TL;DR – This is a fascinating look at a world of complete inequality, and how that affects the lives of those within.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Today after watching The Rain (see review) I wanted to continue to explore more of the different Sci-Fi TV shows from around the world, and it just so happens that with the ending of The Rain I was recommended 3% from Brazil. So today we jump from the Post-Apocalyptic realm, and into the world of dystopia, stark power differences, and a world where the haves and the have-nots could not be further apart. In today’s review, we will be looking at both Season One and Two of 3% so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead for especially Season One but also some of the events that happen further along.
So to set the scene, at some point in the future society across the world has collapsed due to what I think is the unsustainable use of resources. At the point of total social collapse, a glimpse of hope descends on the people, for the Founding Couple has arrived. They offered a chance at a new and better life Offshore but only for the best 3% of the population. So every year all those who have turned twenty get one chance and one chance only to make it through the Process, a series of tests that determine who would be the 3% that leave the poverty of the Inland to the paradise that is the Offshore. At the start of the series, it is the 104th year of the process and a new bunch of candidates are ready to take the test, but all is not what they seem. Some are enemy traitors/revolutionaries planted by The Cause, a revolutionary/terrorist organisation hell-bent on bringing the Process down from within.
The Process is run by Ezequiel (João Miguel) a man who is trying to make this the most efficient process yet still living with the tragedy of his wife’s passing. He oversees the construction and delivery of the tests that the candidates will take. Like Michele (Bianca Comparato) who was raised by her brother who never came back from his turn at the Process, but at least she has her friend with her, Fernando (Michel Gomes) who has been stuck in a wheelchair since he was a child, and whose father is the leader of a religion that has sprung up around the Founding Couple and the Process. There is also Rafael (Rodolfo Valente) who has no qualms about cheating to get ahead, and why wouldn’t you when the stakes are so high, Joana (Vaneza Oliveira) who is part of the Process just to help go into hiding, and Marco (Rafael Lozano) whose family always pass the test. They along with hundreds from the dilapidated city walk up the hillside to the facility, hoping that they will be one of the 3%.
One of the areas where 3% excels is in creating the setting for the show that feels both immersive and believable. Much like The Hunger Games books/films 3% shows a dystopian future that is focused in on one location which of course makes you wonder that if it is so bad here what is the rest of the world like? It also presents a really interesting system, it is a deeply unequal system where a small amount of the population live in a utopia with all the food, medicine, anything else they would ever want, while the rest of the 97% live in abject poverty (mostly there are some that seem to be richer than others). What is interesting is that for the most part, it does seem like it is a merit-based system, so there is an equal chance for everybody to make that giant jump up the social ladder.
Indeed, this is why I think it is important to see films/TV from other countries because they will be bringing stories that are inspired from different worlds. In many cities in Brazil, there is a stark difference between the haves and the have-nots. For all the luxury around the Copacabana Beach in Rio, there are the often forgotten people who live in the Favelas around the city. That inequity is clearly on stage here as the show explores the world were every power structure the rich, the church, the very fabric of society perpetuates these inequalities, even the resistance. This leads to one of the growing themes throughout the film that nothing the elder generations will do will fix the problem so the young have to find a new way forward, one without violence of The Cause or the blatant inequalities of the Offshore. Which is compounded by the big reveal about the Founding Couple in Season Two.
The other way the series excels is in setting up the characters themselves, they all have organic motivations for wanting to go on the Process which clearly brings them into conflict with each other and their own path to the Offshore. For me, because I was not familiar with any of the actors in the show at the start of the series, it meant that I didn’t know who was going to make it through to the end or not. Indeed the first episode Cubes sets up a number of interesting characters that you expect to be around for a while and two of them are dead by the end of that first episode. This sucks you in because you never know who will be next to go when the next test starts. To add to this most of the tests in the first season were group exercises which allowed for that dynamic between the leading cast to be developed even further. I was really impressed, especially by the young actors who are playing the Process candidates, as too how much emotion they displays in sometimes very difficult filming situations.
All of this is helped by some amazing production design that really makes the most of its São Paulo location. The stand out is probably the location they found to shoot the main Process building, with all its glass and minimalism white being a stark contrast to the world of the Inland. With the Inland, it was great to see the series explore it a bit more in the Second Season where we get to see more of the life with the festivals with their riots of colour and secrets hidden in basements. While a lot of the Inland costumes do feel a bit made to look aged, I liked all the costumes for the Process, it had almost a Star Trek feel with the use of muted primary colours. Also, it was nice that the costumes for the Offshore have a little diamond shape cut out on their shoulders. At the start, it just looks like this odd stylistic choice but it draws your eye to it when they are there, and it is a little clue that there is a big reveal coming at the end of Season One. Add to this a great musical score that has introduced me to a completely unfamiliar musical landscape. Yes, there are instruments that I recognise, but there is a lot I don’t, and they are all used in interesting ways.
While the setting and the dynamic between the leading cast is fascinating, it does not always come together. More so in the first season but throughout the series, there can be a really big difference between the highs and lows for each episode with regards to how well they work. So you can jump from Gateway, which is this fascinating delve into what power can do especially if you have been raised to believe that you are special, ending in several characters being killed or severely wounded. However, then you have Button where none of the character motivations makes any sense. Indeed it felt like they needed certain characters to be at certain points at the end of the season but they could not work out how to get them there organically. This is not as big of an issue in the Second Season, but they still happen like in the episode Frogs, with the death of one of the main characters that occurs in a way that is completely out of character with the setting they have created. This can be compounded at times by characters slipping into melodrama with their acting, I’m not sure if this is an artistic choice, what the director wanted or in the script, but it can at times undercut the seriousness of the scenes. Also, some characters are introduced that seem really important like Michele’s brother André (Bruno Fagundes) however, who end up feeling less like a character and more like a plot device for exposition.
In the end, do we recommend 3%? Yes, yes we do. It is bringing something fresh to the dystopian genre, it is dealing with themes that are becoming more and more relevant in the world today. It is also a great example as to why you should expand your TV viewing to countries other than your own because without that you would never get this type of show with its deep understanding of the subject at hand here in Australia.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen 3% yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of 3%
Directed by – César Charlone, Daina Giannecchini, Jotagá Crema, Dani Libardi & Philippe Barcinski
Written by – Pedro Aguilera, Cássio Koshikumo, Denis Nielsen, Ivan Nakamura, Denis Nielsen, Jotagá Crema, André Sirangelo, Juliana Rojas, Guilherme Freitas & Teodoro Poppovic
Created by – Pedro Aguilera
Starring in Season One & Two – João Miguel, Bianca Comparato, Michel Gomes, Rodolfo Valente, Vaneza Oliveira, Rafael Lozano, Viviane Porto, Samuel de Assis, Cynthia Senek, Laila Garin, Bruno Fagundes & Thais Lago with Mel Fronckowiak, Sérgio Mamberti, Zezé Motta, Celso Frateschi, Luana Tanaka, Rita Batata, Leonardo Garcez, Clarissa Kiste, Julio Silverio, Thiago Amaral, Cesar Gouvea, Geraldo Rodrigues, Ediana Souza, Fernanda Vasconcellos, Maria Flor, Silvio Guindane, Marina Matheus & Amanda Magalhães