“Pop Squad” is visionary and paints a bleak future.
This recap of Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots season 2, episode 3, “Pop Squad,” contains spoilers.
Episode 3 of Love, Death & Robots season 2 has a city under a heavy thunderstorm but without any placenta hitting the floor — “Pop Squad” has the look and feel of an old, gumshoe detective novel, crossed over with Blade Runner, like Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report with grit. The lead detective and a futuristic-looking SWAT team have breached a shitty-looking apartment. It is filled with cockroaches, dishes that have been in the sink for months, and the adults have made bassinets out of drawers. “Resourceful” is what Briggs tells his partner, Officer Pentle.
As the lead detective takes a long, deep drag of a cigarette, Briggs stoically takes in the room like he just stepped out of a Raymond Chandler novel. You almost feel like he has to hate his job, taking these kids away from their mother and putting them into the system. This must be why so many cops become alcoholics, I thought to myself. Poor guy. Well, as I had that thought, our hero pulls out his gun and says, “Sorry, kids.” The toddler offers him his stuffed dinosaur, but that doesn’t sway him. Instead, he blows them away, saving the taxpayers from having to pay for these brats’ shelter.
You see, in this life, the world is controlled by the rich (oh, well, in every world). He leads the Pop Squad, a gang of goons with a badge that hunts down breeders. The rich control the resources and forbid anyone from having unregistered offspring. Kind of like the One China rule but loads more fun. The rule in this world seems to be that you will live forever, just as long as you keep the population down, like deer in the Northeast United States. Our detective begins to have a crisis of conscience, especially after his girlfriend shows off the snuffed child’s stuffed animal for everyone to see.
Briggs can’t keep his mind off what he has done. So much so that he almost lets one of those pesky breeders blow his head off. As he has a panic attack in his car, he looks over the dead child’s stuffed animal. He visits the store where the toy was bought. He spots a young woman who buys a box full of toys and follows her home. She lives in an old shack in the woods, and he finds her inside the house playing with her daughter. He asks her to sit. She then dares to breastfeed her child in front of him (last meal, anyone?). Her child, Melanie, she explains, makes life worth living instead of just being in love with yourself.
The mother then reveals a shocker–she is 218 years old, and the child makes the world seem bright. He sees a little bit of that joy as the child asks to play with his hat. As he hands the hat to her, the mother goes for the gun. She can’t pry it away from Briggs’ grasp. The cop pushes her to the table, points the gun at the cute little redhead girl who cannot string three syllables together, and the mother begs him to take her life instead of her daughter’s.
He walks away. He can no longer rid the taxpayers of the expense. He walks out and sees his partner a football field’s length away, directly in front of him. They both pull their weapons. Briggs’ bullet kills Pentle instantly. Pentle’s blast is lodged into Briggs’ chest. He walks away, into the dewy mountain forest, happy with the choice he made.