“Tales from the Loop” are a melancholy examination of the many aspects of love taking place between dimensions in a place where the science fiction of happenstance takes different people outside of the normal life in small town Mercer, Ohio.
“Tales of the Loop” are based on Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag’s 2014 eponymous book of futuristic digital images. Transferring the action to the fictional Midwestern town of Mercer, the timeline flashes between the 1950s. At the center is the discovery of a sphere called the Eclipse and the landscape is littered with decades of experiments linked to the particle accelerator at Mercer Center for Experimental Physics which breaks up time and can open portals to parallel universes. This isn’t the physics of the real universe, but the “fringe physics” of science fiction and imagination.
Similar to the American classic play, “Our Town,” each episode has a person step forward to tell their story, but the central theme is the tragedy of love. Amazon Prime Video provides bonus material (the cast and crew briefly discussing the series and a behind-the-scenes video) along with the eight episodes.
Not everyone’s story is followed from beginning to end yet each intertwines with another in some way.
The eight episodes are:
- Echo Sphere
The pilot begins with a talking-head introduction by Russ Willard (Jonathan Pryce) who explained that he founded the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics “to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe.”
Russ tells us that “Everyone in town is connected to the Loop in one way or another.”
A little girl, Loretta (Abby Ryder Fortson), studies math at school (Note the teacher. She’ll return.), but she wanders off to the snow-covered banks of an iced over body of water. There you see evidence of off constructions and even a bipedal robot spying from behind the leafless trees. At a dock, Loretta, listens. The rocks tremble and move oddly and there’s an off rhythmic rumble from beneath the surface.
At home, a man (Pryce) confronts her mother (Elektra Kilbey) , telling her, “Alma, I’m telling you, put it back.” He claims she’s endangering herself and her child. Loretta seems fairly self-sufficient, She cooks her own meal as her mother soaks in the bath. At the dinner table, they play chess.
“You told me to never steal,” Loretta says to her mom.
Alma, sidesteps the accusation, claiming she “obtained it” and will return it after she conducts some experiments. Alma thinks someday she and Laurel will work together at the Loop. “Wouldn’t it be something.”
Alma continues her experiments, and Loretta hears the rumble at her house. The window glass cracks. The three silo-like cylindrical structure are lit. Laurel leaves a thermos for her mother outside the closed door of Alma’s home office. She takes out the trash and heads off to school, with a last look at her house. At the school, the teacher tells her, “You mother will be proud.” Laurel anxiously awaits at the place where people file out of the MCEP underground facilities, but her mother isn’t there. She drags back the trashcan, but her house isn’t there. All that is left is wind chimes on a tree, the two stone posts to mark the driveway and a good-sized black rock that has some shaped edges at the center of eclipse of bare ground. In the distance, a figure seems to wave to her, but she doesn’t see it. Calling for “Alma,” she gets no response. She does find a young boy, Cole (Duncan Joiner), throwing rocks at a motionless bipedal robot.
“Hit it in the eye. They say it’s good luck,” Cole explains.
“Stop, how would you like to be picked on,” Loretta tells him.
“But it’s a robot,” Cole replies. He mentions his brother tells him that the robots are from the underground facilities, but after they leave, the robot moves. Cole tells her that the dilapidated house they see is haunted. There they see that snow floats up. And we flashback to Alma and Lorettal’s house which floated away, piece by piece.
Cole attempts to help her. He wants to enlist the help of his mother, but she’s talking with her father-in-law, Cole’s grandfather, Russ. Cole takes Loretta to his room. Loretta sees Cole’s father, George (Paul Shneider), and his bionic arm.
Through Cole’s brother, Jakob (Daniel Zolghadri), we get a sketchy explanation of what happened (supernova and blackholes). Loretta shows Cole the curious rock. It floats between them.
Loretta asks about Cole’s father’s arm. He explains, “It’s weird. He takes it of at night and plugs it in the wall.” He asks why Laurel doesn’t call Alma mom. Laurel explains, that her mother doesn’t like to be called, “Mom.”
Cole replies, “I don’t think my mom likes being a mom either.” This irritates, Loretta. Loretta takes Cole to the dock and tells him to listen to the rumble, a beat from below the earth.
Cole takes Loretta to MCEP and they speak with Gaddis (Ato Essandoh). Cole tells him that they are looking for Alma. “It doesn’t seem like your mother works here,” Gaddis replies, saying he’s just trying to be helpful. Gaddis calls Cole’s mother at home. “It’s the oddest thing; she says her mother’s name is Alma.” Cole’s mother is too shocked to reply and hangs up, only to sit down on the kitchen floor.
Loretta goes into the bar and the song playing sounds familiar. She thinks she sees Alma, but it is someone else, Cole’s mother. The bartender asks, “Do you know who she is?”
Loretta and Cole wander past a car and a station connected to a car. We’ll see these stations more in the episodes “Stasis” and “Control.” Cole takes her home and in the family room, Cole, Jakob and Loretta watch TV. Laurel wanders into the office of Cole’s mother. In it, she discovers a well-worn wooden box. Inside she fines a piece of paper, folded up and yellowed with age. Cole finds her and tells her that’s his mother’s. “Your mom, what’s her name?”
