The Many Universes of Love Death + Robots
In this blog, we broaden our perspective to its very capacity and attempt to break down the art and concept of the Netflix original- Love Death + Robots. With its rattling narration, the anthology has unnerved us all to our very core, and we are absolutely loving it!
Do you listen to true crime podcasts every night before going to bed? Do movies like Mulholland Drive and Midsommar fascinate you? Do you often find yourself contemplating what makes a man ethical, morally grey, or purely vicious? Then this blog might just give you precisely what you need! Today we venture into the many universes of Love Death + Robots and canvass what it has in abundance and what it lacks.
Love Death + Robots, the unconventional science fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy animation anthology has been quite the rage for a while now. With its season premiere this year, it once again, continues to please and intrigue its audience at the same time, in a way that leaves them pondering for a while after the episode has ended. It is a Netflix original animated anthology, created by Tim Miller, who has also directed the widely loved movie, Deadpool. It is a brilliant concoction of Black Mirror and Heavy Metal, where worlds are forever colliding and falling apart in altered realities, but never ceasing to exist for even a split second.
Love Death + Robots is extraordinarily masterful in art, raw in theatricality, and unapologetic in the nuances of the theme relayed in every episode. Every episode varies extensively in tone, subject, and fashion, encompassing a myriad of themes like AI usurpation, dystopian civilisations and lost cities, occultism, anarchy, gender bias, and even going blatantly abstract.
From hyper-realistic cyberpunk pitfights to an almost pythonesque tale of a sentient yoghourt who wishes to rule the universe- every episode brings to the table an unparalleled concept like none other, yet, we find ourselves connecting the dots and finding eerie similarities between our worlds, contemplating where we are headed as a civilisation.
In its entirety, Love Death + Robots has 35 episodes followed over a course of 3 seasons which are bifurcated into 18 episodes in season 1, 8 in season 2, and 9 in season 3. This over-the-top flash fiction anthology indulges in graphic violence, unabashed nudity, and unforgiving plot lines for a brief span of 5 - 15 minutes, still rendering fulfilling character and plot developments.
Man Robots + Empathy
“I care for all the lost souls that end up here.”
Beyond the Aquila Rift, Season 1 Episode 2
One of the recurring themes in Love Death + Robots is the portrayal of otherworldly creatures, animals, and even robots, which despite having no degree of emotional quotient at all whatsoever, surpass human beings superiorly in cognisance and sentimentality.
“And now I see with eye serene, the very pulse of the machine.”
The Very Pulse of the Machine, Season3 Episode 3
When Martha is stuck on the Moon, with her friend dead, and not the slightest of hopes of escaping alive, Io, the moon itself, shown to be a machine, quotes Wordsworth, drawing from the memory of Martha’s friend. Io does this to reassure her that she is okay, that she is going to be okay, when really she is not going to make it. The quote, more than for itself, speaks for the machine’s intention to “know” Martha. Io may be a mere machine but its “very pulse” entails that it is intelligent and not entirely emotionless, as it offers some comfort to Kivelson in the face of death.
Man Greed + Dystopia
“Indeed, it was their own hubris that ended their reign, their belief they were the pinnacle of creation that caused them to poison the water, kill the land and choke the sky. In the end, no nuclear winter was needed, just the long, heedless autumn of their own self-regard.”
Three Robots, Season 1 Episode 1
A remarkable number of episodes of this extraordinary anthology revolve around a dystopian earth which has come to be as a consequence of man’s lust for power and lack of empathy.
“Humanity had all the tools to heal their wounded planet and save themselves, but instead they chose greed and self-gratification over a healthy biosphere and the future of their children.”
Three Robots: Exit Strategies, Season 3 Episode 1
It is not that humans are incapable, slow as a species, or inferior to another race, that Love Death + Robots has established in its sub-genre of extreme human anarchy. The message being relayed here is that human life on Earth is, in fact, superior, but has time and time again, over centuries, over the fall and rise of civilisations, over aeons of opportunities to make things better, failed to preserve itself. Among every human emotion, the ones felt most profoundly have always been, and remain, even after millennia of evolution- ego and greed.
Man Despair + Humour
However, despite the hopeless, bleak circumstances, in the face of cataclysm and in the heart of apocalypse, humour continues to be an integral part of Love Death + Robots. It is, after all, a thoroughly established fact, quite similar to how we cut our hair short and dye it to cope with a toxic ex, we use our wit and humour to cope with grim and macabre fate. Simple as that!
“We are here for duty, honour and country, Momma and apple pie.”
Shape-Shifters, Season 1 Episode 12
Interestingly, amid all the cosmic bedlam, Love Death + Robots has found its niche in humour in an attempt to make the chaos seem less unnerving while also shaking the audience to their core, almost like an eerie familiarity in a time and space nobody has ever even begun to comprehend the possibilities of. The raw humour in sheer agony and adversity makes the audience feel helplessly and uncannily closer to the state of the universe of Love Death + Robots, all while they laugh.
“Nielson, please… Please tell my wife… I fucked her sister. Ha ha ha.”
