I saw Love, Death, and Robots when it first came out, which I’m realizing is about a year ago at this point, so I’m a little bit behind the curve than others who have done this. But hey—better late than never, eh?
So about the show: Love, Death, and Robots is a Netflix anthology series featuring a variety of different cartoon shorts, all with different animation styles, focuses (though they all have either love, death, robots, or some combination in common), and short stories they’re adapted from. The fun thing about anthologies is that if you don’t like the first episode, all you have to do is watch the next and hope you like it better. Nothing links the episodes at all, and in fact Netflix launched the series with four different episode orders, encouraging viewers to watch them at random.
This makes them ripe for rating, of course. And me, being the opinionated little noodle that I am, have been waiting for an opportunity to heap praise upon my favorite episodes and rant about what I despised about my not-so-favorite episodes for quite a while.
I’ll be rating these episodes from worst to best and providing a few other fun rankings, the “Mindfuck Level,” or how much the episode fucked with your head and/or question your place in the universe, the “Brutality Level,” which is pretty self-explanatory, and the “Most Brutal Moment,” or the goriest/hardest to watch moment.
So here it is: Love, Death, and Robots Episodes: Ranked.
Please note: There will be spoilers. It’s tough to keep a ranking like this spoiler free just because the endings/twists for a lot of these play a big role in how I viewed the episodes.
Also, a disclaimer: these rankings are my own opinion and ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If you disagree, awesome! It’s cool to see everyone’s different thoughts about the episodes in this show, and there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone else’s ranking.
And I’ll still love you.
Anyway, let’s begin.
18. The Dump
Ugly Dave, a man living at the dump with his trusty pet Otto, is accosted by a city inspector who wants to kick his ass out. But that doesn’t fly with Mr. Dump Man or his precious doggo.
Easily my least favorite episode. I hesitated a lot with my rankings, but this was one episode I knew exactly where to put.
I think those who liked this one (or at least disliked it less than others) enjoyed the grey morality of everyone involved: the city inspector is obviously a bureaucratic dickbag who couldn’t give less of a fuck about the man living at the dump he’s trying to kick him out of, while Ugly Dave has no problem siccing his monstrous trash monster pet on people. Lots of moral greyness all around. I, however, did not like that at all.
I don’t think my problem was the killing of the city inspector. I mean, I’m always cool with the death of a shitty corporate/government stooge casually chatting to his friend/coworker about how he “had to call the goddamn Sheriff to cart them and their scrawny fucktard kids away” as if the possible worst day of a family’s life being evicted was just an inconvenience to him. Nah, that didn’t bother me so much as the killing of Pearly, Ugly Dave’s friend, who we learn about when he tells the story to the inspector. According to him, he and Pearly had been chilling at the dump drinking when Pearly announces that he has to go take a piss. He encounters the trash monster and runs back to warn Ugly Dave, only to get dragged away and eaten by the monster. When Ugly Dave finally corners the monster, he finds that 1. The monster is some sort of mutated puppy that feeds off of the trash (and living things) in the dump and 2. Anything it eats becomes a part of it, including his friend Pearly, whose gruesome corpse we see at the end of his flashback. It can be assumed that the reason he ends up befriending the monster afterward is because the monster, having eaten his best friend, takes a liking to him. Even still, the fact that he just seems totally cool with the creature that just finished eating his friend bothered me more than anything.
I mean, Pearly sucked too. I guess that’s the thing. Everyone in this episode sucked. And not in the interesting, “Morally grey with interesting motives” kind of way, but in a, “Wow, how gross and terrible to watch” kind of way. The only character that didn’t suck was Otto, because even though it’s a man-eating monster, it’s just doing what man-eating monsters do, y’know?
I gave this episode 2/10 instead of 1/10 because the animation style was really cool, as it was for almost all of these episodes. The plot itself just wasn’t my cup of tea, I guess.
1/10. Nothing super crazy. Overall, I didn’t find this episode that memorable, much less a mindfuck.
6.5/10. The monster kills were fairly brutal, but definitely not out of this world gory. It was a gross and unpleasant episode in general, which was the point.
Most Brutal Moment:
It’s a tossup between Pearly’s death and the city inspector’s death. You see the corpse with Pearly, but it’s more drawn out with the inspector and you get to see his arm bitten off and blood everywhere.
Come to think of it, yeah, probably the health inspector’s death.
17. Fish Night
Two salesmen stranded in the desert after their car breaks down experience some trippy fish shit.
Not a fan. This short probably had the least impact on me. I didn’t care much for the animation until the pretty fish start popping up, at which point I started to get my hopes up. The fish part is beautiful, but then the younger salesman starts swimming and I guess getting too big for his britches, and then he gets eaten by a magical ghost shark. Then it ends. Yup.
Maybe my dislike for this one comes from the fact that I just don’t really get it. Were the salesmen hallucinating? Did the younger salesman really die? Did he ever really exist, or was the older salesman just losing it stranded by himself? What is the shark supposed to represent, if anything? It all just ends so abruptly. The young salesman gets eaten by the shark, the older salesmen looks on in horror, and the episode ends. That’s it. It’s an episode that really leaves you wanting, and not in a good way. Maybe I’m just not interpreting it the way it’s meant to be interpreted.
