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'3 Body Problem' episode 5 has a violent sequence that's almost gory enough to live up to 'Game of Thrones' on its own

Palmer Haasch   

'3 Body Problem' episode 5 has a violent sequence that's almost gory enough to live up to 'Game of Thrones' on its own
  • "3 Body Problem" generally isn't a very violent show.
  • But man, does it really go for it in one absolutely wild sequence.

"3 Body Problem" isn't as prone to killing people (or showing them nude) as "Game of Thrones" — but that doesn't mean it doesn't get its punches in. And good god, do those punches land.

The series, helmed by "Game of Thrones" showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss alongside "True Blood" writer Alexander Woo, is an adaptation of Chinese author Liu Cixin's "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy. The basic premise: aliens are coming to invade Earth in a few hundred years. The war between them and humanity has already begun, and scientists are Earth's greatest assets.

"Judgment Day," directed by Minkie Spiro, is the show's biggest episode. And while "3 Body Problem" is more psychological than action-focused, its first season throws all of its eggs into one stunning, horrific set piece that makes your heart beat out of your chest like you're playing a video game.

If you haven't watched episode five of the show, I'd suggest coming back here afterward if you don't want spoilers.

What happens in episode 5 of '3 Body Problem?'

The "good guys" — shady intelligence officer Wade (Liam Cunningham), his deputy Clarence Shi (Benedict Wong), and naval officer Raj Varma (Saamer Usmani) — are trying to figure out how to obtain intel about the aliens, known as the San-Ti.

The best way to do it would be to get their hands on the communication logs between oil heir Mike Evans (Jonathan Pryce), a human working in service of the eventual invasion, and the San-Ti. And the best way to do that is by attacking Evans's oil tanker, Judgment Day, which is about to pass through the Panama Canal.

Bombing the boat would destroy the intel, so Wade enlists Auggie (Eiza González) to use her revolutionary nanofibers to construct a trap to slice and dice it. Understandably, she isn't too thrilled about her technology being used to potentially kill innocents — spoiler: it does — but goes along with it anyway.

"It creates an interesting moral dynamic for the viewer that the most violent, horrific thing that [humans] do on the show is done by ostensibly the good guys," Woo said in a Netflix featurette.

'The most violent, horrific thing'

The Judgment Day sequence, which is drawn from Liu's original book, is a masterclass in suspense. As Auggie and the others prepare for Judgment Day's passage, the show cuts to sequences of children eating in a cafeteria, a man monitoring the show's video game along with a cat, and Evans sitting in his office. The stakes are clear: they're about to destroy a thriving community.

Initially, from Chez Good Guys, it doesn't look like the trap is working. Then, things really kick into gear: a man cleaning the deck of the boat looks in puzzlement as his water supply cuts off, hose flailing. Moments after, his flesh squelches as he's cut laterally, his blood mingling with the liquid on the deck. This sets the sequence's excruciating, inexorable pace — and though we don't actually see the children playing basketball yards away get cut into pieces, we know it happens off-screen.

That pacing is why the sequence works so damn well. Viewers experience the massacre of the Judgment Day through a series of crowded hallways, halved children's backpacks, severed torsos, wrenching metal, and the soft slicing of flesh. The attention to detail makes it feel all the more grounded and horrifying, up until the moment that the ship falls apart into wreckage.

"For something as epic as the Judgment Day, it began with months and months of prep," Spiro, the director, said in a Netflix interview. "And I think everyone just expects that you're just gonna all do it in post, in VFX, and I guess maybe I'm old school, but I wanted to keep quite a bit of it in-camera as well."

Lord, is it effective. While "3 Body Problem" doesn't have, say, Pedro Pascal getting his skull crushed on-screen à la "Game of Thrones," it does have this — a single sequence that's so stomach-turning it feels like it never ends.

'You are bugs'

"3 Body Problem" chases the Judgment Day sequence with a definitive throwing of the gauntlet: the San-Ti assert their dominance by projecting the phrase "You are bugs" onto seemingly every screen on Earth.

For an alien race that has previously operated in the shadows, the act matches the stark violence of the Judgment Day shutdown. It doesn't matter how many humans Auggie and Wade slaughtered in the name of defending the planet: ultimately, they still all might get crushed, just like bugs.

"3 Body Problem" is now streaming on Netflix.

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