Recently I’ve been super busy and sitting down for a two-to-three-hour movie is difficult. So these short stand-alone episodes from Netflix’s Love Death + Robots were a great way to take a break and watch something without spending too much of my time.
I was happy to hear that Netflix renewed the sci-fi anthology for a fourth season. I look forward to seeing how the different studios innovate on what they’ve already created. I love comparing the storylines, concepts, and art styles.
From the first three seasons, a few episodes stood out. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today. If you haven’t checked out Love Death + Robots, watch these episodes. If you have seen it, then watch them again.
This list is purely my opinion, so if you disagree and I left out one of your favorites, please let me know in the comments.
Okay, let’s count it down!
10. Zima Blue
The first time I watched this episode, I didn’t think much about it. Yes, the art style was cool—a thick-line comic book aesthetic that reminded me of the 90’s cartoon Daria—but I wasn’t sure what the deal was until it got to the end.
There was a time when we were confident that art was the language of humans. We have experiences and emotions, and that’s what makes art meaningful. The sentiment was clear: Robots have no place in art.
Today, with the advent of Dall-E, Midjourney, Lensa, and ChatGPT, AIs are coming closer and closer to creating art. They may only be interpreting our keywords to produce an image or write a paragraph now, but how soon will they be able to take their experiences and design something of their own? And when they do, what will they make? That’s the question Zima Blue poses… and the answer might be too simple for us to understand.
9. The Tall Grass
There is something calming about a man smoking a cigarette and venturing into the tall grass. But the pendulum swings to fear quickly. We’ve been there before. How often do we decline helpful advice and go off on our own? How often do we find our curiosity and hubris leading us to danger?
The Tall Grass is an episode where as a spectator, it’s so obvious the passenger was going to get lost. From our perspective, we’ve seen this a thousand times.
After saving him, the conductor tells the passenger that out in the middle of nowhere, a door opens to another world, and those monsters coming through were once lost humans. That explanation is somehow terrifying and assuring. We are not immune, and we may be one bad decision from getting lost ourselves.
8. Pop Squad
As a child-free person, this episode felt like an attack. In our current world, we are facing overpopulation, but there will be more older people than young. According to the US Census Bureau, in America, the fastest-growing population are people above 80.
Depending on how you look at it, it can feel selfish to have children and selfish not to have children. While immortality is still fiction, the moral decision is worth debating.
It’s well-documented that Elon Musk wants everyone to have more children, and he’s leading by example, but how will he feel when there is no more room at the party? What if someone needs to go for someone else to join? Do I believe Elon Musk love himself enough to want to live forever? Yes, I do. Is he seeing the world through the children’s eyes, or does he see them as resources for the future? Expendable like Twitter employees.
Telling a powerful story without dialogue is tough. The soundscape, musical score, and audio mixing must be on point, and when it is I feel chills. It’s hard to find words to describe this episode. You can even say that at the end, I too was speechless. What did I just experience?
This twisted episode is a feast for the eyes as well. The surreal mix of Spanish conquistadors, South Asian-inspired costume design, and the North American wilderness presents a story full of symbolism while leaving plenty of room for interpretations.
Fear and anger drive this episode, but the temptation is navigating. Both the siren and the knight wear armor, one of steel and the other of gold and jewels, but neither can protect what’s within. Jibaro blends interpretive dance, operatic performance, and a hostile assault to tell a story about humanity’s true disabilities, not our inability to speak and hear but our sins: greed and lust.
6. Life Hutch
There are several episodes in Love Death + Robots about malfunctioning machines going on a killing spree, including Mason’s Rats and Automated Customer Service. It also brings to mind that famous episode of Black Mirror: Metalhead. So what separates Life Hutch from other attacking-robot stories?
This episode built tension and then held it. At no point does this feel repetitive, which can’t be said about some of the other examples. Whenever the momentum was on the verge of slipping, it cuts to a back story about surviving an army of aliens, space debris, and a crash landing on the rugged planet. It goes to show that in space, there is always danger. After all he’s been through, it’s so satisfying when he finally beats up the robot with its arm.