What makes me rank this one a little higher than “The Dump” is that it can be fun to speculate what the fuck it means. I’ve seen some fans share the theory that the younger salesman being killed by the shark actually died from heat exhaustion, and what backs up that theory is the fact that the older salesmen pretty much sat there not wasting his energy in the heat all day while the younger salesmen couldn’t stop moving for a second. In both their real life situation—being stranded in the desert– and their hallucinatory, magical situation—ancient fish world–the younger salesman is reckless and too quick to act. I suppose the message here is not to get all Icarus and fly too close to the Sun? I don’t know, man. That’s all I got.
3/10. The fact that we don’t know if this is a hallucination or a real supernatural event gives it some mindfuckery, but not much.
2/10. The end is obviously a little brutal, but aside from that it’s entirely tame.
Most Brutal Moment:
The only brutal moment: the young salesman being eaten by the shark.
16. Alternate Histories
The leading alternative history research app Multiversity leads you through a demo in which you can experience how the world would change if Hitler had died in any of six different scenarios.
I think the worst thing about this episode for me was how much potential it had and how disappointing it ended up being. This was one of the later episodes in my lineup (second to last), so to follow up a lot of the really amazing episodes and expecting an awesome plot-line about alternate histories only to get…whatever this was, was kind of a bummer.
It starts off welcoming you to “Multiversity, America’s leading alternative history research app,” which allows you to see a virtual simulation of how history would change if certain historical events had gone differently. It seems promising. You think, “Oh awesome, we’re about to get Love, Death, and Robots’s fucked up take on what the world would be like today if we had gone through any number of different ‘alternate histories.’”
But instead, the episode focuses entirely on how history would have changed if Hitler had died in various scenarios, each one more wacky and outlandish than the last.
I gave this one a 3/10 because the blue screen of death towards the end of the episode delighted me (I’m very easily amused), seeing Hitler die multiple times is always a plus, and the animation was fun and well done. I was just hoping for a lot more from it and didn’t find it all that funny or entertaining for the most part.
4/10. Thinking about how history could have changed the present is always a bit of a mindfuck, but the focus on Hitler shenanigans prevented this from being more of a mindfuck than it could’ve been.
5/10. Lots of death, of course. But a lot of the other episodes get a lot more brutal, and the animation style keeps things from getting very graphic by comparison.
Most Brutal Moment:
Hitler getting the life sucked out of him by four Viennese prostitutes who reveal themselves to be aliens from a sexy parallel dimension. It’s not gory, but what the fuck.
15. When the Yogurt Took Over
When scientists accidentally create sentient and hyper-intelligent yogurt that makes a deal to provide solutions for the country’s problems in exchange for Ohio, the usual fuckery of politicians causes the rest of the U.S. to economically collapse while the yogurt-run Ohio prospers. It is then that humans finally accept that the yogurt can run the country better than any human ever could.
This one was fine. A fun little short that demonstrates how bad we are at doing the whole “society” thing. It’s amusing to think that our politicians are so out of touch and inept that sentient yogurt could do the job better.
I rank it pretty low, though, because it felt like it was just bizarre and random for the sake of being bizarre and random. Not that that’s a bad thing, just that it was easier to forget than the ones higher up on this list. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the animation style, though others might disagree with me on that front. All in all, it’s a perfectly fine short that I just didn’t find all that interesting and don’t have a ton to say about it.
3/10. I would actually rate the mindfuck level a little higher than maybe expected for this one because it’s fun to think about the fact that humanity is so poorly equipped to manage each other that it’s not all that crazy to think that sentient, super intelligent yogurt would be a preferable alternative.
1/10. It’s definitely one of the less brutal episodes. The Most Brutal Moment I mention below is also the only brutal moment I remember seeing, whereas a lot of the others have plenty of fucked up moments to choose from.
Most Brutal Moment:
A starving man boiling a dead baby in the midst of economic collapse, juxtaposed with a happy Ohio mother kissing her happy Ohio baby to show what a shitty job humans do at running things compared to the yogurt. Never expected to type out that sentence, but there it is.
14. Sucker of Souls
Archaeologist Dr. Wehunt and his assistant Simon are excavating the tomb of Vlad the Impaler with the help of hired mercenaries Flynn, Micky, and Gary. They make an unfortunate, blood-sucky discovery.
I don’t know, man. This one just made me feel sad. We first encounter the “Dracula” when Simon is unlucky enough to be the one to uncover it and it proceeds to very brutally tear at his neck before impaling him and bisecting him from chest to head, peeling all the layers from him before splashing Flynn and Dr. Wehunt with his blood, then stomping his skull while chasing the others for good measure. I know it’s a vampire horror story and all, but it felt so mean-spirited. I love me some blood and guts, but like I said; this just made me sad.
The animation style is pretty cool, and I like Flynn and his gang of scrappy mercenaries. The banter between them is fun if a little much sometimes, and the “Fuck You -Gary <3” written on the C4 that explodes the Dracula was a nice little touch.
But overall, I found this one pretty forgettable. The brutality is off the charts, which is always fun, and there’s a cool twist at the end—that there’s many, many more than one Dracula and the whole crew is basically fucked—but I didn’t find any of that more impactful than a lot of the other episodes.
Overall, an entertaining enough little short.
