‘3 Body Problem’ Episode 2 Recap: Why Does Wenjie Invite The Aliens To Conquer Earth?

In the pilot episode of 3 Body Problem, set nonlinearly in 1960s China and present-day London, the series explores the background of the story. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Ye Wenjie witnesses her father being publicly killed by the Red Guards for his research on Western science, and, subsequently, Wenjie is herself subjected to labor work. But, when she is found in possession of an English book, she is imprisoned only to be recruited by Commander Lei who runs Red Coast, a secret project in an observatory at Inner Mongolia. Given her research in astrophysics, they believe Wenjie’s work to be crucial to the research they plan to be doing in the observatory. Initially, it seems like Red Coast was a weaponization program until she finds out the motive of the program is to communicate with extraterrestrial life. 

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In 2024 London, Wenjie’s daughter, Vera Ye is the head of a particle accelerator program at Oxford University, but after her program shuts down due to anomalous atomic behavior, she commits suicide. Vera’s death adds to a series of mysterious deaths of astrophysicists and pioneering scientists. Vera leaves behind a group of other Oxford scientists whom she had previously mentored. Auggie, a scientist who is working on nanofibers, starts to hallucinate a countdown suggesting her death at the end of the countdown which makes her extremely anxious. Subsequently, she encounters a woman who warns her that to stop the countdown, she would need to put an end to the nanofiber project. To prove the claim, the woman asks Auggie to watch the night sky at midnight, the next evening. Likewise, at midnight, the stars begin to blink in a pattern similar to Morse. Saul, Vera’s protege, accompanies Auggie and decodes the message. The hidden message turns out to be the same as the countdown Vera has been seeing. 

Meanwhile, Jin, another astrophysicist from their circles, was close to Vera. She finds an object similar to a helmet at Vera’s house, which turns out to be an advanced full-dive Virtual Reality headgear. Jin finds herself in a highly realistic dystopian world. 

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Spoilers Ahead


What Is The VR Game About? 

Jin once again puts on the headgear and enters this extremely realistic VR world. The VR game even replicates sensory perceptions like taste, smell and texture from the real world. As the system AI announces that she’s playing Level 1, she is greeted by NPCs with an appearance similar to one from ancient China, the Count of the West and the Follower, who introduce her to Civilization 137. This world experiences ‘stable’ and ‘chaotic’ eras. Jin’s mission is to solve the riddles and ensure the survival of the inhabitants during the chaotic eras, which are periods of extreme environments unsuitable for the existence of these people. Due to a sudden shift in the environment, as Jin, The Count, and the Follower are exposed to the sun, it is revealed that death by the scorching sun can be avoided if people dehydrate quickly.  The dehydrated remains of the people can be rehydrated again when a stable era arrives. 

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Jin’s first attempt to solve Civilization 137’s problem fails miserably. The inhabitants of this world end up freezing to death after a heretic predicts that the chaotic era has ended. Even though Jin has failed the level, the AI woman reveals that regardless of the end result, she managed to establish the importance of science over heresy, moving her to level 2 of the game. 


Who Is Jack Rooney? 

Seeking help about the riddle of the game, Jin goes to her friend Jack Rooney. Jack is another member of the Oxford 5. He was previously a scientist working at the Oxford lab under Vera but left because of her partiality towards Saul and started his own venture. He’s now a pretty wealthy businessman. Finding out about the VR game, Jack is initially sceptical of Jin’s claims, but as soon he puts on the headgear, his doubts are dispelled. The VR world was indeed indistinguishable from reality. However, as soon as he enters this VR world, an NPC woman appears behind him, slicing his head off as the game is invite-only. Startled, he takes off his helmet claiming that this technology is probably 150 years ahead of its time. 

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He puts on the headgear several times but the AI cuts his head off every time. After he heads back home, he finds a mysterious box with his name on it, lying on his coffee table. Turns out, the box has another copy of the headgear. Jack puts on the helmet and finds himself in a similar dystopian world but with a mediaeval British theme. Like Jin, Jack is greeted by another NPC and the Follower. 


Does Auggie Shut Down Her Project?

Following the mysterious cosmic event from the previous night, the world has been taken by a surprise. Neither the Hubble nor the James Webb telescopes have recorded this event but the people of Earth saw it nonetheless. Saul Durand speculates that this phenomenon can be a deepfake, but cannot explain who would do such a thing. Saul’s speculation hints that there might be extraterrestrial forces at play here and they do not intend to make friends with humans either. 

