Love, Death & Robots, the adult anthology series from Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (Fight Club), is back for a second run of animated science fiction shorts. The first season promised a hardcore series for “mature, messed-up” adults, and with all the graphic nudity and extreme violence packed into the first volume, it delivered on that promise. (Arguably it delivered too much.)
Season 2 of Love, Death & Robots runs shorter than the first. The individual installments run shorter on average, ranging from four to 15 minutes, and there are only eight shorts this time, instead of 18. That isn’t the only difference between seasons, however. Objectively, the shorts in volume 2 are less edgy and violent, trading in gratuitous nudity and gore for poignant storytelling. It’s more mature this time around and less messed-up, which makes for stronger viewing.
However, much like last time, we’re also concerned about whether each of these shorts actually delivers on the promise of love, death, and robots. So without further ado, here is every short in Love, Death & Robots, broken down by quantity in those categories — and also general enjoyment value.
[Ed. note: This piece contains some light spoilers for volume 2 of Love, Death & Robots.]
“Automated Customer Service”
If your home-cleaning unit is attempting to murder you, please press 3.
Love: The old lady in the short has a little flirtation going on with the man who lives next door to her. Also, she loves her small dog very much.
Death: A fish dies a gory death, as do various ceramic animal figurines, but thankfully, there are no bigger casualties in this short. There are, however, some injuries.
Robots: An entire senior living neighborhood is basically full of robots who cater to the residents’ every need. This short follows one Vacubot that goes rogue and tries to murder its owner. The old lady stays on the phone with a very unhelpful automated-customer-service bot.
Does it work? “Automated Customer Service” kicks off this volume of Love, Death & Robots with a hilarious, frenzied start. It’s tense, but also pretty damn funny, as the robot vacuum goes on a murder frenzy. It may make you want to check out your Roomba to make sure it doesn’t secretly come with lasers. Is there a deeper thread here about how automating every single thing may lead to doom? Perhaps, but it’s also hilarious to see the Vacubot distracted from its murder rampage because it pauses to suck up some feathers from the pillow it just ripped apart.
Two brothers far from home join genetically “modded” locals in a deadly race.
Love: A bond between brothers Sedgewick and Fletcher. And that’s pretty much it, unless you count the parental concern from the boys’ parents in the first few moments of this short.
Death: There are some tense moments as the gang of teenagers race across the frozen planet with little time to spare before the frost whales break through the ice.
Robots: Save for Sedge, the teens are all modded, but that seems to be a genetic thing rather than robotic implants. Putting it here, though, because one of them wears some sort of gas-mask apparatus that may be tied to their physical form.
Does it work? The animation in “Ice” is gorgeous, especially the scenery shots of the brutal, icy planet and the frost whales the teenagers venture out to see. It’s sharp and dynamic, really adding to the strangeness of this new world. The story in “Ice” is a pretty simple coming-of-age tale: Sedge wants to impress his brother’s new friends, so he accompanies them on a dangerous activity. But the sci-fi edge, with the modded humans, the distant planet, and the mesmerizing alien whales, makes the short memorable.
A cop charged with fighting the scourge of overpopulation is haunted by the human toil of his work.
Love: The lead character, a cop named Briggs, is dating opera singer Alice, though they seem to have a very superficial relationship. But a different kind of love permeates this short: parents’ love for their children. In this future, humanity has unlocked the secrets of immortality, but in order to make sure the population does not boundlessly increase, having children is prohibited… but some people throw away their immortality in order to have kids.
Death: The nature of Briggs’ work revolves around culling population, which means killing children. He kills two at the beginning. Three others throughout the short lose their lives.
Robots: No robots, but shout-out to whatever advanced tech is giving the citizens of this future immortality.
Does it work? Hoo boy, this is a heavy one. But it works very well, with the revelation of exactly what Briggs’ job entails building up slowly in the opening scenes. It’s chilling. The contrast between the glamorous lives of those who chose immortality and the squalid conditions of those who chose to shun that and have kids really hammers the point home. “Pop Squad” is pretty dark and also one of the longer shorts, but it makes full use of its 15-minute runtime to tell a poignant story.
