18. Ice Age
The one with the most star-power, this mostly live-action short starring Topher Grace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (playing an adorable couple) fails to do much of anything with its simple story. If it was supposed to be funny, it didn’t connect with me.
17. Alternate Histories
If you’ve seen the trailer, you might recognize this one for its scene of cartoon Hitler in an orgy. It isn’t so much a narrative short as it is a commercial for a fake app. It might have been a clever idea for a longer “Black Mirror” episode (not the only “LD&R” episode I could say this about), but in such a short time it isn’t interesting at all.
16. Helping Hand
Many of the episodes have photo-realistic animation, and this one was definitely one of the most realistic. Still, that can’t save it from being a short ripoff of the movie “Gravity,” albeit with a grotesque “twist.”
15. Fish Night
Whoever said this animation looked a bit like “Archer” was spot-on, but the story (I would have called it “Death(?) of a Salesman”) left a lot to be desired.
14. The Secret War
The animation style of “The Secret War” looked a bit too much like a PS4 game’s transition scene, the one right before they give you back controls of your character. That took me out of it. It definitely looks more realistic than some of the cartoonish shorts, but when you expect photo-realism and then there’s something off about the way the faces move, it’s distracting. Plus, the story never quite falls together.
13. When the Yogurt Took Over
This might have been lower on my list if it hadn’t paid such close attention to my home state. Having Ohio be the punchline might not be as funny if you don’t live here, or at least have some strong feeling about it. As a satire, though, this one sort of works.
12. The Dump
I liked the writing in this one, despite its being a bit too predictable. The animation is very stylized, but it suits the story pretty well. That said, nothing wowed me about this entry.
Another one with photo-realistic animation, but again there are imperfections that stand out. The faces–it always seems to be the faces–it’s like they don’t move as much as they’re supposed to. And the story is pretty slow, until a pretty fun fight scene at the end.
10. Beyond the Aquila Drift
This one has one of the most realistic animation styles, maybe better than all but one of the episodes. Set in space, “Beyond the Aquila Drift” has a plot like “Passengers” with a bit more taste for the depressing. But the big reveal (I wouldn’t quite call it a twist) isn’t as impactful as it probably hoped to be.
9. Good Hunting
Halfway through my list is “Good Hunting,” which is basically a furry’s fantasy mixed with some steampunk-looking elements. I enjoyed the animation, which was closer to anime than any other “LD&R” episode, and the story–about love and revenge–is easy to enjoy. This is the point on my list where we get to the episodes I would gladly watch again.
8. Zima Blue
Featuring the voice work of Kevin Michael Richardson (a deep-voiced guy with nearly 500 credits to his name, so I guarantee you’ve heard his voice work before), “Zima Blue” is rooted in an interesting and convincing mythology. It has excellent writing, and an animation style that reminded me of a Harlem Renaissance artist.
7. Three Robots
The funniest episode of the bunch, “Three Robots” is about, well, three very different robots who act as tourists in a post-apocalyptic wasteland devoid of human presence, serving as amused commentators remarking on mankind’s demise.
Basically just one action-packed chase/heist sequence, this one was just fun for fun’s sake, without much in the way of fancy writing or ulterior motives. It lacked ambition, maybe, but by playing it safe it lowered its risk of scaring people away.
5. Sonnie’s Edge
It’s always telling what an anthology series chooses as its first episode. The first episode of “Black Mirror,” for example, told viewers, “If you can’t handle a story about a politician boinking a pig, this isn’t going to be the show for you.” “Sonnie’s Edge,” the first episode in this series (for one-fourth of viewers, I guess…Netflix is trying something new!), had it all: love (and nudity), death (more than one), and robots (well, sort of, depending on the definition). And a nice twist that made audiences cheer.
4. Sucker of Souls
For the animation style alone, I loved “Sucker of Souls,” about a team of researchers and a team of mercenaries uncovering the real Dracula. It lacked a clear resolution, which is why it’s not higher, but in a way I respected its narrative structure more because of its ambiguity.
3. The Witness
In terms of animation, this one was by far my favorite. It looks a bit like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (more realistic, but with that distinct comic book/3D look). It’s absolutely gorgeous. It also has a pretty twisty (if predictable) premise, but mostly it’s a great excuse to look at some awesome animation.
2. Lucky 13
Starring Samira Wiley (“Orange is the New Black,” “The Handmaid’s Tale”), “Lucky 13” has the most realistic animation of all the episodes. It’s a love story between a pilot and her ship, it features some of the show’s most intense action scenes, and it has a mostly heartwarming ending. I loved it.
“Suits” is the most complete of all the episodes, featuring likable, memorable characters and an easy-to-follow plot not unlike “A Quiet Place”-meets-“10 Cloverfield Lane.” From beginning to end, this episode tells a story better than any of the other episodes, and with a few characters you actually care about (not all that common with sci-fi shorts lasting anywhere from about 5 to about 19 minutes). It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s sad, it’s funny, and if you’re on the fence about this series, it’s where I would tell you to start.