The third volume of Netflix’s Emmy award-winning Love, Death + Robots has just been released. This volume features 9 distinct episodes from 9 talented animation studios.
On the release of volume 2, there was a general sentiment of ‘meh’ surrounding the whole release: none of the episodes were bad per se, but the majority of them fell flat when compared to the razor’s edge of the first season. Fortunately, volume 3 more than makes up for it, returning to the original form and even playing host to some of the best episodes in the entire series.
This article will contain a short review of each episode, so if there is a specific one you wish to see please find it below: all episodes are in numerical order.
Episode 1: Three Robots: Exit Strategies
The three robots return, this time to face the wonders of tech millionaires and human greed. Our three lovable companions from the first episode of the entire series explore more of a ruined Earth, exploring humanity’s final attempts to salvage something from their self-made demise.
As in the first episode, the titular three robots are all super charming and very likeable. Just getting to see them interact again already makes this episode a treat and one to watch if you enjoyed the original. Little touches in animation, such as XBOT 4000’s right eye not moving because it was installed separately to his functioning eye, or K-VCR’s facial movements make the interactions even better and present love for these characters.
Outside of the improvements to the animation and the general artistry of the episode (which are very good may I add), this episode does, unfortunately, miss the mark where the first one landed.
The main reason for this is a lack of balance between the humour and the seriousness of the ‘Exit Strategies’ episode when compared to the original. Before the darkness of what happened was more told through background details in the environment as these robots went about their own comical business in the world, until the final scene of the reality of what killed them – it was dark, but its roots were more in comedy than the macabre. In volume 3, they attempt a similar balance but are not able to make it work out as well: most of the jokes are funny, but there is less time spent on balancing those jokes with the serious subject matter and so the episode can feel a bit heavy-handed and preachy whereas the first one didn’t.
Now I don’t think it was the more topical nature of the jokes or their potential political satire that caused this – as they can be good sources of both satire and comedy, and they even are in this episode – but they just aren’t able to land as well in this episode. The dry, deadpan voice of the triangular robot is mainly used for exposition as opposed to having some of the best jokes like they did in the original.
However, ‘Three Robots: Exit Strategies’ is still a very enjoyable episode and one that shines with little touches and details that are just brilliant, and the three main characters continue to be entertaining and compelling. It’s worth a watch, but it doesn’t strike true as well as the first iteration.
Episode 2: Bad Travelling
This episode is incredible.
‘Bad Travelling’ tells the tale of a boat crew put into a precarious situation as a horrific sea creature takes refuge upon their ship, demanding to be taken to a nearby inhabited island so that it can feast on the innocents there. What follows is a 20-minute short of treachery, tension and twists as the crew begins to break at the thought of whether to save their own skin or those of hundreds of innocents.
I truly believe that this is one of the best episodes in the entire series and perfectly showcases the beauty and promise of short animations. First off, the premise is super compelling, and it succeeds in raising the tension and cut-through of the whole episode – the twists and revelations that come about even in this short 20-minute session are top tier storytelling, with the situation taking me to the edge of my seat as more and more was revealed. It is merciless in its execution, and it revels in that.
Alongside that, the animation and creature design are top tier. The Thanapod is terrifying and gross and just what I want out of an underwater monstrosity – the mixture of body horror with crustacean elements is skin-crawling and perfect for what this episode is trying to achieve. On top of that, the actual animation is stellar: this episode is animated by Blur Studio, the people responsible for arguably the best episode of volume 2, ‘Pop Squad’, and their attention to detail continues to shine in this episode.
Above all of this, the core reason why I think this episode is so great is that I do not want any more of it. As a short, it perfectly encapsulates everything it wants to tell and doesn’t overstay or under stay its welcome. Everything is paced to near perfection, the tension is high all throughout and when it needs to end, it ends – I don’t need to see a full movie made from this or even just another 5 minutes, because it achieves everything it wants in the time given. And I think that is a resounding success.
Please watch ‘Bad Travelling’: it’s incredible.
Episode 3: The Very Pulse of the Machine
This was my least favourite episode of the volume, but that does not make it bad.
‘The Very Pulse of the Machine’ follows an astronaut and her dead companion on the Jovian moon of Io, where the survivor must find a way off the planet before her oxygen (and her sanity) runs dry.
The best thing about this episode is the art design: much like this studio’s previous episode (volume 1’s ‘Fish Night’), it is so striking and unlike anything else in the anthology. Io is this amber entrusted terror of a planet, covered in crags and crystal and sand that will swallow you up and it is just mesmerising. This episode should be watched simply to enjoy the visual splendour. Alongside that, the dream sequences and hallucinations are mesmerising and beautiful depictions of the human mind, and they just add so much to the episode.
