Love, Death & Robots (season 2)

The Season 2 of “Love, Death + Robots” is out on Netflix and it’s one of the most interesting things I have seen in the recent past.

If you loved the first season, there is little to say: I think you will like this even more. It’s shorter, with 8 episodes instead of 18, which may leave you wanting for more – but that’s a good thing, since Season 3 has already been announced for 2022. On the other hand, a shorter series means more attention to each single episode, and I personally already re-watched my favorites a couple of times.

The overall quality has improved. The first season had a “take it or leave it” feel to it, since there were so many short stories it didn’t matter if one didn’t quite hit the spot. But the second one delivers eight superbly crafted gems of stories, with tighter story design and some truly memorable settings, some of which are at least guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

The animation styles, settings and storytelling techniques vary greatly across the series’ spectrum, and I think this is a great element that contributes to the “anthology” quality of it. Some episodes are more cartoonish (“Ice” and “Automated Customer Service“), some feel like a dark, twisted version of a Pixar movie (“All Through the House“), and some are incredibly photo realistic and feature quality comparable to the latest next-gen videogames (like in the Alien and Mass Effect-ish space survival horror “Life Hutch” with Michael B. Jordan, and one of my favorites, “Pop Squad“).

In what may be seen as a bold move, some don’t include Robots at all (“The Tall Grass” and “All Through the House” feel more like homages to H.P. Lovecraft or Neil Gaiman’s styles and imagination), while other episodes are fully embedded in the darkest, noirest Cyberpunk aesthetics (“Pop Squad“). “Automated Customer Service” feels like a Black Mirror caricature episode, and I mean it in a good way.

Then again, all this exemplifies the series’ capacity to tell great stories and break free from genre and settings conventions. It means there is a lot to like, and like a kaleidoscope of colors and suggestions, it always keeps changing under the viewer’s eyes.

This difference in quality and style is also evident in the writing: a couple of episodes feel like narrated novels with visuals (“The Tall Grass” and “The Drowned Giant” – which is, in fact, the adaptation of a short story by J.G. Ballard). In short, “Love, Death & Robots” Season 2 represents a delightful cross-media experience.

Regardless, like I said, I think this is a cool feature that helps to keep it all very interesting and fresh, with a feeling of expectation and surprise that accompanies each short story.

My personal favorites are “The Drowned Giant”, “Pop Squad” and “Snow in the Desert”. “The Drowned Giant”, as I mentioned, has a strong literary flavor and it is an “animated, narrated short novel”. Which is a great thing. It opens many interesting questions and scenarios without giving answer to any, its slow pace and anticlimactic nature fully in the tradition of Twilight Zone. Even though there is no love and definitely no robots in this episode, it’s the season finale probably with the intention to end on a high (if a bit disturbing) note.

“Pop Squad” is completely different. It sends definite Blade Runner vibes and it’s as cyberpunk as it gets, so if that’s what makes your heart beat, you will find it satisfying. It delivers in 18 minutes what the entire season 2 of Altered Carbon didn’t. I don’t want to spoil anything, but as a father of two small children, this one hit very close to home and left me with the deepest impression of all. Still, no robots, but an abundance of love and death. It also features the voice of Nolan North, and if you like videogames this is always good news (Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed and many, many others).

And then “Snow in the Desert” has it all: set in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic scenario, or maybe just on a desert planet where life is hard (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), we follow the everyday life of a mutant, named Snow (no reference to John from Game of Thrones, this guy actually knows one thing or two). Again, no spoilers, but I loved the pacing and setting of the episode, it really sucked me into its world, and it contains everything the series promises: love, death, and although maybe not as you expect them, robots.

A really recommended experience.

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