Seeing David Fincher’s name attached to anything instantly grabs anyone’s attention. The brilliant director behind films like Fight Club, Se7en, and Gone Girl has joined forces with Deadpool director, Tim Miller, to create an animated anthology series for grown-ups. Love, Death + Robots has been 10 years in the making, starting life as a reboot of Heavy Metal, an animated sci-fi fantasy from the 80s, gone through the hands of numerous filmmakers before eventually being reimagined as a Netflix original show.
18 episodes from a variety of writers, directors, and animation studios that are decidedly adult orientated all landed on Netflix this week, giving us a wide range of sci-fi stories for us to dig our teeth into. To tackle this, I will be reviewing the episodes 6 at a time and giving you a final Top 5 episode ranking in the 3rd and final part.
[pane title=” Episode 1 – Sonnie’s Revenge“]
Sonnie’s Revenge is badass. Following Sonnie, a creature battle arena champion who battles those who wronged her in the past, we delve into the underground world of mind-controlled monsters facing off for sport. The animation is an immediate standout, a cartoon-photorealist hybrid that is genuinely beautiful at times. Late in the episode we see Sonnie’s apartment, and the level of detail is astounding; you’re able to pick up details about Sonnie’s past just by studying the backgrounds.
All of this intrigue about Sonnie needs a focus, however, and we are treated to a spectacular action set-piece. Sonnie and other champions have a mental link to a creature they have designed themselves in an idea not dissimilar to Pacific Rim with its Jaegers; imagine being drift compatible with the kaiju. We see 2 brilliantly designed monsters facing off in a deliriously violent fight, with limbs being ripped off, stomachs stabbed through, with a tremendous amount of bloodshed. The fight choreography is high quality, keeping the action on screen and translating the power of both creatures well on screen with high quality sound effects.
Sonnie’s Revenge is a great combination of high-quality action with an intriguing story, and it will keep you engrossed right to its final seconds.
[pane title=” Episode 2 – Three Robots“]
Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have been wiped out through a soon-to-be-revealed means, we follow the titular robots as they explore the newly empty city they live in. The robots are discovering the world through new eyes, trying to discover how humans had fun, how they lived, as they begin their new lives free from human control.
Long story short, this episode is hilarious. A tonal shift from the first episode, it sells its world well and maintains your interest throughout thanks to the charming voice-acting of the robots, one of which is voiced by Josh Brener who plays Big Head in HBO’s hilarious Silicon Valley. The 3 of them bounce off each other well and comment on humanity as they walk through the city, casting aspersions on our treatment of Earth throughout.
A really funny and beautifully animated episode showcasing the variety of episodes we are about to experience in brilliant fashion.
[pane title=” Episode 3 – The Witness“]
The most high-concept episode so far makes you think you have it all figured out until a last second curveball that throws the whole thing up in the air in glorious fashion. The most sexualised episode so far – we were warned some episodes would be sexual, and we ain’t seen nothing yet – follows a young woman in a futuristic Japan who witnesses a murder in an apartment opposite hers. The murderer spots the witness and so ensues a city-wide chase to avoid her running to the authorities. The woman works in sex club and runs there to get help and hide from her pursuer but works a shift and we bare witness to a graphic one-woman sex show before the episode hits its final, terrific act.
The animation in this episode is the most striking so far, reminding me of what we saw in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with the sound effects written on screen, and an almost 3D sensation to the city-scape and the characters’ movements. The animation works terrifically on our central characters’ facial expressions, as we’re able to understand exactly what each character is feeling despite the very limited dialogue in the episode.
As the episode races towards its conclusion, it raises questions about the events as they’re happening, with intentional hints and glimpses at an explanation of its ending. While it’s never fully explained, the ending is a doozy and elevates the episode to the series’ best so far.
[pane title=” Episode 4 – Suits“]
Everything about this episode should’ve grabbed me. It’s a story of a team of farmers who must combat hordes of aliens attacking their farms through a portal known as The Breach by fighting them with giant mechs. It should’ve been a home run!
The animation in Suits takes on a more cartoonish vibe while remaining as impressive as we’ve come to expect. It’s also the first episode (of numerous) that made me long for a video game adaptation. The action sequences are fun because of the variety of attacks the mech suits have, and I can imagine a Titanfall-like game where you get to customise your own mech for best fighting the horde. I’m convincing myself here! Make this game, someone!
Unfortunately, the problem I had with Suits was down to the characters. Despite the short runtime, every episode so far gave us a fleshed-out world and characters to get involved with; to me, this episode felt too concerned about the action set-piece that it forgot to flesh out its characters enough. One major emotional beat, for instance, didn’t land for me due to the lack of connection I felt to the team.
The lack of focus on its characters hinders this from being as good as the previous episodes in the series so far, but I’d be lying if the action scenes weren’t entertaining.
[pane title=” Episode 5 – Sucker of Souls“]
My favourite part of this series so far is the difference between every episode. It combines different tones, different types of stories, different characters, and different art styles to make every episode a fresh experience. Sucker of Souls is no different as it takes us into an anime-style adventure that’s equal parts Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and Hellboy.
A team of soldiers and researches discover an ancient tomb and accidentally awaken a malevolent spirit within it. They’re forced to flee for their lives from the titular soul sucker, a horrifyingly cool creature with an appetite for humans.
Sucker of Souls has a lot of fun with its premise, and it’s a darkly funny episode that can creep you out one second and make you laugh the next with irreverent one-liners (“that’s not the first time someone’s got in trouble for eating a little pussy!”). I really enjoyed the creative camerawork in this one, utilising smash zooms, swivels, and whip pans to draw your attention to exactly the right places at exactly the right time.
The clash of styles of the gory, cartoonish violence with the adult, crude humour works better than it should, plus Sucker of Souls has the most entertainingly gruesome death yet, so that’s something you should stick around for.
[pane title=” Episode 6 – When the Yoghurt Took Over“]
Love, Death, and Robots has a pair of offbeat alternate realities for us to dive into, in what I can assume is a little palette cleanser before the next set of violent, sex-fuelled efforts. This is one of those offbeat episodes. It’s a short, narrated story of how sentient yoghurt took over the world. Read that sentence back if you want. That’s what it is.
I quite like a ridiculous concept to get behind, but something about this one didn’t quite land for me. It felt like a joke that goes on too long, even when it barely lasts 6 minutes. There are a couple of little moments here that tickled me – there’s an edit involving a baby that made me do a literal spit take – but this is the first misfire in the series so far.
Love, Death, + Robots is off to a great start, and I’ve already seen on Twitter and Reddit that episodes that I am not so fond of are the favourite episodes of many. There’s something for everyone! I’ll be back soon with episodes 7-12, but hopefully just these first 6 episodes have inspired you to watch the show for yourselves – you won’t regret it.