The story, however, is not as interesting. The twist that comes in the second half of the episodes ends up making it far less interesting – instead of a story about grief and dealing with death through mind-altering substances, it becomes a story about a living planet that is just… not as compelling. While the ending is somewhat open, the amount the story commits to this new pivot really set me off. What occurs in the final half just is not as interesting as the promise given in the first half.
Additionally, the ideas it reaches for – living forever in data, what is death, etc. – are all compelling ideas but it doesn’t dedicate enough time to them. As a result, they don’t land with a satisfying impact and instead with an impartial thud. Even 5 more minutes may have made this a more successful transition and story, but if I have to say that about a short, I believe it has failed in its purpose of being short.
This episode is worth watching for the visual feast and superb animation, but don’t get too invested in the story or it will disappoint.
Episode 4: Night of the Mini Dead
‘Night of the Mini Dead’ presents the lightning pace that the world descends into anarchistic chaos when faced with a zombie infection, presenting it all in high-speed stop motion miniatures.
First off, this episode perfectly succeeds as a short. The pacing, the speed, all of it combines to weave a compelling and amusing story in just 5 minutes – like ‘Bad Travelling’ it tells all it needs to tell and then leaves. In addition to that, the sheer amount of stuff on-screen at once is mesmerising and is a work of craftsmanship. Watching it almost reminded me of Days Gone by Bend Studios, as more and more zombies just kept appearing and just when I thought it was over, even more, would appear. It’s a treat to watch.
The comedy wasn’t to my personal taste, but even then, it didn’t detract from the final product at all. Chipmunk voices and crude jokes may rub some people the wrong way, but in all honesty, it is easily pushed aside for the 5 minutes this short asks of you.
While far from my favourite, this episode is worth watching as an excellent showcase of the strength of this medium of short-form animation.
Episode 5: Kill Team Kill
‘Kill Team Kill’ seeks to spoof the popular 80’s action hero aesthetic from Rambo and Predator by pitting a bunch of muscled up military men against a massive genetically engineered robot bear – complete with tons of gore, blood and explosions.
I did not like this episode very much, but that was not because it was a bad episode: it wasn’t my cup of tea. The animation was great with fluid action, a clear distinct style that worked very well and entertaining sequences of destructive mayhem. The entire episode just feels like a mishmash of Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Duke Nukem.
The comedic elements were what put me off the episode, but they will certainly appeal to the right audience: if you like parodies of action movies if you understand the cliches and if you overall just like watching lads mess about and be lads, then the comedy of this episode should reign true and make you laugh. If you don’t vibe with the comedic portions, however, then the episode does grow a little dull after a while of repeating the same sort of jokes and ideas.
It’s stupid, it’s crude, it’s absurd and the right people will absolutely love it.
Episode 6: Swarm
This episode is the one that I think fails the most as a short animation.
‘Swarm’ takes place amongst a huge nest of alien species who are conjoined like a hivemind, where a human scientist wishes to harness this power to strengthen humanity, much to the Swarm’s chagrin. Chaos ensues, and the true weight of what he wanted to find comes crashing down on him as he is faced with the consequences of his actions.
It is the visuals and the designs of all the aliens that stand out here. All of the creatures are fascinating and creepy and disgusting, watching as they swim around next to the human protagonists makes your skin crawl when they chitter or squirm around – it does a very, very good job of unnerving you. The nest itself is also great to look at, this alien collection of tunnels like a maze that you can never really escape from just drives the isolated, creeping feeling further into your mind as you watch forward.
Unfortunately, that is where my compliments end for this episode.
The ideas of the Swarm and what it represents are very cool (especially with the domination and subjugation of invasive species), but it fumbles on the execution of these ideas and doesn’t deliver on them. Substantial storytelling is very sparse with forgettable, unlikeable, and unsympathetic main characters who don’t do much of anything. The pacing is both too fast and way too slow, with stuff just kind of happening without any real understanding or explanation. A lot of it just feels clumped together to fit under the title of Love, Death + Robots and not to serve the actual story – it just feels lost.
One sentiment I have seen crop up about this specific short is that this deserves a full film and surprisingly, I agree. In a longer format, the ideas, and concepts that ‘Swarm’ toys with can be fully developed with a more natural flow to the pacing and understanding of the world and how it works. As it is now, however, everything feels disjointed and way too short – if I need to be asking for a full feature, I think the story has failed as a short.
Beyond the creature designs and interesting ideas, there is unfortunately very little to engage with here.
Episode 7: Mason’s Rats
This is my personal favourite comedy episode.
This short follows farmer Mason and his little vermin problem of rats who have learned how to use human weaponry. In response, he hires a series of devices to solve his rat problem, only for it to evolve into a great rat catastrophe and a big bloody mess on his farm.
