3 Body Problem's Most Obscure Reference Conveniently Explained by Nolan

3 Body Problem's Most Obscure Reference Conveniently Explained by Nolan
Image credit: Netflix, Legion-Media

This was one of the moments when Christopher Nolan unconsciously helped his colleagues out.


  • 3 Body Problem ’s creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss worried that most of the viewers wouldn’t get the reference to Robert Oppenheimer ’s mistress’s death that appears in the series.
  • Christopher Nolan helped his colleagues out without even knowing it by releasing his hit movie Oppenheimer before 3 Body Problem landed on Netflix.
  • Nolan’s film also features a mention of the main character’s mistress’s death, so eventually there was no need for the show’s creators to fret so much.

Christopher Nolan has never been as much on time as he was last year with Oppenheimer — and some of his colleagues are thankful to him for it. And if you have already seen episode 3 of Netflix’s brand new sci-fi show 3 Body Problem, you know what it means.

In the episode Benedict Wong ’s character mentions Robert Oppenheimer and the way his mistress died. Wong’s character, Clarence Shi, who in the series appears to be an investigator, tries to unveil the truth behind the death of another scientist that apparently drowned with his head in the bathtub.

While doing his research Shi makes a comment about Oppenheimer saying that his mistress had died the same way, “on her knees, head in a tub,” though many people claimed she could’ve been murdered.

3 Body Problem's Most Obscure Reference Conveniently Explained by Nolan - image 1

This line in the script caused a lot of second thoughts for creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss who several years ago brought the fan-favorite fantasy story Game of Thrones to the big screens. Benioff admitted he had feared that most of the audience simply wouldn’t get the reference.

With Nolan’s Oppenheimer being released worldwide in cinemas last summer this 3 Body Problem’s problem vanished itself — and the creators can only thank the proclaimed director for the “very big, very well-made explanation of this moment.”

And in Oppenheimer Nolan also mentions — and even shows — how the main character’s mistress, Jean Tatlock, dies. She is portrayed by actress Florence Pugh and, even though Nolan confirms the way she gets to end her life, he leaves the main question open — whether she was indeed murdered or rather committed suicide.

There Nolan resorted to several different shots showing both possible versions — one with someone else’s hands pushing Tatlock’s head into the water and the other one showing the character push herself in the bathtub.

Despite the creators’ initial confusion, now they seem to be quite happy about the way it all turned out — not only did they get the saving explanation, but also featured a reference to one of Nolan’s most successful films.