Tales From The Loop is Your Next Quarantine Fix - possibly the best art direction, and world building ever. But the shows lack a little something...
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Oh, man. Tales From The Loop is Your Next Quarantine Fix! I’m only a couple of episodes into Amazon’s Tales From the Loop, but I am absolutely loving it so far. It’s thought provoking, surreal, and so other worldly as to be normal. The world building here founded on Simon Stålenhag’s brilliant art (which I have been following over on gofundme and twitter for practically forever) and the locales are just unbelievable. But the stories are Twilight Zone episodes that etch into your bones. They seem to carry more weight to them mainly because the impacts of them carry forward from episode to episode, even though they are stand alone episodes. Some are characterizing them like Bright Mirrors, instead of Dark Mirrors. But no! Not at all! Melancholy Mirrors is more like it. Perfectly brooding fits of longing and passion trapped underneath the surface of some weird alien existence. Anyway, if you’ve never heard of Tales From the Loop – don’t worry, they just came out today. But first, go check out by Simon Stålenhag’s art. They are a more perfect representation of the show than even the show is. HECK! This is the interwebs, I’ll put some of my favorite pieces here for you. Then watch the trailer… then come back, and join me to talk about each episode.
And. Oh. My. Glorious. Heavens. I just was scrolling through the cast members when, um, who did I see? Hahahaha. Only just Shane Carruth.
If you’d like to watch the show – which, you really should, and you definitely should before proceeding any lower on this page – you can check it out right here. The shows are all written by Nathaniel Halpern, and they are directed by various brilliant directors. Like Charlie McDowell (THE ONE I LOVE!!), Ti West, Jodie Foster (I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti), et al.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #1 – Loop
Official Summary: A young girl living in a small town becomes curious about the mysterious work her mother conducts beneath ground at a facility known as the Loop.
And to fill in a few of those gaps, her mother, who stole a rock from the Loop – disappears. Oh, and so too does the house that she and her daughter lived in. Gone. Vanished. And the only thing left is the stone from the loop that the mother stole. But when the little girl accidentally meets up with someone she thought was her mother, she actually realizes that it is herself. In the future.
The Taylor Holmes from THiNC. that likes breaking movies down and figuring them out broke with this episode. At about the 25 or 30 minute mark I as getting out scratch paper and mapping the time loops involved to make this trippy trip happen. I mean, the good Lord knows, I’ve done it before and again, and again. But when the little girl just disappeared, I realized what kind of show this was going to be. And I’m OK with that. I really am. I just had to put away my notepad and just grok the entirety of this show. The art, the conundrums, and the emotional impacts of it all. Because that is where this show excels. Allowing the Twilight Zone-ness of it all to resonate. But I really loved the way the house was destroyed and ripped up into the sky. I loved the lost, listlessness of the girl as she tries to figure out what it is that she is supposed to do now.
I give this episode 5/5 stars.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #2 – Transpose
Official Summary: A discovery in the woods gives two teen-aged boys an opportunity to step outside their lives.
Wherein, two kids (Jakob and Danny) discover a strange, metal, mine looking pod. When one of them climb inside, they switch bodies. The two kids, being curious about what it would be like to live in someone else’s body, decide to remain that way for a day. And when Danny decides that he doesn’t want to switch back quite yet, things go a little topsy-turvy. Why? Because Danny is a kid with not a lot of options or opportunities. He’s facing the headlights of working at the mine, and definitely not for the Loop. He’s not smart enough for all of that. But Jakob on the other hand, his grandfather created the Loop. He’s going to be sitting pretty. So, Danny, living in Jakob’s life is the greatest thing he can imagine.
When Danny tells Jakob he doesn’t want to switch, to leave…they begin to fight. Jakob’s father discovers them fighting and kicks out Danny, ostensibly Jakob, his son, out of the house. Disturbed by the rebuke, Jakob, in Danny’s body, heads back out to the orb… but this time he is transmuted into the nearest thing nearby. Which, happens to be, unfortunately for Jakob, an old beat up robot.
This is the episode that sold me on the series. It’s the one that had me nervous that they’d pull a Steven Spielberg, and find a way to make a happy ending out of this perfectly sad story. And it was too – perfectly, disturbingly sad. Broken for a broken world. I really liked that one.
I give this episode 4.5/5 stars.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #3 – Stasis
Official Summary: Upon falling in love, a teen-aged girl attempts to make the moment last forever.
The story follows May, Jakob’s girlfriend. You know Jakob, the quiet, introvert, the totally perfect uncool protagonist. Oh, wait, but since Jakob is actually Danny, the loud, athletic annoying jerk, I’m not so sure how I feel about Jakob anymore. Well that is good, because in this episode May takes off, and falls for a kid named Ethan. She is a bit of an engineer and finds and fixes a device that stops time. Woah, wait what? Yeah, the device comes with two bracelets, and it allows the wearers to keep moving through time even though everyone else is frozen. The duo spend months together – ultimately realizing that quarantining is not nearly as fun as you think it might be. And eventually get on each other’s nerves and back each other out.
