Before I start reviewing this episode of love death and robots I’d like to quickly draw your attention to the incompetent writers of the renowned publication The Vulture- who were very quick to call this episode “an excuse to show a terrified woman running naked through the streets after fleeing her shift at a strip club” and not at all understanding the underlying themes and ideas behind this simple story.
The Witness is by far the most misunderstood episode of the series. The story takes place in a dreamlike and dystopian Hong Kong and follows a woman who witnessed a murder across from where she lives, it’s clear the victim of the murder is wearing the same outfit as the witness and even has the same makeup smeared on her face.
Once the killer notices that the woman has seen the crime they both fall into pursuit.
The witness doesn’t make any major attempts to contact the authorities, except a phone call to the police which turns out unsuccessful as she doesn’t remember the details of the location.
Following these events the witness goes about her day as usual and goes to take her shift at her job as a sex worker, not realizing the murderer has tracked her down and is in the same room as her, however, he is hypnotized by the onslaught of sex workers piling on top of him, once they both snap out of their individual sex-fueled trances the chase continues. The witness rummages through her boss’s drawer- finding a gun. The murderer chases the witness across a bridge around the location where the chase first began- as they both run at high speeds the murderer makes an attempt to explain the situation to the witness, however, he is unable to communicate clearly to the woman.
The witness eventually corners herself into a building where the murderer finds her and tries to talk to her, in the confusion and panic of the moment the witness, holding her boss’s gun, pulls the trigger. In her disorientation she looks out of the window, only to find the murderer looking at her- The episode ends with a shot of her face once she realizes that she is no longer the witness, but now instead the murderer.
If you’re anything like me the first thought that would come to your mind after watching this episode was “What the fuck did I just watch”, I mean I wouldn’t blame you- that is quite a lot to unpack for just 12 minutes of runtime, however crazy the story maybe though- the animation is absolutely fantastic and probably the best of the first season, on this end, I expected nothing less as the writer and director of this episode; Alberto Mielgo worked in the art department of spiderman: into the spider-verse which is one of the most critically acclaimed modern-day pieces of animation.
Once the story ends, it’s pretty clear that both characters exist in some sort of loop, the most common interpretation is that their both trapped inside some sort of hell or purgatory awaiting judgment or undergoing some sort of biblical sentence, another common theory suggests that the characters are in some sort of simulation as that appears to be a very common theme and idea throughout different episodes of the show.
Frankly, I’ll leave the literal understanding of the story for you to decide, however, I will be attempting to find out and analyze what Mielgo is trying to tell us.
On a podcast with ChaosGroup Mielgo had this to say :
Well, the story is very much a relationship in a way. It’s a relationship that I was at the time involved in, and is one of those relationships that they’re like really stormy, really dramatic, and that everybody’s had them, those relationships where you, maybe it’s very much based on sex and temptation, and you should leave it. You see red lights everywhere. This is not going anywhere. Stop it. And then both characters, they end up being a victim.
This leads me to believe the story is essentially an analogy for repetitive and toxic relationships-
Throughout the story both characters are in pursuit, except for a few minutes- when they’re both caught up at the brothel hypnotized by the sexual essence of the place, this is a clear metaphor for how certain dysfunctional relationships rely on sex as a cooldown period before jumping right back into the chaos of their relationship.
The provocative imagery throughout the episode, even though it may seem excessive, is necessary for Mielgo to get his point across to the audience- Only through this imagery is it easy for us to understand the bizarreness and unnatural nature of these types of relationships.
I understand why this episode may seem confusing or even stupid at your first viewing, but all art has meaning- and all you have to do is just look a little deeper.