The comedy of this episode just managed to hit home with me. The absurd and outlandish depictions of how the technology goes about killing these rats, alongside the allegorical depictions of warfare all the while poor Mason just watches in silent, guilty awe made me chuckle. The violence is over the top and the acts of rebellion from the rats are even more over the top, and it all just combines to be a very amusing package. The style and flow of the animation work well too, and it is super distinct from everything else in the anthology.
Comedy episodes are often the hardest to judge, as comedy is possibly the most subjective trait of all and so what one enjoys may not be what others enjoy. Even still, ‘Mason’s Rats’ was something I found funny, and I recommend it.
Episode 8: In Vaulted Halls Entombed
‘In Vaulted Halls Entombed’ follows a special forces squad as they embark deep underground following a hostage, only to meet an Eldritch god and its otherworldly legion, intent on escaping to wreak havoc on the world.
This episode was the one I was most looking forward to, as a big fan of Eldritch and Lovecraftian beasts, so it is disappointing to say that I wish this episode was just a little longer.
Firstly, there is the subject matter. By now, there have been many, many episodes dedicated specifically to ‘Military Men vs Monster/Alien/Beast’ and after 3 volumes, it has begun to grow a little tiresome. Even then, the special squad here are enjoyable, their banter is witty, and they feel like friends so it’s easy to grow to like them very quickly.
All of the monster and creature work is superb, with this frightening fusion of aliens and machines that brings a new element to typical Eldritch horrors – my main gripe is that most are severely underdeveloped or just passed on too quickly. The swarm from the tunnel is the one given the most time, but the creatures preceding it are introduced, they kill and then vanish in what feels like the blink of an eye. They never get to be super scary because you don’t get to establish them as such. I wish we had got to spend just a little more time with them and with the human characters, as their deaths ultimately mean very little when you cannot even remember their names.
The massive god-like entity at the end is incredible and gets enough time dedicated to it – it is terrifying and incredible and illicit all the same responses as a typical Lovecraftian horror. This, alongside the horrific and bone-chilling ending sequence, are what sells this episode despite its shortcomings.
Overall, the monsters and the ending sequence of this episode are really what elevates it from others like it. It’s worth watching for the existential terror.
Episode 9: Jibaro
I… I don’t even know with this one. In the best way.
‘Jibaro’ is the story of a deaf knight and a siren whose voice drives those who hear it to their deaths, but beyond that, there is very little I can tell you about the episode. So much happens and so much of it has so many different interpretations that trying to describe it would ultimately rob you of its magic.
What I can describe is the animation and artistic intent, which are incredible. This is by the same team who worked on volume 1’s ‘The Witness’, the creepy time loop of the same two people killing each other over and over again, and ‘Jibaro’ can elicit all of the same emotions and feelings tenfold. The fusion of eastern and western designs in the knight’s armour and the siren herself is inspired and is a very nice take on the creature from what we usually see, and the animation which is mixed with camera shots pulled straight from a horror film is stellar.
The sound design is of specific note. Whether it was the music, the ambient sounds, the screaming or the voice of the siren herself, it was beautiful and unsettling at the same time to the point where it almost hurt to listen to.
Regarding the story once more, I cannot even begin to comprehend it. There are so many tales wrapped up in this story and so many of them could be right – whether it is about a vengeful spirit, the greed of man and how it leads to one’s demise, not to trust one’s appearance for it may deceive you, or something else entirely – and that discussion is what makes this episode so special.
It is brutal and unforgiving and horrifying. It was this episode above all others that made my skin crawl, it was this episode that made me feel the most disturbed and at the end, I’m not even sure if I liked it or not… which I think is kind of the point.
‘Jibaro’ is an incredible short that everyone should watch – a masterpiece of the medium and one worthy of discussion and study for years to come. Well done.
It isn’t particularly fair to rate an entire anthology based, as each piece is a separate entity and so combining them devalues their unique accomplishments. Even still, volume 3 stands head and shoulders above volume 2, and in many aspects even competes with the original run of 18 episodes. There isn’t a single bad episode in volume 3; there are some that are far better and some that are weaker, but there is not a single episode that I would call bad. In that regard, volume 3 is a grand continuation of the anthology series and continues to place it at the top as the king of short-form animation with some of the best stories in the entire industry to its name.
I highly recommend Love, Death + Robots Volume 3: you won’t regret it.
Love, Death + Robots is available on Netflix now.
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- THE GOOD
- The animation is always superb and this Volume is no different.
- Volume 3 has some of the best episodes in the entire series: specifically ‘Bad Travelling’ and ‘Jibaro’.
- Every episode is, at the very least, good.
- THE BAD
- Some episodes reach for too much, but are too short to fully articulate their ideas.
- The comedic episodes may be dull if the humor doesn’t appeal to you.
Volume 3 is a great return to form for Love, Death + Robots, with some of the series best episodes to date and impeccable animation that continues to amaze time after time despite some bumpy, anticlimactic episodes.
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