This may be the most profound 10 minutes of television I’ve ever seen. I’m not certain of that, because there is so much to weed through that it’s hard to really make that claim, but my brain has been struggling to pick apart all that is presented here in just 600 seconds. I’ll do my best and may need to update this over the years as new ideas come to mind.
The premise of Zima Blue is that a renowned artist is going to talk to the press after 100 years to tell his story before his final unveiling.
I’m not sure if I like the artwork around the human form, but the images are stunning. There’s a sense of watching a graphic novel in animated form. The colors are amazing too. There are some scenes that are mesmerizing in their beauty and the use of the color blue is gorgeous.
Conceptually, the episode offers a lot to think about. “Satisfaction for a job well done,” might speak to the simple pleasure of doing something well. Appreciating the smaller things, as Zima clearly does by the end seems to be a major theme which is nice in a world where people seem to value the exotic and the expensive.
Barring the animation around the human body which for me personally was somewhat less than I had hoped, there is nothing here to criticize about the episode. There is no vulgar language and the nudity isn’t even that as nothing can be seen and it does not serve a purpose in even thinking of the main character as a regular person anyway.
The episode warrants careful thought. I often use this section to question the negative things that an episode seems to focus on but this episode is chock full of ideas, both positive and negative. The narrator refers to Zima’s work as “spectacle” and that does ring true. Zima does amazing work, but at one point in his career, he uses a gimmick of depicting a blue form on all of his paintings. This gets everyone’s attention; all must see it. People gather just to see the latest and as he gets more pronounced with it, it takes up more and more of the art until it ends up being nothing more than a blue square. I’m reminded of how critics rave about some movie which makes everyone go to see it only to realize it’s garbage, but done artistically. It’s like a trick to get all the sheep bleating at the same thing. (I am thinking of a recently popular movie, the Banshees of Inisherin which is effectively about an imbecile and a morosely depressed jerk, yet I sheep’d out to it because some critic said it was marvelous.) Are we really drawn to spectacle; sound and fury signifying nothing?
On the other hand, art is very subjective. What I find beautiful might be consider claptrap to someone else. Even this episode might appeal to me and be generally loathed. (I’ll have to check that!) Aesthetics is a fascinating field and it has always made me wonder if we all see the same things when we look at them. Is my red the same as yours?
Zima also offers us another Ship of Theseus where he replaces himself throughout his life, starting as a pool cleaning robot and ending up as a “man”. First off, is he the same person throughout his life? Evidently not but what does that mean for him? Since he gets to live long enough, does he eventually return to where he started? Could we? Is that really what life would be like if we could live longer?
If we listen to Ted Talk guest Juan Enriquez in his excellent presentation “What will humans look like in 100 years”, we can speculate that what Zima does to himself may become a real life option for us. Changing our eyes to see a wider range of colors, our skin to handle extremes in temperature, our lungs to breath more than just oxygen…. I love the idea, but does that redefine what it is to be human? Does it matter?
I’d read a quote once that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. Zima, in the end, finds his purpose was always what it started as: a simple task and taking pleasure in doing it well. We tend to complexify our lives with more and more stuff, but in the end Zima finds peace in the simple. There’s something very Zen about Zima. Maybe it’s what we need to strive toward; there’s something about seeking to be in harmony with the world that is very beautiful and simple. Maybe there’s something to that idea!
In a very clever use of the life imitating art, our game is punctuated by three blank squares. Is it art? I guess that’s up to the viewer.
This was the last episode on my list for season 1. I think it makes a spectacular final episode as it leaves our brains spinning on ideas. Alas, it’s not listed as the last, so we’ll move on past this for a few more weeks before entering season 2. This is a quick 10 minutes and warrants viewing, probably repeated viewing at that. I doubt I’ve even scratched the surface on all that can be questioned on this episode. I’m hoping some of you will share your thoughts in the comments below… ML
I often wonder if my red, green or blue are the same as others. Food for thought indeed.
Thank you, ML, for all your reviews on Love, Death & Robots: S1.
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Many thanks for this feature! I haven’t seen this show, but I’m wondering if it’s based on the short story (which I haven’t yet read) by Alastair Reynolds?
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