After a brief hiatus in which I got distracted by a small jaunt to France, I’m back with the final part of my Love, Death, + Robots reviews! In case you missed them, here are links to my thoughts on Episodes 1-6 and Episodes 7-12. This week is the most mixed week so far, but let’s jump back in, and stick around for my personal top 5 episodes at the very end.
[pane title=” Episode 13 – Lucky 13“]
The second of a few surprise guest stars appear in this episode as Poussey Washinton of Orange is the New Black plays a pilot of Lucky 13, a supposedly cursed space jet fighter.
Played via motion capture by Samira “Poussey” Wiley, Lucky 13 is arguably the most upbeat episode so far, and indeed of the entire series. It’s an episode that has a lot of death, and one of the highest body counts so far, but it’s rooted in hope. It’s a very straightforward story of not judging a book by its cover, but the book – this time – is a spaceship.
The major criticism I have of this episode is that it’s primarily narrator-driven. There’s no real momentum to the story because of this. There are very few stakes because they’re established early on, and by the very nature of storytelling, the narration couldn’t possibly happen if the narrator doesn’t survive the story.
Having said that, Lucky 13 continues the trend of having extremely impressive animation in this return to a more photo-realistic approach, and yet another example of an engaging video game-esque scenario.
[pane title=” Episode 14 – Zima Blue“]
Zima Blue is the show at its highest concept with a complex, existential crisis of a tale. Again, it’s heavily narrated, but it works in this episode’s favour as we come to understand our lead character and his struggles with humanity.
Zima Blue is a world-renowned artist whose artworks command huge attention worldwide – think Banksy but on a stratospheric level. Each project is bigger than the last, and he agrees to an interview before his final project. That’s it. That’s the episode.
In all honesty, this episode didn’t work for me as much as it did for the rest of the Love, Death, + Robots community. It has the 2nd highest IMDb rating, and I can understand its value, but it didn’t manage to hold my interest for even its very short runtime. I get what they were going for, and the eventual reveal of Zima’s huge, final project is effectively done, but it didn’t have the emotional effect on me as it did others.
[pane title=” Episode 15 – Blindspot“]
This is more like it. In one of the shortest episodes of the series, and following in the footsteps of Fish Night in having a Borderlands-like aesthetic, Blindspot is a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end that is just one big heist. 4 thieves – 1 of which is on his first mission – attempt to rob a heavily guarded convoy, and face the wrath of the ever-increasing levels of protection between them and their target.
This episode is brilliant fun. The animation is highly effective for the story, and it allows the episode to go to some ridiculous places, all while feeling organic within the world they very quickly established. There’s terrific action, a surprising emotional beat or two, and a heart-warming ending that will make anyone smile.
It’s short, it’s sweet, it does exactly what it set out to do, and it did what only a few episodes before it had done – it made me want a full series. Job done!
[pane title=” Episode 16 – Ice Age“]
The final two celebrity cameos of the season see Mary Elizabeth Winstead – of Scott Pilgrim vs The World fame – and Topher Grace – of Spider-Man 3 (and also Interstellar) fame – star in a… live-action episode! Yes, this fully animated series throws a total curveball at us with a live-action episode.
Winstead and Grace star as a couple who have recently moved into a new flat, in which there is an incredibly old fridge. Within the fridge, they notice something weird going on – there’s a time lapse happening in the freezer. To spoil what the time lapse is would ruin half the fun of the episode that, truthfully, doesn’t have much else going for it.
This screamed of an episode where someone at some point said “hey! What if…” and then the episode just is that what if scenario without much exploration beyond that. There’s no message, there’s no critique of modern society, it’s just a kind of goofy situation that unfolds and then it ends. It’s a fun little idea and it has some lovely little moments within the freezer itself, but it’s sadly underdeveloped.
[pane title=” Episode 17 – Alternate Histories“]
The writer behind When the Yoghurt Took Over returns with another short concept episode but this one, at least for me, worked a lot better. We’re introduced to a new software that lets us relive key moments from the past but change them to see what would happen next. In this in-episode trial feature, we experience the death of young Hitler 6 different times and how the world would’ve changed in these 6 scenarios.
I thought this episode was hilarious. Killing baby Hitler is one of those things that everyone says they’d do if they travelled back in time, but this episode takes this to the next level and kills Hitler in increasingly ridiculous ways. It’s consistently funny, and it keeps the joke going for just the right amount of time that it doesn’t become stale.
It’s just a fun, silly little episode that doesn’t require much thought but was animated and written so humorously that it won me over entirely.
[pane title=” Episode 18 – The Secret War“]
To finish the series, we return to some more of the photo-realistic efforts in a big final blowout that showcases all of the good and the bad of the series so far.
We’re dropped into the Winter War as the Soviet Union’s Red Army is in the midst of battle in the wintry forests of Siberia. The enemy remains unseen for the first half of the episode, but when they’re finally revealed, it’s a wild ride to the finish as the army faces what they think may be their last stand.
The good of this episode is in, of course, it’s animation. Even 18 episodes in, I’m consistently impressed with the high standard of it all. Despite the continued problems with facial animation, the environments are designed terrifically and the action on show is reliably top-notch as limbs begin to be torn asunder at an increasing rate. Where this episode stumbles is in its plot, it’s a very paint by numbers war ending where the army must do this one thing in time or they’ll all die and it may as well have had a giant clock that was counting down until it stopped at 0.01 seconds.
It’s not an episode that’s going to live too long in the memory because of its fairly straightforward nature and how it didn’t push the boundaries as much as the earlier episodes did, but it’s an impressive episode all the time.
My personal top 5 episodes were:
5) The Witness
4) Beyond the Aquila Rift
3) Sonnie’s Edge
2) Good Hunting
A few episodes didn’t quite make the cut – my honourable mentions are Blindspot and Three Robots – but the 5 episodes in my ranking were everything good about this series: take a wild concept, run with it, and convince me I want to see more of it. The only one I don’t want to see more of is The Witness because of its nature as a very insular, one-time story, but it’s written so well that it had to be in there.
That’s all, folks! Love, Death, + Robots is something of a mixed bag, with some extreme highs and lows, but I do feel there’s something for everyone in here. If you like violence, watch Sonnie’s Edge. If you like high concept sci-fi, watch Beyond the Aquila Rift. If you like comedy, watch Three Robots. It covers so many different genres under the guise of a sci-fi anthology series that something is sure to strike a chord with you.