1/10. It’s a classic vampire/monster tale.
Most Brutal Moment:
The death of the researcher’s assistant, Simon. It’s drawn out, graphic as hell, and leaves Dr. Wehunt and Flynn spending the rest of the episode coated in his blood.
Gary shooting the Dracula’s dick off gets an honorable mention.
13. Helping Hand
Alex, a very unfortunate astronaut, gets stranded alone in space and has to make a terrible choice to get a helping hand. Spoiler alert: that choice is taking off her glove and freezing her arm so she can throw the glove and ricochet back to the ship. When that doesn’t work, she has to slowly rip off her now-frozen arm.
I liked Alex as a character. Probably one of my favorites in the series even though there’s so little dialogue. That may be why seeing her suffering for almost the entirety of the episode makes it really, really hard to watch. First she has to take off her glove in the middle of space after she finds herself at risk of drifting off into nothingness while running out of oxygen, and you have to watch her hand slowly freeze up and see the pain that she’s in. Then she throws the glove and you think she’s finally home free, only for her to miss her target and drift out even further. Then she looks at her arm and you know what’s about to happen. And you have to watch and listen to the cracking sounds as she fights through the pain and tears her own arm off for her own survival. Then she tosses the arm and starts to drift back towards the ship, but then it looks like she’s going to miss it again and you’re filled with dread as you realize she’s not going to make it…
And then it cuts to her back on the ship, reaching out to base, the stump where her arm used to be patched up. She made it, yay!
If this sounds like a suspenseful as fuck episode, it is.
You might be wondering, “But Brioche, why’d you rank it so low if it was that suspenseful and you liked the character a lot?” Well, curious reader, while I love me some gore and brutality, the slow, drawn out torment of this poor woman alone in space didn’t do it for me too much. I like my brutality quick and soulless.
I want to say that this is by no means a bad episode. The animation is beautiful, the character is extremely likable and easy to root for (perhaps because of her predicament and how she powers through it), and the plot is, as mentioned, very suspenseful and interesting. But the feeling of slowness and isolation–while effective–just wasn’t for me.
4/10. There’s not a ton of mindfuckery in the sci-fi sense, but getting lost in space definitely counts for something.
6/10. I know, I know. There’s not much gore and brutality. But the one bit of it is a lot to handle. Eugh.
Most Brutal Moment:
I’m sure you can probably guess since it’s the entire plot. But if you can’t, it’s the brutal cracking and ripping as Alex slowly tears her frozen arm off. You get to see alllllll of it.
12. The Witness
A woman is the witness to a murder and has to flee from the killer chasing her.
This episode is possibly the most interesting in terms of audience reaction because it seems people either love it or hate it. It gets a lot of fan art made of it, but I also tend to see a lot more complaints about it than some of the others. It’s a great example of how peoples’ interpretations of the episodes vary.
Overall, I thought it was okay. The art style is fucking amazing and the twist at the end is a solid amount of mindfuckery. Both the woman and the man seem to be trapped in some kind of infinite loop where one of them witnesses the other kill someone (who we realize is the previous iteration of themselves), then the killer chases after the witness, only for their roles to reverse when one kills the other in self defense. It’s a big ol’ misunderstanding that never sees a resolution.
There’s also something deeply off-putting about the setting here. As the woman runs through the streets, we don’t see anyone. It looks like a big cyberpunk-esque city, so you’d think you’d see the occasional passerby, but it’s completely abandoned, like the world just exists for these two people playing a never ending game of cat and mouse. The only other people we see in this episode are the people in bizarre latex suits fucking each other silly in a real trippy scene, and sure, you see some cars throughout the episode each time the two run through the streets, but the show very intentionally chooses not to show who is in any of the vehicles, making the whole setting feel like some kind of simulation. And maybe it is.
I don’t rate this one higher just because a lot of it felt unnecessary. The scene at the strip club (?) confused the hell out of me, and the rest of the episode aside from that is just the man chasing the woman while she’s almost stark naked, of course. The lack of communication also just frustrated the fuck out of me. Maybe don’t charge the person with a gun instead of continuing to try to talk them down, ya dip!
8/10. Are the man and women in hell or purgatory, doomed to chase each other around for all an eternity? Are they in some sort of simulation? Is it some sort of cosmic loop that goes on forever and ever? I don’t know, man, but it’s enough to fuck with you.
1/10. Yes, there’s the moment when the man kills the woman and vice versa, but compared to most of the other episodes here, this one’s pretty tame in the gore/death department. Lots of gratuitous fucking and nudity, though.
Most Brutal Moment:
11. Ice Age
A couple who just moved into their new home open the freezer to find that a little world is rapidly developing inside of it.
This is the kind of story that I like for the premise more than the actual execution. The concept of an entire world existing in your freezer is fascinating and just plain fun to think about.
But when I say I like the premise more than the execution, I mean I really liked the premise more than the execution.
This one is unique in that it’s the only live action one in the series. That means the relative gore factor is…well, nonexistent. That’s not a bad thing on its own, of course. But it does mean that you can’t get as creative as you can with the purely animated episodes, gore or no gore.
It makes sense to make this episode live action because the premise is a lot more whimsical than if cartoon people encountered a mini cartoon universe in their cartoon fridge. So I don’t think it’s fair for me to gripe about that.