“Snow in the Desert”
Every bounty hunter in the galaxy wants a piece of Snow.
Love: Make no mistake — even though this short has a lot to do with bounty hunters chasing a man named Snow across a distant desert planet (because he has a rare genetic mutation that basically makes him immortal, and they all want in on that), it’s actually a love story, and a beautiful one at that. There is a sex scene, but unlike in season 1 of Love, Death & Robots, it isn’t centered on gratuitous shots of a naked woman, it’s something touching and intimate instead.
Death: Because of Snow’s regeneration abilities, he gets into some pretty gnarly fights with bounty hunters. Lots of people get shot.
Robots: No way to fully address this without spoilers. Let’s just say someone is not as human as they make themselves out to be.
Does it work? I was deeply skeptical of this one, because the very realistic animation coupled with what was definitely going to be at least a sexual pairing gave me flashbacks to last season’s “Beyond the Aquila Rift” and its overextended two-minute sex scene. But even though there are some bloody fight scenes, “Snow in the Desert” is actually about the loneliness of immortality and finding connection. It’s the perfect accompaniment to “Pop Squad,” which also examines the ramifications of living forever.
“The Tall Grass”
During a journey across the prairie, a man becomes transfixed by distant, ghostly lights.
Love: Uh. None? Unless you count the monsters’ love of human flesh. <3
Death: There are some creepy monsters who definitely have killed before! I won’t say any more, since this whole short is basically “Will this man get out alive?”
Robots: Does a train count?
Does it work? This one is pretty spooky, but also pretty simple. The animation is nice enough, but because the plot is predictable without much oomf to carry it, this is probably the weakest episode of the batch. Still pretty damn scary, though!
“All Through the House”
On Christmas Eve, two kids tiptoe downstairs to catch a glimpse of Santa. (A twisted tale for adults only).
Love: Two siblings’ love of Christmas!
Death: None really, except Santa turns out to be this creepy alien demon thing, who could probably kill the kids.
Does it work? “All Through the House” neatly tiptoes around the line between scary and cute. It’s short and sweet, putting a funny twist on Christmas traditions. There are some nods to Alien, as well as the claymation Christmas shorts that always play on television during the holidays, making this one a generally fun time.
After crash-landing on a craggy planet, a pilot makes his way to shelter, only to face a threat within.
Death: Whether the hero makes it out alive is definitely the crux of this episode, but there are some fights and injuries in here.
Robots: Our hero is basically locked in a tense showdown with a malfunctioning service robot that wants to kill him. There’s a theme in this season of malfunctioning robots that accidentally get triggered to kill humans.
Does it work? If we are comparing shorts where humans face off against service robots that want to kill them, “Automated Customer Service” is objectively better: It’s funnier, more succinct, has more distinct and stylized animation, and also generally brighter. (Seriously, this short is so dark, it’s hard to make out anything.) That said, “Life Hutch” is tense and scary. (It also stars a photorealistic Michael B. Jordan.) There is an added layer of claustrophobia here, as the hero cannot really leave the space he’s hiding in, lest the bloodthirsty robot attack him.
The body of a colossal young man washes ashore and becomes an object of fascination for the locals.
Love: The narrator doesn’t love the giant, per se, but he holds immense reverence for the colossus as he mulls over the concept of life, death, and decay.
Death: Well, the giant young man is dead. Slowly, parts of his body are amputated by the locals, who move the parts around, and the remaining stumpy carcass eventually rots away. So do the locals’ memory of him.
Does it work? There’s something particularly elegiac about “Drowned Giant,” which weaves the inevitability of death and decay into a folktale-esque story in an almost comforting way. Though the giant once loomed large and strong to everyone in the nearby town, by the end, only the narrator remembers him. Bits and pieces of the giant still linger, but his memory fades. The narrator reflects on how this is the fate all of us will one day face, which is kinda dark, but it doesn’t feel sad. If anything, his melancholy and resignation is bittersweet, and a perfect way to end this volume.
Volume 2 of Love, Death & Robots is streaming on Netflix now.