Hello all you questionably clothed women and burly aggro men! Welcome back to our blog. I know we’ve been away for a while but GET OFF MY CASE ABOUT IT LIFE HAPPENS OKAY!
Anyway I’m here today to talk to you about a new anthology from Netflix called Love Death and Robots. There are 18 episodes so buckle up cus this is gonna be a long one!
Being a fan of “genre fiction” can be exhausting, particularly when it comes to sci-fi. Often times it means believing two things simultaneously: “this is beautiful” and “this is bullshit.” See, science fiction has a boy’s club problem. For a long long time sci-fi was considered to be the exclusive realm of men. This happened in the same way it has happened with many other “nerdy” pleasures; a suffocating wall of gate-keepers that release male-gazey and misogynistic shit pretty much exclusively and then decided that that’s the only thing that sells because it’s the only thing they would sell. Sci-fi has had many brilliant artists that create breathtaking works about humanity, reality, and what it means to be alive…that nevertheless portray women with an almost gleeful disdain.
There has, in recent times, been a concerted effort to push back against this trend. Netflix’s new anthology Love, Death, and Robots…does not. Created by Tim Miller and David Fincher from the ashes of their long dormant resurrection of Heavy Metal, the series is a retrograde love letter to sci-fi’s past. Full of equal part’s beauty, brutality, and hyper-sexualization of almost every woman on screen, the series is a fun and often frustrating watch. If you’ve ever seen Heavy Metal or read the magazine on which it was based then you know what you’re getting into here. If you haven’t well…be prepared for lots of boobs.
- Sonnie’s Edge
A woman named Sonnie is an undefeated competitor in a blood sport involving fighting with psychically linked monsters. Each combatant has two…handlers of some kind? It’s not really clear what they’re doing, but one of Sonnie’s crew is a woman who wears an open jacket and no shirt or bra. So we get boobs immediately. Sonnie was, surprise surprise, gang raped and now uses her anger as motivation. Good. Great. Lovely.
Anyway, a rich asshole wants Sonnie to throw her next fight and she refuses. The rich man’s lady companion seduces Sonnie after the fight but SURPRISE it’s all a set up. We get lots of lingering shots of Sonnie’s nipples poking against her shirt, lots of shots of the rich lady’s body, and lots of them kissing. So yeah. There’s a lot of gore in this one too. It’s all very ADULT and MATURE and NOT YOUR MAMA’S SCI-FI. It’s pretty exhausting. Pro-tip: stop using rape as a defining characteristic and primary motivation for women in stories. I don’t know why that’s such a widely used trope.
Love Rating: 2 – Sonnie loves her monster probably. There’s some kissing.
Death Rating: 10 – Most of the major characters die in gruesome ways.
Robots Rating: 2 – There’s a kind of robotesque twist in the story.
- Three Robots
Need to come down after all that MATURE ADULT THEMES THAT ARE TOTALLY MATURE AND ADULT? Lucky you this episode comes right after. Three robots explore a post-apocalyptic city and make light of humanity’s struggles and stupidity. Also there are cats. The robots all have distinct personalities and their banter is top-notch. This one is legitimately hilarious and I love it.
Love Rating: 8 – The robots are friends and their friendship is lovely.
Death Rating: – 10 (?) or 0 – Nobody dies, but the robots are surrounded by skeletons.
Robots Rating: 10 – All robots all the time baybeeeee. And cats.
- The Witness
In this trippy story the sensibilities of the show really clash. After witnessing a brutal murder a woman is pursued by the killer through a grimy city where she works in some kind of weird sex club. There’s an extended scene of the main character dancing, stripping, and shoving all her bits straight into camera as the killer gets fondled by women wearing full-on leather fetish gear. When the main character realizes the killer has followed her to work she flees in nothing but a loose kimono flapping in the wind. We see her full body for pretty much the entire runtime. Buuuut it’s actually kind of used to good effect…other than the stripping scene. She’s vulnerable and nobody bats an eye at a woman running through the street naked and screaming. It shows how unsafe it is for her in this world, at least. It’s kinda artistic. If you squint. But the whole thing has a very feverish quality. Watching it makes you feel sick and confused and the ending is a nice twist and only adds to the overall confusing vibe. The characters are trapped in a strange recursive loop and suddenly the fact that they look so similar takes on a sinister edge. If you can get over the blatant cheesecake, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
Love Rating: 0 – No love, except my love of the main character’s makeup.
Death Rating: 5 – Two deaths, brutal but not too gory.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots. Probably.
Farmers don mech suits to fight invading insectile invaders. There’s really not much more to say other than that. The animation is lovely and the characters are likable.
Love Rating: 7 – These are families fighting to protect their homes and live the best lives they can.
Death Rating: 10 – A metric ton of bug guts are spilled.