What I will gripe about is the fact that the characters’ reactions and behaviors are just so meh.
The actors are great, but I don’t feel like they were given all that much to work with. They discover a tiny woolly mammoth with spears in its side frozen in one of their ice cubes when they’re drinking wine, then they find the mini world, then they just kinda casually watch it evolve. Most of the episode consists of their admittedly underwhelming reactions. Maybe it would’ve been more fun if they’d attempted to actually do something with this lost civilization? Like, what would happen if they touched something? The inhabitants of this world can clearly see them watching them because it’s even commented on in the middle of the episode (“Who are these two douchebags starin’ at us all day?”), so what would’ve happened if they’d tried to interact with this rapidly changing miniature world?
I felt this episode could’ve done a lot more. But I guess if you look at it as a kind of art piece where you can just appreciate the beautiful visuals as the civilization evolves, then it’s still an entertaining episode. I just wanted more from it.
6/10. It doesn’t feel like it’s intended to be a mindfuck, but the implications of a tiny world within someone’s freezer can give a person a lot to think about. Hey, maybe we’re inside someone’s freezer living our lives in the span of what’s probably a second or two for them.
What is life, really?
0/10. A real outlier here!
Most Brutal Moment:
I guess seeing the mammoth with spears in its side? Or the dinosaur eating some monkeys at the end? All of it was tame. Sorry, gore fiends.
10. The Secret War
A platoon of Red Army soldiers face off against a demonic swarm in the Siberian forests.
This one might rustle some jimmies.
I actually rewatched this episode because I had originally planned to put it a lot lower on the list. I know it’s a fan favorite, but my impression after watching it the first time was just “meh.”
It’s still far from my favorite, but I think I was able to appreciate it more on the second watch. The animation is absolutely gorgeous and I liked the characters. I think my major gripe with this episode is the fact that, despite the fantastic animation and sympathetic characters, the plot didn’t really feel like anything special.
A platoon sent to find out about “peasant myths” to summon demons to fight for the Red Army botched the ritual and unleashed hordes of the demons upon the world, and when the Red Army platoon finds the notebook detailing the mission and ritual, they’re not sure whether to report back to their superiors with the information or not. But when they find a particularly large burrow of the demons–the largest they’d ever seen—they realize they have to make a last stand then and there. The Major sends his son to alert the army to bomb the area and get rid of the horde, and then all of the men die bravely fighting off the monsters. The episode ends with planes carpet bombing the burrow, decimating the demons.
It’s not a bad episode by any means, but I think that because it’s one of the last episodes I saw and I had already experienced some of the others that I liked better and had a lot more mindfuckery going on, I had higher expectations for this one than I felt the plot delivered.
Most Brutal Moment:
Toss-up between the soldier getting partially decapitated and the beginning scene where the soldiers come across a village that was gruesomely slaughtered by the demons.
A colony of farmers have to make a stand against a swarm of alien attackers with the help of some badass mech suits.
We have reached the halfway point!
I really liked the relationship between the characters. This is one of those episodes that really makes you empathize with everyone, and to pull that off in such a short amount of time is always impressive.
However, I’m not big on the “fighting mech suit” genre/trope, and that’s why I rank this relatively low. The plot is fine, and the twist at the end is pretty cool: turns out the farmers are not on Earth and being attacked by alien invaders, but they are the invaders colonizing another planet, and the locals are not pleased about it. I love the camera panning out at the end to show that the planet isn’t actually Earth, the rifts are holes in the colony’s shield defenses and not portals from another world, and the aliens are still trying to swarm the colonies, which means everyone is probably pretty fucked.
But honestly, I think I was just bored with the mech suit alien fight. If not for the characters and the awesome “we’re the baddies” twist, I would have ranked this a lot lower.
7/10. We’re the invaders, oOoOoOoOo.
Most Brutal Moment:
Cow murder. Lots of cow murder.
While Jake does die, he does so by activating the reactor in his suit and blowing himself and the aliens around him up, so there’s not a ton of graphic gore save for the cows getting slaughtered at the beginning.
A crew of robot thieves set their sights on a valuable microchip. But they have security to get past first.
I liked this one. I consider it a good palette cleanser if you watch any of the more fucked up ones first.
The characters are all likable, Sui and the Rookie in particular. The animation style is pretty cool, and it was surprisingly fun to see a bunch of robot thieves hijack a giant, fully-armed cargo truck.
This was the kind of episode that made me wish it would go further into some kind of series. A lot of these episodes felt very final, but “Blindspot” is the kind of thing that could keep going on for a while: robot thieves causing all sorts of mayhem. I think it’s also why I didn’t rank it quite as high as I could’ve, because it’s the kind of episode with a lot of worldbuilding and only so many answers you can give in a single 8-minute episode. And the fact that this probably won’t continue and we probably won’t get to know anything more about this world of robot thieves has me a little salty, I won’t lie.
Still, a fun episode. It didn’t quite last in my mind the way some of the others did, but it was also a nice change of pace. Sure, most of the crew all get brutally killed, but the great part about them being robots is that, plot twist, they’re all back at the end, wee! One of the few episodes with an ending that didn’t bum me out.
