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3 Body Problem: Red Coast

"I will help you conquer this world."

How could she do that?

Let's start with the flashbacks, because that final moment was jaw-dropping.

Inner Mongolia, 1968: Practically dripping with poker-faced disdain, Ye Wenjie told her boss Yang Weining that they could amplify the message signal by first aiming it at the sun. Yang betrayed Wenjie by going to the big boss and taking credit for this idea. Which of course worked. Because...

In 1977, nine years later, the Wow! signal was received in Ohio. (It really happened!) In China, Wenjie met Mike Evans, who was planting trees in an attempt to save a specific bird species, the brown swallow, from extinction. He and Wenjie connected with her quoting Silent Spring, "In nature, nothing exists alone."

And yet, Wenjie was alone on duty (well, there was a monitor watching her, but not closely enough) when Red Coast received a response from an alien – a pacifist alien, who warned her not to answer, or her planet would be conquered. (I found this just chilling.) Wenjie composed a reply: "Come. We cannot save ourselves. I will help you conquer this world." In the last moment of the episode, she hit the button and sent the message.


It's understandable that Wenjie was completely disillusioned with humanity after everything that had happened to her, but she just betrayed her own planet. The entire planet! How could she? This is insane. The young Mike Evans seemed to signal this outcome earlier in the episode when he said that humans shouldn't be ranked over other species.

In one of the flashbacks, Wenjie was permitted to speak with the young woman who killed her father back in 1966. This young woman is an obvious symbol of communism – it all starts with wide-eyed idealism, and ends up maimed and suffering in a labor camp. And yet, the young woman was not sorry. Is this how we are supposed to see Wenjie, taking an extreme action of destruction, and not regretting it?

The Game

Much of this episode was about Jin and Jack and their experiences in the virtual reality game, which must be more than a game. I'm not a gamer, but I asked my daughter Samantha, who is, what she thought of this whole plot thread. Samantha thought there were a lot of really fun gamer callbacks in it, like it was supposed to appear like a game would be a hundred years in the future.

We have game characters now: the Count of the West, who gave us some strange and interesting instructions, and the little girl called "Follower." The Follower stretched out on the sand and dehydrated; the Count rolled what was left of her flat, desiccated body into a small package. He said, "If one of us survives, we all survive." The pool scene where people threw in bundles of rolled up bodies into the water to rehydrate was just gorgeous. Not so gorgeous was the small Follower frozen and shattering into pieces, though. The sun retreated and everyone froze to death.

So there have been 137 civilizations, chaotic eras and stable eras. After the Count laid out I Ching in sticks on the palace floor, Jin told the Emperor that the answer would be in physics, not divination. Jin was told by another new character, the woman who kept cutting off Jack's head because he wasn't invited, to use science to save the next civilization.

The game sequence ended with three suns in the sky lining up and becoming one. I didn't notice that the first time I saw this episode.

The Oxford Five

Auggie is the power and genius behind the Nanotechnology Research Centre, and her experiment worked: the nanofibers sliced a cube of diamond into many equally sized pieces. But with eight minutes left on her personal countdown, Auggie succumbed to the Invisible Woman's threat and shut the whole thing down – and the countdown actually stopped. I didn't expect that.

Interestingly, Detective Shi showed Auggie that security footage of her outside the bar smoking didn't show the Invisible Woman (whose name in the credit is Tatiana). And how interesting is it that people saw the stars blink, but machines didn't record it? Somehow, the aliens can affect what people see. This must be what is happening with the nonsense results of scientific experiments. How does it relate to the video game?


— Saul does a lot of partying. Auggie told Saul he was a child and it wasn't cute anymore.

— While teaching a class about the multiverse, Will Downing received an important call from his doctor: he has stage four pancreatic cancer, and only months to live. Will confided in Jack, who wanted him to fight it. I don't think Will wants to fight it.

— (So far, the three men in the Oxford Five aren't doing that much for me. I'm all about Auggie and Jin.)

— Detective Shi was surveilling Jin and Jack as they were playing the game.

— I thought it was really fun how the game characters kept telling the players to choose another name. Jin chose "Copernicus." Good name.

— Tatiana, the Invisible Woman, approached Shi at a cemetery where he was visiting his wife's grave. Of course, Shi didn't know what she looked like because she wasn't visible in the security footage.

— Wenjie and her boss Yang Weining discussed the Fermi Paradox.

— Mike Evans, the anti-science environmentalist in the flashbacks, now owns an oil company. Talk about irony. Are Mike and Wenjie still in contact in the present day? He did come to Vera's funeral.

— Although I won't include spoilers for later episodes here, I laughed out loud at the bug flying around during the flashback scene. It was clearly a big callout to another scene in a later episode.

I liked this one better than the first episode, and omg, the ending. Three out of four brown swallows,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

  1. I was disappointed that Auggie's countdown didn't last longer. It was such a major part of their marketing that I thought for sure it would play a larger role. I was also surprised that it went away when she shut down her program. What would have happened if she hadn't?

    I loved the game scenes. They were so cool. Of course Jin got very attached to the Follower, and of course Jack thought that she was annoying. (The Follower is adorable, though.) I also laughed when Jack was repeatedly rejected from the game. Clearly, the headset is discerning over who it lets play it. My only question was where the civilization number 137 came from. Was that how many times Jin had failed? Was it just a random number?

    Finally, the flashback scenes continued to be wonderful and chilling in the best way. I can actually see why Wenjie told the aliens to come. Not only did her boss steal credit for her idea and generally continue to dismiss her, not only did she see the environmental destruction that humanity was wrecking in the name of "progress", but people didn't seem capable of learning. I think that's what the maimed woman was supposed to represent. The last straw for Wenjie. Even after everything, the woman was still devoted to her cause. She refused to acknowledge that it wasn't right. Why not invite aliens in?


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