After the acclaimed Narcos brought forward the Brazilian Wagner Moura as the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, Netflix decided it was time for its first fully Brazilian series. Enter 3%, a sci-fi drama about a wicked dystopian society, where the majority of the population is extremely poor and absolutely neglected by the government. This new system does offer everyone a chance to lead a better life — only once though, when they turn 20 — and to move from the slums to the perfect life of the Offshore. This chance comes via a selection process, created to filter only 3% of the candidates deemed fit to live among the already chosen ones.
It is precisely this selection process that gets most of the spotlight in 3%'s first season; well, not only the tests the candidates are submitted to, but how those tests affect and reshape the minds of all those involved in the process. You'd think that, as it's done by the 'better and more enlightened' citizens, the process would be somewhat just and safe. Well, it isn't. It's rigged and dirty, and it'll make you question your perspectives as a viewer in the most disturbing way.
Let's take a look at those tests and see how you would fair, if you were trying to join the 3%.
SPOILER WARNING if you're yet to binge-watch Netflix's 3%. The tests mentioned below are straight from the series, hence it will spoil it for you.
You're put into a cubicle, along with 7 other candidates. All of you stand around a table which has limited puzzle pieces, that you're supposed to use to form 9 cubes. At the bell ring, anyone who hasn't put together 9 cubes will be eliminated. Everyone jumps into action; the puzzle pieces are getting scarce, and you see that the candidate next to you is fast finishing the test.
Time is running out. You're still one cube short of the nine you're supposed to have. What do you do?
The cube test is the second that the candidates face. Previously, they all endured an interview which aimed to test their honesty, while emotionally breaking them. There's no right answer on this one, since the test here is to see how far you're willing to go to get selected. If you depended on someone for help — and that someone gave it to you — then you're the lucky one. But, if you stole the cube from the guy next to you, then it's a simple solution: you're in and he's out.
In another group test, you're put in a room with seven other candidates. This time, the test is quite simple: in the room there's a bag with six coins in it. At the end of 15 minutes, only the six people who have a coin will be allowed to leave the room and move on to the next stage. Knowing that the six remaining candidates will form a new group, the candidates start to figure out a strategy.
What do you do?
The trick in this one is understanding that, from that moment on, you'll face every other group test with the five other people selected to continue. If your group chose well, then chances are you'll be among the 3% in the end. If, however, someone forcefully picked up a coin or eliminated someone randomly, then the next tests will be pretty tough to pass. Oh, and if you thought outside of the box and convinced your group not to eliminate anyone, congratulations! You're all eliminated.
You and all the other remaining candidates are locked in a storage unit, without food or water. In each dorm, there are levers and, in the main corridor, there's an electronic board that runs in binary system. One of the candidates discovers how the mechanism works: each line of the board has a code, and each code represents how the levers should be positioned in each of the eight rooms. The system works, and, finally, there's a package with food and water — for one person alone.
Eventually, there'll be food for everyone; but who gets the first package?
I have to be honest, my first idea was to share the package with as many people possible; but then, there would definitely be a riot. Thankfully, one of the candidates came up with the idea of the alphabetical divide, and it worked — for a while. After everyone had eaten, people seemed discouraged to continue with the system. In a typical twist of the process, all the food and water supply dropped at once, and the problem of how to divide everything emerged once more.
How the food — which seems to be all the food you'll get for a while — should be divided now?
The choice here seems rationally obvious, and yet, it wasn't. The candidates decided to split the food evenly, but a group of guys opted to find a way out by force. And, because they were exhausted later, they went on to form a mob and take everyone else's food for themselves — as violently as they could, to set an example. For the director of the process, that was the real test: to figure out who would break under pressure and reveal their true nature.
You've come this far in the process, and the odds of you becoming one of the 3% are increasing by the second. You've been separated from your family and your loved ones throughout the entire process thus far, and now you have a chance to reunite with them as they visit you. The catch here is that you're offered a huge glass box — filled with more money than anyone living among the 97% of the poor population will ever see — but, if you take it, you are eliminated from the process.
The money in that box could provide for you and your family for years to come, but you'd never be among the 3%. What would you do?
Family is often a sore spot for many people, and it wasn't different with the candidates. Abandoning the process is a huge step, since you can only go through it once, but it's also a tough call to leave your family hanging. Some candidates choose to keep the money and leave the process, but the majority of them understands that being part of the 3% is a much better deal. If you thought about refusing the money and finding a way to help your family once you've made it to the Offshore, you've got another thing coming; no one who makes it there can have any sort of contact with the 97% who were left behind.
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Netflix's 3% has apparently found a myriad of ways in which the human mind — and psyche — can be tricked into making poor decisions. As the candidates advance through the stages and their tests progress, you'll put yourself in their shoes, challenge their decisions and perhaps even come up with entirely different solutions. Also like the candidates, as you watch 3%, you'll soon find that your own morals are put to the test, as you try to imagine how you'd react under many crucibles. 3% offers a pretty sharp and to-the-point take on real life choices, and it'll leave you with enough food for thought for eons — or at least until Season 2 comes around.
How would you do in the tests? Would you be among the 3%? Share in the comments.