HM: Lucky 13
Before we carry on with the countdown, here’s an honorable mention, Lucky 13. While the number 13 being unlucky is a bit cliche, I did enjoy the idea of superstition in a futuristic world.
Whenever chance is in question, a bit of faith is required. In a dangerous situation, nobody wants to run out of luck. Yet, how much does a break in pattern matter? Good luck after a string of bad luck. Is it all in our minds? People want to feel like they can control the uncontrollable, whether they do or not, it’s the stories they tell themselves that will keep them going.
Now back to the countdown…
5. Beyond the Aquila Rift
The award for the most intense sex scene goes to Beyond the Aquila Rift, and that’s enough to get it into the top five. Okay, but seriously the episode about how an error in the routing system caused ships to overshoot their destination by hundreds of thousands of light-years away is a tragedy. A combination of Groundhog Day, the Matrix, and Interstellar, Beyond the Aquila Rift poses many questions. The twist at the end is a horrifying reminder that if something is hidden from us, it might be for a good reason. And so it goes with everything out there in space.
What this episode does great is show the significance of space travel and the power of technology. We, humans, should be careful where we wander, but the fact of the matter is that we may already be trapped. If you ever feel that life is a simulation, that’s okay because this reality may be the most ideal version.
4. Sonnie’s Edge
Just failing to make the podium is Sonnie’s Edge. This gritty, gruesome, and erotic Pokemon-esque episode has everything I want in a sci-fi/fantasy short, including an epic battle between giant monsters.
On the surface, this episode appears to be a feast for our obsession with violence and sex, but beneath, it has a powerful message about the corruption of men. Driven by overconfidence and pride, the upper class feels secure when they shouldn’t, for there is an edge that those living below have. Fear. A story about feminism and the strength of women, Sonnie’s Edge is layers upon layers deep.
3. Helping Hand
If you enjoyed the movie Gravity, Moon, or 127 Hours, you’d like Helping Hand. Nothing captures my attention like a survival story. I consider what I would do in that situation. What would I sacrifice to save my life? They say there is no will more powerful than the will to live, and until you stare death in the face, you will never fully know how you’d respond.
Small debris causes the greatest devastation. And no instrument of destruction is more powerful than our thoughts. Can we break free of the inertia that will carry us deeper and deeper into darkness? Or will we be able to throw what we hold most precious and change the momentum? Helping Hand is an incredible short because it hits on something real: the perseverance of humans and the coldness of space.
2. Bad Traveling
This episode might be about a giant crustacean taking over a ship and causing havoc but it’s also about the deceit of democracy, the power struggle within a workforce, and the negotiation with an enemy. The theme of Bad Traveling is so relevant to the world we are currently living in. Are we making cowardly choices because we fear the enemy or mistrust those who are in charge?
What makes a good leader? Is it someone who can manipulate the monsters we’ll face? Or is it someone who can see the evil within ourselves? Perhaps it’s both. In which case, how will he make choices when theoretically there is nobody on his side? Taking action for the greater good is as isolating as being alone on the ocean.
1. The Witness
The Witness is an incredibly stimulating experience with the topsy-turvy comic art style, the titillating performance, and the claustrophobically tall buildings combined with a disorienting soundscape and fast cuts. The story starts with a sex worker witnessing a murder in the apartment across the street, then a chase through a populated city that doesn’t seem to care about anything but itself, and concludes in a chaotic struggle.
This mind-bending story about infinite loops is so brilliantly done that I don’t know if I can ever get the visuals out of my head. The way the characters breathe, so realistically, right onto the camera lens—I can feel it. The insanity of the situation. The need to know, the need to save ourselves, the fear of being caught. In such a diverse collection of stories, The Witness stands out on its own. And the open-ended conclusion leaves us wanting more, almost daring to chase it down ourselves, drawing our conclusions like the characters in the story.
There you have it! Those are my top 10 episodes of Love Death + Robots. What do you think? Did your favorite episode make the list? Let me know in the comments below. As I mentioned, I’m excited that the sci-fi anthology was renewed for another season. I can’t wait to see what other trippy, scary, and bizarre stories creator Tim Miller and his contributing filmmakers will have.
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