Abigail Fenton 5th July 2019
The best show you’re not watching right now? Netflix’s animated anthology series Love, Death & Robots.
With each episode being made by a different cast and crew, and with their own self-contained stories and unique animation styles, the beauty of Love, Death & Robots is that there’s something for everybody.
The one thing they do share is a thematic connection to the three subjects mentioned in its title — and a bold take on cats.
In Three Robots — the first instalment, if you’re inclined to watch in any sort of order — a robot crushes a human skull underfoot. You may think you’re in for a Black Mirror-esque dystopian drama, but it subverts. “We’re fucking lost aren’t we?” exclaims a pastel goth C-3PO, exasperatedly.
It and its two pals roam a desolate city in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are extinct. Happening along strange human artefacts like basketballs and jukeboxes, they provide lighthearted commentary on the self-destructive nature of mankind, and how we ultimately deserved it for egotistically ruining the planet — not to mention being friends with “hairy little murder machines”.
In lieu of much plot, and despite being clumsily-written at times, it’s dark and funny with deceptively rich world-building. Pause at any given moment and you’ll be able to spend 10 minutes picking out little details you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Technology ‘gone wrong’ is very much the formula of Love, Death & Robots
Technology “gone wrong” is very much the formula of Love, Death & Robots.
Suits sees farmers fighting space monsters with homemade mechs. A spaceship flings its crew lightyears across the galaxy when its routing plot malfunctions in Beyond the Aquila Rift. Cyborgs get up to crime in Blindspot.
The ethereal yet creepy Fish Night, however, is a nice departure from this formula. When two salesmen get stuck in the desert, they discover an ancient aquatic society. Sea creatures float through the sky (ocean?), illuminating everything in a hauntingly gorgeous kaleidoscope of colour.
But beautiful things are never as nice as they seem, and Fish Night plays with a popular Greek myth for a shock ending.
Whoever was in charge of the colour design of this particular short did a bang-up job. Every single frame looks like a piece of concept art — a particularly impressive achievement considering the rotoscope art style, which it utilises, is more-or-less universally condemned as “ugly”.
It does what sci-fi does best: presents a seemingly ridiculous concept, then explores it
Love, Death & Robots isn’t always as funny or creative as it thinks it is, but it does what sci-fi does best: presents a seemingly ridiculous concept, then explores it.
In When The Yogurt Took Over — probably inspired by Larry Cohen’s 1985 satirical film The Stuff — scientists accidentally breed sentient yogurt that hungers for world domination. Demons battle armed mercenaries armed with cats (yes, cats again) in Sucker of Souls. A couple finds an entire civilisation inside an antique refrigerator in Ice Age.
With so few women behind the scenes, it’s no surprise the depiction of women is questionable
One glaring problem with the show is a clear lack of women behind the scenes.
With just one female director and three female writers to its name — 18 episodes, guys — it’s no surprise the depiction of women is somewhat… questionable.
It would be infinitely better without all the unnecessary objectification and gendered violence
If while watching Sonnie’s Edge — “Pokemon but make it Pacific Rim” (also: don’t) — you find yourself thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if this male gaze-laden rape-revenge fantasy was possibly written by a man?” your answer would be yes.
And The Witness, which sees a woman fleeing a killer after witnessing a brutal murder, would be infinitely better without all the unnecessary objectification and gendered violence.
So prayer circle that season two, which Netflix has already ordered, has more female input.
Alternate Histories, which explores the idea of going back in time to kill Hitler, is also a weak spot. Simply, Hitler gags are overdone. There’s no actual way to make them funny anymore, if they ever were.
Still, every episode of Love, Death & Robots is under 20 minutes long, and the beauty of an anthology series is that you don’t have to watch it at all — you can pick and choose which episodes to spend your time on, and it will have no detriment to your viewing experience.
And with so much to choose from, there’s plenty to like.
Main image: Netflix
Abigail Fenton 5th July 2019