We all loved Gravity didn’t we? We all loved 127 Hours? (Though I think we might have forgotten that one.) Like a lot of these damn things, Helping Hand steals the most surface-y elements of the two without actually taking into consideration why. I needn’t explain the plot, if you have literally any idea at all about those two films, you’d be able to write it yourself.
It doesn’t even have the originality to craft its own ending, though actually that fact sets it apart from the majority of films in this anthology. The astronaut, caught short in space, running low on oxygen, actually manages to make it back to safety. Given that the general tone of the work could — so far — be charitably described as nihilistic, it marks a nice change. For once, action has meaning and physical hardship comes with the possibility of personal redemption.
And would ya know it? This is the first fucking episode without any tits. We made it people. It also, as if this were any sort of coincidence is the first episode with woman lead who isn’t grotesquely fetishised by this series’ pervasive male gaze. Elly Condron’s vocal delivery is warm, despite having little to do other than bring life to some serviceable technical talk, and while there is also a male character, she does not exist as an extension of his desire.
It’s something I was gonna bring up later, but now seems like a good time. With the exception of co-directors on Beyond the Aquila Rift this entire 18 part series is directed by men. There are no credited women writers, when some episodes (such as this one) are based off short stories by women, it’s our regular foe Philip Gelatt who comes in to adapt them to the screen.
Fortunately there was very little that he could fuck up with this concept. Still a massive fucking failing though. Seriously. Jesus. The whole point of an anthology is that you get different points of view on the same concept, where’s the fun in only inviting men to have their say? Simply results in something that can’t go ten minutes without throwing boobs in your face while simultaneous being absolutely terrified of the penis.
So goddamn disappointing, if the producers decide to take this for a round two they’d better do fucking better. Sorry, as I said, I shouldn’t let that discussion overwhelm this episode, which is actually fairly nice. It’s approach to depicting the horror that’s core to the premise is measured and depicted in a way that totally serves the character. Props to Jon Yeo and the folks of Axis Studios for their work. I just wish there was a higher bar to clear than ‘inoffensive’.
In the final scene the character is depicted on a spaceship wearing a beanie. I’m not sure it’s a look that totally makes sense, but boy is it a mood. In a series that is supposed to be about adult feelings, we’ve never seen anybody quite so close to tears.
Love, Death & Robots is currently available to stream via Netflix.