Amazon Prime Video’s big foray into science-fiction comes courtesy of anthology series, Tales From the Loop, an eight part sci-fi drama based on the surreal set of paintings by Simon Stålenhag. Starring Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall, the premise behind the Loop is “to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe”, but other than strewn spheres and relics of robots, the series appears far more interested in the emotional stories behind the people inhabiting this strange, alternate landscape.
Relocating from the rural Swedish landscapes to the small town of Mercer, Ohio, Tales From the Loop centres on the surreal and unexplainable happenings of the people who reside above the titular Loop, a giant underground particle accelerator. Constructed to explore and unlock the mystery behind the heart of the Loop, known as “the Eclipse”, is the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics. “Everyone in town is connected to the Loop in one way or another, and you will come to know many of their tales – in time” promises Pryce’s Russ, the head of the Mercer Center.
While each episode focuses on an individual tale from one of the town’s residents, with different directors and creative teams behind them, they all loosely interconnect with a specific science-fiction concept at the heart. Whether that’s an exploration of parallel worlds, time travel or anti-gravity, one major question arises – how is the Loop affecting time, space and perception? But rather than exploring the more compelling questions of how and why, the three episodes sent to critics instead delve into a study of the human condition, resulting in a deeply emotional look at life, love and loss.
Much like recent deep, sci-fi outings Ad Astra and Arrival, the science fiction acts as much more of a backdrop to the human tales, and depending on your enjoyment of the aforementioned movies, this will no doubt inform your takeaways from the series. Tales From The Loop is meditative and intimate, quiet and slow paced; it’s science fiction for the “thinking man”. Yes it’s ponderous and pretty slow paced, focusing on what it really is to be human, but after watching the three preview episodes sent (the first, fourth and sixth installments) the cynic in me believes the show thinks it’s more profound than it actually is. Yes there’s some very interesting concepts explored, but I often found myself frustrated at how underdeveloped and open to interpretation these were. Episode six, “parallel” is easily the standout episode so far, featuring a brilliant performance from Ato Essandoh and a very intriguing concept which I’m not sure I’ve seen before!
The show is undoubtedly a wonder to watch though, there’s no denying the immense production values and incredible cinematography. It’s beautifully realised with some incredibly remote and desolate landscapes, littered with decrepit structures and robots in the background. Impressive (and rather sparing) visual effects seamlessly blend into this alternate world, particularly in the opening Mark Romanek directed episode, titled “Loop” which extraordinarily brings to life a gravitational anomaly, which makes rain fall upwards. All the while the beautiful yet somewhat haunting score from Paul Leonard-Morgan and Philip Glass perfectly lends itself to the pensive nature of the series.
Tales From The Loop is a bold and brave sci-fi drama which will undoubtedly split fans of the genre; proving fascinating for some, but frustrating for others. Brought to life by powerful performances and beautiful cinematography, the series is a poignant and slow burn study of the humanity behind the sci-fi.