Kill Team Kill, Season 3 Episode 5
In a world of carnage and annihilation, we grab on to the dullest of lights, and when the abyss grows darker, the same light only seems brighter.
Women Violence + Invincible
Another recurring theme in Love Death + Robots we love to see is women, of and beyond the known universe, standing up for themselves and battling the world with no fear. Just how Hayao Miyazaki speaks of his own female leads, “Many of my movies have strong female leads - brave, self-sufficient girls that do not think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They will need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” Although, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that we see in this anthology a fairly noticeable pattern of the victim always being a woman, making us question the purpose attempted to be served and the purpose ultimately being served here.
“What I want is to hunt, hunt the men who think they can own us, the men who perpetrate evil, but call it progress.”
Good Hunting, Season 1 Episode 10
The female protagonists of Love Death + Robots, more often than not, get precisely what they want, and we are here for it; but only after being drugged, amputated, tortured, gratuitously assaulted, raped or gored through the skull during foreplay.
“Hate. That was something I had to learn. You don’t come into this world with hate, that’s primal. It fills your senses. You can see it, hear it, taste it and it keeps me alive.”
Sonnie’s Edge, Season 1 Episode 4
But the fight they put up is supposed to be empowering since they do ultimately get their revenge. The intention here was simply to draw attention to sexual assault, and what follows thereafter. Yes, the attention was indeed drawn to it. However, associating violence and sexual offence with women alone does make one chew over the utter imbalance in the ratio of female to male victims.
While it stands true that Love Death + Robots has fabricated female leads to be as strong as its male leads, sometimes even more so, the difference in the intensity of brutality in their character arcs and backstories cannot be completely overlooked.
Are women only invincible out of spite?
As much as we love to see our women avenge themselves without fear, if this is what it takes for them to be here, we would rather not. From being timid and vulnerable to being merciless and vindictive, the portrayal of women often sees no middle ground in cinema. Is hatred the sole fuel it takes for a woman to learn to stand on her own?
Is extreme violence toward them what it takes for a show to make the female lead an unconquerable beast?
Live Action CGI + Visual Treat
Of course, every show is bound to have its downsides, some evident, some hidden a little farther down the canopy, especially one that is not circumscribed to any specific genre and is as diverse as Love Death + Robots. However, despite this little fumble, this absolute masterpiece offers us with nothing but stellar visuals. “Stellar” would be an understatement, in fact. The theatrics and animation alone of Love Death + Robots are mesmerising, breathtaking, even; diluting the strength of and deviating the focus from the little mistakes and plot holes.
“If the ghosts of people can haunt a house, why can’t the ghosts of creatures haunt where they once lived?”
Fish Night, Season 1 Episode 13
With an absolutely fantastic amalgamation of several art styles and aesthetics, some episodes seem like a shot cut right out of video games like Fallout 4, Identity V, orMass Effect, while others have a more conventional feel akin to Into the Spider-Verse or Avatar the last Airbender. Each episode, having been created by a different animation crew, explains the spectrum of CGI to traditional animation and everything in between.
In Jibaro, Season 3 episode 9, we see a siren adorned in gold and a deaf knight in a fatal confrontation. They both pursue each other for selfish reasons, and lose what they already have, let alone get what they want. Jibaro makes one so deeply uneasy and uncomfortable as if they themselves are a victim of the siren. The episode has no dialogue and yet remains to be one of the most trenchant and aggressively persuasive episodes in all of Love Death + Robots. This is because the absence of voice was made up for with extravagant theatricality and unsparing details.
The art of Love Death + Robots is simply unrivalled, an outlier even, among the best of the best graphic anthologies. The refinement in the details in every shot is deeply riveting and darkly compelling, making one experience lives in universes beyond metaphysics. One episode will take you to alternate realities of Hitler’s life while another will take you all the way to the moon, one will show you the good in the dump while another will show you the bad in luxury, one will tell you of a war between man and the rest of outer space while another will tell you of war between man and house rats!
Tout ensemble, Love Death + Robots yields everything imaginable and unimaginable that any piece of art across genres can. It is untamed, thrilling, beautiful, celestial in its intricacies, and flawless in its performance.
All of this analysis brings us back to where we started, and why we started to begin with. Is Love Death + Robots worth all the hype? Without a second thought, yes, absolutely!
The anthology knows no limit to the theme and neither to the theatrics, and is a victim of no norm. From pulp fiction art to traditional art, from annihilation to the birth of a new world, Love Death + Robots flirts with the line between the possible and the impossible, playfully crossing it every time, always stopping one step farther than it did before.
Every episode leaves one feeling hollow while still yearning for more, despite being perfectly fulfilling in its essence. This feeling of conflict lingers for a while until, of course, another episode every bit as provocative and exquisite starts, light years away and in a different timeline. Although, the faint of heart do need to take heed since the in-your-face “punk” attitude does often test the waters and push boundaries. However, for science fiction, and horror comedy enthusiasts, this anthology has nothing but the wildest of rides to offer.