Working Through The Queue: Love, Death + Robots Season 2 (2021)
The LDR series is one of my favorite anthology formats, so I'm generally always going to appreciate the majority of what they present. It reminds me of when I was watching Amazing Stories as a kid but it's infused with more of a Heavy Metal vibe which isn't much of a surprise. Producers Fincher and Miller essentially just decided to re-imagining their reboot of the animated Heavy Metal into this and I think that worked out for the best. It means they could still toss in plenty of Heavy Metal-ish stories (Snow In The Desert, Life Hutch, and Pop Squad all feel perfectly in tune to that for example), but they didn't have to slavishly adhere to attempting that tone.
This season is considerably shorter as it clocks in at eight episodes versus the first season's eighteen, which felt like a smart move. On one hand I was a bit sad once I blitzed my way through all of them, but I feel like trimming it down made for a tighter curation of episode content. While I enjoyed pretty much all of season one's selection for the most part, some were certainly weaker or felt a bit like filler, which inevitably causes online reviewers to rank them in order of best to worst. And y'know, I'm not saying that isn't valid as some are certainly stronger than others, but I like to enjoy these types of anthologies for the new animation and talent they can expose its audience to in short bursts. So season two's eight episodes all clocking in at under twenty minutes each works out really well for me, plus it makes reviewing the season a bit easier.
I won't go into detailed breakdowns on each episode, but I will do a short highlight on a few elements that stood out for me. I think my two favorites are probably 'The Tall Grass' and 'All Through The House' as they are great examples of telling a fun and concise story within a minimal time frame. The Tall Grass clocks in at just eleven minutes and effortlessly captures a Lovecraftian tone of an unknown threat and creates an engaging sense of panic in its horror. It's an adaptation of a Joe Lansdale story, and usually his works have a 50/50 success rate for me. I didn't care much about any of the adaptations of his stories in the first season of LDR, but this one really landed.
'All Through The House' is fairly predictable, but what it lacks in surprise it makes up for in its Guillermo del Toro like creature feature. It looks great and has a fun tone that feels a little Mignola-esque as well, and it hits its notes perfectly within its seven minute run time.
While its plot is simple, the episode 'Ice' is one of the most visually engaging of the season. The style feels like an odd blend of the art of Jamie Howlett and Michael Avon Oeming, while the sense of motion in the animation and its unique sound quality made it feel like I was watching an old MTV Liquid Television era series.
Episodes 'Snow in the Desert', 'Pop Squad', and 'Life Hutch' were all the most Heavy Metal in tone, especially 'Snow In the Desert'. All three of them had some really impressive animation as well, with 'Pop Squad' being especially rich in atmosphere and tone. It was also one of the most conceptually depressing as well, so fun!
That leaves us with the first and last episodes. The first one, 'Automated Customer Service', was fun enough. Its story of a senior citizen trying to survive being murdered by her automated vacuum cleaner was well done, but it felt like I've seen it before. It also felt like it was a decade or two too late, if that makes any sense. It worked, but its style and my sense of it being a joke I've seen before made me a bit nervous about the entire season.
'The Drowned Giant' worked as a final episode, and its bleakness is an interesting tone to end the season on. Based on J.G. Ballard's short story from 1964, it focuses on a giant corpse washing up on a beach and becoming a scientific and cultural attraction. It's a very calm and somewhat relaxing episode due to its score, but it offers an interesting meditation on death and various aspects of human nature.
As a whole this season knocked it out of the park for me. When I grade anthologies I basically believe that if I enjoy at least 50% of the works then the package was a success. And while I didn't care too much about 'Automated Customer Service' and will forget about fairly quickly, I still enjoyed the humor of it in the moment. So season two gets a 100% on my grading scale, and is therefore definitely a keeper as far as anthologies go.
If you haven't checked out either season yet I strongly recommend doing so just to be exposed to some new sci-fi and some great storytelling. Since the episodes are so short and aren't connected at all you can jump in and split up the seasons over whatever length of time you would prefer, or you can just straight up skip episodes if they don't immediately please. Either way though, the show is an amazing way to check out new animation studios and the broad range of work out there these days, so it's well worth it just for that.