I honestly believe that the trend of the 15 minute television series, a trend we’re seeing in kid’s television, is starting to bleed into the adult market with Love, Death, & Robots and, when I say adult, I mean adult.
This series from Netflix is basically a collection of science fiction and horror shorts featuring, you guessed it, love, death, and robots. I’m not about to tell you that this is a rich series because it contains a few duds, but it also contains some wildly imaginative and wonderful shorts to go along with the lesser number of weak ones.
I would also be remiss in not warning you that this series in extremely NSFW. There are only a small handful of episodes that don’t contain extremely explicit nudity and I don’t remember a single one that didn’t involve foul language, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
That being said, here are my short reviews of each episode.
Episode 1: “Sonnie’s Edge” – A solid pilot episode about a woman who “drives” a bio-mechanical beast in the fighting ring with great animation and story.
Episode 2: “Three Robots” – A silly but harmless story about three robots touring the remains of a human city. It’s a comedy, has some decent jokes, but the farcical ending hurts it.
Episode 3: “The Witness” – Impressively animated tale about a hooker on the run from a killer, but with a boring narrative and pacing. The ending is obvious from a mile away.
Episode 4: “Suits” – Animated in a style that reminded me of Fortnight, this tale is fun, imaginative, and contains some relatable protagonists fighting space bugs in mech suits.
Episode 5: “The Sucker of Souls” – Dracula is released during an archaeological dig in this somewhat silly and forgettable short.
Episode 6: “When the Yogurt Took Over” – A farce that is literally about yogurt taking over the Earth. It’s a nice palate cleanser from the more serious and bloody fare.
Episode 7: “Beyond the Aquila Rift” – This one is probably in the running for my favorite episode. A deep space ship accidentally overshoots its destination and ends up on the far side of the galaxy where the captain reunites with an old flame, but of course, nothing is as it appears. Atmospheric, scary, and impressive photo-realistic animation. The ending is just bone-chilling.
Episode 8: “Good Hunting” – A well-intentioned episode that falls in the neutral territory, “Good Hunting” takes place in an steampunk Japan during the British colonial era and deals with magic being replaced by science. Excellent world-building and animation with a very nice ending, but decidedly subpar in between.
Episode 9: “The Dump” – A hillbilly in a dump tells a story about a monster living in the trash. This one is stupid, makes no sense, and has the ending that you were expecting from the beginning.
Episode 10: “Shape-Shifters” – Another contender for my favorite of the series, this one posits the idea of what would happen if werewolves enrolled in the army. Again, great animation and story. I’d kind of like to see a feature film adapt this one.
Episode 11: “Helping Hand” – A short, simple, and disappointingly predictable story about an astronaut who gets stranded in space. I’ve never seen a title spoil the “big twist” so much.
Episode 12: “Fish Night” – Another dud of an episode about ghost fish in the desert. An interesting idea, light on story, short on characters with common sense, and animated to look like a cell-shaded video game cut scene.
Episode 13: “Lucky 13” – Probably the best animation in the series, this one is about a space pilot and her possibly haunted ship. This short doesn’t go the direction you think it’s going to go and it’s full of unexpected heart and emotion.
Episode 14: “Zima Blue” – This one looks like it belongs on that old MTV show, Liquid Television. An interesting premise about an artist and his final exhibition, I just get the feeling it was told from the wrong point of view as the ending has little emotional impact.
Episode 15: “Blindspot” – I enjoyed the animation and action in this story about robot highway hijackers, but it short-circuits itself in the end where it’s revealing that nothing we saw mattered.
Episode 16: “Ice Age” – Probably the worst installment of the series. Most of it isn’t animated and the story is something that we’ve seen done before and done better. Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead honestly look bored and it’s not hard to see why. There’s no originality to this.
Episode 17: “Alternate Histories” – Another terrible installment that deals with what might have happened if Hitler was killed early. None of the jokes land, the animation is bad, and the story is almost non-existent.
Episode 18: “The Secret War” – An excellently animated tale about Russian soldiers taking on demons in Siberia. Well written and engaging with a tragic and yet satisfying conclusion.
Love, Death, & Robots is not a perfect collection, but given that the episodes rarely last longer than 20 minutes and many don’t even last 10, the duds pass by before you know it and are forgotten as soon as you come across a masterpiece. The animation, imagination, and stories here are undeniable even in the weak entries and the entries that are strong will stick with you for a long time.
So, yes, although the road is not very smooth all the time, I would highly recommend Love, Death, & Robots without pause… just don’t watch it with kids present.