can all go to hell.

But Ezequiel doesn't give up easy. He knows that he can use her against the Cause, so he gives her a couple of motivations: a negative one, by showing her what he did to Aline, his former foe – she is now completely brainwashed and a shadow of her former self – and a positive one, indicating that she can meet her brother again if she infiltrates the Cause to bring it down. Like I said before, Ezequiel is still a pig.

The episode closes with Michele's and Joana's paths crossing thematically yet again. Michele is coerced by Ezequiel to cooperate, while Joana learns that the explosives she just acquired for the Cause will be used to kill a bunch of innocent people. Both women are trying to follow their hearts, but will they be able to hold onto their core values as their superiors try to change their route? I don't know the answer to that question, but after this excellent premiere, I really want to find out.

Bits and Pieces

- Here is my seasonal request for you to watch the original version with subtitles. The dubbing is terrible and takes too much away from the performances. If you are not used to watching programs with subtitles, try it for a couple of episodes. You'll get used to it before you know it.

- It looks like we will learn more about the... Founding Trio! That was a fun little twist.

- I liked the test that Michele came up with. It was more fun than most of the tests the candidates had to take last season.

- I really liked Silas, Joana's boss in the Cause, but he is the perfect example of the indoctrination that Fernando talked about. He lectures Joana about her individualism, and yet he can rationalize committing mass murder (which is much worse than Joana's selfishness) because of the Cause.

- Aline is brainwashed and Council member Matheus was nowhere to be seen, but Council member and new character Marcela, played by the excellent Laila Garin, rules and she is a formidable new foe to Ezequiel.

- The world building in this episode was really good. The show as a whole feels more layered and mature. The Cause, however, is still a little underwritten. Here is hoping that improves throughout the season.

- One of my major complaints from last season was how amateurish the costume design for the inlanders was. This season, the old, dirty clothes look more organic, instead of looking like they were ripped ten minutes before the shooting started. The actors are not painted anymore with that random, colored dirt. Win and win.

- There was an obvious budget increase. Another win.

- The CGI for the flying balls that the founder trio launched were not good. That's okay, not everything can be a win.

- There were lots of swearing in this episode, the subtitles didn't cover them all.

Quotes

Computer lady: "Tip of the day: greet people, smile."
Michele: "Deactivate tip of the day."

Fernando: "Cause, Process, militia, church, it's all the same."

Joana: "I'd rather die trying to change things than keep on hiding."

Silas: "Without them, who knows what would be of me? I might've turned out like you."
Joana: "Dazzling?"

Silas: "Don't die like an idiot."
Joana: "Isn't that what you Cause people do?"

An excellent premiere, anchored by a strong performance from Bianca Comparato. Three and a half out of four frogs.

Programming note: I'll try to post two reviews a week. :)
--
Lamounier

2 comments:

magritte said...

I enjoyed this one, too. Overall, the show looked better and felt more assured in its storytelling than the first season. I liked the way they drew parallels and cut back and forth between Michele and Joana's stories. They gave us a well-paced and well-thought out narrative about two of the characters rather than trying to bring us up to speed on all four in one episode which was probably the right choice. I expect we'll see a lot more of Rafael and Fernando next time.

I'm looking forward to reading your reactions to the rest of the season.

Lamounier said...

Thank you for the comment, magritte. I agree that focusing on two characters at a time was the right choice.