Love, Death & Robots’ “Pop Squad” presents a moral dilemma in a world where eternal life makes childrearing illegal and mothers become criminals.
Warning: SPOILERS for the ending of Love, Death & Robots season 2’s “Pop Squad”.
Love, Death & Robots season 2 episode 3, “Pop Squad” is about a detective whose job presents him with a moral dilemma in a world where eternal life makes children seemingly irrelevant to the survival of the human race. Love, Death & Robots is an anthology featuring animated short films adapted from short stories. David Fincher is an executive producer of the Netflix show along with series creator and showrunner, Tim Miller.
Love, Death & Robots season 2 brings viewers a collection of eight new short films ranging in subject matter and spanning several genres including fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and comedy. Love, Death & Robots’ “Pop Squad,” directed by Jennifer Yu Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2), is based on the short story of the same name by award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer, Paolo Tadini Bacigalupi. “Pop Squad” follows Detective Briggs (Nolan North), whose job involving population control takes him into the seedy, underground world of “illicit motherhood.”
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Love, Death & Robots‘ “Pop Squad” presents a future reality where no one ages, unauthorized childbearing is illegal, and children have become an endangered species. The story sets up a moral dilemma about who deserves to live in a world of endless life, where an elixir called “rejoo” allows humans to live forever – or at least not die of natural causes. The elixir also serves as a sort of fountain of youth, keeping everyone looking and feeling young. One 218-year-old mother, for example, looks no older than 30. In order to control the population, Detective Briggs is tasked with killing the illegal “unregistered offspring” – aka children – and arresting the mothers who’ve given up rejoo and eternal life in order to have and raise their children. The moms live in poverty, hiding off the grid in a jungle beneath the urban city where Briggs and the rest of the “rejoo” population live and work. Love, Death & Robots’ “Pop Squad” raises questions about what it means to be a parent, and what motivates human beings to get married, have a family, and raise children.
Part of what allows Briggs to murder these children – and for others to see them as disposable – is his ability to delude himself into seeing the children as objects, something less than human, by othering them. This seems to indicate that there are no children in the rejoo population. While the rules of legal birth within the lawful society aren’t explained, one gets the impression that if there are legal offspring in Briggs’s world, they come from a carefully selected sample of women chosen based on whatever DNA traits the government has deemed desirable. Something similar to the group of mothers in The Handmaid’s Tale, minus the problem of a mostly baron population.
Love, Death & Robots’ “Pop Squad” encourages its viewers to question social norms. This is a world where the rich population – those who choose not to reproduce – thrives and art and culture are held in high esteem but children have become obsolete. There is no marriage; no mothers and fathers; no families. These ideas have been rejected by this society and replaced by new social norms. It’s a world where the genocide of innocent children is perceived as routine – a means of controlling the potential threat of overpopulation. The deaths of these children are seen by the other characters as something that the mothers have brought upon themselves by choosing to live outside of the law. As Briggs begins to question his beliefs and the reality of his world, he ultimately takes a stand against it by sparing the mother and child in the end. A decision that costs him his own life, but one that allows new life to endure through Melanie.
Love, Death & Robots’ “Pop Squad” uses the metaphor of motherhood to point out the moral ambiguity of certain accepted social standards, highlighting familiar struggles of social class warfare, and prejudice against those who choose to live outside the norms of a society.
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