It was also interesting to see that the enemies the androids were fighting, aside from the main security bot baddie, were all humanoid, not robots. Maybe it was to give this episode an adequate amount of blood because otherwise it would be way tamer than most of the other episodes? Don’t know, but I kinda liked it.
2/10. Not much here. I’m mostly curious about the world these robots inhabit, but not in a “I bet this will blow my mind” kind of way.
3/10. Some blood and head squishing when fighting the human security guards. That’s about it.
Most Brutal Moment:
…Some blood and head squishing when fighting the human security guards. That’s about it.
7. Sonnie’s Edge
In a cyberpunk future where your consciousness can be transferred into “beasties” that fight to the death in an arena, Sonnie and her crew have never lost. But what gives her her edge?
When I started watching this, as the very first episode of Love, Death, and Robots, I was not pleased by the exposition dump Sonnie’s friend/teammate Ivrina gives to big bad Dicko as an explanation for why she doesn’t want to take his money in exchange for throwing the game. She basically explains Sonnie’s whole deeply personal story, that she was kidnapped and raped by a gang and now enters the ring not for pride or money, but to make a statement. “Well that’s a big ol’ info dump to give the villain for no reason,” I thought.
But plot twist! Her dark past is not what gives her her edge; not technically. What does is the fact that her body was left so mangled that her friends Wes and Ivrina ended up putting her consciousness into her beastie Kharnivore permanently. She isn’t just a player piloting her “beastie;” she is her beastie, and her primal fear of death in these fights is what gives her an advantage over her opponents, who are only transferring their conscious into the monsters temporarily and aren’t fighting for their lives.
I really liked that twist. Not only does it (kind of) subvert the classic “I’m a woman who is strong because of my dark past,” but it also explains why Sonnie refuses to take Dicko’s money to throw the match at the beginning: if she had done that, she would die. It’s more to her than pride and money because it’s her whole life.
Now I wonder how they’re gonna handle the whole, “My disguise body was smashed to a pulp, so I guess I’m a monster full-time now” thing.
3/10. The twist was pretty mindfucky, but it didn’t give me a full-on existential crisis or anything.
10/10. This one was pretty fucking brutal. The beastie fight was bloody as hell, but it’s the end where the gore really comes into play.
Most Brutal Moment:
It’s a toss-up between the Blond (couldn’t find her name anywhere; apparently she doesn’t get one) impaling Sonnie through the head and stomping her skull to a bloody pulp, and Sonnie emerging as Kharnivore and, ironically, impaling the Blond through the head after the big reveal. Probably the former, though.
6. Three Robots
Three chill-ass robots on vacation explore the post apocalyptic wasteland of Earth.
Remember how I said I’m easily amused? I’m very easily amused.
I found Three Robots hilarious. The banter between the titular three robots exploring Earth’s remains was just fantastic, from the triangle-shaped robot with its deadpan, robotic (literally) voice dropping sick burns and funny one-liners to the adorable and goofy small orange robot making cute facial expressions at everything, to the “straight man” robot just reacting to the shenanigans, I found all of it delightful.
I actually would have ranked this 10/10, but the last half of the episode was pretty disappointing. Like, really disappointing. Not as funny as the first half, and the end completely mitigates the whole mystery factor of “Ooo, what killed humanity in this universe so many years ago?” because it’s explained that genetically engineering cats that have opposable thumbs is what did it. Honestly, I didn’t like the cat being there at all. Why add a cat? You don’t need a cat. Or if you’re going to have one, just have it there for the one scene where they talk about cats, dammit.
All in all, it just wasn’t a great reveal. I would’ve preferred that they hadn’t said anything about what happened to humans and just focused on the three robots enjoying their time exploring what’s left. It kinda soured the whole episode for me that the big twist ended up being kind of a gag about cats ruling the world.
5/10. Highly advanced robots touring the remains of human civilization while speculating about our whole deal is decent mindfuckery. Nothing crazy, but decent.
1/10. Because it’s all robots and no humans, this is probably one of the least brutal episodes. No direct gore, just lots of remains.
Most Brutal Moment:
There’s not much here. Sure, Earth being a complete wasteland with skeletal corpses everywhere is pretty dark, but this episode focuses more on comedy (dark comedy) than anything else.
I’d probably say the triangle-bot casually taking a touristy photo of the corpse of a little girl in a shopping cart takes it, though.
I’m adding the best line for this episode alone because I loved it that much: “Stop being a whiny pussy and fucking bounce it. Please.”
5. Lucky 13
Cutter, a lieutenant in an intergalactic war, is assigned to pilot the ship nobody else wants: Lucky 13.
I could’ve ranked this one at #13 for shits and giggles, but I like it way too much to rank it that low.
It goes without saying that the animation in this one is fantastic. Not only that, but while this episode may be your standard sci-fi war story, it has a lot of heart and gave me a real case of the sads. I love the bond between Lucky 13 and Cutter. Easily some of my favorite characters in the whole series, even if one of them is a ship. The episode does a fantastic job of making the bond between ship and pilot grow over time and feel real, and like I mentioned before, it’s not easy to do that when you’re limited to 5-20 minutes.
At first, Cutter is the unfortunate Lieutenant who has to take “the ship that no one else wants,” and that ship happens to be Lucky 13: the one that made it out of two missions unscathed even though its entire crew was wiped out. When Cutter claims the ship and goes on her first mission with it, one of the soldiers calls it “a coffin with wings.”
