Edith Marsh is 3 Body Problem’s Most Compelling Easter Egg

Edith Marsh's name of a grave stone reveals something important about Tatiana Haas in Netflix's 3 Body Problem.

3 Body Problem. Marlo Kelly as Tatiana in episode 103 of 3 Body Problem. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024
Photo: Netflix

This article contains spoilers for 3 Body Problem episode 2 “Red Coast.”

The early episodes of Netflix sci-fi epic 3 Body Problem are fraught with mystery. Why is science suddenly “broken?” What does the countdown mean? How does the Chinese Cultural Revolution factor in to all of this? All of those enigmas are best represented by one spooky lady in particular: Tatiana Haas (Marlo Kelly).

At this point, viewers have already met the smiling woman who prepped Auggie (Eiza González) for the universe to “wink” at her in episode 1. But Tatiana’s identity, allegiance, and motivations remain a mystery. That mystery is largely solved in episode 2 “Red Coast” thanks to a disquieting scene involving Clarence “Da” Shi (Benedict Wong), a cemetery, and a gravestone that reads “Edith Marsh.” It all amounts to one of 3 Body Problem‘s best Easter eggs and a helpfully quick characterization of one of its most important villains.

About 28 minutes into episode 2, we catch up with Clarence as he visits his wife’s grave on her birthday. As he presents a red velvet cupcake to “Jennifer Shi – Beloved Wife and Mother,” his moment of solitude is interrupted by a voice behind him.

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“I thought I was the only one,” a woman who we know to be Tatiana says.

At first, it seems as though Tatiana is simply trying to connect with another stranger, bonding over their shared method of mourning. While Clarences’s wife gets a red velvet cupcake on her posthumous birthday, Tatiana’s father gets coconut cake. But then Tatiana moves the conversation to somewhere more uncomfortable, if not outright sinister.

“It’s obscene isn’t it? How fragile we are?” she asks. “My dad thought he’d walk me down the aisle. No. One mistake. One stupid mistake. He’s gone.”

Tatiana asks Clarence how Jennifer died. He says breast cancer and then asks how her father died. She says he was shot in the head. Clarence, clearly taken aback by this rare and unusually violent death for what was surely an old man reflexively apologizes to Tatiana’s loss. She tells him not to be.

“It’s a good way to go. It’s quick,” she says coldly.

And just like that, the real reason for this seemingly chance meeting has been revealed. Though he might not even realize it until later on when the shock of it all has died down, Clarence is being threatened. Clarence and his boss Thomas Wade (Liam Cunningham) have been investigating all of these strange happenings and this interaction from Tatiana is a forceful invitation for them to stop.

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Even if Clarence doesn’t immediately pick up on that, viewers certainly do because we become privy to a bit of information that Clarence does not. After the detective leaves, the camera pans to reveal the name on the tombstone of the grave Tatiana was visiting. It reads: “Edith Marsh 1905 – 1909. Our Little Angel.”

Who is Edith Marsh? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that a four-year-old dead girl named Edith is clearly not Tatiana’s grandfather. Of course, that’s only the beginning of the Easter egg rabbit hole here. Since the only thing we need to know about the gravestone is that it’s not Tatiana’s grandfather’s, the name chosen for it could have been any traditionally female name. Why did the episode’s writer, Rose Cartwright, opt for “Edith Marsh” in particular? That’s probably because Edith Marsh is a real life person of note – and an appropriate one to invoke for a storyline involving Clarence Shi.

Edith Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand mystery writer. A contemporary and peer of Agatha Christie, she is considered an important figure in the history of crime drama literature. Marsh’s collected works include many short stories, stage plays, and 33 novels that feature her most famous character: the gentlemen detective Roderick Alleyn.

Both Alleyn and the writer who created him share some interesting similarities with 3 Body Problem‘s Clarence Shi. Like Alleyn, Clarence is a London-based investigator with ties to Oxford. Like Marsh, Clarence has connections to two prominent cultures. For Clarence, that is England and China. For Marsh, it was the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In fact, her “Ngaio” middle name is from the Māori language for “light on the water.”

Edith Marsh and her hero Roderick Alleyn aren’t referenced in any of the next six 3 Body Problem episodes. When it comes to “Red Coast,” however, they serve as important totems for Tatiana’s treachery and Clarence Shi’s drive for answers.

All eight episodes of 3 Body Problem are available to stream on Netflix.

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