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Recap / Love Death And Robots Pop Squad

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In an unspecified future, humanity reached clinical immortality. But when nobody leaves, there is no room for newborns...

Based on the short story of the same name by Paolo Bacigalupi.


Tropes:

  • Acting Unnatural: Briggs immediately spots Eve's suspicious behavior as she's buying old toys and tracks her to her home.
  • Adam and/or Eve: It's All There in the Script, but Melanie's mother is named Eve, fitting for her role as a mother in a Childless Dystopia who spurs Briggs's change of heart, however brief.
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  • Adaptational Heroism: Briggs appears to genuinely want to understand why breeders do what they do. The adaptation plays his drive to learn as entirely noble, whereas the original short story more describes him coming to terms with the fact that he's developing a fetish for these women, notably in the story he's the one that jokes to Alice that he'd impregnate her and not the other way around as in the episode.
  • All There in the Script: Eve (Melanie's mother) and Ruth (the old lady at the beginning) are not named in the dialogue but are named in the credits.
  • The Ageless: The in-universe type of immortality. People still can die and easily be killed.
  • Asshole Victim: Unlike her partner Briggs, Detective Pentle feels no remorse at all about killing children, derisively refers to the desperate families as "Breeders", and murders Briggs for sparing a child's life. Good luck feeling sympathy at all when she gets shot in turn and bleeds out before her partner dies.
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  • Auto Erotica: Alice outright propositions Briggs in his flying car but the latter turns her down because he's not in the mood.
  • Body Motifs: Eyes. The "Rejoo" treatment is visually signified by how, among other things, Alice's eyes get brighter. Later, Eve admits that she's Seen It All, but seeing the world through Melanie's eyes has made life worth living again. And when Briggs is fatally shot, the scene focuses on his eyes gazing at the world around him before he collapses.
  • Childless Dystopia: Humanity has achieved immortality...at the cost of largely abandoning the surface for cities above the skies and killing newborn children and their parents.
  • Collector of the Strange: Inverted. Since toys no longer serve any purpose or goal, they are considered a thing for collectors. Of course, it also serves as a pretty handy way to identify breeders, since they need toys, too. This is how Briggs catches Eve.
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  • Compressed Adaptation: A lot of world-building elements were cut in the transition to the animated format, including Bacigalupi's trademark Cryptic Background References. For starters, Briggs had second thoughts for far, far longer than just the opening case. And the whole situation — the absolute ban on pregnancies, to prevent overpopulation, along with society advancing in such a way that the concept of having children is considered weird by itself — are only hinted in the animated short.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: It's the future and it's constantly raining. Even in the sunny scenes, it's actually still a downpour. While the weather does seem better in the upper parts of the city, that's solely because they stick above the clouds.
  • Darker and Edgier: While mostly devoid of violence, this is without a doubt the darkest episode in Volume 2 considering its premise is about a society of immortals that thrives on killing children.
  • Death of a Child: Briggs kills four children in the opening, setting the tone for the rest of the short.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The immortal part of the society just can't wrap their heads around why anyone would rather live in a squalor and constant hiding for the sake of having a child. Since the system has been running for so long, people genuinely no longer remember what it is to have children around or what they even need. Up to the point where Alice tells Briggs she would have a baby with him in any other set up, and all it causes it his horrified expression and her cracking up that it was only a joke to rile him, without meaning a word of it.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Pop Squad works in population control, and they do so by killing illegal children so casually that they are basically "popping" them off, which is the term used to describe the action in the original story.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The boy raises his dinosaur plushie before getting shot and Briggs later gets uncomfortable while staring at an identical doll gifted to his girlfriend.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Those who have children are referred to as "Breeders".
  • Heroic Fatigue: Briggs has been on the job for centuries, so his tired looks aren't just part of a Hardboiled Detective character design.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Melanie's mother would rather let herself be killed and thus "make room" for her daughter than let Briggs shoot Melanie.
  • Immortality Immorality: The society of immortals kills any children born. Not even executes them like one would a criminal, mind you, but sends agents to gun them down like rabid animals. Suffice to say, living forever seems to have done bad things to people's basic humanity. Eve also states that she's "not so in love with myself that I want to go on for ever and ever," implying that there is something morally wrong with someone who'd want to be immortal instead of raising a new generation to hand the world over to or simply to eventually pass away.
