Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)
Season One, Episode Two – “Transpose”
Written by Nathaniel Halpern
Directed by So Yong Kim
The second episode of Tales from the Loop delivers an interesting surprise that while this is an anthology series, the stories will revolve around the same set of characters. Where episode one focused on Loretta, episode two shifts to Jakob, her eldest son. The first episode was about destiny using the conceit of a time loop, and this one is about envy of another person’s life and uses more of the esoteric technology of the Loop to go deeper. It’s a smartly written story that puts its focus purely on the human elements and doesn’t get caught up in the hard science fiction.
Jakob and his friend Danny envy each other’s lives. Jakob is awkward and quiet, not good with girls, and wants to be as charming and relaxed as Danny. Danny is failing in school with only a career at the rock quarry in his future when he really wants the prestige of working at the Loop, which is where Jakob is headed. The boys stumble across a decaying device of unknown origins, and Jakob climbs inside. Everything goes dark, and Jakob wakes up in Danny’s body and vice versa. Danny suggests they spend a few days living each other’s life for fun, and Jakob hesitantly agrees. But as it always does in these sorts of stories, things don’t go as planned.
What’s interesting to point out that it is Jakob (in Danny’s body) is the first to want to switch back. Jakob retains his intelligence, has Danny’s physical prowess, and even gets to kiss a girl. But he sees how much he loses by not having a connection to his family. Danny (in Jakob’s body) simply changes Jakob’s life, giving up on his hobby of drawing, conceding to Jakob’s parents on going to the Loop for work after high school. The way the story plays with our expectations of getting the life we dream of and then how we would ultimately come to miss the relationships we left behind is done very well.
Tales from the Loop in its first two chapters appears to be centered around the theme of human failure and how we often create the circumstances under which that failure occurs. Loretta assumed the episode from her childhood was just a dream and ended up becoming disconnected from her children, just as her own mother was. When she realizes what happened, it’s too late, she’s completing the loop and sending her younger self back to do everything all over again. In Transpose, the race to abandon your life in pursuit of some distant dreams results in the boys crossing a line and cementing themselves in positions where they do not want to be.