Robots Rating: 7 – Mech suits kind of count as robots.
- Sucker of Souls
A send-up of boy’s adventure stories complete with an archeologist, his shockingly young assistant who for some reason can read ancient languages, and his gruff bodyguard who doesn’t care about any of this shit. Spoiler alert: someone’s head gets exploded by Dracula. This is another funny one and there’s a woman named Gary who is my favorite. Also cats.
Love Rating: 5 – Dracula loves blood, does that count?
Death Rating: 10 – Heads explode.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots.
- When the Yogurt Took Over
Yogurt becomes sentient and takes over the world. That is all.
Love Rating: 0 – The yogurt does not love us.
Death Rating: 10 – The Yogurt “accidentally” causes a lot of death.
Robots Rating: 0 – There is no need for robots when you have yogurt.
- Beyond the Aquila Rift
When making a hyperspace jump, a ship is accidentally(?) sent off course by the AI that controls hyperspace gates. They end up in a space station thousands of light years away from their destination where the Captain meets an old flame. There’s an extended sex scene straight outta late-night HBO. Things are not what they seem.
This one drags on a bit too long but the ending is pure cosmic horror and viscerally disturbing.
Love Rating: 5 – See: HBO style sex scene.
Death Rating: 2 – No onscreen death but horrifying implications.
Robots Rating: 8 – That AI totally sent them off course on purpose.
- Good Hunting
A beautifully animated tale set in China during the European occupation that leans far too heavily into the ADULT moniker that they slapped on this series. A young boy’s father is a Spirit hunter who is trying to kill a fox spirit that has bewitched a local man. While hunting the spirit the boy discovers the fox spirit’s pup and befriends her juuuust before his father cuts of her mom’s head. The boy hides the pup and they become friends. After the Europeans come and force their technology on China, the magic starts to die and the girl has a hard time turning into her fox form. Instead she hangs out in a robe that shows off her boobs a lot. She’s like…15 at most and it’s creepy. Anyway the boy, now grown into a young man, leaves his village to live in a steampunk city where he discovers a knack for invention. The girl comes with him and can no longer transform at all and she misses hunting. She becomes a prostitute for…reasons?
Anyway, her wealthiest patron drugs her and has most of her body replaced with machine parts because he can only get hard from machines. She’s got her human head and nipples and the rest is metal. We get a lingering shot of her naked body as a surgeon saws off her leg. Her face right up in the camera, contorting in pain. It’s lurid, unnecessary, and disgusting.
She winds up killing that guy who apparently didn’t see how surgically altering a woman into a super-strong robot woman and making sure she’s awake to experience every second of it might not work out so well for him. We see his erect penis which is something that basically never happens in pop-culture so props for that I guess.
She finds her friend and has him design a new robot fox body for her so that she can hunt once again. Only now she’s hunting rapists. #feminism.
This is based on a short story by Ken Liu and I have to imagine the original story isn’t as…creepily voyeuristic as the animation is. There is perhaps no other episode that really embodies that problem of having to look past the bullshit to see the beauty as much as this one. There really is a lot to love here…just also a lot to hate.
Love Rating: 5 – The fox spirit and the boy are friends and he loves her enough to make her that robot body.
Death Rating: 7 – It’s nice to see her kill the gross rich dude who had her mutilated.
Robots Rating: 6 – She’s kind of a robot.
- The Dump
An asshole property developer is trying to evict an old man from the garbage dump he lives in. The old man tells a story about a monster that lives in the dump. The property developer doesn’t believe him, to his peril. Short and sweet.
Love Rating: 6 – The old man loves his dump and his dump monster.
Death Rating: 5 – Two deaths, both gruesome.
Robots Rating: ? – We don’t really know what the dump monster is.
Two marines who are also werewolves face discrimination from their fellow soldiers. One of the werewolves is killed by an enemy werewolf. The other werewolf gets revenge and quits the Marines because of all the discrimination. One of the Marines who was a dick to them maybe feels bad about being such a dick? His face implies he does but he also never speaks to them after berating them in the mess hall. The werewolves never make out even though they clearly want to.
Love Rating: The men give each other long lingering looks all the time but never make out. This was a mistake.
Death Rating: 8 – There’s a brutal werewolf fight and lots of dead bodies.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots.
- Helping Hand
Gravity + 127 hours. Short and to the point. Wonderfully animated and acted.
Love Rating: 4 – There’s lots of friendly banter amongst lonely astronauts.
Death Rating: 0 – Spoiler: nobody dies.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots.
- Fish Night
A wonderfully trippy story about two salesmen whose car stalls in the desert and are visited by spectral fish form the distant past.
Love Rating: 4 – There’s a definite father-figure vibe with the older salesman.
