Love, Death and Robots: Ice

Season 1 was a real surprise to me, telling stories with a deeper meaning, that I’ve come to expect the same from season 2.  Now, that’s not to say that some of those stories in the first season weren’t just straight up stories, but even those have leant themselves to a bit of analysis.  Ice left me cold.  It  features two brothers on a futuristic world of ice.  One is augmented, the other is not.  This creates tension between the two.  When the augmented one is going for a race with some friends, his older brother decides to go with him.  I ended the episode thinking I’d seen an interesting little story, but with nothing else going for it.  So I decided not to write anything for a few days.  And then it hit me…

The Good

ice1I love that this show gives us so many varied forms of animation.  I never knew there were so many types, although I’ve probably seen them all before to one extent or another.  It’s just that, over time, you sort of forget.  You don’t think about it, at any rate.  It’s just that one of the selling points of this series is that it’s animated. Whether you like a given style or not isn’t necessarily about being good or bad.  This reminds me a bit of the Hellboy comics in style, but it tells the story effectively and is periodically eye catching at the same time.  

The episode’s three icons indicate what looks like a pipe (see below) as a critical part of the episode and when the unmodified brother smokes it, the animation to show what he experiences is fascinating.  Color drains from everything and he’s left in a semi-void.  I think this is good artistically but also from the point of view of being a warning against smoking.  

I also think this episode does a great job showing the lengths brothers will go for one another.  I think shows need to illustrate things like that more.  Acceptance is another thing going for the narrative.  Each of the augments accept the unmodified brother when he shows the will to be a part of the group.  

The Bad

ice2The biggest question I have around this episode is around the pipe smoking.  When Sedgewick smokes it, he is so far out there, he fails to realize the danger he is in.  (This is probably a good message for people to recognize the dangers of any narcotic.)  However, when his brother, Fletcher, is injured and can’t run, he carries him and still manages to avoid the danger.  (Also good – shows the power of brotherly love and determination that even without the mods, he can succeed.)  But where I think the ambiguity fails is in asking: was his success a result of the narcotic?  If it were, that’s not necessarily a good message.  Since we don’t know, it borders without ever really crossing the line.   

The Ugly

ice3Like Deus Ex, the video game series where we get to augment ourselves to be able to do all sorts of cool things, this story speculates on how we might adapt to alien worlds and what complications might arise from that.  I referenced him recently in my write up for Zima Blue, but Juan Enriquez’s “What will humans look like in 100 years” talks heavily about how we will eventually adapt our bodies to colonize other worlds.  This is an interesting look at how it could benefit us.  Of course, like everything, there is a flip side: you can’t have light without shade!

We do have to consider how those same modifications could cause schisms between friends and family when one person can’t afford to get the same modifications.  Bad enough with rich vs poor, but what about one brother to the other within the same family?  Are we essentially just creating another thing to focus on as our differences.  There be dragons down that road.  Can we overcome them?  Can we live in peace with them?  

And maybe that’s the best part of the story and the one we have to be most proud of: the brothers do overcome.  In fact, at the end we learn that the augmented brother’s foot was not hurt at all (or it healed extra quickly?) and he allowed  himself to be put in harms way to give his brother the realization that he’s as capable as any modified person.  Maybe we should be thinking like that as we move into a future where our very genome can be augmented.   It is probably more a question of if than when…

The Game

I sort of wish the icons were in reverse order so we could align them with topics that seem to work better for them – namely the middle finger going with the bad section, but such is life.  The middle finger plays into the rebellious nature of the unmodified brother who is determined to be like others.  The ice speaks for itself on a planet made of ice.  Lastly, the pipe ends up being a pivotal feature of the episode and it’s placement here makes me wonder if that is meant to be the reason for the success of the mission.  Good, bad or ugly – I’m not sure how I want to interpret that.

The Verdict:

One reviewer I read had said this is the weakest of the season.  If that’s the case, that’s not such a big deal as it’s only around 10 minutes in length and isn’t that bad – it just doesn’t have a clearly defined meaning going for it.  Having said that, I never spoke about the mission the brothers are on: they intend to make these ice whales leap in the air – to do that, they have to set up signals that cause the whales to burst through the ice, but it’s incredibly dangerous.  When the brothers succeed, the animation for the whales leaping is a work of beauty and imagination.  The worst case, you sit through this short episode for that brief payoff.  And at best, you get that plus a fun story about two brothers who clearly love each other.  Not a bad deal, in my book.    ML

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