Breaking down Love, Death & Robots season 3 by love, death, and robots


Tim Miller and David Fincher’s edgy adult animated anthology Love, Death & Robots is back with volume 3, baby! Season 1 of the series really pushes the graphic nudity and extreme violence with 18 shorts that are pretty dang long. Season 2, by contrast, is punchier and sharper, trading in gratuitous tiddies in favor of more poignant storytelling.

Season 3 follows in the footsteps of season 2, keeping the individual shorts shorter and snappier. There are more guts and gore than in season 2, though without the excessive sexual violence from season 1. We love to see it!

True to past Polygon tradition, we’ve broken down each of this season’s nine shorts by the amount of love, death, and robots they contain, as well as the general enjoyment factor.

“Three Robots: Exit Strategies”

a small orange robot pours some wine

Image: Netflix

The first direct sequel in Love, Death & Robots history — from the mind of acclaimed sci-fi novelist John Scalzi. The titular trio of droll droids return to take a whirlwind tour studying post-apocalyptic human survival strategies before mankind was finally snuffed out.

Love: Once again, these three robots are buddies who certainly share strong platonic love.

Death: Various human corpses the robots find in increasingly compromising positions. It’s pretty morbid, but also very funny. The fall of mankind is actually comedic.

Robots: Right there in the title.

Does it work? Because the joke behind the robots’ vacation is the same as it was in season 1, the jokes in this “Three Robots” sequel aren’t as funny as they were the first time. But it’s still oddly charming to see the robots tour the dilapidated remains of human civilization, making pointed jokes about how tech billionaires thought they could survive the apocalypse without any survival skills. The kicker at the end of this one is basically the same as the one in the first short, but somehow more hilarious.

“Bad Travelling”

a man stands above the brig of a sailing ship

Image: Netflix

A shark-hunting sailing vessel is attacked by a giant crustacean whose size and intelligence is matched only by its appetite. Mutiny, betrayal, and ventriloquism with a corpse… welcome aboard the animation directing debut of David Fincher.

Love: There isn’t much love among crewmates — certainly the man who proclaims himself leader doesn’t agree with his crew’s moral decisions. But the crustacean creature apparently loves human flesh.

Death: Loads! Gotta keep the creature fed, after all. The body count in this one is brutal, though a lot of the actual flesh-eating happens off screen.

Robots: None at all! This short definitely leans on Age of Sail technology, even though it takes place on a distant planet. It’s mostly wheels, rigging, and sails instead of smart AI.

Does it work? Keeping the story contained on the ship adds to the heightened suspense and suspicion. Who’s an ally and who’s an enemy? Who would rather unleash the creature onto thousands of innocent civilians, and who would sacrifice themselves to save those people? It’s tense and eerie, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

Actually, it’s almost like Among Us, if Among Us took place on a pirate ship on a distant planet and also involved a human-devouring crab monster.

“The Very Pulse of the Machine”

an astronaut looks in awe at some swirling blue electromagnetic energy around her

Image: Netflix

When an exploratory expedition on the surface of the moon Io ends in disaster, an astronaut must trek to safety, dragging the body of her co-pilot, while using potentially mind-warping drugs to deal with the pain of her own injuries in this trippy tribute to comic book legend Moebius.

Love: There is some sense of camaraderie between the main character, Martha, and her co-pilot at the very beginning of the short, but we don’t really know what their relationship is like outside of work. And then the co-pilot dies, so we don’t ever learn more.

Death: In the first moments, a disastrous accident leaves Martha as the only survivor. She drags her co-pilot’s body along with her in order to use their oxygen supply as she treks across Io trying to contact their superiors. Does she make it? That’s up for debate.

Robots: Kinda? There’s something out there on the barren moon that could be some sort of machine. Or it could be Martha hallucinating.

Does it work? “The Very Pulse of the Machine” is gorgeous and evocative. More so than most of the other shorts, this one really leans into its medium. As Martha treks across Io’s wasteland, she begins to see the landscape shift around her, rendering itself in spectacular colors and shapes. She keeps hearing her lost co-pilot’s voice reciting poetry to her, which imbues even more mystery into Martha’s situation. It’s a story of survival, one that builds up to a deliciously ambiguous ending.

“Night of the Mini Dead”

a swarm of tiny zombies attack a tiny trolley

Image: Netflix

The apocalypse is conceived — literally — in a graveyard in this biting zombie satire, which starts with some cheeky cemetery sex and accelerates into a walking dead invasion of everywhere — from downtown LA to the Vatican. It’s the end of the world as we gnaw it.

Love: As described, this short starts off with a sex scene. You can’t really see anything, since the figures are shown in miniature, but you do hear some really loud moaning and groaning, which feels especially outsized compared to the tiny size of the characters.

Death: The zombies murder millions of people, so check that box! But the victims do turn into zombies, so maybe it’s more like Love, Undeath & Robots in this case?

Robots: Nope. It’s zombie time.

Does it work? It’s quirky and funny, though it is basically the plot of most zombie movies — just in a very rapidly condensed time frame with a bird’s-eye view of it all. A fun, quick bite, but not super substantial.

