Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)
Season One, Episode Seven – “Enemies”
Written by Nathaniel Halperin
Directed by Ti West
Ti West is a director that came across my radar back in 2009 with his Eighties horror homage, The House of the Devil. I enjoyed his follow-up films, The Innkeepers and You’re Next. Since the early 2010s, he’s done a few other lesser movies and started to pick up more television work. I personally enjoy his filmmaking style because it is nostalgic without being shallow, West understands how to set a mood and sit in that space instead of leaning into endless, unearned jump scares. His contribution to Tales from the Loop actually borrows more from the artbook’s sequel Things From the Flood and brings some very subtle horror elements to the series.
A teenage boy and his friends are goofing around and getting into trouble. Curiosity leads them to board a speedboat on the docks and heading out to an island just off the coast. Once there, the friends abandon our protagonist and leave him to fend for himself. There have been rumors about this island housing a monster that came from the ground and killed the original inhabitants. As the teenage boy explores, he finds traces of broken electronics washed up on the shores but also signs of another being roaming the jungles. Eventually, he does confront his neighbor but is rescued before the two come to blows. Years later, as an adult, he makes the trip again to come to terms with this lost soul.
The major theme of this episode is how cruel humanity can be and how undeserving they are of the wonders that places like The Loop can produce. The teenage boy is visibly not onboard with his friends’ actions as they mock the disabled and are generally nasty. When he’s first pitted against the island creature, it becomes easy to buy into the legends that have spread in his community about this place. At first, he doesn’t think that he could be perceived as an intruder into this being’s home. That comes to him eventually, but the cost of that knowledge is relatively high.
After six episodes showing the perils of technology on humans, this episode drops the revelation that humans have abused and mistreated the technology. Klara, the widow of Russ, talks about his desire to create artificial intelligence, but how the community never treated it with empathy like they would another human. On reflection, through the teenage boy’s friends, we can see humanity fails to treat each other with that same dignity either. I couldn’t help but recall how Jakob’s soul was transferred into the body of a bipedal robot earlier in the season and how this implies that these machines have a space inside them for a soul.
I’ve seen reviews online from stereotypical “geek culture” outlets waning in their enthusiasm for this show. They refer to as boring and going nowhere, but I think they got caught up in the superficial aspects of science fiction. This wasn’t ever going to be a new Stranger Things, there wasn’t going to be action and villains. This is philosophical science fiction meditative & focused on the human condition through the lens of fantastic elements. Now that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if you came into the series with expectations colored by other media, that’s on you. Tales from the Loop never pretends to be something else and you either meet it where it is or move on to watch something else.