By: Beata Garrett | @clearsummers
Love Death + Robots is an original show produced by Netflix that focuses on Sci-Fi stories told through animation. The different animation studios, directors, and writers at the helm of every episode make for an interesting experimentation that introduces viewers to different animation and directing styles.
Season 3 may be my favorite season yet, but it doesn’t have tough competition from the previous two seasons. Season 1 was pretty bad with its gratuitous nudity and violence in many episodes. I believe producers listened to the opinions of watchers as Season 2 is more purposeful, slow, and showcases a wider variety of stories. By Season 2, Love Death + Robots understood that it couldn’t coast on pretty visuals and showed much more consideration to the stories it adapted. This is reflected in cutting down the 18 episodes of Season 1 to 8 episodes for Season 2 and 9 episodes for Season 3.
So how is Season 3? It has more memorable episodes than S2 so I would put it above that. This season genuinely made me excited to see what future seasons of Love Death + Robots has in store. There’s one episode that I adored and another that was fascinating to watch in terms of visuals and sound design, but which is a bit of a letdown when I think about it in more detail. While some episodes were mediocre, I didn’t hate any episode like the multiple ones I hated in Season 1. A vast improvement!
I’ll be breaking down every episode into a brief summary and my overall thoughts on it. I may gush at a few but they’ll otherwise be short and sweet. There will be spoilers so I advise you to come back after watching the episodes if you’re looking for a spoiler-free review.
Episode 1: “Three Robots: Exit Strategies”
Source: Episode 1, Love Death + Robots
“Three Robots: Exit Strategies” follows the robots that have opened the previous seasons as they explore a destroyed landscape. It’s an okay episode and the two robots laughing at humanity’s belief that they’ll survive the apocalypse is funny. However, I’m ready to move on to something else opening the season or more variety and an actual story of these robots.
Episode 2: “Bad Travelling”
Source: Episode 2, Love Death + Robots
“Bad Travelling” is one of my favorite episodes of the season, maybe my favorite in fact, and definitely up there out of all three seasons. It follows a crew that has been invaded by a monstrous crab and the captain, Torrin, who makes a deal with it to spare them in return for leading the ship to an island full of people that it can devour. However, he actually has no intention of fulfilling this bargain and must outwit the crab and his crew, who are more than willing to uphold the deal.
This episode is full of tricky moral quandaries as the crew are faced with imminent death and choose to sacrifice unknowing innocents. What makes this episode so special to me is the character of Torrin, a man who’s captain only in name and even that’s stripped from him pretty fast. I love how the audience is expected to root for Torrin until he begins killing off those who disagreed with him in the vote, allowing us to see the clever workings of his mind and the ruthlessness behind the gentle demeanor.
The vote and the consequences of it are tense and exciting as the crew members are unsure of where they stand and the captain makes it clear that he won’t accept any objections. To a degree, I sympathized with the crew as they’re driven by terror, wondering what I would do in the situation. I was also on edge the entire time as they’re picked off one by one. It didn’t surprise me to learn that David Fincher, director of Se7en and Zodiac, directed this episode as he knows his suspense top to bottom.
The ending does justice to the rest of the episode as the action ramps up and culminates in a spectacular and clever explosion that kills off the monstrous crab. Our last shot is of the captain rowing away and while it’s hard to fully root for him, it certainly is cathartic.
Episode 3: “The Very Pulse of the Machine”
Source: Episode 3, Love Death + Robots
“The Very Pulse of the Machine” is an objectively okay episode that I struggled to get through. It follows two pilots who crash on Io with only one surviving. She wanders the barren landscape, looking to survive and discovers that Io is actually sentient. Io itself proclaims it’s a machine and is curious to learn more about the lone pilot and humanity in general. It’s an interesting concept, but there isn’t enough time dedicated to understanding the ramifications and nuances of this reveal. The character is also dull and the animation didn’t particularly stand out to me.
If I had to pick one episode to never watch again in this season, it would be this one.
Episode 4: “Night of the Mini Dead”
Source: Episode 4, Love Death + Robots
“Night of the Mini Dead” is a funny and charming twist on the zombie apocalypse. It’s a pretty typical story, but I love the scope of it and am amazed at how the animators created this tiny world.
The episode depicts the zombie apocalypse beginning as two people disturb a church graveyard and awaken the slumbering dead. From there, it descends into the madness typical to the genre. Watching all these events get acted out in tiny form makes it laughable and works to truly point out the ludicrously brief nature of our lives. This is underscored by multiple countries blowing the earth up by unleashing their nuclear weapons and the camera zooming out until it shows the solar system. In the scheme of things, the earth’s ending is just a fart.
I also love the way the episode escalates from the couple disturbing the undead by accidentally taking down the cross in a church graveyard to giant, mutant zombies emerging as the zombies get into toxic waste. It’s a delight to watch and I find this episode to be just as funny as the iconic Shaun of the Dead.
Episode 5: “Kill Team Kill”
Source: Episode 5, Love Death + Robots
“Kill Team Kill” is an ultraviolet episode that makes fun of macho men as a group of mercenaries or soldiers takes on a robot-bear hybrid that rips them to shreds.
