If you're among the population that hasn't seen "Love, Death & Robots" then you're also among another exclusive group: People I'm jealous of. I wish I could see this eclectic collection of short films for the first time again, and I'm super pumped for season 2.
Stepping back from heaping praise on the show for a second, I need to say that not every episode is great. In fact, just about every episode has its own clunky flaw(s). What entices me about the show is that, for the most part, I can get behind the main premise of the episode. There is always something interesting that deserves exploration, and artists getting a Netflix-budget to express their idea(s) is something I am 1000% here for.
This ranking will have to be done differently than my previous lists because this is technically an anthology TV series, not films, according to IMDB. With no 'stats' like box office receipts or Metacritic Score, the decision is just my subjective take. Enough of the preamble, let's dig into the wiring of "Love, Death & Robots," the self-proclaimed 'NSFW Animated Anthology,' and see where the Yogurt takes us.
List, Deed & Rankings
18a. "Good Hunting" Directed by Oliver Thomas. Written by Philip Gelatt.
Maybe I'm not the crowd for this. Well, definitely. The dope Chinese-Steampunk inspiration is undeniably cool, but it's not enough to salvage this clunky story. The at-times grotesque nudity and furry-like-animation is too prevalent to leave room for my enjoyment. This is an odd sequel; I'm not sure how Will Hunting fits into the universe.
18b. "Alternate Histories" Directed by Víctor Maldonado, Alfredo Torres. Written by Philip Gelatt, John Scalzi.Giphy
The idea of seeing the most evil white supremacist to ever walk the earth die in a myriad of hilarious ways could've been great (especially because somehow we're definitely dealing with Nazis again). It wasn't. This is a bad attempt at telling a tonally different story than the rest of the series and it falls flat. It's a nein from me, dawg.
16. "Fish Night" Directed by Damian Nenow. Written by Philip Gelatt, based on Short Story by Joe R. Lansdale
Story wise this episode feels the weakest — which is saying something when you consider how thin "Alternate Histories" is — but the gorgeous animation really sticks out in the series. The MoCap style and vibrant colors do feel unique in the series, but ultimately this episode is a minnow in a sea of, other, bigger, um, fish.
15. "Sucker of Souls" Directed by Owen Sullivan. Written by Philip Gelatt.
This episode has an *incredible* depiction of Dracula and legit one of the best kills in the series. Other than those two things the episode has little to offer. As a self-contained story I felt it was not as clever an ending as it deserved. I'm sure cat lovers aren't a fan of my list so far...
14. "Blind Spot" Directed by Vitaly Shushko. Written by Tim Miller.
People reacting to "Good Hunting" being ranked so low on my list.
This is where the slide starts for me in the show, every episode past this one is more bad than good. "Blind Spot" is 60/40 Good/Bad. It's got a Borderlands feel and some awesome action. At first the short feels like it has huge stakes — however a twist in the story makes everything feel geared for a serialization (which again, goes against the idea of an Anthology).
13. "Helping Hand" Directed by Jon Yeo, Written by Philip Gelatt, based on Short Story by Claudine Griggs.
This is a hot take here, because this is a revered episode by those I've watched it with. I think the title of the episode telegraphs the shnikes out of the ending and is of the more unoriginal episode ideas. I love all things CGI-Space-Movie, so I was eager to like this. And I did, just didn't love it.
12. "The Dump" Directed by Javier Recio Gracia. Written by Philip Gelatt.Giphy
I rate this higher than a lot of people, especially if you look at the IMDB people reviews. There is a charm to this episode . I dig the message of "The Dump" but this episode doesn't do enough to crack the Top 10. I very much like the animation style, except for showing me a full-frontal redneck dong (do you think they had to mocap that?).
11. "Ice Age" Directed Tim Miller. Written by Written by Philip Gelatt, Tim Miller.Giphy
Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star in the lone live-action film of the series, and it's fine. I wanted more from the story, because the main premise of the episode is grande: How did we get here, and where are we going? Something that can't really be fully satisfied in a short, perhaps. Not sure why they rebooted the Ray Romano star-vehicle series "Ice Age," but hey, that's Hollywood.
10. "The Secret War" Directed by István Zorkóczy. Written by Philip Gelatt.
Most of the time when one hears "secret war" and Russia together, we think Cold War. The war in this episode is cold, but unlike the Cold War, there is heavy combat with an alien horde. It's Russian "Gears of War" dude, just watch it. Anything in the Top 10 is a very good short.
9. "Three Robots" directed by Víctor Maldonado, Alfredo Torres. Written by Philip Gelatt, based on the Short Story by John Scalzi.
This episode really puts the 'Robots' in "Love, Death & Robots," and it really keeps the 'three' for itself. Tonally this episode is dark, witty, funny, and kind of uneasy ... but never fully commits for better or worse. My girlfriend put it well, "it's never too much anything." I could really see an argument for loving this episode if the tonality isn't an issue for you.