Death Rating: 5 – It’s full of ghosts.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots.
- Lucky 13
A rookie pilot in a world of endless war is forced to take a ship that is considered unlucky. Turns out it’s really lucky. She and the ship bond. The ship sacrifices itself for her. The main character is a realistic, grounded person wonderfully acted by Samira Wiley.
Love Rating: 10 – Can a woman and a ship fall in love? You bet they can.
Death Rating: 10 – There’s a war on.
Robots Rating: 10? – If we’re liberal with our definition of robot.
- Zima Blue
This. This is what I wanted. This is what sci-fi should be and what most of these stories could be if stripped of the forced ADULT pretension of the show. A reporter is going to interview a famous artist who hasn’t spoken to the public in decades just before he unveils his final work. The artist tells her the story of his life; it’s about love and humanity and desire. He wants to understand who he is and why he is. Beautifully animated, contemplative, and sad. This is easily the standout story. If you’re going to watch any of it, watch this one.
Love Rating: 10
Death Rating: 10
Robots Rating: 10 – No words for this one. Just watch it.
Four cyborgs participate in a high-stakes heist that’s equal parts Mad Max and Akira. This one is just pure fun. And for once the twist has a story end on an upbeat note.
Love Rating: 8 – FRIENDSHIP IS LOVE OKAY.
Death Rating: 4 – Depends on how you define it.
Robots Rating: 10 – All robots all the time.
- Ice Age
Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead reenact that episode of The Simpson’s where Lisa’s tooth spawns a tiny civilization. Only it’s in their icebox. And the civilization evolves to a higher plane of existence. Topher is sad that they’re gone.
Love Rating: 10 – The tiny people evolve from the ice age to a techno utopia to energy beings. There’s lots of lovin goin on in there.
Death Rating:. 10 – See above
Robots Rating: 10 – See above, robots are bound to have happened. Also, presumably, the show itself happened within the civilization.
- Alternate Histories
A phone app lets you see how history would be different depending on how you change things. The example shown is Hitler dying in several ways. It’s funny, but a little cringey.
Love Rating: 7 – Hitler gets fucked to death by prostitutes in one timeline, which then makes sexy aliens come to earth and sex everyone up.
Death Rating: 10 – It’s just Hitler dying several times
Robots Rating: 5 – They show up in some versions of history.
- Secret War
Russians fight a war against demons. There are ultimately too many battle scenes that are boring, despite the demons. The story is much better when it focuses on the soldier’s camaraderie and more human moments. Could have been like 5 minutes shorter and it really would have improved things.
Love Rating: 8 – Band of Brothers type lovin.
Death Rating: 10 – Demons man, they’ll fuck you up.
Robots Rating: 0 – No robots.
And so there we have it! 18 stories ranging from 6 – 17 minutes. Some are great, some are good, some are bad, most are problematic. I enjoyed my time with the show, but it was enjoyment with caveats. It isn’t something I can whole-heartedly recommend. Tim Miller described it as a “love letter to nerds,” and it is; but too frequently it’s a love letter to a certain kind of nerd. The kind of nerd who thinks sci-fi has gotten “too PC” and misses “the old days.” The kind of nerd who thinks The Last Jedi ruined Star Wars. There is an ugly streak of misogyny running through many of the episodes that dampens the legitimate fun that there is to be had with the show. It is, unfortunately, a problem sci-fi has grappled with for a long time.
To help you decide what to watch, here are some episode ranking based on how much you have to contort your mind to enjoy them. Each of these lists is ranked from most to least recommended!
Episodes to watch, no caveats: Zima Blue, Three Robots, Blindspot, Fish Night, Helping Hand, Beyond the Aquila Rift, Lucky 13
Episodes to watch if you’re just looking for a good time: Sucker of Souls, Suits, When the Yogurt Took Over
Episodes to watch if you can ignore the problematic elements: The Witness, Good Hunting, Sonnie’s Edge
Episodes to watch if you’ve got some time to kill: Ice Age, The Dump, Shape-Shifters, Alternate Histories, Secret War
And because this post isn’t long enough already and because I love listing things, here’s my personal ranking!
Zima Blue, Three Robots, Sucker of Souls, Blindspot, Beyond the Aquila Rift, The Witness, Good Hunting, Fish Night, The Dump, Helping Hand, Suits, Ice Age, Lucky 13, When the Yogurt Took Over, Alternate Histories, Sonnie’s Edge, Shape-Shifters, Secret War.
Hoo-boy. Thanks for sticking it out until the end! I know this one was stupid long but it’s been a long time since I last posted and I had to get my energy out! Hopefully we’ll be bringing you more stuff very soon (we’re dealing with a move so we’ll see). Until then, keep looking to the stars and try to be more tasteful with your nudity!