Amazon Prime deliberately chooses its content and licenses. Rather than fling a thousand movies and series into its viewing audience’s devices, Amazon takes a more methodical approach. Whether it’s award-winning writing and acting like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or big-budget action like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, an Amazon Prime series tends toward high-quality, high production value work. Its adaptation of Tales From The Loop fits right into that niche – but that doesn’t mean the show is for everyone.
Way back, in the pre-pandemic world of 2014, Swedish artist, Simon Stålenhag, published a book named Tales From The Loop. This 128-page artbook uses text and photographic-quality art to describe an alternate version of Sweden. In this version, scientists have created an underground particle accelerator that produces some strange results on the nearby town. When the book sold out in Sweden, Simon started a Kickstarter campaign to bring his now two-volume set to English-speaking markets.
It blew up from there. In 2017, the art book’s publisher, Free League, delivered a table-top role-playing game that captured several major awards in that industry. Now, three short years later, Amazon Prime delivers its adaptation. For fans of the source material and anthology sci-fi, we might have a new classic.
Who is This show For?
Fans of shows like Stranger Things and Black Mirror will be drawn to Tales From the Loop. Also, fans of movies like Arrival or Blade Runner might find the show’s pacing and very deliberate aesthetic a welcome change from very showy, action-driven examples of sci-fi settings (think Altered Carbon or Lost In Space).
On the other hand, if the eye-catching mechs and other digital wizardry seen in the show’s trailer made you think the show would be all about mech-on-mech action or Rick and Morty-style reality hopping, you’ll find Tales From The Loop very lacking. While the series offers a cerebral trip into an alternate Earth, it doesn’t rely on action to propel the story. Stålenhag’s visuals, the whole reason Tales From The Loop is a thing at all, make up a small portion of what happens on screen. The “tales,” themselves, provide the characters something to do, but make no mistake. Tales From The Loop is all about its characters.
That’s kind of a funny way to look at an anthology show like this. After all, each episode does a deep-dive into a single character’s life, and then that character appears as a background player in the stories of the other characters. It’s a neat setup that produces some great stories. It also produces a couple of filler episodes (but even those would have been comfortably at home on other anthology shows, like Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams).
This is good TV. If you enjoy character-driven drama or cerebral sci-fi, watch it. If you saw the mechs and thought this might be like Transformers, you should probably skip this one.