Returning to Netflix for a third season, Love, Death & Robots delivers its best and most well-balanced season yet, featuring some of the most thrilling shorts in this beloved anthology series… so far. Co-created by Tim Miller and David Fincher, this series continues to push the boundaries of adult animation with some riveting concepts and stellar execution.
Sitting at nine episodes, there seems to be an interesting shift in the direction taken with this season when compared to the first and second. Looking back, the second season seemed to be relatively tame when it came to violent and sexual content, especially when considering how much was in the first season. This season continues that trend partially – it goes way lighter in terms of sexual content, with almost no nudity at all, but really doubles down on the gruesome violence. As someone who loves a bit of tasteful gore, when it makes sense for the narrative, I got a good kick out of this season. It houses some of the most graphically violent and blood-soaked shorts to date – so if you love violent sci-fi, you’ll love this season.
In terms of the variety of stories, there’s a great range of sub-genres covered from sci-fi/comedy and horror/thriller to straight up high-concept intelligent sci-fi. There’s a very balanced mix of narratives to where you’re bound to find one you will respond to, regardless of which corner of the sci-fi world you sit in. However when it comes to the featured styles of animation, there’s not a lot of variety – much like it was in the second season. There’s some unique visual styles for sure, but most shorts use some variation of 3D CG animation – such as motion capture and Unreal Engine – to create a more lifelike aesthetic. Nevertheless, the animation across every short is breathtaking – so it’s hard to complain.
The one overall criticism I’ll give this season is that despite loving the vast majority of the shorts, I feel like some of them could have had an extra minute to wrap things up a little neater. I’ve loved the ability of these filmmakers to execute a compelling story in such a short amount of time, but I was caught off-guard by some of my favourite narratives ending just moments too soon. I guess there’s also a good compliment in there too – I was clearly loving the episodes so much that I just wanted more!
Let’s get a little more into the individual shorts shall we?! Topping my list, in no particular order, are Jibaro, In Vaulted Halls Entombed and Bad Travelling. These are the big three in this season that had me astounded and in complete awe from beginning to end. Jibaro comes from the mind of Alberto Mielgo, who wrote and directed season one’s The Witness – one of my favourites due to its compelling use of abstract storytelling. Jibaro is absolutely insane – it’s a horrifying but also beautiful narrative accompanied by a mesmerising use of sound and hallucinogenic visuals. I likened it to a Robert Eggers film in how strange, experimental and terrifying it felt. In Vaulted Halls Entombed is a crazy-cool narrative shrouded in mystery and horror that I loved to watch unfold. I had no idea where it was going, and it ended up setting up a world I’d love to revisit in a feature. It also highlighted a great lead performance from Joe Manganiello.
My favourite short of the season is Bad Travelling, marking the animation directorial debut of famed director David Fincher. Everything about this short is utterly brilliant. From Troy Baker’s lead performance to the unrelenting tense tone, this is a thrill ride I didn’t want to get off. Complete with a spine-chilling score, twist-filled narrative and horror vibes akin to 2018’s The Terror, this really is something special.
Just falling short of a top-three mention, Swarm, Night of the Mini Dead and Mason’s Rats also made an impact in their own unique ways. Adapted and directed by Tim Miller, Swarm stuck out as a short that heavily incorporated elements of intelligent sci-fi, focusing predominantly on the science of an alien species than the world-dominating takeover. With some very neat commentary on humanity within the narrative – I loved what this short had to offer, mainly due to being such a big fan of smart sci-fi. Night of the Mini Dead is one of the most original concepts in here – it’s a perfectly chaotic and hilarious look at the unfolding of a zombie apocalypse, using a combination of CGI and stop-motion miniatures to tell the story. Short, sweet and simple, it shows how you don’t always need a deep story when it comes to pure entertainment. Lastly, Mason’s Rats is just a fun idea with plenty of bloody violence and comedy within its ridiculous story.
The final three shorts on my list are the ones that made the least impact, but were still enjoyable – Three Robots: Exit Strategies, Kill Team Kill and The Very Pulse of the Machine. The first sequel to hit Love, Death & Robots is Three Robots: Exit Strategies, a sequel to one of the fan-favourite shorts from the first season – Three Robots. This is a great short to kick the season off with as it’s the most fun and lighthearted of the bunch. It harbours some good laughs and socio-political jabs that make it an enjoyable ride, but it’s nothing too incredible. Kill Team Kill is another violent one, focusing on a team of mercenaries taking down a deadly beast. It’s fun and action-packed, but not unique enough of a story to be all that memorable. Finally, The Very Pulse of the Machine just didn’t do it for me. Despite a good performance from Mackenzie Davis, I just couldn’t get into the narrative as it felt too unclear and flat. It looked great visually, but didn’t offer much else.
In the end, Love, Death & Robots continues to be a powerhouse in the world of animated shorts. This season highlights some of the series’ best shorts, delivering on the exhilarating sci-fi content we expect. With shorts that dabble more in sci-fi/comedy and those that go heavy into the horror/thriller elements, the variety in narratives is exciting for all sci-fi fans. Not every short’s story will resonate with everyone, but there’s no questioning the fact that every second of animation is beautiful to look at and admire.