Gentle, profound and at times intensely heartbreaking, Amazon Prime’s latest original show, Tales From The Loop, is based on the artwork of noted sci-fi concept artist Simon Stalenhag. His extensive portfolio seeks to subtly blend rural Sweden with futurist elements: robots, parallel universes and time-travel.
Set in the fictional town of Mercer, Ohio, the show depicts the citizens of Mercer and their experiences living above ‘the Loop’: a machine that was built to ‘unlock the mysteries of the universe.’ It follows the structure of an anthology show, with each episode acting as a short story of its own, although a handful of characters could be considered recurring and crop up from time to time. For example, Jonathon Pryce’s kindly, old scientist Russ, his daughter in-law Loretta – played by Rebecca Hall – and his grandson Cole, played by Duncan Joiner. What makes Tale from the Loop so different from similar shows, like Netflix’s Stranger Things or Dark, is its commitment to character over plot and ideas over action. It never fully explores the central MacGuffin (the Loop) or where it came from. Instead, it offers an observatory view over different people’s lives and how they’ve been affected by such weird goings-on.
I’ve heard the show been called the inverse of Black Mirror and I would fully agree with that sentiment. If Black Mirror explores technology as a catalyst for our own worst selves, Tales from the Loop posits that even if we lived in this gorgeous, agrarian idyll – in perfect symbiosis with technology – happiness and fulfilment would still come from human relationships and experiences. We would still struggle to cope with the death of a loved one, find the courage to redeem ourselves and do the right thing. Tales of the Loop tells us that this comes from within and from each other, not from machines.
Over its eight episode run, Tales from the Loop confronts us with questions of life, love, regret, fear and greed as it weaves this beautiful, lo-fi, philosophical tapestry of the human condition before our very eyes. It’s really impressive television and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of inspiration and empathy in these difficult times.