You may have seen Simon Stålenhag‘s art in the past. It’s post-modern, where technology is disused and strewn about, but technology we don’t yet have access to. I think it looks really neat. The artist has a foundational world he builds from, where a company called the Loop has driven most of this.
Amazon picked on the idea and built a series from it.
What follows next will include some spoilers, and as with most sci-fi, it’s a good idea to avoid it. tldr; it’s closer to golden age sci-fi, with a slow burn, self-reflection, and not a whole lot of answers.
The first episode wastes little time in taking advantage of the sci-fi setting. Mysterious object + little girl = cool adventure. If you’re following along, then you see the twist before it happens, but it still resonates. The framing of this episode keeps in that “weird things are normal” for the rest of the series, and gives a Loretta the anchor position.
Second episode tracks an old trope of body switching and goes to the logical conclusion. Which is distressing, quite frankly. More like Black Mirror than what people are used to. It leaves some giant unanswered questions.
The third one takes a familiar short story trope and teens into it. But not teens in the stereotypical sense, more so in the sense of lack of experience. Everyone can identify with this story, as we all go through our own growth, and how it seems completely isolated from the rest of the world.
Fourth explores our ability to cope with death at different states of our life. I rewatched this episode, because it felt like too much to absorb in one sitting. The premise of a bound lifespan and knowing this, is a freaky concept.
Fifth loses steam compared to the others, as it relates to episode two and the lengths a grieving father/husband will go to protect his family. This is a hard concept to pull off, since many people can’t empathize quickly enough with the situation, and the actions taken rely more on sci-fi knowledge than human instinct. Since the setup is weak, the follow-through doesn’t hit.
Yeah, I didn’t like this one either. The idea is really cool, what if you travel to a parallel dimension and meet yourself. Would you get along at all? Where did the dimensions split to make another you? Could you fit in? All great questions, but the writing and acting here isn’t very good.
Every series needs a flashback episode to contextualize a given character, and this is the one that does it for one-armed George. The story tried to hit a few too many beats at the start, making for a muddy middle. The final act opens up a whole different set of questions for the world.
The final episode tries to close up as many of the questions as possible. Where every other episode is more of an anthology, it’s not possible to watch this one without having watched all the other ones. As a parent, this one hit me like a damn truck. The series went full circle, going back to its tenet that time is a curse. I reminded me a lot of the intro for Up, where in a seemingly simple montage, an entire life story is told, and you get to feel every bit of it. The thing that really hits, is that no one questions why or tries to correct it, they just accept the fate and try to make the best of it.
Which is a general character theme throughout. When people try to fix a problem, they generally make it worse. Those that accept that life has given them a bad hand and move forward all seem to get better. It’s not a world of regrets, it’s a world of growth. Even if that growth is not what people wanted or planned.
Tales from the Loop is a solid series. It’s not for everyone because it doesn’t fit the mold of sci-fi in 2020, with Michael Bay blowing everything up. It’s a story about people, dealing with people, and making the best of a bad hand. Optimistic in the tragedy. I could use more of that.
I had to wait until I’d seen all the episodes to read the post. I really enjoyed the whole series although I’m not entirely sure “enjoyed” is the right word. I found several of the episodes quite disturbing, particularly the first two. I also don’t wholly understand the first one. In fact, the more I think about it, the less I understand it. I ought to watch it again.
The episode I was least convinced by was the flashback one. Too much made no sense. I won’t list them here but as soon as I think about it, half a dozen things come to mind and that’s not counting the incredible jump in technological achievement between the first and second iteration of the AI – I give a free pass to all the technology weirdness since “The Loop” seems to be a paradox generator to begin with.
The episode you didn’t like, though, worked well for me, although it wasn’t one of my top favorites. I liked the very flat, almost affectless performances – something common to the whole series, really – and the way everything seemed to happen in a bubble. The way they all lived outside the town was key, I thought.
The finale I liked but it didn’t have the emotional heft for me it had for you. Too many things, again, that didn’t make sense. I suspect a lot of the confusion would be explained in re-watches. I haven’t seen a show for a while that so obviously needs to be seen more than once.
I think you hit it square. It’s a paradox generator. And somehow people have to live through that and adapt. The “muted” aspects of the entire series are what make it so disturbing. The 2nd AI does what it does, and the kid is like “well that’s neat”. My kids would run for the darn hills.