‘3 Body Problem’ Season Finale Recap: Absolute Power


Walking one of the aforementioned one-night stands — a woman whose name he doesn’t even know, like in the “Mulva” episode of “Seinfeld” — to her ride home, he narrowly avoids three self-driving cars seemingly aimed directly at him. The woman, whose name he now remembers was Nora (Lily Newmark), had pretty effectively dressed him down for his cynical defeatism before her death in his place. It seems safe to assume their final conversation will weigh on him.

Because it turns out he may be the most important character we’ve met. Along with a Chinese general and a Kurdish war hero, Saul is brought before the U.N. General Assembly and declared one of three “wallfacers,” a term borrowed from Buddhist meditation. As Wade and Secretary General Lilian Joseph (CCH Pounder, always a welcome face) both explain, the San-Ti’s sophons can do incredible things, but they can’t read minds.

It’s up to each of these three people to formulate a plan to save the world in total secrecy — indeed, completely within their own heads, leaving nothing behind that the sophons can see or hear or read or scan or decrypt. To pull it off, they are given the power of gods on earth; provided they’re not breaking any international laws, their word is law, and all must obey, no matter how outlandish the demand.

If you’re guessing that this is a bum deal for a genial stoner whose idea of a good life is doing solid but unspectacular work at a lab before going home, smoking up and maybe sleeping with a stranger, you’ve guessed right. But the authorities have reasoned that if Saul, a member of this all-important group of friends, is the one that the aliens are trying to kill — well, they must have their reasons, so the more power they give him, the better. It isn’t until he is nearly assassinated by a remorseless sniper that he seems to understand why the aliens have it in for him, though he doesn’t tell Jin the reason.

The San-Ti are targeting other members of the team too, albeit in more subtle ways. Though they interfere with his plane just to show him they can, the San-Ti do not assassinate Wade the way they tried to assassinate Saul, despite Wade’s unshakable belief in his own importance. They do, however, agree that he’s important — and so they plan to use their powers of illusion to torment him for the rest of his life. I’ve been wondering why they aren’t doing this to all of humanity, as it strikes me as the most dangerous weapon they currently have. Look how worried we are about malevolent humans using A.I.-generated deepfakes, let alone extraterrestrials.

(A brief aside, while we’re talking about diverting visuals: I can’t understand the decision to commission a full opening credit sequence, with theme music, and only air it once, with the premiere. Surely if anyone in television knows the importance of memorable opening titles and a good melodic hook, it’s the guys who made “Game of Thrones.”)

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