The Three-Body Problem Ep. 9 Goes Deeper While Standing Still: Review

The Three-Body Problem Episode 9 reveals more details and character information while somehow still finding a way to have very little happen.

Episode nine of The Three-Body Problem has been unlocked on Tencent's YouTube channel, and it's an interesting one to talk about. The original novel by Liu Cixin can be rather dry with talking heads, mostly scientist Wang Miao and cop Shi Qiang explaining the plot and scientific theory to each other and the reader. The show makes some interesting decisions to break up or offset all the talking because there are a lot of complex and complicated ideas to get through. It makes sense to pace the series out slowly to thirty episodes to ease the viewers into them, starting out like a cop show investigating a mystery before things get increasingly strange as Science Fiction sets in. Series writer Tian Liang Liang has done a lot of heavy lifting to make sure the show isn't boring.

The Three-Body Problem: Chinese SciFi Epic Premieres in September
"The Three-Body Problem" poster art, Tencent

Once again, not a lot happens, but there's a lot of deep diving into the themes, characters, and more set-up for what's coming. There are twenty-one episodes to go, after all. A lot of changes from the book take place in this episode which makes it better television. It's rather strange to have an episode of television where nothing happens, but a lot is revealed. It might be necessary for the story, but it's not a screenwriting choice we would recommend.

Family Time, Three-Body Problem-Style

We start with Wang Miao (Edward Zhang) getting on with his life when he's not helping Qi Qiang (Yu He Wei) investigate the Frontiers of Science and the deaths of Physicists around the world. He's getting used to seeing the countdown in front of his eyes all the time and has compartmentalized his dread over what's going to happen when it ends. He comes home to help his daughter with a science experiment for school by teaching her how to use heat to get an egg into a narrow bottle. The scene is designed to reassert the importance of Science and Physics to explain the world.

Here's something the internet is up in arms about: science nerds say Wang's explanation for how the egg went into the bottle is wrong. The number of molecules consumed is the same as the number of molecules produced. It is only because the internal gas temporarily expands due to combustion, and the egg is sucked in as it cools and shrinks after being placed on it, not because the egg was pushed by molecules rushing into the bottle to replace the ones destroyed. Oops.

The Three-Body Problem Ep9 Review: Going Deeper While Standing Still
"The Three-Body Problem" still, Tencent

The Wannabe Supervillain

Shi Qiang tracks down Hu Xiao Xi, the man who told Xu Ming the location of the scientist's safehouse so she could show up and film his being taken away in an ambulance. Hu leads Shi in a car chase back to the task force headquarters, where Shi discovers he was turning himself in. Hu insists on talking to General Chang so he can brag about outsmarting the government and how he could get the locations of all the safehouses that Chang didn't tell anyone about till the last minute. Chang, however, has his number. He's the manager of an internet café and failed science fiction writer who suddenly got a windfall in prize money from a writing contest he couldn't have won. He didn't hack Chang's computer to get the location of the safehouses – they were emailed to him by an unknown party. Chang dismisses him and even releases him because he's not worth arresting; he's just a tool. "You're not qualified to be my enemy," was Chang's final withering dismissal.

Buried in this scene is the notion of state surveillance. Chang causally tells Hu that they cracked what he did or didn't do by pulling an email he received and his phone calls, which governments do at will now. It should be more disturbing than anything else in the show.

The Three-Body Problem Ep. 9 Goes Deeper While Standing Still: Review
"The Three-Body Problem" still, Tencent

The Real Supervillain

Hu is an agent or asset of Pan Han (Johnny Zhang), the environmentalist and Frontiers of Science member who might be a more extremist believer in achieving whatever their "lord" wants, and he seems to disagree with Shen Yu Fei's (Li Xiao Ran) policy of quiet recruitment. She criticizes Hu for letting himself get caught just to show off, and Pan promises her that Hu will never get to be part of their "lord's" plan again. Pan continues to cultivate Xu Ming so he can use her to report news that would spread panic despite Shi Qiang and Xu Ming stopping her from creating a conspiracy that the government is disappearing scientists. Xu Ming isn't completely gullible and is still secretly recording their conversations for insurance and evidence in case things go south.

Johnny Zhang was probably directed to play Pan Han as cold, detached, and mildly contemptuous to signpost that he's a bad guy, just like Li Xiao Ran plays Shen Yu Fei as an icy femme fatale. It's Comic Book Villainy because, in real life, who the hell would go along with anyone who acts like that? Even Elon Musk tries to act like he's "one of the guys," though he fails miserably.

The Three-Body Problem Ep. 9 Goes Deeper While Standing Still: Review
"The Three-Body Problem" still, Tencent

Fun and Games in the Three-Body Problem (The Game)

Wang Miao and Shi Qiang meet Shen Yu Fei in the Three-Body Problem VR game onboard the only train in Civilisation 139. This is the 139th civilization to spring up during a stable era in the game world, and Wang is surprised that it lasted long enough to reach the Steam Age, where the denizens now wear Victorian garb. A previous civilization only got as far as the Stone Age before it was destroyed by a Three-Body event. Shi Qiang just has to say something sexist about women scientists looking good when they dress up. He wants to informally interrogate her about the scientist suicides, but an extrasolar event – two suns showing up – occurs and destroys the civilization, killing everyone in it.

More Mystery

When Wang Miao and Shi Qiang meet Shen Yu Fei in person, they press her about the scientists' suicides. She admits she met them and gave them information that drove them to suicide, but she's not responsible for their choices. We may know it already, but Wang and Shi see for the first time that Shen Yu Fei is a fanatic, citing the "lord" that the Frontiers of Science believe in. The real mystery, even to her, is why Yang Dong (He Du Juan) killed herself ten months after her particle accelerator experiments failed instead of immediately after her disillusionment. Solving her mystery might be the key to understanding everything after all.

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.