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‘3 Body Problem’ Creators Say Season 2 Will Be Even Better. Will They Get One?

The reactions to Netflix’s sci-fi epic 3 Body Problem are, if anything, inconsistent. The reviews from top critics are all over the place, from lavish praise to disses and everything in between. Viewers are similarly split, with some fans of Liu Cixin’s novel criticizing the series for its bold adaptive choices, and many others saying 3 Body Problem is one of the best genre shows they’ve ever watched (one might say it’s a chaotic era of 3 Body Problem reactions). Yet among fans who have finished the show so far, one consistent reaction is emerging: The show’s cliffhanger ending (no spoilers here) left them really wanting to see what happens next.

And showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo suggest that a second season will be even better than the first. Benioff previously told The Hollywood Reporter for our deep dive cover story on the show (in a quote that has been expanded here): “At our first Comic-Con [for Game of Thrones] someone asked if we’re going to get a second season,” he said. “I remember saying there’s a scene that would happen in season three — I didn’t even want to name it, but ‘RW, for people who know — if we can get there, I think we’re going to be OK. And there’s a scene in the second season [of 3 Body Problem] that I feel is — it’s not the Judgment Day scene [in season one] — it’s one that happens in the second season … things wildly escape and there’s one scene, if we get to it, we’re golden — like when we got to the Red Wedding on Thrones.”

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“It’s something we’ve talked about with the Netflix guys, too,” he added. “Liu Cixin’s created this indelible trilogy and the books just get better for me. The second book is far better than the first, and the third book just completely blew my mind. The story just gets more and more ambitious as it goes, and it takes a huge leap in book two. So I feel like if we survive to the second season, we’re going to be in a good place.”

The headwind against 3 Body Problem is its hefty price tag — reportedly Netflix’s most expensive season scripted series ever, costing in the $20 million-per-episode range. It’s a price that a streamer could have more easily swallowed a few years ago when the show was greenlit, during the pinnacle of Peak TV and the great IP gold rush. And Netflix is rather notoriously mathematical when it comes to making renewal decisions. “Budget and size of audience is one factor that has to go into making renewal decisions,” chief content officer Bela Bajaria said last year. “Engagement is really important. Did people press play, but they didn’t finish the series?”

Right out of the gate, 3 Body Problem opened at No. 2 on Netflix’s Top TV shows list, which isn’t great, but many Netflix hits grow from word of mouth after their initial debut (like Queen’s Gambit and Squid Game).

Netflix executives have also pushed back on their “algorithm is everything” reputation, and if there’s one show where other factors might put the thumb on their algorithmic scale, it’s 3 Body Problem. Put bluntly: In terms of genre programming, 3 Body Problem isn’t like Shadow and Bone or Resident Evil — middling titles that have pockets of devoted fandom, but weren’t considered prestige TV.

Even when balancing the negative reviews, when you have a Big Ideas show that the likes of the The New York Times and New Yorker are praising as a “a rare species of sci-fi epic that mixes theoretical questions with genuine spectacle and heart” and a “morally provocative” show with “visual grandeur, thrills and wow moments,” such acclaim sets 3 Body on a high shelf of cultural importance. While Netflix has endless hours of content, one longtime criticism is that so much of its content is considered trivial. Making 3 Body Problem was clearly a play for a show that, sure, is hopefully a hit, but one that also feels like it matters.

Also key is the fact that Benioff and Weiss were hired as part of a massive multiyear overall deal worth at least $200 million, and this is the only series they’ve showrun themselves (along with Woo). Streamers and networks tend to be a bit more hesitant to scrap shows made by their heavy hitters (which isn’t to say Netflix won’t pull the trigger — they axed Ryan Murphy’s Ratched after one season, for instance).

Yet another positive sign is that Netflix is going all in on promoting 3 Body Problem, supporting the show with a strong publicity push at South by Southwest Film & TV Festival and an accompanying podcast.

Further helping matters is that Netflix — unlike some of its rivals — is actually doing rather well right now. Its most recent quarterly report had the service adding 13 million subscribers, beating Wall Street estimates. Netflix’s stock has nearly recovered from its disastrous plummet in 2022.

The show also has a strong advocate behind the scenes in scripted head Peter Friedlander. “This project feels very personal to me,” Friedlander told us. “The experience I had reading the books was unlike any that I had ever really had before. I didn’t know what the show would be — how do you process the size of the universe, the size of infinity? These concepts are very hard to embrace, and the way the author wrote about them takes your breath away. I’m proud of pushing through a story that is entertaining and has a wonderful message.”

The 3 Body Problem showrunners say they envision the series as ideally spanning four seasons (with a big time jump for the second season). While its anybody’s guess if they’ll get all four — and the show’s as-yet-unknown ratings will be key — 3 Body Problem does have several factors in its favor for a pickup. For their part, the showrunners are wisely proceeding as if a renewal is going to happen, so they’re ready to quickly jump back into production.

“We don’t have a second season, but we need to keep pushing forward full steam ahead as if we did,” Benioff recently told Games Radar. “Because if we do get a second season, we’ll need to hit the ground running in terms of preproduction and production to get it out to people in some kind of reasonable time.”

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