War Never Changes
Set in the heart of the US’ Middle Eastern conflict with the Taliban, Shape-Shifters is a surprisingly grounded episode, one that complements its own fantastical tale with strong themes of comradeship and patriotism. The result is an episode that discusses strong themes without it ever detracting from the story.
The story follows two Marines who happen to have supernatural powers. Shunned by the other marines and referred to as Dog Soldiers, these hybrids happen to be werewolves, working on behalf of the army. Tasked with sniffing out a suspected enemy werewolf, the Marines go on the hunt whilst warding off the disdain from their own teammates. All of this builds up to a climactic showdown between two werewolves and an overall look at the price of war. The final shot is one that reflects the idea of shedding one’s skin, as the remaining werewolf throws down his dog-tags and walks off into the sunset, alone.
As a straight forward story about the horrors of war, Shape-Shifters works really well but ultimately it’s the way this story sheds light on politics and race that make it as interesting as it winds up becoming. The fear and disgust toward the werewolves is realistically depicted too and really mirrors some of the deeper problems in our society.
The photo-realistic animation of Shape-Shifters certainly helps with this too. It keeps things suitably grounded and really, this feels like a story that could easily be turned into a motion picture. Given the short run time of the episode, it’s quite a feat to pull off such a believable rift between the two factions.
While some of the language is admittedly quite bad here, gravitating around a plethora of swearing throughout its run time, there’s enough under this facade of dialogue to make for an interesting watch nonetheless. On a deeper level, themes of race and societal fears ring throughout the episode with an ending that perfectly caps off another episode of Love, Death & Robots.