LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS: An Analysis of Every Episode (Part Two) – Learning with Pop Culture

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Welcome back! Last time, I broke down the first ten episodes of LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS, Netflix’s hot new anthology series. Each episode presents different ideas, concepts, and themes ranging from the philosophical to the metaphysical. If you haven’t read that yet, click here. Then once you’re done with that come back for the last 8 episodes.

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES!

11. Helping Hand

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Essentially a survival film set in space, Helping Hand tells a story akin to that of Gravity (2013). After space debris causes a malfunction in her life support system and sends her drifting in space, a lone space engineer must make a small sacrifice in order to survive.

It’s hyper-photorealistic visuals, like that of Beyond the Aquila Rift, forced us, the viewers, to immerse ourselves in the situation, which is the only way something like this would truly work. The use of close-up shots on the character’s face and from inside her helmet combined with the occasional muted scene gives the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation. Everything about the way this was set-up, from the cinematography to the sound design, was done with the intent to make you feel as lost and as hopeless as the main character.

Helping Hand is a testament to a single person’s perseverance in the face of death, same as every survival film before it. Films like 127 Hours (2010), Cast Away (2000), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) all fall into this category and they all share the same theme. When placed in times of great peril, a person will continue to struggle just to cling to life, even when all hope seems lost. It’s because we’re just hardwired that way. We all have a built-in need to keep on living and a built-in fear of dying. In that way, it loosely shares the idea presented in Sonnie’s Edge.

12. Fish Night

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Fish Night goes for a comic-inspired look by using thick black lines, saturated colors, and the same 3D cel-shading technique used on Suits. This style reminds me of Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us (2013), Archer (2009), and the distinct art style of comic book artist Mikel Janin.

Two door-to-door salesmen get stranded in a desert road. Come nightfall, they discover a world that comes life under the moon inhabited by ghosts of an older world.

Earlier in the short, the older of the two main characters says, in reference to their car breaking down:

“It’s dead. There’s no coming back from dead.”

At the time, he had no idea how wrong he was when he said that. Other than that, there’s not much else to say about Fish Night. It’s a unique and creative concept, hands down. But there’s not much there in terms of plot, I think.

The short is but another love letter to the art form that is animated filmmaking. It features beautiful, breathtaking scenes that are nothing less than memorable, even when grouped together with the plethora of animated marvels featured in the series.

13. Lucky 13

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When I started watching this episode, I felt cheated, at first. I thought they had used live-action actors for this one, but it was only after a minute into the short that I realized that it didn’t feature real actors but was, indeed, animated as well. Like many of the other episodes, Lucky 13 uses hyper-photorealistic 3D animation to tell its story and it’s one of, if not the best in that regard.

It follows a rookie pilot who is given the least sought-after ship in the fleet, ironically named The Lucky 13. It’s a ship that doesn’t go down even when its crew does, and the soldiers have started to call it bad luck. But when this rookie pilot finishes her first mission in the ship without a scratch, she starts to care for it and the soldiers have begun to trust the once unlucky vessel as well.

The titular Lucky 13 was presented as much of a character as any human in the short. The ship almost seemed sentient in how it seemed to choose the rookie to be its pilot. This “sentience” was first hinted at by the engineer when he first introduced the ship to its new pilot.

Much like Shape-shifters, Lucky 13 is less about the war it’s set in and more about telling an intimately personal story about trust and bravery. It quickly goes through an entire character arc in a short span of time. If any of the shorts in this series deserves to be turned into a full-length film, it’s this one. (This and Sonnie’s Edge, of course.) The relationship shared between the ship and its pilot is one that could benefit from the duration of a full-length feature.

14. Zima Blue

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A reporter is given the opportunity to interview a reclusive artist, renowned for his spectacles of blue art that have taken this futuristic world by storm. His pieces are said to have been inspired by the cosmos and the reporter is soon going to find out the truth.

Zima Blue uses an art style that I can’t even begin to describe. Perhaps its abstract-esque style was purposefully chosen to mirror the abstract art of Zima, himself.

This was one of the more introspective entries into the series that’s just filled with interesting concepts and ideas. I could honestly talk about Zima Blue’s underlying themes for some time, but in the interest of length and keeping your attention. I’ll try to keep it short.

Zima Blue explores existentialism and eudaimonia, two opposing ideas that seem to overlap in the case of Zima.

Eudaimonia is explores the concepts of ergon (or purpose) and arete (or excellence). The ergon of a chair is to be sit on, and its arete is to be comfortable and stable. The ergon of a blade is to cut, so its arete is to be sharp. Thus, an object or being cannot achieve its ergon if it doesn’t have its arete. And the more an object or being has an arete then the greater it’s ergon needs to be. According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, to live a good life is to arrive to an ergon that’s appropriate to your arete. This was his answer to the pursuit of happiness.

