Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)
Season One, Episode Three – “Stasis”
Written by Nathaniel Halperin
Directed by Dearbhla Walsh
We’ve all had those moments in our life that we wistfully drift back to from time to time. There’s a very distinct emotion we feel when thinking about them, a yearning to go back there, and our senses recalling smells and sounds that further recreate the scenario. More likely than not, if we were to have a way to be in that moment perpetually on closer examination, we would discover flaws & incongruities with our memory. Emotion has such a strong ability to cloud the mind and create false pasts that feel better, editing the problematic parts.
May, the love interest of Jakob in the previous episode, gets spotlighted as she finds herself drifting away from him. She isn’t aware that he’s actually body swapped with Danny, which is why she feels so different about their relationship. It’s Ethan, a new boy that suddenly captures her fancy, and she begins to feel those pangs of teenage love again. Things take a turn for the strange when she discovers a peculiar canister on the short while fishing with her father. It has two bracelets so that if you are wearing them when the device is switch on allowing people to live in a frozen moment. The world comes to a halt around you, and the user can interact with people and objects with them completely unaware. May shares this with Ethan, believing they can live in perfection, separated from their obligations. But as the days drag on, she finds her idealized view of their romance is crumbling.
This is my favorite episode of the series so far, with the most apparent themes and some of the best acting. Nicole Law is absolutely perfect as May, a character presented as very shy and quiet in the previous episode. Here we get so much depth to her and discover she is much more rebellious and angry than initially thought. May’s anger boils under the surface, acutely aware of her parents’ crumbling marriage but not in any position to say or do anything about it. That revelation that people don’t live happily ever after informs her decisions throughout this story. I don’t think any viewer will be surprised to see that when given the magic ability to freeze the world, May doesn’t end up happy with the result. The point of the story is not to provide a clever twist but to allow meditation on how our expectations for life often fall quite short.
Ethan has a physical disability that is what draws May to him. It’s the cliche of finding an injured animal and wanting to care for it. May is definitely over-romanticizing love in the same way all teenagers will when they first feel that intense emotion. There is a deep fear in this young woman that if love doesn’t happen for her in a blazing hot fireball, then it will fizzle out and die like her parents’ relationship. She tries to mask that desperation, and Ethan is a perfect distraction. It’s only when she’s directly confronted with the failure of her parents’ marriage that she snaps on Ethan, turning his disability into a point of attack.
May doesn’t get a happy ending, much like most of the characters in the series so far. The point is that there isn’t a clear ending in life, only that we learn a lesson from our hubris, from letting our unwillingness to communicate with others get in the way of a real understanding of existence. Technology is the element that grants people their wishes and also reveals why those wishes are deeply flawed. The tech is neutral when viewed in isolation, it’s the way a user implements it that takes things down a right or wrong path. The argument is made frequently that the Internet is a great invention, humans were just not prepared to process this much data constructively, leading to the breakdown in truth and facts as propaganda becomes mixed with reality. Tales from the Loop comes from the same viewpoint, there are wondrous things in the universe, and that could allow us to experience life in new ways, we just aren’t ready for it yet.