  • Immortality Inducer: The "Rejoo" treatment that grants immortality has to be administered every so often to maintain its effect.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Rejuvenation treatments appear to cause sterility as a side effect, as the ones with children have stopped taking them. This is explicitly stated to be the case in the original short story and even stated that the immortality itself doesn't inherently cause sterility; the sterility was explicitly added to the Rejoo.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Alice is a dead ringer for her voice actress Élodie Yung.
  • Ironic Name: Melanie. The girl is fair-skined and light-haired.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Briggs refers to children as "it" until Eve corrects him. "Her" name is Melanie. Meanwhile, the world at large no longer considers children anything more than objects.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Alice holds this view and states that not having children is a small price to pay for immortality. She's proud of spending 20 years to perfect her solo number. This seems to be the general sentiment of the fortunate/upper class. On the other hand...
  • Living is More Than Surviving: Eve holds to the position that what humanity is doing at this point, isn't truly living, pointing out what she describes as the dead gaze in Briggs' eyes, and how she hasn't truly felt alive before Melanie was born.
  • Mama Bear: Just because she's polite and soft-spoken, it doesn't mean Eve won't try going for Briggs's gun. He's faster than she is, though.
  • Mutual Kill: Briggs and Pentle Quick Draw on each other and score a lethal hit, though Pentle isn't quite as accurate and Briggs lives long enough to bleed out instead of being shot in the head like Pentle.
  • Narcissist: Invoked by Melanie's mother and presented by Alice the singer. It's heavily implied that to be an immortal and enjoy it, such people would first and foremost be in love with themselves.
  • Oh, Crap!: Briggs just leaves the house, not able to bring himself to kill another person. At the porch, he sees officer Pentle waiting... and Melanie starts crying in the background.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Briggs notices blood on his hands, after "popping" a "gang" of children too young to even speak. He can't clean it, until he realises after a while it isn't real.
  • Population Control: To such an extreme that children are summarily executed by police, without even an attempt to arrest them alive like their parents.
  • Quick Draw: Both Briggs and Pentle do this when reaching for their guns, leading to a Mutual Kill.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Briggs dies, after he kills his detective partner... but that leaves two "slots" open for other people to live and nobody has reported Melanie's existence yet.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: In an era when humanity's upper class has largely abandoned Earth's surface for a Skyscraper City, nature is starting to reclaim what's on the ground. Melanie lives in an old house surrounded by crumbling buildings that have vines growing all over them.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Briggs doesn't kill Melanie and goes as far as protecting her life - but he ends up fatally shot as a result.
  • Retro Universe: It's eternal Chandler times, despite sky-scrappers reaching above the clouds, hoovering cars and clinical immortality. Part of it comes from the fact humanity itself no longer really progresses, as it has no need or reason to do it, instead relishing the relics of the past to boast of how great it is to live forever.
  • Skyscraper City: Humanity now resides in skyscrapers above the clouds.
  • Space Age Stasis: In the book and short, the world described and shown has been as it has for untold thousands of years. It's stagnant. Progress for culture, art and technology has slowed to a complete crawl. So much so that the immortals' own civilization is crumbling beneath their feet, yet no one cares - while explicit in the original short story, it's barely hinted in the animated format.
  • Take Me Instead: Eve offers to trade her own life for that of her child, as that way the population remains static.
  • Tin Man: Briggs is a detective, which in this universe means being a child killer. Everyone is convinced he feels absolutely nothing about his job. And he really tries to convince himself about this lack of emotions and attachment.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Melanie's mother gives one to Briggs:
    Eve: I've been alive for 218 years. I've seen... too much.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: It generally gets really boring after a while, especially since there are no new people to talk to. And short of hedonistic wish-fulfillment, there isn't much to do, either.
    • Eve openly states that she's seen too much and lived for too long to keep going anymore, but having Melanie has made things seem new again and given that will back.
    • In the original story, Briggs himself has a hard time remembering when exactly things happened in his life, because he's been around for centuries, to the point even basic trivia has become fuzzy since he learned it so long ago. Trace amounts of original dialogue indicating that are still left in the animated short, but almost all without the context.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Briggs and his partner are tasked with the execution of illegal children. Briggs is shown to be an Apologetic Attacker and has a change of heart at the end.

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