In case you haven’t heard of Love Death + Robots on Netflix, this is your warning to get on board. ASAP. However you can. This series is one of the most visually striking and insanely creative things out in entertainment lately. There, I said it. When I started watching it several years ago, I didn’t quite understand its purpose. I quickly get over that once I sunk into its high style, rapid-fire presentation, however: Love Death + Robots isn’t merely art on display, it’s an experience. Short movies blasted into my occipital lobe for it to do with whatever it feels fit. It begs of its viewers to process everything in as full a context as one possibly can, with everything you’ve got. Perhaps you’ll feel nothing. Perhaps you’ll question the meaning of life. Perhaps you’ll laugh, or cry, or be scared. Love Death + Robots challenges all of your human faculties, and dares them to come out and play for a while. I love this show. I can’t say enough flowery things about it.
Volume 3 recently dropped on Netflix, which was happy accident that travelyan and I stumbled upon after viewing The Northman – an experience that I found difficult to select a follow-up to. A happy accident, because we literally selected “Play Something,” and of course Netflix chose the brand new season to shove into our faces, of course it did. As for my worries about a follow up to Robert Eggers, well… the animated assault to my senses was more than enough to whet my palette for brain food, and tonight my brain feels full. I decided I wanted to word vomit for a bit about each episode, and try to rank them in order of least to most favorite. Though, honestly, this does the episodes, when isolated, a bit of injustice: none of them were bad. None. All of them were incredible. I kept wondering when I was going to feel less wowed, and by the end I was just left breathless and satisfied with the choice Netflix had made.
I suppose, without further hold-up, here’s the list of my favorite episodes from the new season, ranked in order from least favorite to most favorite. Again, it’s hard to even rank these, because they were all so good. There were just some that managed to stick with me long after viewing them, and I felt need to share this love somewhere.
9. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
Three Robots is a continuation of a previous season of the anthology series that follows… well…. three robots as they tour through a post-apocalyptic world. Funny, poignant, and often times a little too real, Three Robots: Exit Strategies is a tongue-in-cheek look at our society today from the perceived lens of an outsider: what would another society think about our world, and what we’ve been doing with it? What we’ve been up to? It was a really strong way to start up the new season, not just because of the callback, but because of the commentary, and moreso the ending – one ship manages to leave the planet and make it elsewhere, and what else would be on that ship then a cat piloting a space suit? Perfection. The end message that you carry away with you is, indeed, humans literally are the worst.
8. Mason’s Rats
Mason’s Rats had a wonderful story to tell, even if it became sad to behold at times. The basic premise follows a farm owner who is looking to get rid of the rats that have taken over his barn. He goes to an exterminator time and time again, who keeps giving him technology that the rats manage to best in a number of ways – the rats are basically getting smarter, adapting, becoming 80’s action heroes… you know, rat stuff. It’s what I picture in my mind’s eye about rats coming to life in a fantastically animated segment. In the end, the man ends up employing some sort of robo-scorpion that is far too powerful, and as you start to actually get a glimpse of what getting rid of the rats actually means from the rat’s side of life, you start to really feel bad for them, and switch sides. This leads the farmer to eventually help the rats against the unstoppable robot extermination device and form a friendship with the survivors in the end. At times, Mason’s Rats felt as though it were telling a moral story about the importance of life and co-existence over conquering domination. I appreciated that, because the times we live in feel ever-so-bleak, and it’s nice to see the sun peak out every once in a while from between the clouds.
7. Night of the Mini-Dead
Night of the Mini-Dead could have easily been ranked as one of my favorite viewing experiences, which honestly speaks to the rest of the line-up that it didn’t rank higher in my list. This was a stop-motion zoomed out perspective of your typical, tropey, zombie scenario: a horny couple drives to a cemetery to have some alone time where they, evidently, destroy a church and wake the dead. Literally. Swarms of zombies come from seemingly nowhere and from there, the whole thing just takes off. You get different perspectives of a city overrun by a massive zombie outbreak. At times I couldn’t tell if I was watching a zoomed out, sped up version of a movie, or several movies, but it became clear that Night of the Mini-Dead had sourced several points of inspiration for this amazing short that I would honestly watch more of if it were fleshed out into a series of its own.
Jibaro was such an assault on all fronts to your senses, and the perfect way to end the entire season. Artistically, one of the most visually striking and cinematically complete works of art that I’ve witnessed in quite sometime as well. The symbolism behind Jibaro lies on its surface, much like the creature waiting in the lake for a new prey to come, violently rising up to show you its true nature yet becoming a victim unto itself – Jibaro is a parable of sorts about toxic relationships and the nature of physical attraction. Sometimes the things you want, and the things that feel like they make the most sense, are not always the best for you. As the creature from the lake becomes completely and utterly devoured by the knight who was so attracted to her, I found myself getting overwhelmed by emotion as I watched her body become reabsorbed by the water she was dumped back into. Powerful stuff. Many people rank this one as their absolute favorite, and I get why! Though I couldn’t say that it was necessarily MY favorite, it was definitely one of the best from a visual and artistic standpoint. Again, hard list to rank. Everything was just so good here.
