Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Welcome to the world as it is apparently now. Something huge happened, something terrible and awful and catastrophic, and as far as we can now tell, the world is comprised of three things: the Inland, which is basically the slums of humanity’s leftovers; the facility where the Process is performed; and the Offshore, the last bastion of actual living, as clean and disease-free as they can make it. Inland seems to have cameras everywhere, so people coming in or going out of there need to be very careful. Especially the rebellion, the ones who are involved in the Cause, those united against the Process. Just existing out here, amid the filth and the forgotten, is a daily challenge for most of these people. Disease is epidemic and crime runs rampant, while other people are just waiting.
Waiting for what, you might ask? Their, or their loved ones, turn at taking the Process. Not much is known about the Process out in the Inland, for anyone who passes the Process entire never comes back, they go away to some almost mythical land called the Offshore. In theory, so everyone in the Process tells the lessers, the Offshore is a perfect place to live, in peace and harmony, free from disease or crime, nirvana entire. But to get there one has to be a certain age, and pass a series of rigorous tests and experiments, studies in psychology and sociology and other darker notions, collectively known as the Process.
The show raises all sorts of ethical and practical motives for the simplest question – how far would you go, to get what you want – and asks it from several different points of view. Internal politics of the Process and the Directors’ own secrets are cleverly laced into a continual almost breathless narrative; through the Process, everyone involved in it is tested somehow.
Each episode gives some backstory to a different main character, and really, for some of these people it’s surprising how their motivations evolve during the Process. Often the unexpected soundtrack or them all speaking in Portuguese (yes I watched it with subtitles, you should too, you heathens) heightens the whole atmosphere and just makes the audience drool for more. This is a show that’s incredibly difficult not to binge.
The main characters draw strong, often conflicting, emotions from the audience and themselves, and minor outbursts of free will start popping up inside the Process. Candidates have illicit sex, the Process leaders start acting against each-other, and everywhere secrets are leaking through the cracks. The Process is far from infallible, but what it does do is get results. Be prepared not to like some of those results, just like we don’t care to see humanity acting like assholes.
Mild Spoilers for the testers ahead!
Michele, (Bianca Comparato) one of the main Candidates to go through the Process, turns out to be part of the Cause, and that is hardly the beginning of the unexpected twists the Candidates begin tossing out. We the audience find ourselves facing our own preconceived notions of how the disabled are looked upon and treated when Fernando (Michel Gomes), a Candidate confined to a wheelchair, makes it further through the Process than anyone gave him credit for. There is always and forever a token asshole character, and Rafael (Marco Alvarez) takes full marks for that one, as he begins cheating his way through the Process right at the beginning. It turns out though, that Rafael has surprising hidden depths and motivations, and while we may not agree with his methods, Rafael’s reasonings are hard to fault. Fighter Joana (Vaneza Oliveira) is far from your typical warrior with a soft center type, and while her life before the Process may have been extra-hard, she holds on to her personal convictions with a ferocity that should be admired. And of course the Director Ezekiel (Joao Miguel), tormented soul that he is, a man willing to do all these rather horrific things to these Candidates, still finds it in his heart to care for the Inlander child his brain-damaged wife left behind. Which is of course highly frowned upon by his superiors at the Offshore, but hey, that’s the child of his beloved wife, and Ezekiel is nothing if not determined to do what he wills, no matter the cost.
And holy crap, that ending. No spoilers, yes, but. The reveal of what the Purification Ritual, for those who made it through the Process, turns out to be, blew my mind. If you’ve come to love this show as I did, then that ending though will blow your mind too.
Find out if you’re part of the ‘3%’, only on Netflix!