But you can guess where this is going. Cutter and Lucky 13 are right for each other in a way that I guess the other pilots weren’t. Occasionally, you get glimpses of the ship’s cameras watching everyone, which makes you feel like the ship really is alive and watching over her. Together, they get their soldiers through 19 missions without a single casualty.
That makes it all the more heartbreaking when one of their missions goes south and Lucky 13 goes down. One of the saddest moments of the show for me was when Cutter is surrounded by the enemy and activates the ship’s denial protocol to blow it up so they can’t have it, and the camera watches her as she says to it, “God, I’m so fucking sorry.”
But right as the ship is about to explode, it just decides not to. And it waits for the perfect moment, when all of the enemy soldiers are gathered around it, then it explodes, leaving nothing behind but the plate that all the soldiers had touched before every mission for good luck.
Fun little tidbit: when the denial protocol is activated and Lucky 13 is about to go “boom,” you can very briefly see the ship write “GTFO” near the bottom left as Cutter runs away. That is absolutely adorable, funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
The feels, the feels!
Definitely one of the stronger episodes. Broke my heart, too.
1/10. It’s your classic sci-fi war story. Nothing to really fuck the mind here.
2/10. Despite the premise, there’s actually not a ton of graphic violence in this one.
Most Brutal Moment:
The beginning after Lucky 13 returns with its crew dead. Hosing off all the blood on the ship as well as a severed hand.
Two werewolf Marines in Afghanistan, Decker and Sobieski, endure the discrimination of their fellow soldiers and must deal with werewolves fighting for the other side.
I think my love for urban fantasy comes into play a lot here. This episode tends to be much lower on most peoples’ lists from what I’ve seen, but I loved it.
One of the major criticisms “Shape-Shifters” got was the whole idea of the soldiers discriminating against their werewolf comrades and how it didn’t make sense. But I would argue that xenophobia never makes sense and, like Sobieski mentions, “It’s because they’re jealous.” If you were fighting alongside someone with superior strength, speed, and senses who didn’t need a flashlight to see in the dark or any help to track their prey, wouldn’t you be a little envious? And yes, often envy turns into mindless hate. It isn’t fair for the other soldiers to hate the two protagonists of this episode, but discrimination is never fair or logical.
“But Brioche,” you might say, “The werewolves are incredibly helpful to their fellow soldiers, what with their enhanced senses and strength, which saves American lives. Decker even takes several bullets towards the beginning and tracks down the shooter, preventing casualties! Wouldn’t the other soldiers be appreciative of that instead of hateful?”
“Well, strawman I’ve created to stroke my own ego,” I’d gently reply, “While it’s true that the werewolf supersoldiers saved the lives of their comrades several times, it doesn’t change the irrationality of xenophobia. Maybe the other soldiers are thinking, ‘Those werewolves could turn on me at any moment and use their enhanced senses to track me down.’ Or maybe, ‘Those werewolves probably can’t control themselves, so what if they kill one of us some day?’ Or how about, ‘I’m very religious and werewolves go against everything I stand for, for whatever reason.’ Or maybe even, ‘I listen to a far right commentator spewing their talking points every night, and they have convinced me that werewolves are devil people. Must hate, hate, hate.’
I’m not saying their hatred is justified. I’m saying it’s realistic, and that’s what I liked about this episode.
Also werewolves, yay!
One last thing before I stop here: I genuinely loved the relationship between Sobieski and Decker. The way they deal with the hatred of their comrades together, the way Sobieski defends his friend when the other soldiers call him “unnatural” by pointing out that he took a bullet for them, their playful and goofy banter, and the way they press their foreheads together in goodbye before they separate. It is such a sweet werewolf bromance and it broke my heart when Decker finds Sobieski dead, face half mangled.
The feels, the feels!
1/10. Really cool worldbuilding, but nothing mindfucky here.
Most Brutal Moment:
There’s a couple to choose from. Decker finding the corpses of all his fellow soldiers torn apart—including Sobieski—probably takes it.
I’d also add when he gets revenge on the werewolves responsible, crushing the older one’s skull in his jaws. That was pretty gnarly.
3. Good Hunting
When the son of a spirit hunter befriends a shape-shifting huli jing, he decides to help her when the industrializing world drains all of the magic and keeps her trapped in human form.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m something of an Angry Noodle. That means that any sort of commentary on imperialism, racism, and soulless industrialism gets a thumbs up from me, and boy is “Good Hunting” a commentary on imperialism, racism and soulless industrialism.
Yan is a huli jing who meets the son of a spirit hunter, Liang, under unfortunate circumstances. He is learning from his father how to hunt spirits, and Yan’s mother is the night’s target. Believing her to be a seductive spirit who preys on men (rather than a beautiful spirit who men fall in love with through no fault of her own), he ends up beheading her right in front of Yan. Fortunately for her, Liang doesn’t rat her out to his father, and the pair become friends.
But when Liang’s father passes away not long after, the industrialization of the modern world begins to take hold, and the English ruling class do a big ol’ imperialism, draining the world of its magic and replacing it with machines, and subjugating the natives. Liang ends up working to maintain the trains that take the English where they please, and while he doesn’t like working for them, he does like working with machinery and proves to be very good at it.
