3 Body Problem is Just Getting Started

What’s a Wallfacer? And are time jumps coming in Season 2?

Benedict Wong as Da Shi in '3 Body Problem'

The revenge of the bugs is coming. And in, 3 Body Problem, the bugs in question are the human race. At the end of the final episode of Season 1, curmudgeon detective Da Shi (Benedict Wong) confronts Jin and Saul with a very real truth: It’s really hard to get rid of insects! But, what does this ending mean for the sprawling story of 3 Body? And what is going to happen to Saul after that big twist in the final episode?

From Will’s unlikely journey to details of the big rocket launch to the importance of swarming bugs, here’s what you might have missed in the final episode of Season 1 of 3 Body Problem, and what it might mean for Season 2.

Spoilers ahead for 3 Body Problem Season 1.

What happened to Will’s brain?

Will Downing, before he becomes a disembodied brain.


In an attempt to contact the San-Ti fleet before their arrival in 400 years, Jin devised Operation Staircase, which accelerates a small probe near to the speed of light thanks to successive explosions from 300 nuclear bombs in space. Because Will was dying anyway, he volunteered to have his brain put in suspended animation and launched as part of the probe; with the assumption that the San-Ti’s technology could reconstruct his body. Of note, Operation Staircase doesn’t occur until the third book, Death’s End, though its place in the chronology, with different characters, is more or less the same in the show.

As in both Death’s End and the Season 1 finale, Operation Staircase is a perceived failure; the sail breaks, and the probe veers off course into deep space. In Death’s End, the disembodied brain belongs to a character named Yun, who is Will in the Netflix version. But in the book, Yun is eventually found by the Trisolorians (San-Ti) and given a new body. Could the same thing happen to Will’s brain in a future season? We don’t know, yet. But considering there are future seasons planned, it seems likely.

Why is Saul a Wallfacer?

Saul and Auggie face the end of the world. Or maybe not?


In the final episode, Saul learns that despite being a physicist without any particular fame, he’s been recruited by the U.N. to become an extremely influential person known as a “Wallfacer.” Because the San-Ti can’t comprehend the idea of human deception but can monitor all speech and text in the entire world, the only way to keep secrets from the San-Ti is simply not to speak one’s plans out loud.

This low-tech strategy means that a select few humans suddenly have immense control over various global powers. But why is Saul selected as a Wallfacer? Well, the San-Ti want to kill him, and that’s because Ye Wenjie prompted Saul to think about cosmic sociology, which she knows will lead him to determine the truth of the universe. Although this is not revealed in 3 Body Problem Season 1, here’s what’s going on: The San-Ti are afraid of Saul because they’ve intuited that Ye Wenjie has given him the inkling of an idea that will be a total game-changer in the centuries to come. In the books, Saul’s character is close to that of Luo Ji, a sociologist who comes up with the “dark forest” hypothesis. The idea is simple: The reason why we don’t hear from various alien species is that all of them are aggressive and afraid of each other, so most planets are silent, and if they’re not, they can be utterly destroyed by other species.

Because Saul is on the same path as Luo Ji in the books, the San-Ti are worried he’s going to figure out the “dark forest” theory, and basically doxx their entire planet, making them suddenly vulnerable to different hostile aliens. At this point, Saul hasn’t done any of this, but at some point in the future, he will.

Wait, was that a real NASA Engineer?

Bobak Ferdowsi in 2018.

Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

During the tense launch of the Staircase Project, the primary mission control official is none other than real-life NASA Engineer Bobak Ferdowsi. In 2012, Ferdowsi became a kind of science celebrity during the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. In the Season 1 finale of 3 Body Problem, he basically appears as himself, though is credited only as “Mission Director.” In real life, Ferdowsi is a huge sci-fi fan and often shows up at conventions in Star Trek cosplay. His cameo in the finale of 3 Body Problem marks his first on-screen appearance in a serious science fiction series.

The bugs, and a jump to the future

The aliens are getting closer and closer. But Season 2 will likely jump closer to their fleet.


At the very end of the episode, Da Shi takes Saul and Jin to gaze at swarms and swarms of cicadas and reminds them that these insects are hard to get rid of. “Look around, they’re not going anywhere,” he says, and pours one out for the bugs. Earlier in the series, the San-Ti refer to human beings as “bugs,” which sends the population of Earth into a frenzy. But, what Da Shi is pointing out is that it’s okay to be bugs, because bugs are hard to kill long-term, even in the face of advanced technology.

This theme crops up again throughout the three novels in the series. Right now 3 Body has kept humanity’s struggle against the San-Ti limited to the 21st century, but when 3 Body Season 2 (or Season 3) happens, that won’t remain the case. While this scene with Da Shi and the bugs is basically the ending of the first book, the Wallfacer project starts in the second book, and the Staircase project in the third. What’s next? Massive time jumps as various characters will hibernate in suspended animation and wake up in future centuries. According to co-showrunner Alexander Woo, those time jumps were never on the table for Season 1, but you can bet that those time jumps are coming in future seasons.

“Within the first season, no [time jumps],” Woo tells Inverse. “Taking it chronologically, it would make sense for some parts of books two and three to be in Season 1. We did not consider it an enormous time jump within the first season. But this story spans billions of years, so eventually there's going to be time jumps.”

3 Body Problem streams on Netflix.

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