Tales From the Loop

3 out of 5

Developed by: Nathaniel Halpern

covers season 1

I sometimes hesitate to review things simply because I don’t have much to say about them.

I recall when Simon Stålenhag’s work – the artist whose images inspired ‘Tales from the Loop’ – was making the rounds online.  The mash-up of sci-fi concepts with rural settings was undeniably cool to look at, especially with the realistic style Stålenhag uses, but it sort of halted at ‘cool to look at’ for me.  Books that pieced together a narrative from such images (one sharing the name with this series) also sounded interesting, however, reviews still didn’t convince me that things ever got beyond the conceptually interesting stage.

For development into a TV show, it is perhaps to Nathaniel Halpern’s credit that his eight episode series – all written by him, each episode directed by a different, notable director – maintains that same vibe, but of course, when transposing something into an actual story with characters and hour-long, somewhat interconnected plots, it’s nice to have a little bit more than just nifty looking good ideas.  And we almost get there.  Loop smartly never exceeds its grasp – it doesn’t go the mystic route and spout things that sound more weighty than they are – and the way Halpern extended the visual combination of the fantastic with the mundane to the way characters react to the impossibilities that occur around ‘The Loop,’ – a research center in which many of our main players either work or are invested in some way – is quite refreshing: the show isn’t “quirky,” and it’s not especially showy.  People are aware that weird things will occur, and so when you swap minds with your buddy accidentally, or you meet your past or future self, it’s not “normal,” but you just sort of go with the flow and see what’s next.  ‘Tales From the Loop’ is very enjoyable when it’s playing in that kind of territory, and almost every episode gives us a moment or two like that.  But the effect is limited.  Our characters cross some threshold, then walk around and make some comments – as one might regarding a painting that’s interesting, though maybe not especially deep or immersive – and then that’s sort of it.  The show flirts with tying things together in a way that suggests we will build toward something, but when the middle of the season somewhat diverts away from that, it becomes obvious that Halpern is more focused on nailing the vibe than on necessarily making any lasting impressions, or baiting us with cliffhangers, and… you know, that’s okay.  A lot of great actors worked with some great directors, mapping interesting visuals to some excellent music (Philip Glass, Paul Leonard-Morgan), with Halpern successfully entertaining us for about eight hours.

And though I don’t have much to say about it… I apparently have enough to say to form an opinion.  So that’s something.