The Three-Body Problem Ep. 22 Review: The Sad Cup of Coffee Is Bitter!
The Three-Body Problem Ep. 22: a nostalgic video game shutdown, another murder & the saddest cup of coffee in the history of television.
Episode twenty-two of The Three-Body Problem is almost all new material not in Liu Cixin's original novel. It was created for the show by screenwriter Tian Liang Liang who, along with the producer and director, know the book inside-out and is one of the best episodes that make the story better. It also features the most emotionally-charged scene featuring a man ordering a cup of coffee, that is a masterclass in screenwriting and acting.
Protecting Science Grandma at All Costs
Pan Han's ploy setting up reporter Mu Xing to leak his list of the Redemptionist faction to the authorities has worked, with the members getting arrested worldwide and letting him and his factor, the Adventists dominate the Earth Trisolaran Organisation. Science Grandma is utterly calm here, but Chen Jia's stillness makes her incredibly menacing.
She attends Shen Yu Fei's funeral at the Buddhist temple where Shen first met her husband, Wei Cheng passes without incident, but Chen Xie is determined to keep her safe. When Pan Han tells her Mu Xing is getting closer to discover Science Grandma is the Commander of the ETO, he knows what Chen Xie is going to do.
The Oddly Nostalgic Shutdown of The Three-Body Problem
Wang Miao (Edward Zhang) logs into the game again to see what's happening now that there is no solution to the Three-Body Problem. For the first time, his avatar is himself without any fancy dress. The game world has become barren; all the buildings, the giant pendulum and signs of civilization have been dismantled. The player playing the avatar of the UN ambassador tells him the Trisolarans have given up, and the stars in the sky are starships the civilization has built to set off as the first colonisers of a world that will be their new home. They have achieved sublight space travel, able to hit one-tenth the speed of light. Time to get the F out of Dodge before the planet is destroyed by the three suns. The planet they're heading for is four light years away. It's Earth. It'll take a while.
Wang Miao witnesses the game shutting down for good just as Pan Han orders the servers offline permanently; also, at the same time, the Combat Center found the satellite housing the servers in orbit and take it out for good. They're still two steps behind Pan Han. The final moments of the game reminded us of the moments when MMO games like The Matrix Online and Star Wars Galaxy shut down forever, though the graphics are a lot more spectacular.
And Yet Another Murder…
Mu Xing uses information Pan Han gave her to Xinghua University to find Science Grandma Ye Wen Jie's name as a former professor there. Pan Han has manipulated Chen Xuo into cleaning up one of his loose ends now that Mu Xing is no longer useful to him. Mu Xing, a character original to the show, ends her arc here. It's one of the series' accomplishments to make a petite lady like Chen Xue in jeans and sneakers an utterly terrifying, unstoppable killer. Chen Xue will protect Science Grandma at all costs, no matter how many people she has to kill.
Even General Chang knows Mu Xing is in danger and needs to be protected. Shi Qiang tries to take her into protective custody, but she convinces him to let her investigate the ETO for another twelve hours, promising to meet him at a coffee shop that night for him to pull her out and to buy him a cup of coffee. We all know she's doomed and will never buy him that coffee.
About The Fridging in The Three-Body Problem
We have to talk about the fact that the series fridged three female characters in a row. In case you're wondering, "fridging" is the trope where a female character is killed in a story in order to give the male characters motivation and to show emotion. Gale Simone identified the trope way back in the 1990s in an issue of the Green Lantern comic. Two of the three female characters' deaths are in Liu Cixin's original novel, and the third, Mu Xing, was created for the show by its female screenwriter Tian Liang Liang. Yang Dong's death is what kicks off the mystery and investigation of The Three-Body Problem. Shen Yu Fei's death is also demanded in the book, but the series gives it more thematic and emotional weight. Mu Xing's entire arc is to show how evil and insidious Pan Han is, give Shi Qiang a foil, the nosy reporter trope, and then show how good a detective he is when he follows the clues she left behind and traces her killer Chen Xue.
That Cup of Coffee Isn't Just About Coffee
We're left with Shi Qiang and how he deals with a loss that he blames himself for. He goes to the coffee shop at the time he agreed to meet Mu Xing. He orders a cup of coffee, even though he's a thoroughly Chinese street guy who has never drunk coffee. That some people put sugar and milk in it is weird to a tea guy like him. He drinks the coffee black, and his face contorts into a series of emotions as he declares, "Damn, it's bitter!" We know he's not just talking about the coffee. Next up, Episode 23!