Share this:

When David Benioff and DB Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, inked a deal with Disney to helm a new Star Wars cycle before backing out in favor of a deal with Netflix, many people called out the pair for essentially losing interest in the series that made them storytelling superstars. Nevertheless, anyone who appreciated the deeply addictive Thrones had to be curious about what the pair would come up with next. Now, the wait is over, and, after seeing the premiere episode of their new Netflix series, 3 Body Problem (which debuted at SXSW 2024), I can say that I’m hooked. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the new Netflix series.

3 Body Problem premiere episode shown at SXSW 2024

As with George R. R. Martin’s fantasy opus, Benioff and Weiss are adapting from literary source material. 3 Body Problem is based on a 2008 Chinese novel, titled The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. The pair have partnered with Alexander Woo for the project, who served as a writer on True Blood as well as cowriting HBO’s adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Woo is serving as showrunner on 3 Body Problem, with Benioff and Weiss executive producing and taking on writing duties. 

The mysterious pilot episode, titled “Countdown,” pivots back and forth in time, beginning with a brutal scene set in 1966 China, during the Cultural Revolution, before jumping forward to present day London. In that opening scene, we see a young physicist, Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao), watch in terror as her father is beaten during a struggle session for espousing heretical ideas.

During the sequences of the episode set in the present, we learn that particle accelerators across the globe have begun malfunctioning in exactly the same way. Science, we’re told, is broken, as the fundamentals of physics as humans understand them no longer match what is observed. 

As fantastical as it seems, that’s only the beginning. A group of friends, who formerly studied physics together at university, gather when a prominent member of the field dies by suicide. One of the group, Auggie Salazar (Eiza González), begins seeing a countdown clock that no one else can. She is, to say the least, troubled by this vision. Things get even weirder when someone approaches her who seems to know what’s behind what she’s experiencing. This mysterious person tells Auggie to look up at the stars at exactly midnight for confirmation of what she’s being told. 

Netflix's 3 Body Problem Jess Hong and John Bradley
Jess Hong and John Bradley in 3 Body Problem (Netflix)

The climax of the episode comes with that midnight stargazing. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that this moment is an audacious bit of special effects wizardry, causing me to wonder what could possibly happen next. It, along with the rest of the head trip ideas contained in the first episode, made me as interested in continuing the story as I was during another mind-bending Netflix series, Brit Marling’s stunning The OA

Marvel and Game of Thrones cast featured in the Netflix series

Several Game of Thrones regulars fill out the ensemble, including John Bradley (Samwell Tarly in Thrones) as Jack Rooney, a member of the group who washed out of physics but went on to found a successful snack-food empire. Jonathan Pryce (who played the nefarious High Sparrow in GoT), and Liam Cunningham (aka Davos Seaworth), make appearances (the latter only in scenes teasing future episodes) as shadowy puzzle pieces that should become clearer as the show progresses. 

Everybody’s favorite Master of the Mystic Arts, Benedict Wong, also appears as a world-weary detective type named Clarance. The Scotland Yard detective is investigating other deaths featuring clues pointing to the cryptic countdown that haunts Eiza González’s Auggie.

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Translated by Ken Liu Review Banner

Final thoughts on the 3 Body Problem premiere “Countdown”

Coming to the series as someone who hasn’t read the source material, this first episode sets the table effectively while posing the metaphysical questions that will (hopefully) be answered over the course of the season. I’m intrigued to find out exactly how the sequences set in the past, will intersect and affect what’s going on in the present.

The premiere episode of 3 Body Problem (the show’s title refers to a concept in physics and classical mechanics) makes clear that the show will attempt to tackle some ideas as big as the universe itself. In addition to The OA, “Countdown” also put me in mind of something like Everything Everywhere All at Once, albeit a more serious take on universe-sized sci-fi and fantasy. If the rest of the season is as engrossing and mystifying as the first episode, it should be a delight to go along for the ride.

You can see the first season of 3 Body Problem when Netflix drops all eight episodes on March 21 . The show has the promise of being a bingeworthy event.

Netflix’s Damsel is Anything But in Distress

Damsel Review Banner

Review: Netflix’s Spaceman Is A Hearted Attempt On Isolation

spaceman review banner adam sandler

Share this:

Josh Thayer

Josh Thayer has been writing as The Forgetful Film Critic since 2014 and is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association as well as the Online Film Critics Society. Website:

Josh Thayer has 10 posts and counting. See all posts by Josh Thayer