8. "Lucky 13" Directed by Jerome Chen. Written by Philip Gelatt, based on the Short Story by Marko Kloos.
Hyper-realistic animation starring Smira Wiley in a future depiction of being in the US Armed Forces as a pilot ... I'd always watch that short film. The episode falls into the tried-and-true story of "is this inanimate object conscious or am is the character just projecting their love onto it," kind of deal. Definitely worth the watch.
7. "Sonnie's Edge" Directed by Dave Wilson, Gabriele Pennacchioli. Written by Philip Gelatt, based on the Short Story by Peter F. Hamilton.Giphy
Wow. In a lot of ways "Sonnie's Edge" is the perfect series opener. It introduces a huge amount of gore, definitely some unnecessary nudity, hyper realistic animation, a kernel of a solid idea, and a satisfying twist. If any of those don't fit your interests you'd probably be better off skipping LDR as a whole. If those sound like your kind of show, it should make you believe in the potential of the show the way it did for me.
6. "Beyond the Aquila Rift" Directed by Dominique Boidin, Léon Bérelle, Rémi Kozyra, & Maxime Luère. Written by Philip Gelatt, Alastair Reynolds.
It was hard to find a gif that wasn't a spoiler or soft core porn.
This may be the biggest spoiler in the entire list here: There is like a 2 minute sex scene in this photo-realistic episode. It's off-putting, dude. Like this episode is tied for the longest in the series at 17 minutes, and still devotes way too much time to something that doesn't add to the story. The intimacy of characters is important but you don't need to make a "Living in the Shadows" music video. With all that said, the ending of this episode is terrifying, even though the audience generally knows what's up -- the twist isn't shocking, the thoughts you're left with after the show are.
5. "When the Yogurt Took Over" Directed by Víctor Maldonado, Alfredo Torres. Written by Janis Robertson, based on the Short Story by John Scalzi.Giphy
This may seem high to those who have seen the show, but prepare to be argued with. The narration of god tier voice actor Maurice Lamarche (the voice of the Brain and Calculon!) is the highlight of this episode, which is only really feasible because of it's short 6 min duration. This is the funniest episode of the series and ends with perhaps the most existentially dreadful finishes. It's superb and I only wish there was more of it.
4. "Suits" Directed by Franck Balson. Written by Philip Gelatt.Suits GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY Giphy
In terms of large scale battles, "Suits" takes the top spot on this list. The one-of-a-kind-in-the-series animation paired with the actually likable, developed characters in such a short time made for a fantastic ride. Nearly every episode of this show you could find a fan who would argue it should be a series, but this one may be the best suited for a series.
3. "Shape-Shifters" Directed by Gabriele Pennacchioli. Written by Philip Gelatt.
When I originally set-out to rank these episodes, when I wrote a separate piece on Netflix recommendations, I had no idea "Shape-Shifters" would end up this high in my personal rankings. This show focuses on war a lot -- making sure "death" makes sense in the title -- but this episode sets itself apart by modernizing, in a sense, and taking place in the Middle East. Instead of showing horde v. horde, aerial, or any sort of major combat set-piece, "Shape-Shifters" has a one-on-two fight for the ages. It makes the tragedy of war feel personal and the triumph short-lived. I don't even want to say anything else about the plot, the rest is on you.
2. "The Witness" Directed & Written by Alberto Mielgo.
This is a controversial pick. Everybody I've spoken with who's seen the entirety of LDR *loves* the art style, but is not a fan of the gratuitous nudity (a frequent & fair critique of the entire show). Without spoiling, there are moments in a club, of sorts, that the visually arresting aesthetic involves a BDSM vibe -- so the nudity makes sense.
The part where nudity doesn't make sense is when a girl is running through the streets of an impeccably designed future city (that somehow feels like Seoul/Tokyo/NYC/LA/Berlin in one). And that's hard to forgive for some. For me, the animation, the blistering pace of the episode, and the end twist make this nearly the crown jewel of the series, but it can't overcome the desperate attempts for this episode to fit the 'NSFW' billing Netflix touted.
1. "Zima Blue" Directed by Robert Valley. Written by Philip Gelatt, based on the Short Story by Alastair Reynolds.
Like Zion going number one, in my mind, the real draft of this list started at 2. "Zima Blue" is a masterpiece and was my clear number one in terms of objective quality after I watched the show. It has a distinct animation style, no use of gore or super explicit nudity.
Instead, "Zima Blue" tackles some existential questions in just 10 minutes. A rare story in which I feel it's perfectly told in the manner in which it is. A self-contained short story about the fulfillment that boasts the velvety pipes of Kevin Michael Richardson as Zima. I implore to watch this episode if any because this episode proves that LDR is a force to be reckoned with and that Season 2 of this show has a lot to live up to.
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