When Love, Death and Robots hit Netflix in 2019 with eighteen episodes, it was a burst of creativity and a unique addition to Netflix’s ever growing catalogue of binge-worthy TV shows. Reminiscing the hit show Black Mirror, Love, Death and Robots is an anthology show where each episode is made by a different team following a different animation style. Produced by Tim Miller, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, and Jennifer Miller, Love, Death and Robots was hugely enjoyable to watch as you didn’t know what you were going to get in the next episode. It was easy to watch too, with episodes ranging from different lengths but 25 minutes being the longest. Some were masterpieces, some were simply enjoyable, and some were a bit of a hit and miss – but overall the series was great.
Automated Customer Service
The first episode to the season had some pretty obvious messaging about the perils of replacing customer service roles with AI. Our main character is an elderly woman called Jeanette living in a retirement community staffed by robots. When her ‘Vacuubot’ starts acting up, she tries calling the automated helpline whilst fighting to survive the rogue sucker. ‘Automated Customer Service’ had plenty of comedic and relatable moments, such as the endless “press this number if you want help with this” and having to wait 6 hours to be put through to a human speaker. Despite this, the episode was frightening in a way as it reminds us of the dark path we’re already heading down, especially with Amazon opening up stores without human customer service and more and more of our home technology becoming linked up to AI in some way. The vacuum is equipped with weapons to ward off intruders, and mistakes the owner of the house for an intruder, very much like Black Mirror’s nerve-wrecking ‘Metalhead’ episode. It was a great start to the series and was hugely enjoyable.
Unfortunately, ‘Ice’ was the weakest episode to this volume of Love, Death and Robots. Set on a colony on an ice-covered planet where people are enhanced with modifications from a young age, Sedge’s parents have migrated there from Earth. Because of this, he wasn’t lucky enough to receive these super-human modifications. As a result, he struggles to fit in with the community – especially when his younger brother is also modded up. When his brother is going to look at some Frostwhales with his other modded friends, he invites Sedge along, despite the trip being dangerous for modded humans, let alone those without mods. The episode is about a brother’s love, and what a good brother would sacrifice just to make the other feel better. It didn’t feel very impactful and I feel like it could have done with just a tad more world-building. By personal choice, I wasn’t a fan of the animation style which also impacted how I felt about the episode.
When humans can live forever, over-population is going to become a problem. That’s why in the world of ‘Pop Squad’, it’s illegal to have children. We follow Detective Briggs after he has just completed a case where two people were prosecuted for having children; it was his job to execute the children. As we see Briggs go through stages of PTSD after this incident, he comes across a woman called Eve who is acting suspiciously in a collector’s shop, one of the only places where you can find children’s toys. He follows her to find that she lives in an abandoned house with her young daughter. ‘Pop Squad’ was a beautifully written story about what humanity would sacrifice if it were to become immortal. Life feels more lifeless when you live so long, and Eve points out that her daughter makes her see the world again through new eyes – something she desperately needed being over 200 years old. One thing about ‘Pop Squad’ was that I simply wanted to know more about the world, why there were so many destroyed parts to the city and the story behind what looks like a class system of the higher ups living above the clouds, similar to Altered Carbon. ‘Pop Squad’ is an example of a story which could easily become a TV show, though was just as good on its own.
Snow in the Desert
‘Snow in the Desert’ follows an immortal albino man called Snow. He has enhanced regeneration abilities and is being hunted down by assassins who want to use his genes. When fighting off these assassins in a bar, he is saved by a woman called Hirald who wishes to travel with him. It is on these travels where she tells him she’s been sent by Earth Central Intelligence as they also want his genes so that they can find the answer to immortality, though she wants him to go with her voluntarily. Snow was excellently animated and I loved the setting and the fight choreography. I found Hirald and Snow’s romance to have felt a bit rushed, but that’s probably to be expected in such a short episode. Overall, it was enjoyable, and held a little twist at the end which only made it more interesting to watch. It also did well at making sure the viewer understood everything that was going on despite such a new setting and Snow’s extensive backstory which is vital for the plot.
The Tall Grass
‘The Tall Grass’ stood out to me with its creative animation style which is made to look like a painting, I thought this was a great idea for what seems like a Victorian period setting. It follows Laird, a passenger on a train which breaks down in a field of tall grass. Whilst the train is at a standstill, he gets off to have a smoke but is warned by the conductor not to wander off and that the train will leave after the second call. This would be my second least favourite episode as the main character’s stupidity is what leads the story. Despite being told by the conductor to stay put and knowing that the train will leave shortly, Laird sees some strange glowing lights and wanders into the grass which is so high he can’t see where he’s going just. These turn out to be a terrifying humanoid creature and they start hunting Laird as he tries to run away and find his way back to the train. Not only were Laird’s senseless actions infuriating to watch, but the conductor oddly reveals at the end that he knew about the strange creatures in the grass and he thinks they were once humans who also fell victim to it. So why didn’t you give a more precise warning then? “Stay put” would have been much more effective if you had said “stay put, there’s some wild animals in the grass”.
All Through the House
‘All Through the House’ was the shortest episode in the second volume of Love, Death and Robots. It was a quick and humorous story of two children sneaking downstairs on Christmas Eve because they think Santa is in the house. Santa is in the house, but he’s not as they expected. Instead, he’s a hideous creature who sniffs the children out and regurgitates a saliva-covered present if they’ve been good – leaving them with the dreaded questions of what would have happened if they’d been bad. This episode has been humorously dubbed as this year’s Christmas John Lewis advert by many viewers.
Michael B. Jordan plays Terence, an injured pilot who has crashed landed on a strange planet after being hit in a space battle. He tries to find help in a Life Hutch which has also crash landed. Inside, the awakened maintenance robot malfunctions and tries to kill anything that moves. This very closely follows the story of ‘Automated Customer Service’, albeit being much more intense and violent. This was one of my favourite episodes from the suspense of watching Terence work out how to kill the robot before he’s killed. The animation was also scarily realistic, with some scenes looking as if they were filmed.
The Drowned Giant
This was my favourite episode of Love, Death and Robots volume 2 because of the existential narration behind the story of a giant corpse washing up on a beach. We’re not told whether the people in this world are aware giants exist or not, all we know is that once it happened, academics from around the world come to the beach to study the body. Steve is one of these academics, but he doesn’t join in when everyone begins climbing on it and defacing it. Instead, he sits and becomes obsessed with the story behind the giant. He wonders who he was, and creates a personality for him based on his appearance. As time goes by, the giant begins to decompose and is slowly dismantled. His bones pop up around the fishing village and people start to forget about him. The story is about life itself, how we die and our personalities are forgotten about and our remains are left back to nature. It was a truly beautifully written episode which didn’t have much in terms of story, but paid off by how reflective it was.
Although volume 2 has returned with under half the number of episodes, this has paid off as we have a higher ratio of great stories over okay ones. Overall, I am looking forward to seeing eight more episodes in 2022 and am also glad we won’t have to wait as long this time.