Netflix’s new animated anthology series Love, Death + Robots is eighteen episodes full of blood splatter, animated boobs, and cat memes – and I’ve ranked them all, from worst to best (for a full review of the series, check out Mitchell’s review here). Here is part two of the list (and a link to part one, if you missed that):
9. Episode 4 – “Suits”
“Suits” is a rather straightforward, contained story about farmers fighting off an infestation of alien bugs in mech suits; and because of that simplicity, it just works. It’s got a cast of eclectic characters, never tries to go out of its way to be Shocking or Fucking Cool; it is just a well-executed take on a classic tale of man vs. giant ass alien bugs, with a particularly haunting final shot that seals its place in the top half of Love, Death + Robots episodes.
8. Episode 7 – “Beyond the Aquila Rift”
Another simple premise executed beautifully; “Beyond the Aquila Rift” is the closest Love, Death + Robots ever comes to being a Black Mirror episode, albeit one filtered through the central mystery of The Expanse‘s early episodes. There’s not much to say without giving the story of this episode away; but look past the gratuitous female nudity in this short, and there’s a pretty great story about consciousness and the limitations of the human mind to be told. (side note: how cool is it that two Alastair Reynolds short stories are on this list?)
Mad Max meets A.I. in this wonderfully dumb episode, featuring a gang of robots causing mayhem on a post-apocalyptic highway. The 80’s action archetypes are on full display in “Blindspot”, and the colorful, slightly eclectic art style is a great setting for the short-but-sweet explosion fest of this episode. It also features one of the best endings in the series, with a final punchline that is both devastatingly hilarious and ominous; in this day and age where nobody reads privacy notices or the bullet points in their contracts anymore, the final moments of “Blindspot” are hilariously telling for the future of humanity – or at least, the technology they create.
6. Episode 8 – “Good Hunting”
A mix of traditional huji jing storytelling and the larger bullet points of Alita: Battle Angel, “Good Hunting” is one of the more emotionally poignant episodes of Love, Death + Robots. There are some strange fetish undertones to this story, which ultimately holds it back from reaching the higher echelon of LDR episodes, but “Good Hunting” is still a well-told tale of a boy who learns a violent lesson about the hypocrisy of war, and the suffering of the marginalized. Again, there’s a lot of extremely sexual undertones to this story, which is dissonant with the episode’s actual narrative content; regardless, the story “Good Hunting” tells is a strong one, and worthy of its spot on this list.
5. Episode 2 – “Three Robots”
There aren’t a lot of entries in Love, Death + Robots that are primarily comedies; “Three Robots” is easily the most successful of that batch of episodes, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of something like “Alternative Histories” or “When the Yogurt Took Over”. Following three robots traveling the post-apocalyptic ruins of modern society, “Three Robots” is the flip side of the coin to “Fish Night”, observing today’s world from the lens of the future, and how iconic Americana trademarks might be viewed as relics of a forgotten world. If this episode had a better ending (honestly, it’s one of the silliest final twists of the series – and one I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy more, honestly), it might be the best of the series; regardless of the final twenty seconds, however, “Three Robots” one of the more memorable shorts – and is the single funniest entry of the series, to boot.
4. Episode 13 – “Lucky 13”
A lot of Love, Death + Robots‘ photo-realistic CGI often sanitizes the material on the page, turning most of the episodes it is utilized for into what feel like rejected video game intro cut scenes, a kaleidoscope of particle effects, strange facial animations, and ridiculously overwrought camera movement. “Lucky 13” is the antithesis to this template, utilizing some wonderful voice work by Samira Wiley to tell the single most emotional episode of the series – which, considering it is strictly about one pilot’s relationship with her futuristic airship, is a particularly impressive feat. Despite a few flashy action scenes, “Lucky 13” is a focused, subtle tale of loyalty and faith, about the intersection between technology and humanity, hinting at the potential where those two worlds inevitably meet. While much will be paid attention to the impressive CGI in the episode, the real attention should be on the heartfelt tale at the core of “Lucky”, one of the best stories Love, Death + Robots has to offer.
3. Episode 16 “Ice Age”
“Ice Age” is quietly one of Love, Death + Robot‘s more ambitious episodes; and one of its best, completely absent of the ridiculously gratuitous nudity and immaturity of the rest of the series. It asks a simple question: what would you do if you found a tiny mini-civilization with rapidly advancing technology, living in your freezer? A study of the world across millions of years of time (and also an underhanded exploration of deities, I might add), “Ice Age” features the least amount of animation work in the series, yet is one of the most representative entries of what makes this series tick. Starring Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Ice Age” is light and playful, but also darkly prosaic about the arc of humanity, a wonderful mix of ideas and tones distilled into a very strong, focused episode.
2. Episode 14 – “Zima Blue”
I fucking love everything about “Zima Blue”, from the matte painting-esque visuals, to the questions it asks about consciousness and happiness; it is an absolute dynamic piece of art, one of only a few true standouts in the Love, Death + Robots bunch. A striking adaptation of an Alastair Reynolds short story (second on the list!), “Zima Blue” utilizes its striking art style to illuminate the most thoughtful entry of the anthology. In many ways, it is too tame and reflective to be included in this series; it is an episode that demands patience, utterly abandoning the nipples, blood spurts, and toxic masculinity that is pervasive through the rest of the series. It is the Rectify of Love, Death + Robots, right down to the important metaphorical presence of a swimming pool; and for that, I will forever stan “Zima Blue”.
1. Episode 12 – “Fish Night”
I’ve always wanted to see more animation adopt the techniques seen in films like A Scanner Darkly; “Fish Night” is exactly that, a dreamy short about two salesmen who have a transcendent experience while stranded on the side of a desert highway. Beautifully animated and exceptionally written, “Fish Night” is an effortless entry amidst the dozen or so try-hard science fiction episodes of the series. It is the best of both worlds: confident in its subtlety, and distinctly unique with its visual design. A quiet rumination on evolution, “Fish Night” is one the best example of Love, Death + Robots living up to its promise of marrying innovative animation techniques with classic science fiction storytelling. Equally psychedelic and reflective, “Fish Night” is Love, Death + Robots briefly realizing its potential as an anthology series, as beautiful as it is darkly poignant.