Netflix's '3 Body Problem' is the best show of 2024 so far

3 Body Problem. Sea Shimooka as Sophon in episode 103 of "3 Body Problem"
(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

"3 Body Problem" debuted at SXSW on March 8 but tomorrow (March 21) it'll finally be available to watch on Netflix. And you're not just getting the first episode. No, you're getting the entire eight-episode first season. 

Lucky for you, and me, I was lucky enough to see the entire first season in advance. And what I saw had me impressed. While the show isn't perfect — it's arguably greater than the sum of its parts — when I finished watching the season finale all I could think was that it's the best show of 2024 so far.

That's particularly high praise given that this Netflix show has stiff competition in the form of "Shogun." The two switch back and forth at the top of the list I keep of the best shows I've watched this year and I'd be lying if the most recent episode of "Shōgun" didn't have FX's historical fiction back at the top spot.

But '3 Body Problem' could still end up the winner at the end of the year. The creative team of David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo have picked up where the first two left off with "Game of Thrones" and created a truly special TV show. Some storylines don't quite land and there are some forgettable performances, but overall, the storytelling of this show is incredible and reminiscent of "Game of Thrones" in a big way. 

I'll try and stay as spoiler-free as possible but expect mild spoilers from here on out. Nothing major, but I need to mention a thing or two that happens in the show.

That said, here's why Netflix's "3 Body Problem" is must-watch TV and a contender for the best show of the year.

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(Image credit: Future)

Spoilers for '3 Body Problem' to follow

You can feel the 'Game of Thrones' DNA in '3 Body Problem' 

3 Body Problem. Liam Cunningham as Wade in episode 104 of "3 Body Problem"

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

I think in terms of general feel and themes, "Shogun" is probably still the closest thing to a spiritual successor to "Game of Thrones." The characters also fit the same archetypes in a way that this show's characters do not.

However, there are some storytelling choices that this show makes that were a hallmark of what made "Game of Thrones" special. Specifically, Benioff and Weiss remain unafraid to kill their darlings and the addition of Alexander Woo to the creative team doesn't seem to have changed that inclination in the slightest.

I won't spoil who dies, but let's just say that there are a few deaths that you won't see coming, or if you do, it'll still shock you when you realize that things are about to go awry. Even in the final episode, you get moments like that which were so common in the eight seasons of "Game of Thrones." There's even a truly horrific "Red Wedding" moment towards the middle of the season.

Like with "Thrones" this is an adaptation. So if you've read the books already some of these moments may not hit quite as hard. But my guess is, much like with the HBO show, this Netflix show will still manage to land some hits on those who are already expecting it.

Liam Cunningham and Benedict Wong are incredible 

3 Body Problem. (L to R) Liam Cunningham as Wade, Benedict Wong as Da Shi in episode 105 of "3 Body Problem"

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

Speaking of "Game of Thrones," Benioff, Weiss and Woo brought back a few familiar faces for "3 Body Problem." John Bradley, known for playing Samwell Tarly in Thrones plays Jack Rooney, part of the core friend group that makes up much of the main cast. The show also features Jonathan Pryce, who among many other famous roles played the High Sparrow in the iconic HBO show and Liam Cunningham, who most of you know as Ser Davos Seaworth.

While I liked the performances of all three, it's Liam Cunningham who shines. Frankly, he steals the show in what could well be an Emmy-worthy performance. His performance as Wade, the mysterious leader of a secret multinational intelligence agency is brilliantly written and flawlessly executed. He arguably gets the best dialogue and some of the performances around him are flat in comparison, but he still delivers every time he's on screen.

He particularly shines when paired with Benedict Wong, who could also be up for an Emmy for this show come next year. Wong plays Da Shi, a former intelligence operative for MI5 recruited to work for Wade who serves as Wade's de facto number two for much of the season.

Their interactions were the highlight of the show. There's a scene in episode 4 — “Our Lord” — where Cunningham sets up Wong for a punchline that Wong just absolutely nails and it's now living rent-free in my head. You'll know it when you see it, I promise.

The best part of '3 Body Problem' is solving the problem  

3 Body Problem. (L to R) John Bradley as Jack Rooney, Jess Hong as Jin Cheng in episode 102 of "3 Body Problem"

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

For what it's worth, there actually is a literal three-body problem in this show. The three-body problem is a concept from physics about determining the trajectories of three objects in motion around a central point of mass. 

If that sounds a bit overwhelming, don't worry. You don't need a physics background to watch and enjoy this show. You won't be asked to solve a three-body problem yourself, which is good considering they're technically unsolvable.

However, solving a problem is still one of the best parts of this show. While a science fiction thriller, this show is also a suspenseful mystery. Watching it, I always found myself trying to guess what would happen next or what the long-term arc of a character would be, etc. There are so many moving pieces at first that it's genuinely enjoyable to try and predict the moves before they happen. Seeing those guesses pay off or being proven delightful wrong was a treat, and there were a few moments that literally made me exclaim "Woah!" because of a twist I did not see coming.

If it sounds like I'm being intentionally vague ... well, that's because I am. I truly don't want to give away any of the puzzle pieces and spoil the fun. So you'll just need to watch "3 Body Problem" and experience the best show of the year so far for yourself when the eight episodes of season 1 drop on Netflix on March 21.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.