Cole’s mother has been wandering in the snow, kneeling down in the snow near a clearing. Her husband finds her there. She tells him, “It really happened?”
“What did?” he asks.
“I thought it was a dream?” She replies. “The girl, she’s me.”
Going back to the haunted house, Loretta falls asleep by a fire.
Cole’s mother returns and asks where the girl is. “She was in your study. I told her not to go in there. She ran off.”
Cole’s mother finds the sheet of paper–the test that Loretta took the day her mother disappeared. Loretta find Loretta and explains that they are the same person and that Alma was conducting an experiment. Alma doesn’t return, but Loretta has spent her life trying to figure out the science. The older Loretta who is now Cole’s mom explains, “It turns out that not everything makes sense.”
“I know you feel alone right now, but it’s not always going to be this way. My house, is yours. Cole and Jakob are yours,” the older Loretta explains. Loretta takes Loretta underground to the Eclipse–the beating heart of The Loop–and Loretta returns the mystical rock and it floats to the its place in the Eclipse.
Loretta explains that she didn’t think Alma wanted to be a mother, but Loretta tells her, “Cole said the same thing about you.”
The older Loretta and her father-in-law, Russ, make an appointment to discuss the events tomorrow. Russ tells her, “Whenever you’re ready.”
That evening, Cole sneaks down and sees his mother. “Did you find her?” Cole asks. “I did,” the older Loretta says. She gives him a pine cone because he collects them, if they’re good ones. She tells Cole that her mother left her when she was his age, but she assures Cole that she won’t leave him, “I’ll always be here for you.”
Jakob is drawing the bipedal robot. He’s worrying about a pimple on his cheek. He walks his younger brother Cole to school. When Cole’s shoelace breaks, he takes his own off and give it to him. At school, Jakob sits next to his best friend, Danny Jansson (Tyler Barnhardt). He allows Danny to see his answers while the teacher, Zhi (Victor J. Ho) sits at the desk and sips tea.
Danny helps Jakob lift weights, but clearly Danny is more of an athlete than Jakob and lifts heavier weights without assistance. They go together to a place where the high school teens hang out. Jakob admires May, but only waves to her. He’s too shy to say anything. Jakob is playing cats-in-the-cradle with a girl.
At Danny’s house, the two play guitars. “So you going to ask May out?” Danny asks. Danny’s interested in Lauren (Tatiana Latreille), but he tells Jakob that Lauren isn’t smart like May (Nicole Law). Danny claims that he’s being recruited by The Loop.
At home, Jakob’s mother asks, “Have you thought about what area you want to pursue?”
Jakob says, “I don’t know what I want to do.”
His mother finishes his sentence, “At the Loop.”
“In general,” Jakob replies. He’s more interested in drawing, but his parents think of that more as a hobby. That evening, after dinner, Jakob draws a sketch of May.
Jakob goes to see Danny who is painting a structure brick red. Jakob tells Danny, he missed a spot. Danny asks him if he’d like to trade. Jakob asks him to take a break for a smoke. The two ponder, “Would you rather be invisible or hear people’s thoughts?
“Maybe I’d stay away from people,” Jakob says.
“Then why be invisible at all,” Danny asks. As they are goofing around in the woods, they pass the bipedal robot.
Danny and Jakob find something that looks like a sea mine. Danny urges Jakob to look at the sphere. Jakob opens up the sphere and looks inside. Danny urges Jakob to climb in.
Once inside, there’s a whooshing sound. Danny suddenly is flat on his back. Danny becomes Jakob. Jakob becomes Danny. Jakob/Danny panics. Danny/Jakob is calm. Danny/Jakob climbs back in and again they switch.
Danny says, “This is wild. This thing, it’s not going anywhere and it’s reversible.” Danny says it will be cool to be someone else for a day. Jakob hesitates, but Danny convinces him. “Come on. It will be funny.”
As you might guess (from at least the soundtrack), things end up not being so funny. Jakob/Danny does have fun, finding that he suddenly is faster than Danny/Jakob. Jakob/Danny and Danny/Jakob meet Russ and learns that Jakob’s grandfather runs The Loop and that Jakob has a good job waiting for him. They aren’t used to each other’s names. They tell him they are just hanging out. They pretend to be looking at vacuums when they were really looking at themselves.
Danny/Jakob tells Jakob/Danny not to get him in trouble and not to go through his stuff. Danny/Jakob gets to paint the barn and Lauren comes by. Lauren tells Danny/Jakob that her dad sometimes plays music inside. They go inside and they awkwardly make out.
Danny/Jakob goes home to his parents, Ed (Dan Bakkedahl) and Kate (Lauren Weedman). His mother asks him if he finished the barn and if he’s considered his Uncle Henry’s offer to work in the quarry. She tells him to he doesn’t have the same options as Jakob does because of his grades. Danny/Jakob can’t communicate with his younger sister who is deaf. He’s a bit freaked out by Danny’s pet tarantula. Danny/Jakob hear’s Danny’s parents fighting. His father doesn’t want to pressure Danny to work at the quarry, saying she has no concept what it is like to go out every day to a job that one hates.
Jakob/Danny waits outside in the dark. Danny/Jakob oversleeps and Danny’s father wakes him up and drives him so school in a beat up, dirty car. They don’t talk.
