WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Tales from the Loop, streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Based on the paintings and book by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, Amazon Prime’s Tales from the Loop focuses on Mercer, Ohio, where the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics (MCEP) has been trying to solve the mysteries of the Eclipse, the enormous black orb described as “the heart of the Loop” — which itself isn’t fully explained in the series.
In Season 1’s eight episodes, all viewers know is Mercer appears to be not just a town, but a unique, confined pocket where the space-time continuum can be breached, whether it’s by natural occurrences or due to man-made technology. With that in mind, let’s look at the time anomalies encountered as the show unravels.
In the premiere episode, “Loop,” a young girl named Loretta (Abby Ryder Fortson) sees her mom, Alma (Elektra Kilbey), studying part of the Eclipse. She overhears an argument with some man who says Alma stole it from MCEP and late in the night, a flash of light scares the girl off from her mother’s study. She wakes the next day wondering where Alma is, and goes to school, only to not be picked up. Lorette realizes her mom’s missing and when she takes the object in her investigations, she finds herself meeting young Cole (Duncan Joiner).
As Loretta searches for her mom, Cole reveals her plight to his mom, played by Rebecca Hall, who works at MCEP as well. The shocking reveal is she’s actually the older version of Loretta, who meets her past self and reveals Alma never comes back. Older Loretta tells the child she’ll go back and study up, and in time have a family. Young Loretta did see her future family so she takes some comfort in that, but warns her older self Cole feels neglected.
Older Loretta realized Alma didn’t want kids, and now she’s actually making the same mistakes her mom did — something she’s already planning to rectify. After their heart-to-heart, young Loretta places the piece of the Eclipse back and goes back to her timeline, thus beginning the closed-loop for this family. She’s accepted she’ll grow up to become a head physicist at MCEP, and that this time-trip she’ll become confused as she gets older as a dream.
In “Stasis,” May (Nicole Law) grows unhappy in her relationship with Cole’s brother, Jakob (Daniel Zohlgadri). She starts an affair with Ethan (Danny Kang) and reveals she fixed a thermos-like device she found by a lake that can freeze time. May’s a genius inventor and retrofits a couple of bands that allow her and Ethan to move around freely in Mercer.
They steal things, romp around town, have sex in the streets and seemingly spend weeks together falling in love. However, it comes apart when May needs a new part for the device so she can unfreeze time. She visits an engineer she steals equipment from, only to catch her mom sleeping with him. The hypocrisy breaks May who lashes out at Ethan, calling him a cripple due to his leg injury. Enraged, he leaves May and when she finds him at the pier, he’s taken off his band and is frozen too.
May’s left heartbroken because her one fear was being in a world by herself as she knows she’s not been the best person. She unfreezes time after her device got fixed, but Ethan walks off and leaves her alone. After the breakup, they pass each other on the street and while Ethan does try to reconcile, telling her he loves her in Chinese, a disillusioned May has seemingly moved on with no faith left in humanity.
Gaddis (Ato Essandoh), the MCEP security guard who’s friends with Cole’s parents, lives a life far away from town in “Parallel.” As a gay black man, romantic options are few and far between, and on the farm he lives on, he gets by fixing a tractor. Upon successfully starting it, though, Gaddis is transported to another reality. Here, he finds another version of himself with a French carpenter called Alex (Jon Kortajarena).
Gaddis saw space-time rifts opening up in the ground on his world but thought he was hallucinating. It turns out this tractor which he found years ago was apparently an on-off switch. Ironically, Gaddis found Alex’s picture in it (which Gaddis 2.0 placed in their world before the tractor got teleported through a wormhole to Gaddis’ world). Gaddis became infatuated with Alex and after they bond in this alternate reality, they start an affair.
Unfortunately, Alex is a playboy and while Gaddis falls in love, it’s a mere fling to the Frenchman. Gaddis 2.0 reveals the truth that he only stays with Alex out of companionship and it’s not really the idealistic version of true love Gaddis has in mind. Gaddis leaves the couple but as he heads into town, he meets Kent (Brian Maillard). Earlier in the episode, in Gaddis’ world, he and Kent met, flirted but didn’t hit it off. Gaddis now realizes he was being too picky, putting the concept of the perfect mate up on a pedestal and finally understanding love is about compromise. Luckily, he connects better with this Kent, and the episode ends with Gaddis apparently finding love in a most unexpected place.
Tales from the Loop stars Jonathan Pryce, Rebecca Hall, Jane Alexander and Paul Schneider. The show is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime's Tales from the Loop features a few space-time anomalies that paint the retrofuturistic town of Mercer a huge mystery.