Love, Death + Robots is an anthology of adult animated short films on Netflix created by director-writer-producer Tim Miller (Deadpool). Each episode has a distinctive style and unique narrative with a sci-fi or fantasy premise featuring at least one of the elements in the title. Some of the stories were created for the series, while others are based on short stories by well-known authors including John Scalzi, Alastair Reynolds, J.G. Ballard, Harlan Ellison, and more. Guest directors have included David Fincher and Alberto Mielgo.
There were 18 episodes produced for the first season, with eight more in Season 2, and nine more in the recently released Season 3. Although the episodes don’t require much of a time commitment (they range from six to 21 minutes long) it might seem like a daunting task to get through 35 of them. But since they’re are all standalone (with the exception of “Three Robots: Exit Strategies,” a sequel to Season 1’s “Three Robots”) you can dive in at any point and skip around all you like. Although the series as a whole is recommendable, we suggest checking out these 10 exemplary episodes to get started (in no particular order). By the end you should have a pretty good idea whether this visionary series is for you and set some time aside for the rest.
Season 3, Episode 8
Netflix saved this one for last, but I’m listing it first because “Jibaro” is, in my opinion, the best episode of the series thus far. The visuals, the story, and compositions are all incredibly captivating. It tells the story of a mysterious creature dripping in jewels and gold who rises from the waters of the Puerto Rican jungle and lures men into madness. When a group of conquistators stumble upon the lake where she resides, she lets out an unearthly cry and dances as they destroy each other and drown themselves. Only one man remains unaffected, a deaf conquistator who cannot hear her screams. Intrigued, she approaches him and the two share an intimate, dangerous dance that turns out to be a fatal mistake.
This gorgeous and mosly dialogue-free episode is full of symbolism that can be interpreted in many ways. Some have called it a commentary on colonialism. For me, it’s about women being sexualized and treated as prizes, as well as how the selfishness of men can lead to the emotional destruction of vulnerable women. So much is said in this episode without any words. The visuals and CGI are surreal, but with Pinkman.TV responsible for the graphics (and writer-director Alberto Mieglo helming the project), that should be no surprise. The characters look incredibly real from the texture in their features to their shadows and reflections in the environment. The ever-changing color palette coordinates with the mood and emotion of the characters. It really is stunning from beginning to end.
Season 3, Episode 2
Featuring the voice of Troy Baker as the lead character and ship navigator, Torrin, this is a story based on a ship of shark hunters deciding who will face the creature under the ship. The special effect is a motion capture which probably looks familiar to gamers, as Blur Studios is the same studio behind the Halo games and Sonic movies. I like this film not only because Troy Baker sounds like Daniel Craig, but it has a lot of tension at sea and a monster that demands much of the crew. The short was inspired by Neal Asher and directed by David Fincher, one of the executive producers of Love, Death + Robots.
Season 1, Episode 1
For the average user running across this series on Netflix (perhaps because the algorithm suggested it), this may be the first episode of Love, Death + Robots they ever see. And it’s no wonder why it’s in that spot. It’s intriging enough to make you want more, plus It’s one of the few that incorporate all three themes in the title.
In a dystopian future, people gather at a stadium to witness the popular “Beastie” wars in which bioengineered creatures controlled remotely by human operators battle each other for money. Think Robot Wars, except with giant monsters and gambling. Sonnie is a controller with a tragic past, who uses her anger and thirst for revenge in her matches. When the criminal ringmaster sends his assassin lover to take Sonnie out of the picture, she shows just how much of an edge she has. Sonnie’s Edge has a deep interpretation with a cool twist, which is why it is one of my top-three favorite episodes. It is directed by Dave Wilson and written by Phillip Gelatt with Blur Studios in charge of the CGI.
Season 1, Episode 8
Over the years I have become a fan of Asian folklore, which is why I like this short. It takes place in 20th-Century China, where shape shifting entities are living amongst humanity and are said to lure men with their beauty in the female form. The relationships between the young men and changelings mimic people from different backgrounds trying to understand one another today. Tradition and science play equally big parts in this story. Red Dog Culture House is responsible for Good Hunting (directed by Oliver Thomas with Phillip Gelatt penning the script). It’s based on a story written by award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author Ken Liu.
Season 1, Episode 14
Years before the story begins, Zima Blue, a brilliant and reclusive artist, created a masterpiece that stood the test of time and continues to impress audiences. Before the unveiling of his last and most impressive piece, he gives an interview to a journalist and reveals his true nature and the meaning of his highly-anticipated final work. Zima Blue, explores the idea of evolution and art. I’d describe this as 2-D style animation (similar to that of Gorillaz’s music videos) with a serious tone. Interestingly enough, the studio responsible for Zima Blue (Passion Pictures) is responsible for Gorillaz’s music videos and some work for the Cartoon Network.
Season 1, Episode 3
After making eye contact with a man who’s just committed a murder across in an apartment across the street identical to hers, a woman flees in fear of her life. An intense chase ensues as the man pursues her through the dark underbelly of Hong Kong until it comes to a startling, full-circle end. This is a visually striking short from Pinkman.TV, one of my favorite production companies for the series. They make use of incredibly detailed environments surrounding realistic-looking characters. You can see the wrinkles in their faces with each expression. I will warn you, there is a lot of nudity in this short.
“Snow in the Desert”
Season 2, Episode 4
Another project utilizing CGI and motion caption, this is a story about a mysterious, wanted man in the future named Snow (voiced by Peter Franzen). Thanks to a medical condition that makes him immune from aging, there’s a bounty on his head and plenty of hunters looking to collect. He eventually crosses paths with an intriguing woman and the two find they have more in common than they could have known. There are some great stealth action scenes in this short and the desert setting is resemblant Tatooine in Star Wars. Unit Image is responsible for this episode.
Season 1, Episode 2
“Three Robots” was the episode used the most in the promotional campaign of Love, Death + Robots when it first came out. Understandably so. The hilarious explanation of human extinction and the banter amongst the three robot characters make for a good time. Although it’s funny, there is some truth about and exploration of current issues that could threaten our existence. The robots serve as comedic griots, as sometimes their observations and evaluations are way off, which, for me, is the best part of the episode. These three characters reaturn in Season 3 for another episode called “Three Robots: Exit Strategies,” which is just as funny and entertaining. Spain-based Blow Studio is the company responsible for bringing these characters to life.
Season 3, Episode 7
Based in the rural area of Scotland at some point in the future, a farmer named Mason finds trouble with rats in his barn. But these are not normal rats. They are smart enough to use tools and fashion projectile weapons like crossbows. To get rid of them Mason turns to a high-tech pest control company and a war for barn supremacy begins. It’s like a game of cat and mouse, except it’s rat and robot. This film reminds me of classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner. The intelligence of the rats and some of the dramatic fight scenes against the pest control company are quite impressive. This film was made by Scottish company, Axis Studios, and was inspired by a story written by Neal Asher.
“Night of the Mini Dead”
Season 3, Episode 4
This fast-speed, stop-motion project follows the evolution of a zombie apocalypse from a small town to the greater world. It’s packed full of hilarious zombie tropes and entertaining examples of what happens in horror movies. Within the first minute of the short, you may find yourself laughing and even snort a little. This project was written and directed by Robert Bisi and Andy Lyon in collaboration with BUCK Studios.
“All Through the House” (Season 2, Episode 6)
“In Vaulted Halls Entombed” (Season 3, Episode 8)
“The Tall Grass” (Season 2, Episode 5)
“Pop Squad” (Season 2, Episode 3)