However, this incident proves to Auggie that she must take action before the countdown reaches zero. Therefore, she goes to her workplace on the very day the nanofibers are about to be tested. Auggie’s years of work finally reaches a successful end, but fearing death, she abruptly orders to shut down the program and leaves the building. As soon her the project shuts down, the numbers she was seeing disappears, giving her a sigh of relief. 


Why Did Wenjie Ask Yang To Contact The Scientist In America? 

China’s project Red Coast had been trying to find a solution to the Fermi Paradox. The Fermi Paradox is a scientific argument between the likelihood of there being extraterrestrial life and the lack of evidence supporting the theory. However, Wenjie speculates that their messages would never reach outer space as their transmitter, even though the most powerful in the world, is simply not strong enough.  As a solution, Wenjie asks Yang to contact Dr. Peterson in California. Dr. Peterson’s team had picked up on a strong burst of energy from near Jupiter, however, the same signal was also picked up by the Chinese observatory 13 minutes later. However, the signal picked up by Wenjie’s team was a million times stronger than the one picked up by Dr. Peterson’s team. Wenjie further explains that Peterson’s satellite was aimed at Jupiter, while the Chinese satellite was aimed at the Sun, concluding that, even though the Sun delayed the radio waves, it significantly amplified them. In short, the Sun’s reflective nature works like an amplifier for the radio waves and it even provides them with a solution for not having a transmitter strong enough to send messages into outer space. 

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What Does Clarence Find Out About Mike Evans? 

Clarence had been looking into the deaths of the scientists around the world. He has been following the Oxford 5, even listening to their phones. After Auggie shuts down her project, he meets with her and shows her the footage of her smoking after Vera’s funeral. In this footage, Auggie was smoking by herself though it appears she is talking to someone. However, Clarence believes Auggie’s claim that a woman was sitting next to her. Clarence therefore concludes that the woman has been tactfully removed from the footage by a rather dangerous group of enemies. The reason why Auggie had been targeted might just be the importance of her invention, the nanofiber, for human development. 

At a meeting with Wade, Clarence discloses that he has uncovered information on Mike Evans. Evans has been notorious for funding anti-science initiatives like– Anti-vax propaganda, 5G conspiracy theories, and even anti-science politicians around the world. Clarence even finds out about the 1977 incident when the scientists at Ohio State University detected a 72-second signal which they thought was an attempt at communication from outer space. This undecoded signal was also picked up by an observatory in inner Mongolia, making them the only people who decoded the signal. As it turns out, Mike Evans was also in the same region at the time. This correlation brings Wade’s attention towards Mike Evans, suspecting him of somehow being behind the blinking stars. 

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Why Does Wenjie Contact The Aliens? 

In 1977, Wenjie, along with Yang, visited Mike Evans, an American living a solitary life in North East China. The son of the owner of an oil company, Mike was an environmentalist, trying to save a subspecies of birds from going extinct. He despised humankind and their destructive intervention in nature. The reason Wenjie and Yang went there was to find a site for a new observatory suitable for extraterrestrial communication. She informs Mike of the purpose of their visit, to which he protests. However, listening to Mike’s environmentalist protests convinces Wenjie to discreetly assure him that she will not let them build the observatory on this land. 

Wenjie tries to convince Yang to let their work continue at Site 1 instead of building the new site. But Yang, suspecting her of trying to help the American, but to make Wenjie change her mind, offers her the whereabouts of Tang Hongjing, the woman who killed Wenjie’s father. In 1968, China abolished the Red Guards and Hongjing herself had now become the victim and had been subjected to forced labor. At the labor camp, she ended up losing her hand to gangrene because of poor living conditions. When Wenjie confronts Hongjing about her father, she rudely claims that she doesn’t even regret killing Wenjie’s father and she would do it again if she had to. 

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With Hongjing’s statement coupled with Mike Evans’ environmentalist plea, she begins to doubt the human condition. Hongjing was driven by her own ideologies, but what happened to her wasn’t fair either. She starts to view humans in a negative light which slowly turns into a misanthrope. At the observatory, Wenjie finds the 72-second signal from outer space and decodes it. The message turns out to be a warning from a pacifist. The sender of this message was requesting humans not to establish communication with their species. The sender warns not to even reply to the message as his species may find out about humans and will head to their planet to conquer it. 

Wenjie believes the cycle of violence in human civilization will not end until we are conquered by a more powerful civilization. This is why, driven by her newfound contempt for humanity, she replies to the message, inviting the aliens to conquer Earth as the humans can never save themselves. 

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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