Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)
Season One, Episode Six – “Parallel”
Written by Nathaniel Halperin
Directed by Charlie McDowell
Tales from the Loop continues its trend of taking a previously supporting character and making them the protagonist of their own episode. This time it is Gaddis, the security guard that works the gates of the Loop. We spend some time in the first act getting to know him better and quickly realize Gaddis lives his life in lonely sadness. He has friends, like Loretta and her husband, but he doesn’t have any intimate relationships. There is a brief flirtation with a new man in town, but Gaddis’ insecurities get in the way. Instead, he focuses his time on repairing an old tractor in a field near his home.
The science-fiction element is introduced through this piece of machinery when Gaddis believes he has made the right repairs only to find the vehicle emits a pulse that briefly disorients himself. Gaddis returns to his home only to see was never refurbished into a living space but remains a shack. Visiting the main house, he meets himself, Gaddis #2, who is partnered with Alex, a man Gaddis has seen in a photo he’d mysteriously found months earlier. A love triangle develops as Gaddis #2 tries to get his counterpart back to his own reality. Alex and the first Gaddis develop feelings for each other. Things are further complicated when we learn the Loop doesn’t exist in this reality; thus, the way home potentially doesn’t exist.
This episode also continues the “be careful what you wish for” theme rampant throughout the series. Gaddis has a photograph of a stranger that he longs to be with. Through the strange technology of the Loop, he ends up meeting the man only to find out a version of him is already with Alex. While it might be a version of him, it is not him, so he still doesn’t know what it feels like so, he begins pulling Alex away from his other-self. By the end of the episode, everything has fallen apart with Gaddis having gained knowledge but not the love he was so desperate for.
I appreciate how the episode handled a gay relationship. The series is ostensibly set in a version of the 1980s with its particular aesthetic. However, technology is so progressive that you might assume people’s viewpoints are beyond where our society was at during that period. It’s hinted at that there still might be some of those old ways of thinking as Loretta’s husband stumbles around the conversation about Gaddis being in a relationship. Yet it doesn’t seem to phase anyone else. Gaddis’ hesitancy to pursue anyone and instead slip into fantasies about an unobtainable perfect feels like something a gay person in the 1980s or even someone with extreme anxiety would easily do as it is much safer.
The episode does conclude with a sense of hopefulness as Gaddis receives a chance at a do-over now that he’s in another universe. The theme of the episode appears to be that we have to give up on our idea of the perfect to find real happiness in the world. As much as the episode centers on love and intimacy, I think it speaks to even more profound ideas. Gaddis’s problem is the same thing that keeps any person stuck in place who wants to advance their life in some way without allowing compromise. I would say this is up there with Echo Sphere for me as a favorite episode, one that speaks to the human condition with science fiction as a beautiful background decoration.