Yan has become a prostitute, stuck in human form and unable to hunt the way she used to. The English take advantage of her, and it reaches an extreme when one of her clients, the Governor, drugs her and has her entire body below the neck replaced with machinery.
She wants revenge against “the men who perpetrate evil, but call it progress,” which got me all up in my feels. Liang agrees to help her, making a “new magic” that allows Yan to shapeshift into an automaton version of her old huli jing self, where she can hunt evil to her heart’s desire.
Man, I loved this episode. The animation style is beautiful, the characters are some of the best in the series (I know I say that a lot, but hey, I liked a lot of the characters), and the episode managed to get across a ton of different themes in a very short amount of time.
One thing that made me sad was the inevitability of magic going away, because things change and we have to adjust instead of seeking the magic of the past. But I love how Yan and Liang were able to use the very “magic” of their oppressors to fight back. It’s a beautifully done episode that breaks your heart but also fills you with a kind of hope.
3/10. I don’t know if I’d call it mindfucky, but it’s definitely thought provoking.
7/10. There are some fairly brutal moments in here.
Most Brutal Moment:
There are several. I’ll give it to Liang’s father beheading Yan’s mother because it has the emotion factor in addition to the brutality factor. After that, I’ll give it to Yan’s legs being amputated so she can be turned into a machine that the Governor can get hard to (if you haven’t seen this episode, then god damn, reading this must be a trip). After that goes the Governor getting his jaw split because it’s brutal, but quick and also delightful.
2. Beyond the Aquila Rift
A crew finds themselves light years off their intended course. Fortunately for them, an old flame of Thom’s happens to be living at the strange base they end up in.
Note: If you’ve read this far, you obviously know how spoilery this article gets, but I just want to reiterate for this episode in particular that if you have not seen it but want to, do not read further.
I really struggled with my top 3 ratings because I wasn’t sure I wanted to put “Beyond the Aquila Rift” ahead of a beautifully done commentary on imperialism since, you know, Angry Noodle and all that. But I can’t deny that this episode fucked with my head in ways that none of the other episodes did. Not even joking. I remember laying in bed staring at the ceiling for a little while just so I could recover from the massive mindfuck.
I kind of didn’t want to watch this one again, to be honest. Not because it’s bad, but because holy shit, it’s a lot.
Basically, Thom and his crew Suzy and Ray, are going on some sort of expedition. But—plot twist—there was an error/glitch in their launch system and they end up way off course. Light years off course. They are woken up by Greta, an old flame of Thom’s who coincidentally happens to be living at the station they accidentally land at, and she informs them of their little mishap.
Suzy, as the navigator, doesn’t take this well and argues that there’s no way an error could’ve brought them so far off course. Hint, hint. But she passes out before she can try to say or do anything more, and they put her back into her sleep tank. Strangely, Ray doesn’t wake up at all.
So it’s just Thom and Greta for the most part, catching up and, of course, fucking. More strangely than Suzy and Ray being kept asleep and pretty much forgotten most of the episode is that there are other people living on base just like Greta, but Thom only seems to interact with her. It’s like they’re the only two there. When they’re having drinks, you can even see a bartender and a bar patron talking in the background, but they’d might as well not be there.
After the gratuitous sex scene that we all knew was coming, Greta admits to Thom that he isn’t where she originally told him he was. They’re actually 150,000 light years away from home, having traveled so far that hundreds of years had passed back home, and everyone they’ve ever known and loved is long dead.
Shit gets weirder when they decide to wake up Suzy again, and she absolutely freaks out when she sees Greta. She tells Thom, “That’s not Greta,” and demands to know “What the fuck are you?”
If you’re smarter than me, which you probably are, you can see where this is going.
Anyway, Suzy attacks Greta and manages to get a slash at her neck before being subdued and put back to sleep. And when Greta and Thom are in bed that night, Thom sees that the wound on her neck is fully healed and realizes that Suzy was right. That ain’t Greta!
This is where the episode goes from suspicious to absolutely nuts. Greta admits to Thom that he never woke up from his tank and the entire station is a simulation being fed to him. When he demands to see what’s really going on, she tries to warn him that he isn’t ready for it, but he insists. And as he slams “Greta” against the window demanding to be shown the truth, we see flashes of where he really is. And it’s not pretty.
Finally, Greta agrees to show him, informing him that she cares for him and “all the lost souls that end up here.”
And we’re shown the truth. Thom, emaciated, bloodshot eyes, looking on the verge of death, still lying in his destroyed pod. The base, covered in pink flesh-like tendrils and webs where so many lost ships are entangled. Ray and Suzy, long dead and half-decomposed, still in their tanks.
And finally, the real “Greta.” The animators do a brilliant job of playing with shadows and angles to make the alien creature emerging from the darkness look humanoid. You know, the “hot alien lady” stereotype. “Great,” you start thinking, “Thom lost Ray and Suzy, but maybe Greta’s a pretty alien lady he can still shack up with.” But nah. The creature fully emerges, and it’s a headless, spider-like being dripping with some unknown fluid, so horrifying that it seems to shatter Thom’s mind entirely.
