Love, Death and Robots: Fish Night

fishnight1This has to be the strangest of the tales so far this season.  One of the things I really love about this series is that it’s got a vast range.  We’ve seen comedy, drama, plenty of sci-fi and no shortage of horror.  We’ve seen action and silliness… we’ve even had an episode with real live people.  That’s some versatility; it’s not confined to one type of story, or one type of animation.  The episodes of season one haven’t gone past 20 minutes yet and still manage to tell a compelling story.  

So what the heck can I say about this episode?  Fish Night gives us two door-to-door salesmen driving through some old roads, maybe out in Utah or Nevada, when their car breaks down.  The blistering heat means they can’t attempt to go anywhere until the next morning.  But that night is going to be the most unusual night of their lives.  

The Good

fishnight2I tried to find out what kind of animation was used on this episode but was unsuccessful.  It reminded me of the video game XIII, which I have a vague recollection had been rotoscoped.  Whatever was used, it’s vibrant.  As a gamer – even though I just compared this to a video game – I prefer the higher-tech computer animation but this is stunning and the color palette is perfect.  It also drives home how many forms of animation have been used since the first episode.  If I knew more about animation, I would have spent time identifying each style.

I am also a fan of the sea and what the two unnamed men encounter in the desert is nothing short of mesmerizing.  This leads to the younger man leaping into this mysterious “sea” and stripping to go swimming.  Now, I’d question why he had to undress (fully or at all, based on his success at swimming even fully attired) but this is episode makes the very point I tried to make a few weeks ago: you can show nudity without showing nudity.  While we see that he’s naked, we never see his parts.  It’s a technique where less is more.  

The Bad

fishnight3I’ll be honest, I really can’t complain about anything here.  It’s not that the episode is flawless; there are better ones in the mix, but it just fails to fail at anything.  Yeah, there’s some language but as I’ve said before, language needs to be used to further the story or at least it should not feel out of place.  If it feels forced, it’s unnecessary.  Cursing when you realize you’ve stalled in the middle of an actual nowhere is not unexpected and it’s not used to excess.  I think it accurately depicts the reaction of two men, stuck on the road so I’m flagging it in the “bad” section, but don’t really think this episode had much failing.  

The Ugly

fishnight4This entails a bit of exposition on the story and so, expect spoilers.  The older man speculates that if a ghost can haunt a house, then surely creatures can haunt the land where they once roamed.  He tells his friend that this land was once a sea and populated by many sea creatures.  When night falls, and the ghostly apparitions of ancient sea creatures start floating through the land, it appears the man’s speculating was correct.  The younger man wakes and excitedly dives into the air/sea.  He gets little time to enjoy the experience before an ancient shark appears and devours him leaving a bloody mist in front of the moon.  Visually stunning but does it make sense?  Or could it be darker by a long shot?

I’ve read online speculations about the ending and all interpret it pretty much as it is shown but I think it’s missing a more frightening possibility.  Here’s the thing: if we go strictly by what we see, the ghosts move through the young man; one passes through his entire body right where his heart would be and he’s fine.  So why would the shark be able to eat him?  Also, (news flash) sea creatures don’t fly.  We know these two were stuck without water in a very hot environment.  Isn’t it more likely that they had heatstroke and maybe hallucinations?  More than that, I’d go a step further into the dark here: I’d say the older man, who had the idea of ghostly sea creatures, probably murdered the younger man, imagining the act as nothing more than an attack by a spectral shark.  Bear in mind that when we see them go to sleep the night before, it’s the old man who wakes first.  There are indications that what he sees may be true, but how much of what we see is from his perspective, like imagination brought to life?  He had said he was bitter and their days as salesmen are numbers and when his friend counters that it’s all about attitude, the older man admits his friend has plenty of that.  Is it possible that jealousy, combined with heat stroke, lead him to imagine a more otherworldly death when in fact, he killed his friend while he was sleeping?  Are we just seeing what the older man imagines and not the frightening reality?  Dark stuff indeed, but the human mind is capable of some dark things indeed.    

The Game

Not much to decipher here unfortunately.  We have a moon representing night, a long and winding road to indicate where they are in the story and a hook.  Whether in need of a tow for their car, or a hook to catch fish, this episode did one thing well, represented in that hook: I was hooked from the moment it started.

The Verdict:

It’s not the best episode but it’s a quick 10 minute story that, for visuals alone, needs to be seen.  It’s pure fantasy, but whether that’s a fantasy story or a fantasy in an older man’s mind, we may never know. And maybe that ambiguity is for the best. ML

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