“Bad Travelling” is a grim, gorgeous slice of nautical monster horror.
This recap of Love, Death + Robots season 3, episode 2, “Bad Travelling”, contains spoilers. You can check out all of our coverage of this show by clicking these words.
“Bad Travelling”, the title of this episode, refers to the fate of ships that set out and fail to hunt “the Great Jable Shark”, a mythical creature prowling a vast alien ocean. It seems like an understatement. In this sodden, grim 20-minute short about a sailor making an ill-advised deal with a slimy crustacean that uses dead bodies as fleshy megaphones, “bad” traveling is the best anyone is going to get.
Love, Death + Robots season 3, episode 2 recap
The crab, at least according to the subtitles, is called a thanopod. The man who bargains with it is Torrin, a curiously well-spoken seaman whose first order of business is to request that the creature regurgitate the key to a lockbox containing a pistol. With that, he has a stronger negotiating tool than the straws everyone drew to decide who went belowdecks in the first place. The hulking man who appointed himself leader is the first to be fed to the thanopod to satiate its appetites on the way to the nearest island, which it has requested safe passage to.
Phaiden Island is populated. Dropping the thanopod there would presumably cause a considerable loss of innocent life, so Torrin proposes a secret ballot in which the surviving sailors will vote to either take that easy option despite the moral implications or try to trick the creature by taking it to the uninhabited islands further afield, hopefully without it realizing the deception. But this vote is in itself a trick. Torrin folds and marks the ballot papers so he can identify which sailor voted which way. The two who voted to condemn the innocent people of Phaiden Island to save themselves he executes and feeds to the thanopod.
Torrin’s bright idea is that giving the creature a double-sized meal will keep it full for longer, but no such luck. As the ship nears Phaiden Island, the thanopod summons Torrin, who has barely foiled an attempted mutiny, to tell him that it’s hungry. And if the chittering of its offspring that litter the decks are anything to go by, so are they. That night, while Torrin sleeps, the remaining crew attempt to kill him again, but he anticipates the betrayal and kills them all. There is only one survivor, locked in a chest for his refusal to participate, and after he helps Torrin to dump the corpses belowdecks, Torrin reveals that he never actually marked the ballot papers. He didn’t need to, since everyone voted to abide by the creature’s wishes and unleash it upon Phaiden Island. Torrin sends this last man to his miserable fate, being smashed to mush by the thanapod to make him easier for the children to consume.
Torrin’s final act is to spill the oil of the jable shark in the hold, explaining that it’s the only thing the creature is good for — its meat is foul, and its hide is too tough to do anything with. He ignites the fuel and sends the thanopod to a fiery demise as he escapes the ship.