And then he wakes up in the tank, the beginning of the episode where he meets “Greta” happening all over again. There’s no way of knowing how many times this has happened, but the episode ends with the nice, high-tech looking station transforming into the horrifying web-like collection of ships that it really is. And we know that Thom is doomed to die here, thousands and thousands of light years away from home.
I loved this episode. And while I was reluctant to watch it again because of how god damn depressing it can be, it was so cool to see all of the little hints sprinkled throughout that you might not notice on first watch. The little shadow in the glass when Thom and Greta are drinking together that shows Greta’s true form. The way Suzy serves as a kind of “foil” in Thom’s mind, trying to warn him that he isn’t where he thinks he is. The fact that Ray never wakes up at all and Suzy is only awake for short periods of time before passing out again. The lack of interaction that Thom has with anyone aside from Greta. The brief flashes of the reality of the station when Thom slams Greta against the window. And I’m sure there are many more hints that I never noticed.
Another great thing about this episode is the truth about Greta. Yes, she is in actuality a horrifying creature capable of putting the “lost souls” in simulations, basically fucking with their mind. But she seems to be a genuinely benevolent being who was only trying to help Thom and everyone else who gets trapped beyond the Aquila Rift to die peacefully, believing that they’re with someone they know. She’s like a friendly alien hospice. Much better than slowly dying of starvation alone while staring at the corpses of your dead friends/co-workers, eh?
She can’t control the way she looks, and that’s what makes this episode all the more sad. She genuinely tries to help Thom, and she almost seems kind of sad when she wakes him up the second time around, like she knows how he’ll react to the real her and is hurt by it.
Ugh, just a great episode. I could write about it for a while, but I’m already running way too long, so I’ll stop here.
1/10. There’s no graphic gore at all. I would say this episode is brutal, but more in a mindfuck way.
Most Brutal Moment:
I guess Thom seeing the corpses of his friends and then having his mind shattered by looking at Greta’s true form?
1. Zima Blue
Renowned artist Zima Blue is about to unveil his final work of art. And he wants to tell reporter Claire Markham his story.
Beautiful animation style, beautiful story, amazing voice acting. Ugh, I just love this one. Maybe I’m a bit of an emotional little nugget, but this was the only one of the Love, Death, and Robots episodes that made me cry. It tends to be pretty high up on most other fans’ lists too, and for good reason.
The episode follows reporter Claire Markham as she explains the history of Zima. She had been given an invitation to interview with Zima after years of trying and being rejected. Now that his final art piece is about to be unveiled, it seems he has finally decided to come out of the shadows and tell his story.
Claire explains that Zima started his art career on portraiture, but decided that the human form wasn’t enough. Eventually, he moved on to creating beautiful paintings of the cosmos, until one day, he adds something new: a tiny blue square.
The shape would change as he continued unveiling his art, but they would get bigger and would always be the exact same shade of blue. They were a huge contrast to the beautiful and detailed images of the universe that he would paint, and he would get more and more extreme with them, painting entirely blue murals that were as tall as buildings or even extended out to space. But even all of that fame and success wasn’t enough to satisfy him.
He ends up getting cybernetic implants that allow him to traverse the cosmos. And he finally understands the truth of the universe.
So he makes a swimming pool. And when asked why that would be his final piece, he tells the story of a brilliant young woman who created all kinds of little robots, but was fondest of the one she made to clean her pool. She kept enhancing it and enhancing it, and when she passed away, her family did the same, until the little pool robot became the brilliant artist Zima Blue himself. It is the blue of the pool tiles that inspired the blue shapes in all of his artwork, as it was the first thing he’d ever seen.
When it’s time for the unveiling, thousands of wealthy art connoisseurs are there to see his final piece. They watch as he jumps into the pool, shuts down all of his down his higher brain functions, and entirely unmakes himself into the little pool robot he once was. “My search for truth is finished at last. I’m going home.”
I didn’t think this episode would make me cry a second time now that I know how it ends, but it did. Watching this brilliant artist slowly unmake himself because he has realized that his truth is “to extract some simple pleasure from the execution of a task well done.” Being a pool robot was his simple beginning, but it was his purpose and where he was happiest. And these thousands of fans of his watching him as he unveils his final piece and “goes home,” finally see the answer that he has discovered for himself: the truth is in finding joy in the simpler things. Not giant murals that reach to the stars. Not traveling the cosmos to find its truth. Not being super rich and famous. Just finding joy in the simpler things.
7/10. It’s not a mindfuck in the way that “Beyond the Aquila Rift” is, but it gets you thinking.
Most Brutal Moment:
This one is unique in that there’s absolutely no gore or violence in it at all. It stole my heart, though, so I guess that counts.
And that’s that!
It’s really fun to see how different peoples’ rankings have been. “The Witness” in particular has a huge variance in opinions, with some saying it’s their absolute favorite and others saying it was the worst one by far. Same goes for “Sonnie’s Edge.”
So if you’ve seen Love, Death, and Robots, what did you think? Would you rank the episodes differently? Anything you would change? Did any of my rankings absolutely blow your mind or have you think, “What kind of drugs is Brioche taking because I wanna get me some”? Let me know!
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Bryanna Gary is the founder of The Angry Noodle and a current editorial assistant at Del Rey Books–science fiction, fantasy, and horror imprint of Penguin Random House.