TV REVIEW: Tales From The Loop Season 1 – All 8 Episodes Rated and Reviewed (Spoiler-free)

Tales From The Loop – Season 1 (8 episodes)

… is a pensive science fiction anthology series that has the viewer questioning what to think of the unknown. If Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling were still alive they would appreciate the first season. The stories are a bit long-winded at times, but the basic premise for the show is compelling.

Take a fascinating series of paintings about The Loop, drawn from the wonderfully creative mind of Simon Stålenhag, this mysterious underground bunker that has other-worldly devices and machines. The facility name is the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics and known locally as “The Loop.”

How do humans live alongside this enigmatic technology? Do they fear or embrace it? Or is each mechanical marvel provide fresh exploration.

The first episode “Loop” was made available for free during SXSW 2020. The following spoiler-free review of the entire series should give you enough to decide if this is something you’ll enjoy or not. I was definitely entertained and, at times, enthralled.

Episode 1 – “Loop” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 57 minutes

A young girl becomes curious about what work her mother is doing underground at an unusual scientific research facility in Ohio. Her mother has stolen something and is urged to put it back.

A robot that lurks around in the woods. Snow that falls upward inside a building. She finds this odd black rock that can suspend itself. Gravity pull.

Cool cinematography. It has more of a UK film feeling than a small town Ohio in the United States, but this adds to the off-kilter ambience. This is my favorite episode of the series because it just hits you with a bunch of of sci-fi strangeness and yet people don’t act all freaked out about it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Episode 2 – “Transpose” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 52 minutes

Two boys find a round shaped device in the woods. They open it and one climbs in.

When he climbs out they have now switched bodies. Trading bodies for a short time seems like something out of Freaky Friday, but this is not comedy.

The music is excellent in this series, including this episode. Strings at the right time, piano playing a haunting melody at others. Sets an X-files like mood.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Episode 3 – “Stasis” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 57 minutes

A young woman is fishing and finds a strange capsule. She meets a man that she falls in love with and longs for more time with him. As she takes apart the capsule, she learns that the device can freeze time for everybody else except the two of them.

All is well until they want to go back and something is wrong with the clear liquid that powers the enigmatic device.

The ability to freeze time is interesting, but the passing of time creates paradoxes and suspends disbelief. What happens to all of these frozen people and their bodily functions? If they are frozen for a long period of time, what happens when they are unfrozen? Would have been cool if this was somehow explored or explained, rather than the people being like static props.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 

Episode 4 – “Echo Sphere” ⭐️⭐️½ 
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 52 minutes

Russ, the old man running the underground science facility is dying. He seeks to explain to his family what it means when he’s gone, get his affairs in order, including who will look after the wondrous gadgets and machines from the Loop.

This thoughtful episode explores dying and death. It’s a bit on the slower and more depressing side and less technology-focused. The notable exception is the echo sphere itself that stops echoing when you’re near death. A neat idea that could have been exploited for a better storyline, instead it’s used as a metaphor for a crystal ball.

Just an OK episode. My least favorite of the first season.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️½ 

Episode 5 – “Control” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 54 minutes

A man becomes disillusioned with his life when he has a son on life support. He turns to obtaining a scrapper, a robot to emulate his actions and give him more control over his life.

What he gains in massive strength and power has him examining what’s most important for a man protecting his family.

In a way, this episode all examines our mortality, how we’re somewhat powerless to time. When the man begins to lose himself to the machine, that’s when the real strength of the underlying story comes out.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 

Episode 6 – “Parallel” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 56 minutes

A worker at sees a man riding a bike. He explores into the field, flips a switch on a hovering tractor and it opens a tiny vortex in the ground. He has a friend fix a fuse and then fires up the tractor.

The vortex opens and takes him into an alternate timeline where he runs into himself living with another person and the loop isn’t running any longer.

While this starts out and leads to believe it’s going to be just another time travel type of story, it’s much more. The device is only used functionally in the beginning and then because of the man not being able to understand how to use it, he becomes stuck in the alternate timeline. This creates a much more interesting dynamic for the story to unfold.

It would have been cool if he tried to learn more about the device, but his interest in bird watching and a love affair with someone he can’t have becomes his primary area of focus. The analogy to the device is less on the nose than it sounds. A fascinating character study.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Episode 7 – “Enemies” ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ½ 
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 51 minutes

Three boys visit a mysterious island. One is left behind on the island, bitten by a snake and makes a discovery of an unusual inhabitant on the island. The snake bite is severe, forcing the severing of his arm. He wakes up in a hospital bed and realizes he has lost his arm.

In the Loop a new robotic replacement arm is provided for him. There is something unusual about the prosthetic that will draw the boy back to the island to face.

Through the experience he realizes something illuminating about friends and enemies. There are some time jumps that are a bit jarring and disorienting, showing the boy grown up and talking with his son, then back to him as a boy, then back grown up. It does all make sense in the end, but the first time I watched it didn’t work as well.

Upon rewatching this episode, I liked this a lot more than on the first watch, and actually upped the star rating. It’s my third favorite episode of the first series.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ½ 

Episode 8 – “Home” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Air date: April 3, 2020
Run time: 49 minutes

We think this might be about the relationship between two brothers, an older brother and younger brother, but that is a parallel story. Instead, a young boy befriends a robot named Jacob.

They hang out together like brothers until Jacob fights another robot, loses a crucial component.

This is kind of an odd episode to end the first season on, as you’d think we’d get something more about the Loop, where the gadgets come from. How they are studying the machines? Instead, we get this episode trying to humanize these robots. Maybe that’s the whole point of the series — not to know — and the more we learn and know the less amazing these machines will be?

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Summary of Season 1

What I liked most about this anthology series is the stories focus on the human side of dealing with strange technology we don’t completely understand. The cinematography is fantastic and a major strength. Just taking still pictures of scenes that look very normal and yet have one or two machines in the background or odd-looking technological buildings.

So, if you’re looking for cool robot stories that isn’t really what this series does. The writing of all 8 episodes by Executive Producer Nathaniel Halpern is by and large excellent. The overall theme is maintained, just giving us enough tech and machines to keep us wondering and focusing instead on human interactions with these fantastic devices.

What was needed for me to love this series, instead of strongly liking it, was more about where the machines and tech came from. There are no episodes that really, truly explore the most obvious mystery.

Instead, we are left as viewers to accept their existence and that nobody is really digging that deep into where this stuff came from? We see scientists and employees underground presumably working on that … an Area 51 type facility, but we don’t really get to see any of these people, working to unravel the answers. Maybe that will be in season two, if one is greenlit?

Then again, maybe that’s the draw to the series and if too much of the mystery is explained it will ruin the mystique. This is an unusual anthology series and for that reason — perhaps more than any other — I recommend watching it. I can safely say there isn’t any other sci-fi/fantasy series that is like this and it is filled with rewatch potential. That’s a pretty big vote of confidence. Hopefully, we’ll see more someday, somewhere.

Overall season 1 rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 

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