Danny/Jakob and Jakob/Danny meet in the gymnasium. Jakob/Danny dreamed that there were two of them. Danny/Jakob tells Jakob/Danny that his mother asked him about working in the quarry and asks why he lied.Jakob/Danny says he’s better than that. The plan is forming in his mind. In class, Jakob/Danny doesn’t get assistance from Danny/Jakob. While Danny/Jakob is painting the barn, he sees Jakob/Danny take May alone to the place where the kids were hanging out before. He sees Jakob/Danny kissing her. Angry, he throws the ladder down and knocks the paint over in front of the musicians. “I’m not me.” Danny/Jakob goes to see Jakob/Danny at his home. He finds Jakob/Danny listening to heavy metal and confronts him. “I want to switch back,” and although Jakob/Danny claims he kissed May for Danny/Jakob, Jakob/Danny doesn’t want to switch back. They fight. Jakob’s father breaks it up.
A frustrated Danny/Jakob is crying and heads back to the sea mine. Wandering through the woods, he passes the bipedal robot and then comes to the sea mine. Pausing, he is crying as he enters.
That evening, Cole asks Jakob/Danny how to draw a car, but Jakob/Danny can’t draw. “Cars are tough,” he tells Cole, but Cole looks at him curiously. His father comes in and tells Jakob/Danny that Danny’s father is one the phone and wonders if Jakob/Danny if he knows where Danny is. Looking through Jakob’s sketchbook, he finds drawings of naked woman, but also the portrait of May. At school, Lauren asks Jakob/Danny if he’s seen Danny. “He should be here somewhere. It’s fine,” Jakob/Danny says. He ends up alone at the gym. After school, Jakob/Danny meets up with May and gives her the sketch. Looking at the signature, “Jakob,” he feels remorse.
Jakob/Danny goes to the woods calling “Jakob,” He comes to the sea mine and looks inside and then runs away, calling for help. Jakob/Danny goes to the hospital to see Danny’s family sitting around Danny who lies motionless. Kate tells Jakob/Danny, “You need a haircut.”
Ed asks, “Do you know what he was going out there?”
Kate is already thinking of Danny in past tense. His father, Ed, repeatedly corrects her to the present tense. Leaving the hospital room 210, he’s hugged by Lauren who cries. Going back in the evening to the sea mine, he sees that a group of men are dismantling it. Now his choice is permanent.
Knowing Danny’s parents are at the hospital, he breaks into Danny’s house. He plays his guitar and then takes the tarantula with him. As he’s leaving, he sees his sister in front of the television. She sees him and he signs, “I’m still here.” He leaves.
In the end, he looks at himself in the mirror. The barn is finished and a string quartet plays the soundtrack music as they watch the sunset.
Jakob/Danny tells Jakob’s mother that “I think I’m gonna start working at The Loop.” George, Jakob’s father, tells him he can always draw as a hobby. “I don’t think I like to draw any more.” George tells him his grandfather will be very pleased. Jakob/Danny sadly tells them, “I miss my friend.” The tarantula’s image is transposed on to Jakob/Danny’s face as he sleeps at night.
Waking up and looking out, he sees something watching him. Going outside, he hears metallic creaking. With a flashlight he spots the bipedal robot shyly peaking out from behind the bushes. “Jakob?” Jakob/Danny inquires. The bipedal robot looks down and away and then leaves.
May wonders about her doomed love affair with Jakob. “That moment, that wonderful feeling of excitement,” she recalls when Jakob is kissing her. Jakob/Danny tells her “I love you”
She wonders, “Why does it always pass… Even when you know its special right then and there, it still ends. Why can’t we stay in that moment. That feeling. Why can’t it last forever like we wish it could?”
She looks at her mother who seems to have lost the joy, but we’ll learn more about that later.
The girl, May, is on her bed contemplating a thermos like object and we then see the moment in the past when she found it while she was fishing at a pond. When her father, Zhi, picks her up, May sees another man standing on a lookout point.
On the news, she hears an announcer talking about “atoms performing.” Back at home in the garage/workshop, she looks at the thermos, but it seems to have an on and off switch and two thick bangle bracelets. Her mother complains that she isn’t even dressed yet. With Jakob and her family, she attends a wedding. A string quartet plays music. Jakob spills a drink and wets her dress. When she goes to the bar, she meets the Ethan (Danny Kang), the guy she saw by the lake earlier.
“Think it will last?” Ethan asks.
May replies, “Hope so.”
She asks why he was at the lake alone. Ethan asks. “Ever want to be alone?”
May replies, “Never” The two go for a walk and realize that there’s something wrong with his foot. It has always been that way and it sometimes hurts. They walk into the woods. She’s already distancing herself from Jakob. “I hear time moves slower in the woods,” Ethan says. May asks to see his foot.
“What would you do, if it was normal?” May asks.
Ethan says that he would run. May’s mother and father and Jakob come looking for her. She leaves Ethan.
May realizes that the thermos like object need a tube. Later, she talks to her mother and asks when she got married. Her mother was about her age, but the lyrics of the record May is playing tells us something about the marriage of May’s parents.
May meets Ethan at the cemetery where Ethan makes up sensational stories about the people who died. May notes that Ethan is much quieter at school.
