Love, Death & Robots, the very NSFW adult animated anthology from David Fincher and Tim Miller, is now available to stream to your heart’s (and loin’s) content on Netflix. The binge-worthy title features 18 shorts, each with their own signature animation, storytelling style, and varying levels of maturity. And when I say “maturity”, sometimes that means “thoughtful and complex messages delivered by computer-generated characters cleverly wrapped up in a sci-fi landscape”, and sometimes that means, tits, ass, blood, violence, and gratuitous sex.
Honestly, this series should just be called Sex, Death & Robots because there are few if any explorations of love, on any level, to be found; it’s catchier, too. Too often, the episodes confuse lewdness for maturity, which should appeal to a certain subset of fans, likely those who aren’t technically old enough to meet the audience guidelines. Like a kid sneaking into an R-rated movie, there’s something thrilling about the forbidden and the taboo that these particular stories offer. But for older folks, the try-hard approach to mature material just screams immaturity.
Love, Death & Robots is at its best when adapting stories from proven authors like John Scalzi, Joe Lansdale, Ken Liu, Claudine Griggs, and Alastair Reynolds to name a few. The anthology also could have done wonders for itself by seeking out more female creators (writers, directors, etc.) in order to diversify this very “boys’ club” aesthetic that just about every episode is steeped in. (I’m sure Miller and Fincher have to have read Ursula K. Le Guin…) [There may be more women active behind the scenes, but Netflix’s credits skip makes this difficult to see at first glance; I’ll be updating each episode with a list of well-deserved credits.] I’m all for a sexed-up kill-bot going on a vengeful murder spree in a neon future metropolis, but this was also a missed opportunity to show off different points of view. Additionally, there’s no overarching theme to the entirety of Love, Death & Robots, so as a whole it falls short of something like The Animatrix. It also falls short of perennial Netflix fave Black Mirror, since the episodes rarely say anything meaningful about the human condition or offer strong social commentary. They’re mostly just very pretty pictures telling thrilling, action-packed mini-stories.
So with that in mind, I’ve ranked the 18 shorts of Love, Death & Robots from “worst” to first. Technically, none of these shorts are bad, far from “the worst”; some just simply have much less to say than others. For example, the bottom three–“Blind Spot”, “The Dump”, and “Sucker of Souls”–are pretty one-note with a twist or two thrown in, but they don’t really stick the landing or offer anything beyond a bit of escapism. The top three, however, offer not only fantastic animation (perhaps the best of this list) but really dig into what sci-fi is capable of, twisting perceptions and rerouting misconceptions. These are the best of the best and show what Love, Death & Robots is really made of, hopefully bringing a new generation of readers to the sci-fi writers whose work is on display, and inspiring a new generation of writers altogether.
Check out the “worst to first” list below: