The first season (or ‘volume’ as Netflix would have it) of Love, Death & Robots, an animated anthology show apparently curated by David Fincher, remains one of the highlights of everything I’ve ever seen on Netflix. Its eighteen shorts were so varied in subject matter and animation style that, while there were some duds amongst the average and the great, there always seemed something worthwhile in each instalment.
One never knows how popular a show is on streaming services, or how decisions are made regards greenlighting more seasons, especially with something as intrinsically weird as Love, Death & Robots, but the news a second season (ok, ‘volume’) was getting made filled me with joy. So news of this second volume getting dropped this month was pretty exciting, although that was tempered by disappointment at there being just eight episodes this time around. I guess this is due to production issues from the Covid pandemic and quite understandable, and news of a volume three coming presumably means that the original second volume has been split into two to facilitate dropping episodes now before a fickle public forget all about the original.
As was the case with the first volume, there are hits and duds even amongst just eight instalments, but again at the very least each is visually arresting. There is still a suspicion that the show is more of a tech demo from animation wizards let loose than a properly scripted anthology like The Twilight Zone– the series it most closely resembles- indeed it reminds me a great deal of the Japanese anime Genius Party films. Even the best episodes feel like the scripts need more polish, but as in the first volume, their advantage is their brevity; I think the longest is just 17 minutes and some run just about 10. Ironically, that’s possibly also a disadvantage, as the brevity means a lack of context and character is a weakness common to all. Once the ‘wow’ factor of the visuals drops, one realises there is often little else.
But what visuals. This show is constantly gorgeous, endless eye-candy. Some of the photo-realistic animation hints at where genre film and television may eventually go, with impossible vistas and pretty convincing… what do you call them, synthetic thespians? I guess its mostly motion-captured performances anyway but goodness, the tech has moved on since that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie amazed me years ago. What I tend to enjoy most though are those incredible vistas, the impossible places, the sense that I’m watching what could easily have been branded ‘Metal Hurlant / Heavy Metal’ and it would have just fit perfectly (albeit the branding meaning nothing to most Netflix punters). I loved that magazine back in its 1970s heyday, and this just looks like the mag transformed into this new medium (that mags weakness, artwork over narrative, is carried over too).
And hey, we even get a Christmas episode this time around, a cautionary morality tale reminding kids to be good or Santa’s presents might not be what they’re expecting/hoping for. That ones quite fun and typically gorgeous.