Revised Recommendation: Tales From an Uneven Loop

Previously, I made a strong recommendation for Amazon’s Tales from the Loop.

They got me.

This discussion will be semi-spoilery.  No major reveals, but you can’t do an episode by episode discussion without touching on the plots, and you really do want to go into this show as blind as possible.

The first two episodes were great.  The third limped along as merely good.  Then things got really, really uneven.  Here now are capsule reviews of all eight episodes complete with very, very minor spoilers.  Note that the tech doesn’t matter.  This show uses the mystery of the Loop as a framing device to explore people and their relationships.  It’s a bit like Lost, if Lost wasn’t written by a conman selling empty boxes.

  1. Loop: Fantastic television with a surprisingly pro-life message as a young girl learns to cope with her mother’s regret at not aborting her, and a middle-aged mother learns to get over regretting having children.  Wonderful television as mysterious as it is beautiful, this strong opening nails the bittersweet aesthetic of love in a changing universe.
  2. Transpose: A refreshingly mature take on the virgin and chad meme made flesh.  This episode is jam-packed with musings on duty and friendship and seeing things from the other guy’s point of view before you do something stupid.
  3. Stasis: A solid entry that follows up on the “be careful what you wish for” message with a girl who has to outgrow her desire to live in the moment.  Following the same message as episode one, this looks at the high price to be paid when one does not embrace the changing nature of the universe.  The woke-casting stumbles against itself as the inter-racial couple of episode two smashes into the Chinese Directrix’s need for an all-Chinese couple to play the starring roles, and the result is exactly the sort of self-segregation that is practiced in both the pseudo-1980s of the LoopVerse and today.  That is a minor annoyance in this otherwise interesting take on an old Twilight Zone MacGuffin.  It is, however, a warning sign of things to come.
  4. Echo Sphere: The first weak entry, in which our resident genius confronts the emptiness of his world and the limits of both his intelligence and his worldview.  There are a number of (likely inadvertent) clues that the man is a huckster.  The story follows a young boy confronted with death, and who has to find his own meaning of life in a world where all of the adults in his life have surrendered to the forces of material nihilism.  It is saved at the last moment by an acknowledgement that life is worth living, and that the good men do lives on after them, but in this episode the mask is ripped off – the creators of this supernatural show reject the supernatural.
  5. Control: My flagging faith in the show is restored with this phenomenal and respectful story of a father confronting his own limitations.  Plagued by problems he cannot fix, and by multiple problems with mutually exclusive solutions, he fights to find a path through a disastrous life not of his own making.  It is an honest peek at the struggles of middle-class men, and a glimpse at the heavy weight they bear upon their shoulders.  Once again, we catch that rarest of television moments – genuine male friendship and tenderness without a sly wink to tarnish it.
  6. Parallel: Here the gloves come off and the sci-fi tech turns into the most believable aspect of the story.  In Parallel, a gay man learns to open himself up to sodomy without the baggage of standards.  Not even kidding here.  That’s the message.  A completely skippable filler episode that adds nothing to the ongoing study of love and growth and change.
  7. Enemies: Another filler episode, this one answers a few unimportant questions raised in the earlier episodes.  It felt odd to see a show present three young white males out on an adventure until I realized that the episode featured the usual anti-humanitarian message of “who is the real monster?”  No diversity need apply when it comes to that message.  Another imminently skippable episode.
  8. Home: The show ends with a sort-of resolution to the overall arching plot of a family devastated by the patriarch’s obsession with robots and time-tinkering.  The theme of the show, that change is universal and we must learn to swim in the stream of time even if that means losing the moments and people we love, gets hammered home.  Just in case you didn’t get it, one of the characters describes a book introduced in the show as “sad, but beautiful” and all but looks straight into the camera and winks.

The final count here is four incredible episodes of thinky sci-fi, two interesting episodes that suffer from identity crises and contradictory messages, one standard humans are the real virus episode, and one complete waste of time.

Skip episode 5 and you’ve got a strong recommend from me.  That pointless digression undercuts things to result in a “recommend with reservations”.

My next post on this show will be replete with spoilers.  There are a lot of things to talk about and analyses to be done, but