Let’s take a look at the character of Zima who started life as a simple pool-cleaning robot, merely capable of scrubbing gunk off Zima blue tiles. At this point, his ergon was to clean tiles and his arete was to be able to clean those tiles well. But as he was given upgrade after upgrade, Zima’s arete was added upon. Eventually, he could do more than just clean tiles, and thus, Zima’s ergon becomes greater than it once was. He engaged himself in art and when that did not satisfy his ergon, he sought for more.

In his continued search for meaning and purpose, the once simple robot lost what was once truly meaningful to him – an ergon that was no longer suited for his current arete. And thus, after consulting with the vast cosmos and experiencing all that the universe has to offer, he leaves his highly advanced body, stripping himself of the arete that allowed him to journey into the unknown in the first place, and returned himself to his original form – small pool-cleaning robot content with scrubbing Zima blue tiles.

Why? As Zima puts it:

“… to extract some simple pleasure from the execution of a task well done.”

Which brings us to the idea of existentialism, which is something Aristotle would not have agreed on. An existentialist believes that nothing we do is inherently meaningful – not even exploring all the known universe and learning its secrets. Things only become meaningful when we imbue them with value. In this way, anything you do becomes meaningful – curing cancer, raising a family, walking your dog, watering a plant, or simply, cleaning Zima blue tiles.

Zima was never content with the fame he received from being an artist because he never saw value in it. In the pursuit of happiness, he reverted himself into a state where he could do nothing else but the one thing he found meaning in. It might not be the peak of his arete, but Zima realized that it has the happiest he ever was and the happiest he ever will be.

So, in the end, the message Zima Blue wants to leave you with is this: Your life is in your hands and its meaning is whatever you want it to be. Whether you wish to live the best life you can or not, the choice is yours and yours alone.

15. Blind Spot

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Blind Spot is a throwback into days of 90s Saturday morning cartoons when everything was about just being cool and blowing stuff up. It follows four robots attempting to steal a microchip from a heavily guarded transport vehicle. But because of some unforeseen circumstances, things go sideways.

Nothing much to explain below the surface here. But, kick back and have fun while watching this.

Adult Swim, please pick this up and make it a series.

16. Ice Age

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This is the only truly live-action episode in the entire series. But I’ve forgiven it because I just loved the concept behind this one.

A young couple moves into their new apartment where they find an old-timey refrigerator. To their surprise, they find entire miniature lost world frozen in time living inside their freezer. From their perspective, this civilization advances multiple centuries in minutes. The tiny civilization eventually nukes the hell out of each other before progressing to a futuristic era where they build something that either blows them all up or teleports their world somewhere. Regardless, it happens in a beautiful spectacle of dancing lights.

After thinking that it’s all over, the couple sleeps. The next morning, they wake up to find that it’s all started back up again from the very primal beginning.

It’s a fun episode that plays with the cycle of life. Although played for laughs, it does critique on how we humans always manage to mess things up. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter because the universe we live in has existed long before we got here, and it’ll exist long after we’re gone.

17. Alternate Histories

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This short is centered around a fictional app called Multiversity that can simulate different timelines based on small changes in said timeline. The one that’s followed in the app’s welcome demo is the early death of Adolf Hitler. And it’s presented in progressively absurd ways.

Alternate Histories feels less like a short film and more like a cool concept brought to life. The short demonstrates the concept of The Butterfly Effect. By demonstrating the various ways Hitler could’ve died simply from leaving the Academy of Fine Arts with only one seemingly small change between each of them, the short demonstrates the basic thought of the concept. The Butterfly Effect is a notion in chaos theory that says that events occur because of a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”, which, in the case of time travel, means that a seemingly unimportant change in the timeline could cause a massive change in the events that follow.

Don’t mess with time travel, kids.

18. Secret War

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Finally, we are at the last episode of the series and it’s a grim but fitting end to the season. Secret Wars is another short that deserves a full-length film. One that preferably stars Liam Neeson in the lead role.

During WW2, a Russian officer experiments with dark magic and summons demonic ghouls to aid him in the war. But it all goes wrong when the ghouls become uncontrollable and begin to murder villages in the valley. A platoon is sent to exterminate the threat as swiftly as possible, but it won’t be easy.

What I said about the other war entries in the series being largely personal in the subject matter that they deliver doesn’t apply here. The lieutenant and his platoon, despite also being largely likable characters themselves, are merely the means to an end for both their superiors and the delivered subject matter. In the end, facing assured death, the platoon stands their ground, buying just enough time to send one man to safety and allowing that man to deliver the coordinates and information needed to eliminate the threat permanently. It wasn’t about them, not really. The lieutenant puts it best when he says:

“No, we have our mission, comrade. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Secret War also speaks volumes about the lengths men go just to win a war, and sometimes those lengths only lead to more death. Whether it be a good death or unnecessarily one, depends on what you’re fighting for.

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And that concludes my lengthy in-depth analysis and breakdown of LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS. Thank you for indulging me. This series was amazing to watch and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I can’t wait for season two.

Do you have anything to add to the stuff I just said? Did you think I missed anything? If so, leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Like I said before, I’d very much like to discuss alternate interpretations about any of the episodes.

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