Ethan admits, “I don’t like being around people. They can be mean.” May takes his hand. He asks if she will tell Jakob.
Later at one of the stations, Ethan distracts Lucas who explains that he’s repairing a “heat absorbing component.” May is stealing a tube from Lucas’ van. Lucas gets distracted when he sees May. At May’s house, May shows Ethan the thermos. She takes him up to the room and turns on a record: “At the darkness of the street, that’s where we always meet…living in darkness to hide our wrongs.” They start to makeup, but May’s mother catches them and tells Ethan to get out.
Once the cylinder is fixed, May learns she can cause all the town to freeze while she can walk freely as long as she wears the bracelet. She shows Ethan, telling him, “I found a way we can be together.”
They have fun, doing harmless pranks (notably they see Gaddis eating at a diner and call him someone from another dimension), drinking liquor and finally surrender to their hormones, having sex in the middle of the Main Street (with minimal disrobing and discretely filmed, mostly from a distance). Then they begin looting and even decide to take up residence in a large house. May teaches Ethan how to say “I love you” in Mandarin Chinese. (我爱你 Wǒ ài nǐ or in traditional Chinese, 我愛你 Wǒ ài nǐ). Ethan teaches her archery with an expensive bow they’ve purloined.
May reveals that she doesn’t like being alone because she’s not her favorite person. Ethan promises, “I’m here, I’ll never leave you.”
May asks, “Promise?”
Ethan reassures her, “Promise.”
A month passes. Ethan asks, “When we turn this off, will you breakup with Jakob?” May pauses for too long. They find that the thermos is broken and they need another tube. Ethan asks, if he is “stuck here” in stasis and May is offended. Later, May learns her mother, Liu (Leann Lei) is having an affair with the mechanic, Lucas (Dominic Rains).
She takes out her anger on Ethan who asks why she is acting like a “bitch” and she calls him a cripple. He leaves her. She finds him where she first saw him, by the lake. She tries to explain, “I was scared that you were going to leave me,” but she realizes he has taken his bracelet off.
The episode then circles back to the beginning when she’s wondering about “That moment, that wonderful feeling of excitement.” She puts the thermos away. She goes with her father to the shore and tells him she will break up with Jakob, “I don’t think we’ll be together much longer.”
He tells her, “Sometimes things are special because they don’t last.”
Later as her mother is putting on make up, May returns her jade earrings. Walking on the Main Street in front of the cinema she sees Ethan in front of the vacuum shop. He looks at her. He crosses, but she goes away.
Ethan says, “Hey. How are you?”
May instinctively replies, “And you?”
Ethan asks, “I, what happened?”.
May replies, “You broke your promise.”
Ethan says, “You said what you said. Hey. wo ai ni.” She doesn’t respond and walks away.
Soundtrack: “The Dark End of the Street” (1967) Sung by James Carr.
A young boy, Cole, spends time with his grandfather, Russ, and his grandmother, Klara (Jane Alexander) He gathers fireflies and puts them in a jar, but he forgets to give them air. Cole’s grandfather replaces the fireflies with loose change. As Cole helps his grandfather plant a vegetable garden, his grandfather quizzes him about multiplication tables.
Cole asks his grandfather what he does underground. Russ tells him, “You know when someone says something is impossible. I prove that it’s possible.”
When Cole’s father picks him up, Cole pretends to shoot his grandfather with his hand and his grandfather does the same.
Russ tells his wife, “Your grandson forgot to poke air holes in the jar.”
His wife asks, “Has she called yet?”
Russ replies, “Not yet.”
At The Loop, Russ waits and finally gets a call. It’s form a doctor. We don’t know what is said, but Russ isn’t happy. Later we see Cole poking the carcass of a doe in the woods while walking with his grandfather.
Cole asks, “What was my dad like at my age?”
“Oh, I was working long hours then,” Russ confesses. Russ takes Cole to the Echo Sphere. This is much larger than the sea mine we saw in “Transpose.” Call out and you can hear yourself as an old man. By counting, you can tell how many decades you’ll live. Cole calls out and hears six. Russ calls out and there’s no echo. Cole wonders if it is working. Russ tries to tell Cole about his prognosis, but Cole becomes upset.
Russ goes to discuss the matter with Loretta, George, Jakob and Cole.
Loretta asks, “Did the doctor say how long?”
Russ’ wife remembers when that doctor was a little girl.
Loretta asks, “What can we do?”
Russ tells her, “As I said before, there is nothing to do.”
Russ tells Loretta that he’s spoken to the board and tells her that she will be the lead when he steps down. He gives her some unsolicited advice, to take a sick day because time will fly by faster and she’ll miss out on things. Time passes in a “blink of the eye.”
Russ takes Cole out to a lit walk way. “Can’t see anything,” Cole complains. “Too dark.”
Russ shows Cole a control panel that lights up the night. “Remember, you an always find light in the dark,” he tells Cole. When Russ returns Cole, they again play their gunslinger game. But before he goes into the house, Cole says, “See. I knew you wouldn’t die.”
That evening, upon returning home Russ begins to sob. Before he enters, he composes himself. Looking at the bookshelf, he tells his wife who is watching TV, we should put something here. “Like what,” she asks.
“Something,” he replies. In his mind, Russ sees a young girl in the sunlight. Then while trying to sit on his bed, he collapses.
