3%: A Spoiler-Free Review on a Netflix Original
No, this isn’t an article dissecting the 3% of the world’s population that are socially phobic.
What’s at stake here is the 3% of impoverished Brazilian youth that successfully pass a rigorous dog-eat-dog test called, The Process; one that allows them to live affluently elsewhere.
At least, that’s the focal subject in the dystopian world found in Netflix’s, 3%.
Following in the footsteps of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, 3% maintains its stakes in the “survival game” genre, albeit with more tension, drama, and characterization, as one might expect in an 8-episode TV original series.
Where 3% might miss the mark, it would be in its production value and the world it has created.
Overall, however, definitely worthy of a binge watch.
3% follows the lives of five 20-year old candidates who believe in the Process’ promise of opulence:
Michele Santana (Bianca Comparato)— a girl-next-door archetype operating under an altruistic moral code that effectively conceals her true motives.
Fernando Carvalho (Michel Gomes)—a paraplegic who wishes to pass the Process to impress his father’s maniacal belief in the system.
Joana Coelho (Vaneza Oliveira)—the yang to Michele’s yin, Joana is a socially distant femme fatale capable of solving problems without as much as lifting a finger.
Rafael Moreira (Rodolfo Valente)—a ruthless candidate shrouded in mystery (and one that bears a striking resemblance to Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon)
Marco Alvarez (Rafael Lozano)—the candidate most similar to The Hunger Games’ “Careers”, Marco is a natural leader who wishes to pass the Process with the same success as his family members.
Overseeing the Process and ensuring that only 3% of the candidates succeed are:
Ezequiel (Joao Miguel)—the no-nonsense overseer who is willing to push the candidates to the extreme, to the point that some might lose their lives.
Aline (Viviane Porto)—a henchwoman of The Council sent to monitor Ezequiel’s extreme methods… as well as to find secrets juicy enough to depose him of his prestigious seat.
Looking at the short character summaries, one can easily see where the conflicts might arise.
But as previously mentioned, the characterization in 3% is very strong. Dare I say, it might even be its strongest feature.
We not only learn the characters’ depths that place them beyond the scope of one-dimensionality, we do so within such thrilling circumstances.
Without revealing the sweet details, each character comes face to face with an impossible dilemma, thereby creating dramatic change and unraveling their hidden selves.
But underneath the lovely drama that goes on during the Process lies a B-Story that is all too common in the survival game genre—a discontent faction bent on destabilizing the pillars that hold the Process together.
Although this isn’t a revolutionary story (ironically, hehe), what the show does with it is something to look forward to.
By the series’ end, the core of every character unfolds and the colours in the spectrum of good and evil become further greyed.
Let’s not mince words—for a Netflix-backed original, the production value in 3% could be stronger.
City of God cinematographer, Cesar Charlone, did what he could directing 3%. But when the set looks like it was shot in a storage facility and the CGI is akin to a blurrier Monet oeuvre, an Academy Award nominee can only do so much.
Additionally, some of the world’s lingo seems a tad simplistic. Behold: the survival game is called the Process; the rebelling faction, the Resistance; the contestants, the Candidates.
Compare these with Suzanne Collins’ Tributes, Cornucopia, Feasts, The Reaping… and the world and imagery built in 3% seem a little too tongue-in-cheek, if they didn’t already seem so.
But these are trifles. Nevertheless, those looking for a show with a multi-million dollar budget, 3% isn’t the show for you.
A show not just for the 3%; a show for the 97%
Despite its flaws, the story and characters are enough to carry 3%. It’s a show that I would highly recommend as it does a more realistic way of exploring the human condition than other, more extreme examples in the survival game genre.
Granted, non-Portuguese-speaking viewers would have to be open enough to watch all 8 episodes subtitled or dubbed.
Because of the great story within, 3% shouldn’t be just for the 3%; it should be for everyone to see!
With a second season greenlit, there is no doubt about the impact 3% has left.