Love, Death and Robots is the Lovecraftian combination of Disney meets Black Mirror.
The animated series covers multiple genres including comedy, action and science fiction, all with a futuristic, cyberpunk tone. Coming in the form of mini-independent episodes, the Netflix exclusive combines the classic series Twilight Zone with technological themes to create something that sounds similar to Black Mirror, but is actually quite different. While Black Mirror focuses on the consequences of technological advancement on humans and simultaneously exploring our reaction to it, Love Death and Robots focuses on creating impactful moments that can make you wonder who put those onions here. The series is exactly like its title: it’s got love, it’s got death and a whole bunch of robots.
I’m going to focus on the episode called ‘Suits’, looking at the story and its effectiveness in the creation of emotion and the animation style of the episode. ‘Suits’ is the fourth episode of the 18 episode series. It details a future society where farmers must use mechs in order to defend their farms from interdimensional bugs/alien creatures. The story focuses around Hank and his relationship with his wife Beth, as well as the other farmers Jake, Helen and Crazy Mel. While doing regular patrols, Hank is called to investigate a large disturbance on the farm. After discovering that the bugs are overflowing in a sector of the farm, he calls upon Jake and Crazy Mel for assistance. While fighting the bugs Jake makes a noble sacrifice to self destruct his mech, causing both the bugs and him to lose their lives. While we don’t learn much about Jake, the emotional impact of his death is really shown through emotion, music choice and writing. It’s most impactful when shown through his wife’s shock, as she sits quietly after the dust settles, bereaved. Fortunately, the other characters survive the onslaught and are able to continue on with their lives, with the final shot a zoom out to show the audience what’s left of humanity. All the characters in the show are likeable and unique, which makes Jake’s untimely death even heavier to the audience. There are some tense and climactic story moments that work well with the music/sound effects when characters face near death situations, helping to ground their humanity.
The animation style of ‘Suits’ is a really interesting one. It’s not as smooth as your typical Disney animation and follows more of a keyframe style, where the animation is a little more rigid but covers really important frames in the action. The colours are warm and bright with touches of neon and bright flares from gunshots and explosions on the robotic mechs, while characters outfits and natural elements looking earthy and genuine. Characters look realistic and emote well without going over the top. Mel, Hank, Beth and Helen are specific highlights. The bugs and mechs look quite reminiscent of Starcraft II and the old country western music is very similar to that of the Terran aesthetic. The bugs look similar to other science-fiction monsters such as Zerglings (Starcraft) or Kha’Zix (League of Legends). It’s important to mention that each episode of Love, Death and Robots is animated in a different style, and therefore there may be some that you like and some that you don’t.
The series can be considered kind of similar to Black Mirror in the whole “the future is scary” viewpoint. But I think Love, Death and Robots takes a very different approach to the theme. While Black Mirror looks at technology as a result of humanity and the effects it has in return, Love, Death and Robots uses technology as an aspect of its storytelling. It takes from classic science fiction tropes, and bends them slightly by integrating closer-to-home technology in order to bridge the gap between reality and fiction. For example, in ‘Suits’ you’ve got the farmers’ classic weaponry like shotguns and flamethrowers which are familiar in this day and age, while on the other hand you’ve got intergalactic bugs sent to murder them all.
Characters and emotions are important in the series and you do learn to care for the protagonists, but they aren’t there to teach you something or to make an overarching statement throughout the episode like Black Mirror. Black Mirror episodes such as ‘Be Right Back’ utilise character interaction between Martha and the robotic version of her husband Ash. Ash as a robot is unable to comprehend Martha, as his knowledge is based on his social media and texts between them, which just ends up complicating the relationship even further. You can see how much more serious and closer to home Black Mirror is in comparison to Love Death and Robots, which alongside the animation style aims to create a spectacle premiering technology.
Should you watch Love, Death and Robots? Yes, it’s an incredibly dark yet intriguing series that pulls out all the stops to entertain you while going through its story. Should you watch Black Mirror? Another yes, but be wary that the episodes can be really hit or miss and when they miss, they don’t go near the target. My recommended episodes would be ‘Shut Up and Dance’, ‘USS Callister’ and ‘Black Museum’. Each of these are a unique and respectable episode.
Take a look at both series if you get the chance - the episodes are short and self-contained so they’re bingeable or good in short bursts.