The Strange Beauty of Simon Stalenhag’s Tales from the Loop and Amazon’s new series

The opening scenes of Amazon’s new sci-fi series, Tales from the Loop, are subtle, but the images will stick with you. Lampposts shaped like mechanical feet appear ready to stomp on  workers filing into an industrial building on a cold day with gray sky. The workers, dressed in white collar formal workwear, trench coats and fedoras, seem downtrodden, moving with the heaviness that only blue collar workers could know. 

The first few moments of the show is a monologue, expertly delivered by Jonathan Price, that explains the small town is built above the loop, a machine made to explore the mysteries of the universe. All of the townspeople are connected to it.

The monologue echoes the introduction of the book which the series is based on, written and illustrated by Simon Stalenhag. Tales from the Loop is a gorgeous, strange collection of vignettes based around Stalenhag’s paintings. After being in love with that strange, lowkey scifi, it’s wonderful to see some of the iconic images from the book, like the towers in the shot below, come to life.   

It’s clear the producers wanted to capture the flavor of those iconic images and the small ways the looming technology affects the characters. In episode 1, a small girl sits on a dock before a frozen pond. The girl throws rocks, which skid across the ice toward strange weathervanes rising through the frozen surface. Then, on the dock beside her, a pile of pebbles begins to tremble rhythmically in time with a metallic banging undulating from the ground vibrating the pylons. She presses her ear to the boards, and blinks. The weathervanes stretch into the distance. It’s an eerie, unforgettable sequence that captures the wonder of the book.

Throughout the episode, evidence of the town’s technology is subtly inserted in every shot. Strange metallic structures lurk in the woods and shortly after the little girl overhears her mother and someone else arguing about stealing a piece of “the eclipse” and needing to put it back, the mother goes missing, the little girl discovers a rock that floats steadily in the air, its black surface reflecting its surroundings in negative as though absorbing something from the world. The rest of the episode follows the little girl as she walks a path of secrets. 

There’s something deeply unsettling about the show, and although there are no real answers, the hook, that time has been warped and a little girl can somehow come face to face with her older self, is set. I have a hunch this series will use interconnected stories from the townspeople to pull the noose of a larger plot tighter.



Categories: Book Reviews, TV shows

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