I binge watched the entire first season of 3% last weekend. What was most interesting for me is that for the first time in the search box, I actually put in the term “Netflix.” That means as a content provider, they have officially crossed over as a brand of entertainment to watch because I actively wanted to see their offerings. I am not sure how other viewers use their Netflix, but I like to watch content from around the world and 3% is a very nice addition to the Netflix brand. Please note SPOILER ALERT, there are spoilers in the review.
In the premier season of the 3% there are only eight episodes, but I have to say each episode is robust, moving the story line and allowing the audience to be vested in their favorite characters. When I watched the first episode “Cubes,” I did wonder if this Sci-Fi Drama was going to keep viewers hostage to the premise of the show for multiple seasons and I am pleased to say they answered the question with a resounding NO by Episode 8 “Button.” So THANK YOU NETFLIX.
The basic premise of the show is there is the world, and then there is the “Offshore.” Thanks to the two Founders of the “Offshore,” once young adults hit the age of twenty, they each have an opportunity based on their merit to enter the exclusive 3% of the population who are capable of passing the “Process,” and win the life long prize of living on the “Offshore.” Because only those that fail the “Process,” return to society, no one in the general population knows what life on the “Offshore,” is like and so it is the ideal to each person, a Utopia you dream to belong to.
What is apparent in the “Cube” episode is that there has been a changing of the guard, actor Joao Miguel who plays Ezekiel, the Administrator of the Process is fairly new in his position. Politically there are those who disapprove of his methods and want him removed from his position. Everyone who does not return from the “Process,” does not become part of the 3%. By the time we get to Episode 4 “Gateway,” an elite known as Marco Alvarez, played by actor Rafael Lozano, has claimed his rightful place and pitted men who are obviously physically stronger against women. Just to have food the men turned thugs, prey on the weak and the women like savages, where “some rule and others obey.” – not my kind of Utopia at all. There is a line that says the participants in the Process take on the traits of the Administrator of the Process. That line becomes like a thread through the entire season.
Despite the rigorousness of the “Process,” love finds two of my favorite characters who bond in the very first episode, Michele played wonderfully by Bianca Comparto, and Fernando played by Michel Gomes. Despite his handicap, Fernando has been trained by his father his entire life to be part of the 3%. Michele is independent enough and strong minded enough to possibly achieve her ultimate goal, which is not to be part of the 3%. These two support each other, but under the microscope that is the “Process,” both strengths and weaknesses are explored for the purpose of elimination. In their case what helped them in the beginning will serve as a possible ending. I am interested to see how their love will play out in Season Two.
Johanna and Raphael played by Viviane Porto and Rodolfo Valente are worthy antagonists, we love them and love to hate them. Johanna is a bad ass, but she is also vulnerable and as a woman on the mainland, much like in Episode 4, men rule with physical brut and an accident has her on the run from one of the most ruthless men on the land. She has to beat the “Process” or face sudden death. We think Raphael is the will do anything guy to be part of the 3%, but there is so much more to him than meets the eye.
The 3% was shot in San Paulo, Brazil. When I started watching the scene where the 20 year olds were making their processional march to the Process Center, the hill structure seemed to be reinforced with materials that visually reminded me of the Barrios from the film “City of God.” And guess who the director/ executive producer is of the 3%, Cesar Charlone, the director of photography from “City of God.” This project is thought provoking to say the least. In America we have the 1% of the extremely wealthy, although they live among the rest of us, all be it withing guarded communities, do have access to the best education, the best healthcare, the best social networks to continue to maintain their status. Children born into the 1% are generally born into an advantage that has nothing to do with ability. The idea of the 3% is to level the playing field and to have a society based on true merit. The problem is the Process under Ezekiel’s leadership is skewed where, death, stealing, murder, are all acceptable paths to the 3% Utopia, the question is do you want it bad enough? Fairness is relative, morality is bendable, and if at the end of it you can live with yourself and tell yourself you deserve it, because you did earn it, quite literally by any means necessary, then you will be part of that 3%. As quiet as it is kept suicide happens, and the first murder happened on the “Offshore.” There is also the idea of Big Brother. There are cameras all around the mainland. There is probably enough data accumulated on each person before the “Process,” to predict their success before they set foot on the training grounds. That cheats the system. Then there is the question of how children fit into Utopia and what role Religion has on society at large.
Final thoughts – very good first season. Looking forward to the last two eliminated characters to stay on for the next season. We end with a mini submarine going to the “Offshore.” So next season we will see both the Mainland and the Offshore. Ezekiel wants to oversee Michele’s training at the Recovery Center on the Offshore – he made a possible slip in the very first episode, where he asked “do you think I am helping him?” He might be, and I will surely be watching the next installation to find out. Pedro Aguilera, Writer, of this beautiful piece of work, you have gained a fan.
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