Jakob tells Cole, “Grandpa’s in the hospital.”
Cole asks, “Dead?”
Jakob replies, “Not yet.”
Cole takes Jakob to MCEP. “Anything is possible down there.” Cole knows of another way into The Loop. Jakob thinks what they’re doing is dumb, but Cole tries to find a way in. One of the back entry ways is open. In the background, we see the bipedal robot lurking.
Cole climbs down a ladder and the port hole automatically closes. Cole has no choice but to continue. He gets inside and walks along the long corridor that we’ve seen before. The other scientists don’t notice him.
Cole enters the room where the beating Eclipse is housed. Standing before it, he touches it, but his mother sees him. “You could have gotten hurt. What were you trying to do.”
Cole admits he was trying to help his grandfather. He realizes that The Eclipse is made out of the same rock that the girl who was looking for her mother had. “What’s the point of all of this. Make it possible.”
“You may not like it, but dying is a part of life,” Loretta tells him.
Cole wants to see his grandfather, but his parents don’t think that’s a good idea. Gaddis takes him up and out. Jakob is waiting at the guard station, when Cole asks, Jakob tells him that he didn’t tell on him.
Cole rolls the jar with the change that he had kept the fireflies in. In class, his teacher looks at him, but he’s thinking about the times he had with his grandfather, in the garden, at the Echo Sphere. He remembers how the deer carcass eventually became nothing but a skeleton. The jar falls and breaks.
Cole asks to see his grandfather and his father takes him to the hospital. “Before you go in, I need you to promise me something…remember him as he was, not as he is,” his father asks. At this point, Russ can’t sit up. He can’t recognize Cole. Instead he’s remembering Klara, his wife. We’ve seen her image before. Russ remember his wife when she was young (Jodi Lynn Thomas), sitting on the porch as it begins to rain.
That evening, Cole tells Jakob, “It’s not fair. I can’t save him.”
Russ dies alone in the hospital with his wife sitting beside him, asleep. In his mind, he hears the rhythmic sound of The Eclipse and he’s moving toward it and touching it.
Russ gets a phone call while his family is eating breakfast. “Your grandmother was there; he wasn’t alone,” he tells Jakob and Cole. The nurse clears off the bed, preparing for the next patient. Russ’ desk at work is bare. His hat is on the bed. His wife brings back a silver jar and places it on the shelf where Russ thought something should be.
After the funeral, people gather for refreshments at the bar. We see Gaddis there. The waitress asks Cole if his grandfather was buried or cremated. Cole doesn’t know, but the waitress says, she’d rather be buried like her mom.
Cole helps his grandmother pick the tomatoes. For the first time (that I can recall), we see there’s a scruffy good-sized dog there. Cole looks at his grandfather’s computer. “What did grandpa do in here?”
“He never told me,” his grandmother replies.
Cole’s father picks up Cole and his grandmother gives him a framed picture of his grandfather for Loretta. As the car pulls away, you can see there’s a very large blue metallic sphere next to the house.
Cole returns to the Echo Sphere by himself and calls out and he sees his future and miraculously, fireflies are floating about in the darkness of the sphere.
“Control” begins with a man repairing one of the power stations that seem to be part of The Loop power grid. The man, Danny’s father, Ed, sees an egg that has fallen from the nest and broken.
From there, the scene changes to the hospital. Kate, Ed and their daughter Beth, sit beside the comatose Danny. Ed takes out his frustration in the basement by hitting a punching bag. As he probably once taught his son Danny, now Ed teaches his daughter Beth how to use the punching bag. Downstairs is also where the fuse and circuit breaker box is. The lights go out. Kate complains, but it would be expensive to fix. Kate suggest they get a loan from her brother Henry, but Ed is too proud.
Ed wants to ask his boss for a raise, but the service office gets a phone call and Ed loses his momentum. Near one of the stations, Ed sees a bipedal robot doing work in the scrap yard. He gets an idea.
While Kate is doing the laundry in the basement, and putting fresh sheets on the beds, Beth runs outside. Three boys see her, but she doesn’t hear her.
At the bar, Lucas tells Ed that someone broke into another person’s house. He also tells him that someone broke into his house–when he was home. “Messed up, right?” That was, of course, May and Ethan during their one month of “Stasis.” Lucas changed the locks, but he still finds is disturbing.
When Ed returns home, he sees that the three boys took her toy. Her father, Ed, tells her he’ll buy her a new one, but she was that one because her brother gave her.
“Why weren’t you with her?”
“I can’t be with her every single second…bad things happen,” Kate tells him.
“But they don’t have too. Not to us. Not any more,” Ed replies. Ed copes by punching a bag in the basement. The lights go out again. He switches the circuit. Going upstairs, he realizes that someone is watching the house, looking at Beth. He goes after him, but the person runs away.
Ed and Kate call the police. The police question Ed, but there are no possessions missing. They don’t have a description of the person. Kate is made, and wants the police to catch them. “Your daughter didn’t recognize him?” the police officer asks.
Kate continues to be abrasive. Ed says, “I can keep you safe,” but Kate doesn’t believe him and Beth has already told her father that he didn’t prevent the boys from picking on her.