I struggle to find something to say about the episode, which says it all. There’s nothing too interesting about this episode as even the kills aren’t very creative, but it could be fun to watch if you just wanted over-the-top nonsense. It was definitely one of the less interesting ones, especially after “Night of the Mini-Dead.”
Episode 6: “Swarm”
Source: Episode 6, Love Death + Robots
In some ways, “Swarm” accomplishes what it sets out to do. However, no matter how many times I return to this episode, I’m always left feeling unsatisfied by it and slightly disappointed. “Swarm” follows a scientist interested in helping humanity by studying other alien races. He goes to a colony of insectoid beings who exhibit hive behavior and ends up falling in love with a fellow researcher. However, the two’s exploits to gradually enslave the race they’re studying is found out. The ending is dark yet also hopeful as the two researchers are told they will give birth to a hybrid race that will fight for the insects, with a sort of bet occurring between the hive mind and the male researcher on whether humanity will survive or not.
There are a few things I really enjoyed about the episode such as the animation, the relationship and contrast in philosophies between the two researchers, and the reveal of how the alien race has survived for so long. This is the episode that made me realize how hard it is to create a satisfying story in about ten to fifteen minutes. Well, this and “Bad Traveling.” Many of my complaints could have probably been fixed with more time as I think the female researcher doesn’t get as much to do as she should have and is basically killed off.
Episode 7: “Mason’s Rats”
Source: Episode 7, Love Death + Robots
This is another great episode that has a rather simple premise and excellent execution. I may be biased though because I love Ratatouille. “Mason’s Rats” is set on a farm in which the farmer, a grumpy old man who habitually spikes his morning coffee, is waging war with the rats in his barn. As the rats begin arming themselves and shooting at him, he decides enough is enough and secures a rat-killing machine. However, the machine is much too good at killing them and the farmer soon finds himself allied with the very enemies he sought to eliminate.
It’s such an enjoyable time and I love the idea of this farmer just brewing alcohol with his barn rats from here on out. I also wonder if you could bring a class reading to the table as this farmer aligns himself with the oppressed group he was initially fighting and turns on the tech company selling him the machine. Of course, the fact that the farmer can buy it makes this reading more dubious.
In any case, I’ve returned to this episode a few times and it’s successfully cheered me up each time. Fun in premise, fun in execution.
Episode 8: “In Vaulted Halls Entombed”
Source: Episode 8, Love Death + Robots
A group of soldiers head into a cave to save hostages, but find themselves surrounded by spider-like creatures with faces. It’s a creature feature that’s made successful only by those creatures at the beginning as they’re genuinely creepy (but then again, anything with a face is). As the crew is picked off, the last two survivors find a multi-eyed nightmare that asks them to release it. The ending implies that this happened as one of them is shown walking in the desert, their eyes cut out, speaking an alien language.
Outside of this, “In Vaulted Halls Entombed” wastes some time on these soldiers deciding to try and shoot all of the spiders instead of running like any person with common sense. There were other moments that bothered me too, like one of the characters telling another one “God is dead” when they start praying and the ending is very underwhelming. To fix my action itch, I had to rewatch “Bad Travelling.”
Episode 9: “Jibaro”
Source: Episode 9, Love Death + Robots
Oh man, there’s a lot to say about this one.
Like David Fincher, director Alberto Mielgo’s style and storytelling is clearly felt in “Jibaro” as a deaf knight and siren become attracted to one another. After a brutal scene in which the knight strips the siren of all her gold and even her “face,” he ends up drinking from the river full of her blood. It enables him to hear sound, thus rendering him susceptible to the siren’s powers. As she kills him, we see his corpse drift to the bottom of the lake in a haunting shot that shows their inability to truly love one another.
“Jibaro” is stunning visually and its story has a lot of potential to be more than what it is. Personally, I hated the other episode Mielgo directed for Love Death + Robots Season 1, but this has the same flavor of art and sound without being too sexually graphic.
Everything that bothers me about this episode lies in the idea of the characters being mutually hurt by one another and the bigger implications of the story’s setting. It’s clear that the knight is a conquistador of sorts and that he’s here on a mission to colonize whatever country they’re in. In an interview with CBR, the very title of the episode is something that Mielgo came up with because “It sounds sort of exotic for some reason.” Even after finding out its meaning, he kept the title and pointed out, “By the way, in the movie, we never actually say who is Jibaro, which is kind of the funny thing. We assume it’s him, but maybe it’s not” (https://www.cbr.com/love-death-robots-volume-3-alberto-mielgo-interview/).
Because of the depiction of the knight, the title of the episode, and Mielgo’s own words that jibaro could be the siren, the siren takes on a different tone. I ultimately read her as an Indigenous resident to the country they’re invading and her killing them as self-defense. After all, they disturbed her first and it’s hard to read the whole episode as anything but the knight’s fault. While she may have hurt him by kissing him, the knight chases after her time and time again because of his own materialistic greed to strip her of the gold and jewels on her body.
So no, I don’t believe this is a mutually toxic relationship. While Mielgo may have intended it as that, I cannot read it in another way than that of the violations that Spanish colonizers have done throughout South America. It’s a gorgeous episode, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has some triumphant masterpieces in there. While I didn’t enjoy every episode, it’s hard to argue that this is the most evenly spread season in terms of quality storytelling. I look forward to the next season and what that will bring, confident now that there will be at least one standout episode each season.