Gotta say, I loved the tech in this episode. Really cool idea. But there was a lot more that they could have done with the idea. Like, for example, the Black Mirror episode entitled Play Test, which jacked with time and space so hardcore I’m still reeling. Yeah, so, this was okay.
I give this episode 3/5 stars.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #4 – Echo Sphere
Official Summary: A young boy encounters a mysterious structure known as the Echo Sphere and must confront the nature of existence.
The story follows the creator of the Loop, Russ, and his grandson, Cole, as they encounter together the shortness of life. Russ asks Cole to go with him to visit the Echo Sphere. The Echo Sphere will echo a person’s voice back to them depending on how long of a life they have left remaining. Cole’s echoes 4 or 5 distinct times. But Cole’s grandfather doesn’t echo at all. Which heads us down the rabbit hole of Russ’ announcement that he is terminally ill. He hands the Loop off to his daughter-in-law, which, she has been waiting for since her mother stole a piece of the Loop and it killed her.
Can you tell I wasn’t impressed with this episode?
I have to say, I assumed that all the episodes would be centered around a strange, or confounding piece of technology. And while, there is a bit of that happening in this episode – I was highly disappointed with the Echo Sphere. If Tales from the Loop hadn’t set the series up so hardcore on the preeminence of the technology, I would possibly have enjoyed this episode.
I give this episode 2.5/5 stars.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #5 – Control
The deeper into this list of shows I get the less excited I am. Where the beginning was sort of a brilliantly designed and artistically coordinated show about the chaos of technology, further on we stop getting these mindjobby type encounters, and now we are are just dealing with the repercussions of the first few shows.
In episode five, Danny’s family… you remember, Danny was the kid in episode 2 that body swapped into a Jakob’s body, and Danny accidentally swapped into a robot. Well, Danny’s comatose body is causing the cash strapped family no end of difficulties. They can’t afford to change the power main in the house, but more importantly they can’t seem to keep the family safe. There is word on the street that someone has been breaking into homes in the community (which is just more repercussions from episode #3, stasis) and as a result, Danny’s family doesn’t feel safe. So Danny’s father buys a robot to stand watch every night. But what he is worried about is his son Danny, visiting in Jakob’s body, at night to tell his sister that he’ll always be there. Eventually the father hits his breaking point, sells the robot, fixes the power main, and bigs his wife to come home. Meh. Yes, it is real life – and I love the fact that the various episodes intertwine elegantly. But I thought we were going to be getting a new conundrum each episode. Maybe I should see this show as a futuristic family drama, not as a more up beat Dark Mirror.
I give this episode 2.5/5 stars.
Tales From the Loop – Episode #6 – Parallel
Parallel is the story of Gaddis, the security guard at the loop. One day, he asks May’s help to fix a tractor Gaddis found in a field. When he turns it on, it then shorts out, and snaps to a different reality. This other reality has a different Gaddis, a Gaddis2 I will call him. And Gaddis2 has a boyfriend named Alex, whom Gaddis1 is extraordinarily attracted to. And they live in the big house on the property where Gaddis1 had been living on smaller quarters. (Servant’s quarters is what they would have been called back in the day – but I have no idea what the modern equivalent would be.)
Regardless, Gaddis1 is welcomed in to Gaddis2’s life. They become fast friends. But when friends come over, he’s expected to hide in the shed. And it’s clear that this really won’t be a good long term arrangement. But all the while, Alex gets attached to Gaddis1. So much so, that Gaddis1 gives Alex his journal of thoughts and feelings about Alex that he has been writing ever since he found the photo of him in the tractor back in reality1. Well, Alex gives the journal to Gaddis2, and Gaddis2 is not having it. And frustrated Gaddis1 decides he probably ought to leave. And when he does, he meets up with Kent2 at a diner. Which, is funny, because, he knew Kent1 back in reality1. But they didn’t really hit it off. But here, Kent2 is a birder, and they are obviously soul mates.
Thoughts on Parallel… well, it’s a rip off, lesser than version of The One I Love. Which, if you haven’t seen, you have got to watch. I’ve been telling people about it here on THiNC. for years now. But on its own merits, it was a fascinating episode filled with existential questions and metaphysical concerns. If there were two of me, should I be jealous of me? If there were two of me, could I have more fun at the hobbies that I enjoy? Or would the other me hate them? And if I belly flopped into a new dimension with nothing, how would I survive? What would I do? It raised a number of interesting questions.
I did like that the episode was a brain breaker again. And that it pushed you to think. They could have done a similar ending to The One I Love, and make it a question as to which Gaddis stayed, and which one left. But, they sort of already did that back in the episode between Jakob and Danny. Anyway, it was a pretty decent episode.