3% (2020) reviewed

This week, I’m going to review my Netflix series of March. When 3% debuted, it was the first Portuguese-language show on the streaming service. The critically-acclaimed first season premiered in 2016. This was followed by three more series, concluding in 2020. At heart a sci-fi programme, 3% also blends elements of drama and action. The production reminded me of Lord of the Flies. Both of them are dystopian in nature. They likewise feature a group of kids who try to find nirvana. They are thrown into a desperate situation and they have to wing it. The series’s cast highlight some of the brightest young stars in Brazilian show business. 

Season 1 (2016)

The eight-episode first season revolves around the mysterious Process. Heaven in this universe is called the Offshore. The latter is like Elysium. The inhabitants eat the choicest produce and drink the finest wine. Of the thousands of participants who vie for the Offshore, only three percent make it through. Every year, adults who’ve reached eighteen are eligible for the Process. All of them are from the Inland, home to the rest of the population. All of the Inlanders wear an earpiece, which functions as a passport/ID. 

Among these aspirants is Michele (pronounced Mi-she-lee). Her ultimate mission is to find her brother, who disappeared years ago. Even at the start, she is forced to make an improbable choice just to save her own skin. Ezequiel heads the process. An intense overseer, he exudes a certain enigma. He’s not an open book. Another central character is Fernando, a wheelchair bound hombre who is the smartest kid in the competition. Meanwhile, Rafael sneaked into the contest by doctoring his mouthpiece. He had previously participated but was unsuccessful. He sometimes resorts to crooked ways to attain his objectives. Joana is another cognisant entrant whose humble backgrounds belie her toughness. Finally, Marco comes from a long line of Offshore immigrants. He becomes the resident bully. 

In season 1, we are introduced to the Cause. This guerrilla organisation tries to destabilise the offshore by planting seeds in the kingdom. Apparently, there are two honeybees who successfully make it through this year’s Process. Their faces will soon be unmasked. Ezequiel always seems wary of these saboteurs. We realise that he was himself suffering from a personal loss. We are there as the aforementioned protagonists jump every hurdle on their way to the next level. One of them will be seconds away from glory. Another two would quit the process for various reasons. The rest may have some issues but make it through. We learn the catch: you would need to get sterilised before gaining entry into the Offshore. 

Season 2 (2018)

The series returned with a ten-episode second season. This picks up from the previous iteration. Though Michele is now in the Offshore, she is stuck in rehab. She can see her brother but cannot communicate with him. Rafael is also there. He begins a romantic relationship with the doctor. Fernando is back in the Inland, where he rekindles his friendship with Gloria. Joana is working for the cause. Rafael volunteers to be part of a task force sent to the Inland. He desperately tries to make contact with his peers. He plays a Jekyll and Hyde type, trying to appear as a dedicated soldier while convincing the plebs that he’s one of them. Rafael feels guilty about how he left his family. 

Meanwhile, Ezequiel professes his devotion to the cause. He asserts that he never really left them, in spite of the evidence. Gloria is among the new batch of contestants. In spite of being handicapped, Marco becomes the leader of bandits. Marcella, his mother, becomes the Offshore’s new leader. The Cause continues to cast its shadow, aided by new blood. We also learn more about the Offshore’s history. Common knowledge holds that the Founding Couple founded the latter. Michele learns that it was actually a Founding Trio. Michele tells Fernando her plan: to build a third alternative called The Shell. 

Season 3 (2019)

This edition features most of the main characters relocated to The Shell. The latter is like an oasis, with food, plants, and electricity in the middle of the desert. As mentioned, Michele builds upon the idea of the third founder. At season’s start, everything is working like clockwork. They plant their own veggies, harvest their grains, utilise renewable energy, and collaborate. Even Marco has seemed to turn over a new leaf. Rafael is the only exception and he’s treated as a pariah. His younger brother is his sole ally. Michele is adamant that they should not align themselves with the Offshore. 


Suddenly, things go awry. A storm wreaks havoc on the Shell. All the plants die, so do the renewables. They only have three months’ worth of supplies left and they have to ration everything. The fire and pitchforks appear. The leader is forced to hold a Process of her own. Michele instructs competitors to remove their earpieces or they must leave the Shell. The masses meet her decisions, at times partisan, with fury. Michele often has to make heartbreaking choices. She becomes the scapegoat, hunted out of her own project. Her subjects are too naive to see beyond surface level. Michele rejects a takeover offer from Marcella. Meanwhile, Joana acts as emissary between the Inland and the Shell. 

Season 4 (2020)

The final season unfolds with Michele sending a delegation to the Offshore. This include Joana, Rafael, and Marco. Gloria stays behind. In the Offshore, Joana meets what she thinks is her real mother. The group secretly tries to destroy the Offshore. Meanwhile, Marcella remains detained in the Shell. With patience and dedication, everything is back to normal there. However, Marcella convinces Gloria to annihilate this little haven. She knows what Gloria wants so this is a painfree endeavour.  

In the Offshore, the delegates attempt to search for a submarine that will bring down Eden. Michele herself visits the Process to stop the turbine. However, Gloria outs them and soon Michele is on the run. Her brother becomes her nemesis. He is now the new Process leader. She learns the truth about what happened to her parents. The Cause’s founder is likewise revealed. She was connected to the Founding Couple. Marco meets his grandad. The ending was more dramatic than I envisioned. However, the finale leaves no doubt that the plot has ended. 

Verdict

Most of the episodes are around forty minutes long. There were 35 eps in total. This marks the second international series on Netflix. The first season was critically-acclaimed. The show also reminded me of Elysium, starring Matt Damon. Both productions are dystopian in nature, utilising high tech gadgets. I must note that this one adds the Process to the equation. I wouldn’t call the series undemanding. Between the action and thrills, we must remember that 3% is conducted wholly in a foreign language. There are some nifty panoramas though. For instance, the Process was shot at a pair of Sao Paolo favelas. Meanwhile, the Offshore exteriors were taken at the Inhotim Institute. Finally, the shell was filmed at a conservation unit in Rio Grande do Norte. An early model for international Netflix productions, the show set the bar for others to follow. Since then, series like Narcos, Dark, and Money Heist, among others, have carried the mantle. 

Rating: 4.25/5

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