Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots: Episode Rankings

Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots: Episode Rankings

Yesterday, I fired up Netflix intending to either catch up on the latest season of Better Call Saul or continue my Star Trek TNG rewatch but decided instead to give something called Love, Death & Robots my trademark ten-minute-trial. Already, we were on shaky ground. “Love, Death & Robots” has to be one of the laziest titles you can conceive for a show. It’s an h2 title at best under a much stronger h1. Irrationally, I blame Topher Grace for the naming choice. He turns up in episode 16 for a nice and interchangeable performance as guy peeking into his freezer. The remaining creative decisions look to have been handled by David Fincher and the guy who directed Deadpool so that inspired enough confidence that I decided to extend my ten-minute-trial after the first and second episodes didn’t leave an impression either way.

Having binged the entirety of it now, my overall impression is that it’s a good looking but uneven anthology that alternates quality levels between boring videogame cutscene and that one scene from Richard Linklater’s Waking Life—you know the one! All entries except one are either 2D or 3D animated. Here’s my ranking of episodes from best to worst. Some of these I genuinely enjoyed. Some, I wish I’d have gotten up from my seat to go run this or that errand while they slogged away unattended.

 

  1. Good Hunting

    Good Hunting

    For something on colonialism, aided by the industrial revolution, usurping old customs in the east, begin with this well written, well executed Ken Liu adaptation. The story follows a descendant of a line of shapeshifters finding it increasingly difficult to connect with her heritage, and the studious village-boy who helps her navigate the hostile realities that colonization has visited on their homeland. The action doesn’t quite rise to the visceral level it does elsewhere in the series but it features cat-human hybrids and Chinese wuxia tropes.

  2. Suits

    Suits

    Mechs. Giant rodent invasions from space. A vaguely anarchist commune in the middle of nowhere. So much of the action in this kicked so much ass that I could forgive the protagonist’s borderline offensive take on a southern accent and probably the most unimaginative storyline of the bunch. It’s good like pornos with consideration given to dialogue and acting are good. Everything between the mechs lighting up hoards of space rodents is there simply as an obligation.

  3. Zima Blue

    zima blue

    This is likely the most conceptually ambitious of all 18 entries. An artist travels the cosmos, seeking answers about his origin before he can unveil his latest piece. It isn’t particularly original territory, speaking broadly of the themes explored, but it’s executed really well and it kept me guessing all the way up to the big reveal. It’s like no entry that came before it or followed after. For someone like me who’s only read one Alastair Reynolds novel which I didn’t like as much as I’d hoped, this being a Reynolds adaptation was a pleasant surprise and might actually get me to give his work a second look.

  4. The Witness

    the witness

    An extended footchase scene that did well enough keeping me riveted. Fantastic animation style as well as voice-acting. I suspect the whole thing is meant to be taken as allegory on how nothing said/done in the internet age ever goes away no matter how badly you want it to or just something more generic about how easily people misunderstand each other. It focuses too heavily on the chase for any deeper meaning to properly land in my opinion but visually, it’s probably the best looking entry.

  5. Helping Hand

    helping hand

    Interesting premise I’ve seen compared elsewhere to 127 Hours. The only one of these featuring only one character on screen throughout, it ends up telling the most human story in the series and oddly enough, the most grounded in reality. No ancient evils. No spacetime portals.

  6. Beyond the Aquila Rift

    beyond the aquila rift

    Of the few that play like cutscenes, this is the most compelling visually with the most potential to be scaled into a full-length feature. Again, none of these entries are winning any awards for originality and this one is no exception with the premise being about a crewed spaceship that ends up light years away from its intended destination after a planned portal jump. It’s up this high because this is precisely my alley. If you’ve been enjoying The Expanse, this has a similar if scaled-down feel to it. Also, it has uh, the best-looking 3D smut you’ll find without having to trawl the internet back-alleys. This is also an Alastair Reynolds adaptation.

  7. Ice Age

    ice age

    Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead find a miniature civilization thriving in their freezer. I’m a sponge for stories that play with the idea of our existence being one big simulation and this one covers similar territory. It doesn’t place higher on this list because in the end, it doesn’t really go anywhere or have much interesting to say. It’s also the only live-action episode in the series.

  8. Fish Night

    fish night

    Liked this one a lot. Two salesman stranded in the desert after their car breaks down are transported into an ethereal corruption of reality. The older salesman is a stand-in for future shock. The younger one runs toward it. My only issue is with having the ending validate the older man’s fears.

  9. Secret War

    secret war

    The Red Army braves otherworldly terrors in frigid conditions. The Hardhomme episode from Game of Thrones scaled back and relocated to the Siberian tundra.

  10. When The Yogurt Took Over

    when the yogurt took over

    Genetically altered bacteria evolves, takes things over from humans. It’s a nice concept and refreshing deviation toward absurd territory.

  11. Sonnie’s Edge

    sonnie's edge

    This one about a female fight club contestant didn’t do enough for me to place it higher. The protagonist is compelling but most of the story and dialogue surrounding her is too on-the-nose. The surprise ending is undermined by an excessively pessimistic turn of events that directly precedes it.

  12. Lucky 13

    lucky 13

    Military science fiction rarely ever hooks me but I managed to enjoy this as a nice showcase for Samira Wiley.

  13. Three Robots

    three robots

    This could’ve been improved if the characters were toned down a bit. It’s a John Scalzi adaptation and it’s pretty much the visual equivalent of that beat-down feeling I get about halfway through having to hear Wil Wheaton read another one of his audiobooks. It’s a cool concept held back by distractingly high levels what I’d call “tryhard energy.”

  14. Alternate Histories

    alternate histories

    The third of the Scalzi adaptations (second was When The Yogurt Took Over). Alternate, comical ways Hitler might have died.

  15. The Dump

    the dump

    Extremely low-concept. Doesn’t overstay its welcome.

  16. Blindspot

    blindspot

    The most Saturday Morning Cartoon entry, but with cussing and probably more violence depicted than you’d get in a Saturday morning block.

  17. Shapeshifters

    shapeshifters

    Werewolves enlisted and stationed with US Marines in Afghanistan. This is the barrel-bottom of the entries that play like cutscenes.

  18. Sucker of Souls

    sucker of souls

    I’ll be honest and just admit that I checked out mentally through most of this one and just assumed it was a low-rent Johnny Quest homage. It’s got cats in it, which is something it shares in common with Three Robots.

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