“Kill Team Kill”

a trio of grizzled soldiers with giant machine guns, blazing fire behind them

Image: Netflix

Young, dumb and full of… blood, lots and lots of blood, a ’roid-raging, adrenaline-fueled force of US soldiers faces a foe unlike any they have faced before, the result of a CIA experiment that gets really fucking Grizzly. From the director of Kung Fu Panda 2.

Love: There is certainly something like love between the team, though they show it by mercilessly making fun of each other.

Death: A whole lotta really gory death! The Special Ops team discovers that the platoon they’re supposed to meet up with has been literally ripped to shreds, and it only gets more dire from there. It’s so over-the-top in terms of guts and gore that it wraps back around to being hilarious.

Robots: The threat they face is a cybernetic grizzly bear, but they also team up with a cute li’l robot pal.

Does it work? “Kill Team Kill” opens with a shot of someone taking a piss off a cliff top and leaking all over the camera. If you don’t find that funny, you probably won’t enjoy this short. However, if that sort of Adult Swim-esque crude humor is your jam, then “Kill Team Kill” is a gory good time, super macho to the point of hilarious parody.

“Swarm”

two scientist looking at an orb, about to have sex in some alien fluid bow chicka bow wow

Image: Netflix

A story of fear, sex, and philosophy on the farthest frontier, as two post-human scientists study an apparently mindless insectoid race. Tim Miller writes and directs the first-ever screen adaptation of the work from renowned Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling.

Love: The two scientists end up bonding and have some trippy sex whilst in the hive of the swarm. Nothing says romance like making love in warm alien fluid!

Death: Let’s just say some fates are worse than death.

Robots: The swarm is essentially organic machines. The two scientists hope to study them in order to bring their efficiency to humanity.

Does it work? The plot is strong, the sort of short story you read in an anthology that haunts you for some time afterward. (Since Miller, as this series’ producer, hand-picks sci-fi short stories for the animators, that’s entirely accurate.) Seeing the alien world slowly shift from wondrous to routine to sinister is absolutely captivating.

“Mason’s Rats”

a wee scottish rat leading a rebellion and wielding a knife

Image: Netflix

You know you have a pest-control problem when they start to shoot back. The ratpocalypse comes to Scotland, as a grumpy farmer takes drastic steps to deal with an invasion of hyper-evolved rodents. Exterminator: Judgment Day.

Love: Well, the rats certainly care for one another. Mason is more concerned about being able to love his barn in peace, though.

Death: The rat death count is high, and their deaths are brutal. Toward the end, there is a formidable mountain of rat corpses. Also, Mason’s cat gets caught up in the casualties. Press F for Susan.

Robots: A variety of rat-killing robots that an extermination company sells to Mason. They are highly efficient murder machines.

Does it work? This one is a good time. Sure, rats evolved to have basic warfare capabilities and must battle some high-powered exterminator robots for their freedom. Why the hell not?

“In Vaulted Halls Entombed”

three figures look at a glowing blue light

Image: Netflix

Deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, a squad of Special Forces soldiers has the dangerous job of recovering a hostage held by terrorists. But the real evil they must confront is an elder god of ancient and terrifying power.

Love: Another situation where the love is more an unspoken bond between teammates. Not a whole lotta love this season.

Death: Another situation where a team of soldiers uncovers the gory bodies of those who came before them, then slowly get picked off in increasingly gruesome ways.

Robots: Not really. More like eldritch horrors unleashed by elder gods, unseen by modern humanity.

Does it work? The parallels between “In Vaulted Halls Entombed” and “Kill Team Kill” are pretty clear: Both involve soldiers reckoning with violent forces beyond their understanding, which results in some gnarly deaths. “In Vaulted Halls Entombed” takes a more serious approach, however, leaning more into horror instead of humor. Both of the shorts work, but which one you prefer really depends on whether you like your “mature, messed-up” stories crude or creepy.

Jibaro”

an eerie woman covered in gold makes a move on a soldier

Image: Netflix

Fantasy and greed combine in this re-imagining of the traditional folktale of a siren whose song lures men to their doom. But her sorcery fails to work on the deaf knight, Jibaro, and the Golden Woman becomes fascinated by him. Thus begins a deadly dance of two predators.

Love: Jibaro and the Golden Woman are caught in a strange, magnetic desire. Not quite love so much as infatuation.

Death: The Golden Woman manages to slay Jibaro’s entire squadron in pretty gruesome manners. As for the fate of these two heroes? Let’s just say their attraction is certainly toxic.

Robots: Nope! This one opts for more of a historical fantasy-tinged world versus a futuristic sci-fi setting. This season seems to be lacking in robots, too.

Does it work? This is the only short in season 3 of Love, Death & Robots that wasn’t based on a preexisting short story. It also contains basically no dialogue. Jibaro’s hearing squadron is killed off immediately, and he and the Golden Woman don’t exchange many words. It’s gorgeous visual chaos, even if some of that becomes so frenzied that it’s hard to keep track of it all.

Love, Death & Robots: Volume 3 is out on Netflix now.



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