Love, Death & Robots Volume 2 Review: A formidable anthology that is worth all the hype
The second season of Netflix's animated sci-fi anthology series may not surpass the highs of season one, but it doesn't fall short either
If you are an immortal man with regenerative body cells, living on an alien planet far into the future, and if you are surrounded by the blood and bones of soldiers you just killed, now might be a good time to kiss your cyborg lover. This may sound bonkers, but creators of dystopian sci-fi are pushing the limits of their creativity to such an extent these days that this scene from the latest season of Netflix's NSFW anthology Love, Death & Robots is not the most amusing by any stretch.
Compared to the first season, which had 18 episodes, season two has only eight, and yet it manages to retain everything good from the first. Even how the episodes are numbered seems to follow a well-thought pattern.
Remember the short in season one titled Three Robots? Love, Death and Robots Volume 2 begins with a similar relatively harmless-looking setting, and with visuals akin to a children's animated show. In a world where technology has developed so much that humans have grown lazy, a malfunctioning AI-operated vacuum cleaner proves to be more than a headache to an old lady and her pet dog. Also, who likes an automated customer service voice that sounds more psychotic than helpful? Episode 1, Automated Customer Service, hardly hints at the bizarre horror that makes up the rest of the season.
It is the second episode, titled Ice, that reminds us of the true nature of this show. If this story was told on earth, it would have been of a few thrill-seeking teenagers, with a misfit among them, embarking on a dangerous adventure for sport. However, this isn't earth and the scales of 'danger' are limitless. The episode has truly breathtaking visuals, and the subtext hints at the most horrific aspect which makes the show feel grounded - the humans.
More than the evil robots and otherworldly creatures, humans are what these stories are truly about, much like the series' distant Netflix cousin, Black Mirror. So, in the next episode, Pop Squad, when a man doesn't even flinch while shooting a toddler point-blank, it is the fact that this is an animated show that keeps our shock somewhat at bay. The thought of having lived hundreds of years, stripped of all human emotions and having no memory of what it means to be a child or a mother, hits us hard.
Though the slow progression of gore, monstrosity and shock continues, the next one, Snow in the Desert, is strange for all the wrong reasons. It follows a man who has regenerative cells because of which he is cursed with a bounty on his head. The graphics are spectacular and this is the only short amongst the eight which has them all - love, death and robots. Yet, it is poorly written and banks solely on the shock value of its gruesome violence.
Episode five, titled The Tall Grass brings us back to a realistic setting. After two hyper-realistic episodes, the screen now looks like an old oil painting - another dynamism that the series is known for. The writing is also truly brilliant. It follows a man who has to escape the clutches of snarly zombies in a grassland with grass taller than himself.
A season of Love, Death & Robots would feel incomplete without a story that employs the elements usually associated with children's horror movies. In All Through the House, two little kids are excited to meet Santa on Christmas Day. In an unconventional, horrific world, how can one make sure that the kids are good and disciplined? Maybe if the Santa is a hideous-looking, cookie-stealing monster straight out of the Alien films. This Santa evaluates the kids and spits out their gift if they've been good. A truly chilling episode.
Life Hutch, the penultimate episode, is spectacular, to say the least. Michael B Jordan plays a combat pilot who, during combat with an alien ship, gets thrown out off-course and crashes. To add more misery, a maintenance robot in his ship malfunctions and begins to hunt him down. The screen looks almost life-like and the visual mood of the short can be likened to Lucky 13 from the first season.
The last episode The Drowned Gaint is the most chilling short of all. Yet, it doesn't have violence, gory deaths, monsters, aliens or any other NSFW elements. There are hardly any dialogues. The short explores the question: what if the dead body of a giant human washes ashore? The final episode reiterates that there's nothing scarier than the evil that resides within human beings.
If one compares this season to the previous one, it doesn't really add any new surprises, but it doesn't fail our expectations either. The shortcomings are marginal. Netflix has also opted to keep sexual content and nudity to a bare minimum in this season. Given the current state of the world, Love, Death & Robots may be a little too grim. But for those who don't mind the relentless despair, monsters and whatnot, Love, Death & Robots Volume 2 provides enough entertainment and amusement. It's like a monster's saliva-soaked gift from Netflix.