The next day, Ed finally speaks with his supervisor, Phil (Sean Connolly Affleck) for an advance. Phil gives him a large envelope of cash. Ed gives this to the lady at the scrapyard and brings back the scrapper robot. He quickly demonstrate that the scrapper robot can crush one of those old metal trashcan’s pretty easily.
Kate asks, “What’s it for?”
Ed tells her, “Protection.” The robot doesn’t work by itself. It is control by a power pack and basically mimics the action of the right arm of the controller. The power pack is connected by a harness to the back and there’s other parts connecting to the controller’s right arm.
Ed’s neighbor across the way, peeks out from his front window, but isn’t pleased. His wife slept with their daughter, but Ed did not.
Ed still visits his son. He sees the nurse sponge bathing him while she listens to the radio. Ed tells her, “My son’s pretty good at the guitar.” Ed does home and patrols through the night.
The next day, Lucas asks him what will Ed do if the guy comes back, kill him? “What if he’s not violent. What if he just wants money?”
“He was watching my daughter,” Ed tells him. Lucas doesn’t think he could handle killing someone, but Ed gets upset because he feels Lucas doesn’t understand what it’s like having something bad happen to someone in your family.
Although Ed and Lucas are eating together, we see Gaddis is eating alone and writing in a notebook. Ed teaches Beth how to use the robot and she seems happy, but she looks and they both see smoke coming from one of the basement windows. It’s the circuit breaker box. They’ve left Beth alone with Scrapper and she seems quite pleased with herself.
Kate resorts to using a hurricane lampers. Ed tells Beth that he needs to take her bandage off her knee. He wants to rip it off fast. She wants to do it slow. He takes it off fast. It is all better.
The hospital bills are killing this family. They are too short to pay for the electricity. Ed tells her to “figure it out.” Kate wants to sell the Scrapper. Ed volunteers to sell the car.
Ed takes Beth out to a field so she can practice using the Scrapper. The police come and express concerns about safety issues. People aren’t concerned about the break-ins, but although Ed didn’t doing anything illegal, the neighbors are afraid. The police will be monitoring the situation moving forward.
There is a person watching them at night. It is Danny signing to his sister. He got the toy back for his sister. Jakob/Danny asks through sign language, “Why are the lights out?”
Beth tells him, “No money. Jakob/Danny must realize this is because of the hospital bills. He leaves the toy in the garage. Beth goes to get her toy in the garage. She makes sounds that wake up her father. Ed calls out to the person in the garage, “I can hear you. Come out, now!” and using the scrapper robot, he almost knocks her out.
At work, on the grid a lot of things are going wrong. At home, Ed returns to find that his wife has left and is staying with her brother, Henry.
Ed finally confronts the sad reality of his financial situation. At the hospital, he talks to Danny. “I fix things; that’s what I do. What I’ve done my whole life, that’s my purpose in live. But I can’t fix this. I thought I was going to keep you safe forever, but I can’t. So sorry. So sorry I let you down, okay.” Ed cries and the scene changes from Danny’s pale still face to the broken egg on the ground. The egg goes back up to the next.
Ed eventually returns the Scrapper and uses the money to fix the circuit breaker box and pay for the electricity. Kate and Beth return.
The guard to the Loop, Gaddis, sits alone in his booth, watching the people filing through to enter the subterranean corridors of The Loop. He looks at a photo of a man playing piano and writes in his book. He sees a man with a leather messenger bag riding toward town.
Off of work, he attempts to repair a mysterious farming machine, a modernistic tractor, that seems to hover above the ground. He hears a funny sound and finds a hole in the ground, but the hole disappears and the ground become solid again. In town at the local corner bar, he picks a tune for the jukebox and plays pool by himself. He sees the guy from before, the one riding the bicycle.
The man, Kent (Brian Maillard), moved there a few weeks ago, but he criticizes the song that Gaddis chose.
“I’m Alone Without You” by Louis Prima
“Poor John Blues” by Sleepy John Estes.
“900 Miles” by Terry Collier
Gaddis gets May to help him with the tractor. He asks her about holes, but she hasn’t seen any.
George and Loretta have Kent over for dinner. Gaddis tells him he likes living outside of town. “They’re a window into a world that’s right next to ours.” Gaddis notes that some birds travel a great distance to mate. He thinks it is romantic, “Going that far for love.” Yet Loretta and George know that Gaddis has had problems finding love and in a small town like Mercer, he doesn’t have many options.
After May makes the repairs, Gaddis starts up this tractor and although the engine starts, it soon stalls again. Going home, he finds his house is little more than a storage space. Going farther, he finds a nice two story house, but when he knocks on the door he meets himself, Gaddis #2 (Kevin Harris) and Gaddis #2’s significant other, Alex (Jon Kortajarena). The photo Gaddis found in the tractor is Alex.
That evening, Gaddis #2 tells him the tractor disappeared a few months ago. Alex and Gaddis #2 thought it was stolen. In the Gaddis #2 world, The Loop, shut down years ago. Gaddis #2 says, “I’m thinking they did something at The Loop (in Gaddis’ world). They let Gaddis sleep at their home. Gaddis #2 has a collection of records.
Although they fix the tractor, starting it up doesn’t return Gaddis to his world. “Stuck here, aren’t I?”