5. The Very Pulse of the Machine
The Very Pulse of the Machine is really where I felt like the tone for this season of Love Death + Robots was defined, which is interesting given that it is third in the lineup. My reasoning for this thought is that I felt The Very Pulse of the Machine was a breathtakingly broad stroke on the synopsis of what Love Death + Robots as an anthology series is all about, and it would potentially be one that I would show to people who were interested in a test taste of the show. It makes you think. It makes you feel. It gives you substance that’s both tangible and lasting, yet brief and ephemeral in the moments it hits. The basic premise of the short is this: a small team is trying to land on a moon when the entire mission goes sideways. One lone woman survives, barely, and in her final hours she not only tries her hardest to survive, but she goes on an incredible journey of self-discovery and mind-bending thought. If you’ve ever seen the Netflix show The Midnight Gospel, it’s not too dissimilar to that. Very deep, and very powerful, and something that you may not recall the specifics of, but is something that will live with you hours after viewing it.
4. Kill Team Kill
I’ve not often wanted something so much as I’ve wanted Kill Team Kill to be completely fleshed out into its own 80’s inspired balls-to-the-wall action series. This particular short didn’t have the same kind of depth, despair, deep hidden meaning, or artistic flair per se as the others in the series did… but it was so much fun that none of that matters. I just want more of it. Recognizable voices are also featured: like Joel McHale, Seth Green, Steve Blum, and more. This star-studded cast are just out to do one thing: hunt. Hunt a bear. The most formidable bear in the history of the universe.
Seriously, though. Going to need a full series of these guys.
Swarm was easily one of the most creepy and unnerving episodes of volume 3, though it doesn’t start off as such. The short is more or less a piece of commentary on the arrogance of man, and the assumption that we are the most highly intelligent, highly skilled, top-of-the-food chain organism out there – illustrated by a plotline that involves one man infiltrating a colony of creatures with hopes to harness their natural survival skills to further produce and manufacture things for humanity, and thus profit from it. Exploitation of a species, an easier way of saying it. The end, which I do not want to spoil, turns the tables quickly, violently, and unnervingly for the lead character as he is reminded that perhaps he’s not as superior as he thinks. Some other lists may not rank this one as high because of its less-than meaty content compared to some other shorts on the list, but the end had me holding my breath the entire time, wide-eyed and completely, as they say, shook. Loved Swarm.
2. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
If you present unto me something that deals in eldritch horrors, I’m so on board that I have left the station before you finished the sentence. And such is the case with In Vaulted Halls Entombed, which doesn’t, at first, lead you to believe it’s going in the direction it ends up at. However, I couldn’t help but think of my time with games like Call of Cthulhu and The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes while watching this short. Whereas with some of the other shorts I wanted a full series to be fleshed out… with this one, I want a video game version to be created. Badly. Holy shit, do I want nothing more then that. Things ramp up pretty quickly in this one and end in such a bleak, desolate, heavy-hitting way that I, once again, found myself holding my breath, eyes wide as can be, arms up in the air, and ready to freak out. I can’t honestly say enough good about this volume of Love Death + Robots. In Vaulted Halls Entombed was quite possibly my favorite of the lot except… well, we’ll just get to my favorite one.
1. Bad Travelling
A few years ago I played Return of the Obra Dinn on my stream, and it was incredible. It left such an impact on me that I’ve been hard-pressed to find an experience that measured up to it since, and while I’ve come close in video game terms, I wasn’t quite expecting to have anything cross over into a cinematic universe that would rival that same experience, and leave me with that same sense of longing. Enter Bad Travelling, a seemingly inspired work that felt like an animated series based off Return of the Obra Dinn, albeit with some crazy twists. The basic premise: a group of sailors have a rough night out on the sea, and end up with a giant crab-like creature on their boat. It kills many men, and makes demands of the captain. I don’t really want to explain any more, because it’s such a treat to watch from start to finish. Bad Travelling is the longest short in the new volume, clocking in at 21 minutes, which feels like hours but in a good way, because at least in my case, I could have watched an entire feature film of this. But, as is what I believe the point of Love Death + Robots, this short proves the power of a concise story and how effective you can tell one with such a limited amount of time.
I was continually hard-pressed to choose favorites with this new volume, whereas I recall having more standout works in the previous ones, volume three is simply an entire master class in short film. It’s also easily one of the few reasons to keep Netflix around at this point, given some of their more questionable choices for business and seemingly high volume of original releases with lackluster substance to them. I would keep Netflix for Love Death + Robots, however, and I will for at least however long it takes me to rewatch the previous volumes. I was on the fence about it before, because the first two seasons, while good, were still in a nebulous space of “what is this?” Cool, yes, but a bit all over the place. Volume 3 is one of the most concise and well-flowing pieces of absolute by-definition art that I’ve seen in quite a while. And we just watched The Northman last night as well, which blew me away.
So what I’m saying is that I’m not sure how I’m going to top yesterday’s lazy day on the couch, when it was so full of masterpiece after masterpiece after masterpiece. I guess it’s as good a time as any to fire up some good old fashioned trash tv for a while, and unpack my brain.