“It looks that way. Anyone back home that will miss you?” Gaddis doesn’t reply. The two Gaddis’ begin explore their sameness, but Gaddis lies to Gaddis #2 when asked if Gaddis found the photo of Alex.
Alex goes alone to Gaddis’ place as he is cleaning up. He noticed that Gaddis said it was good to “finally” meet me. Alex tells Gaddis that Gaddis #2 and him met by chance and they didn’t get along at first. Alex asks if there was someone like him in the Gaddis world, but there wasn’t. Alex also thinks it will be nice once Gaddis settles in.
Gaddis #2 doesn’t have any Sleepy John Estes. Gaddis learns that Alex is making him a table and although Alex explains why he is working with his hands, when Gaddis tries to compare this to why he loves birding, Alex doesn’t think it is the same.
Gaddis #2 gives Gaddis books to read and it become apparent that Alex is also attracted to Gaddis. When Alex and Gaddis #2 entertain, Gaddis has to hide out. Alex and Gaddis #2 have an argument. Gaddis asks Gaddis #2 about the argument, but Gaddis #2 explains that in a long relationship arguments happen.
Gaddis finds that Alex is the one he’s been waiting for and finds him perfect. Gaddis has a sexual moment with Alex. He writes to Alex in his journals, asking him to love him, too and runaway with him because they would be so happy. On a rainy day, when Gaddis #2 is gone, Gaddis gives Alex his journal. The next day, Gaddis #2 brings back the journal.
Gaddis #2 reveals there have been other men. The excitement of a new sexual partner burns out and Gaddis #2 puts up with it because Alex isn’t perfect and “neither are we.” Gaddis #2 knows they are both upset. But Gaddis doesn’t want to be alone any more.
Gaddis #2 asks, “Just stay another day.”
Gaddis wants to leave and thinks he will figure it out. Gaddis heads for town, walking. He buries his journal under a tree in the woods. Walking into the Amwell Diner, he sits down and asks for water.
“Born to Lose” by Ray Charles is playing. Gaddis sits down. In come parallel universe Kent (Brian Maillard). Kent sits down alone. Gaddis notices that Kent has binoculars. Kent is looking for an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, an unconfirmed sighting, because “at the end of the day, who knows.”
George (Emjay Anthony) it trying to pick up something on a radio he’s been fixing. The two other boys, become bored and leave George’s room. They go to a movie. Seeing a mentally challenged boy, the blonde Chris (Callum McAllister) makes a gesture to mock him. The dark-haired boy Adam (Keenan Lehmann)is cut from the same cloth.
Later we see George lifting a rock. There’s a snake and the boys use a cattle prod on it.
At home, George repairs the radio and hears what sounds like static, but it is actually the cries of a creature.
The next day, looking over the lake to an island, Adam asks, “Hear about the Monster.” Adam continues, saying “My sister says it lives on that island.” It came from underground and supposedly murdered people.
George wonders why people didn’t just kill it. Chris mocks George when he says his father told him never to go out there. Chris and Adam have a small wooden boat ready. On the island, they find a canoe, but the canoe has a hole in it.
George is given the cattle prod and sent into the wild greenery while the other two boys stay back. He hears a noise, but he only sees birds. There are rocks hanging down from the trees. Adam and Chris leave George on the island, laughing at his predicament.
George finds electronic parts. Using his pocket knife he attempts to construct a radio. Much of what he finds is rusted. He has the sensation that he’s being watched and hears a strange cry. Distracted by the sound, he doesn’t notice a venomous water snake until after it has bit him.
All he can do is wash the wound and make a crude tourniquet. Exploring further, he finds cans hanging like a warning system. On a tree, he seems to see four parallel claw scratches on a tree. The heads of fish and feathers are at the end of stakes near a crude shelter, but he can’t tell if anything is in the shelter.
Soon the bite becomes infected. As night falls, it begins to rain. He seeks a shelter under a fallen tree and sleeps there. The boy, George, seems to wake up in his house, but on the window sill, he sees ants. Waking up, he’s actually back on the island in the forest. Looking at his arm, he sees green pus and bugs. He ventures toward the shelter with his pocket knife out (forgetting his cattle prod). There’s a fire. He uses the fire to sterilize his knife but before he can go further, the creature returns. George gets caught I none of the spring traps. He loses his pocket knife, but breaks free. Hiding in the ferns that cover the ground, he waits. The creature comes toward him. It passes by him. The creature seems to be bipedal and has heavy footsteps. George returns to his shelter under the fallen tree. He sees the creature walking and holding his cattle prod, he crawls out. Then he sees the creature which grabs at him. George hits it with the cattle prod on its arm.
The creature’s arm short circuits and falls off. George runs. He sees a boat leaving and calls after it, but it leaves. George weakly calls, “Wait,’ before he faints. He’s in the water and doesn’t see that the boat has turned back.
Waking up, George find himself in a hospital. His mother has come to take him home. His arm has been amputated. Chris and Adam come by and call out to him, but George shuts his curtains and doesn’t respond to them.
Russ asks him, “When you were out there on the island, did you seem something? Anything,” George denies that he did. Russ continues, “You should not have gone there” and makes him promise that he will not tell anyone about what he saw there.
He’s eventually fitted with a bionic arm made of metal, wire and hard wood. When he is much older, an adult George, the son of Russ, the husband of Loretta, and the father of Cole and Jakob, he resists replacing the arm with a new one.
Much later, a girl in his class asks him in a written note: Are you a robot? He had thought she might be interested in him as a person. Now he is little more than a curiosity.
Much later, now married to Loretta, he has bad dreams. On this particular day, Cole has found and is playing with the cattle prod. George scolds his son. George gets Audrey (Stephanie Sy) too repair his arm. He gets a haircut at the barber’s. There when a little girl stares at his arm, he shows her that it is nothing to be afraid of. “It’s just different,” he tells the little girl.
Watching a horror flick with his family, he remembers the creature on the island. Later he tells Loretta, “I never told the boys what happened.” Loretta thinks he should tell them about his arm. Working on a radio, he again gets what at first sounded like static, but is actually the cries of the creature.
At this time, Russ has already died. Jakob is starting to work at The Loop. George asks his mother, Klara, about the creature. She explains that it was the first. She tells him, “What was out there was like a child to him…it was alive, in its own way.” Klara thinks how sad the creature is all alone and tell George Russ realized, “People don’t like things that are different.” George thinks Russ put it on the island because the creature would hurt people, but his mother corrects him. “He put it out there so no one would hurt it.”
Going back to the island, George finds the creature and apologizes for injuring its arm. He leaves his old arm there between them.
Young Cole is a boy who’s experience a lot of things. His grandfather died. Now his brother has moved out of the house. He kicks a ball against the garage door.
He goes with his grandmother, walking near the three long cylindrical buildings. She takes photos of the yellow flowers in the field. photos of the long cylindrical buildings on a plane. In class, Cole draws pictures of the solar system. He can’t remember his combination. “If it ever feels like too much, you can talk to me,” the teacher Sarah (Stefanie Estes) tells him. She gives him a book.
His grandmother takes Cole to the field and teaches him how to use an old SLR camera. Cole’s brother, Jakob, now lives in town. Cole gets phone calls from Jakob and Cole wants to visit him. Jakob now lives above a barber shop.
Jakob explains to Cole, “I just don’t feel comfortable there” at their home.” Finally, Jakob/Danny confesses, “It’s not my home…I’m not your brother. I know this might sound” crazy, but he, Danny, and Jakob, “found something in the woods…that allowed us to switch bodies…”
Cole believes Jakob is making it up and angrily asks, “If you really aren’t my brother, then where is he?”
Jakob/Danny tears the drawing of the bipedal robot from Jakob’s sketchbook.
Cole asks, “So who are you?”
Jakob/Danny admits, “I’m Danny.”
Yet Cole knows that Danny died. Jakob continues on, saying, “Your brother, I hope he’s not mad at me.”
Cole goes to MCEP, but the guard, not Gaddis but a different person, tells him his mother has gone to the city. Cole find Jakob, the bipedal robot. He tells him corny jokes and together, they seek out their mother. On their way, they see a frozen river. They cross it. Then they meet an aggressive robot. Robot Jakob fights with the robot to save Cole and then, losing a part, dies.
Cole collects pine cones and puts them around the fallen robot in a circle. He goes back, but the water, once frozen is now flowing in a stream. He puts his soccer ball in it and watches if go downstream. Then the ball returns.
He crosses and then the stream freezes over again. At the barber shop, he calls above to his brother Jakob/Danny, but there’s a woman cleaning the shop instead of the man. At the guard house to the Loop, he asks for his mother, Loretta Willard. Above, he sees a strange vehicle flying. His mother is now much older and grey-haired. “I’d always be here for you.”
Danny as Jakob has admitted the truth. Jakob/Danny, George and Loretta find the robot. Cole’s parents mourn again, but they don’t know where Cole is.
Together, Loretta and her husband grow old. The grandmother, Klara, becomes infirm and is wheelchair-bound. Loretta sees, through windows into the corridor to the next room when her husband collapses at work in The Loop and dies. She is alone, waiting until she gets a call.
Cole complains that “It’s not fair. I want it to be like it was.” Cole is kicking his soccer ball against the garage in frustration. His brother, Jakob/Danny, comes to see him. Jakob/Danny now has a daughter, Nora.
The teacher who gave Cole the book which was both sad and beautiful hasn’t changed. The book was checked out by Cole’s mother, long ago. Cole asks her why although everything else has changed including his mother who has aged considerably, the teacher tells him, “I taught your brother, your mother and father, too, when they were your age.”
Cole asks, “How?”
The teacher explains, “There was a first, but your grandfather sent it away.” The teacher is a robot. “Change is part of nature and I’m not.”
Much later, Cole with his wife and teenaged son returns to the house where he grew up. He doesn’t know who lives there any more. Yet when asked if it feels like all this happened so long ago, the adult Cole replies, that it’s like the “blink of an eye”
The overall feeling is one of pensive unavoidable tragedy. explore the nature of love and lost. Nathaniel Halpern has connected these stories, but still left room for some unresolved mysteries. The back stories or resolutions for some of the characters opens the possibility for exploration in future episodes. This is a lovely collection of stories that stand by themselves, but also have an added depth when one realizes their connections. Only “Stasis” which features sexual situations and female nudity would be inappropriate for children.
“Tales from the Loop,” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.