(++ Warning: There are spoilers for Episode 7 of Tales from the Loop in this review++)
The seventh episode in this fascinating and moody sci-fi drama, ‘Enemies’ once again throws us into the deep end with little explanation other than the set-up. A set-up to a story that plays with classic sci-fi storylines, or rather this time round classic horror movie tropes (or so we are led to believe) as three friends set sail to a forbidden island where they think a homicidal monster lives. A monster, it is said, that came from the Loop. For the teenagers of Mercer, Ohio, the omnipresent Loop is a source of urban myths, as well as employment for the locals.
What’s also off-kilt about this particular tale are the new faces and new characters we meet, who remain nameless for the sake of sustaining a certain level of mystery to proceedings. One boy is left behind, callously, by his so-called friends where he does find evidence that something is most definitely living there. A being that, when he does eventually catch sight of it, screams like a banshee. Of course, at this stage in the story, we only catch the odd glance as the creature – for reasons that become clear later on – who remains just out of full view and covered in rags.
But then halfway through all seems to be put right with the world, as the teenager is saved and returned back to the mainland, only for the dawning realisation that we’ve seen this kid before. That moment, like so many others in this series, while delivered in the same slow, melancholy tone of other episodes, is when the teenager has to lose his arm due to infection. Of course, you’ll think, he’s George, amputee father of the main family in this saga, as a child. What we are witnessing is the story of how he lost his arm. Again, it’s thanks to the adherence to a particular design aesthetic that, in many ways and possibly because of the continued success of Sandinavian retro-furniture store Ikea, is timeless. We don’t know we’re watching a story from twenty years in the past, as this whole world is set in the past anyway.
But, that’s only half the story. And, by the second half of this gripping episode (one of my favourite of the series) not only do we get a montage of the young George (Emjay Anthony) coming to grips with his newly fashioned prosthetic arm, we return back to the present day (although that is such an arbitary concept in a show that we’ve seen play with time and space) and the older George (Paul Schneider). This is very much his moment in the spotlight.
Haunted by this event – and who wouldn’t be – George discovers that the creature on the island is far from what he thought it was. Far from what anyone thought it was and he decides to venture out, one more time, but this time to bring some salvation to this being, who we learn… well, I won’t spoil it all for you. Needless to say, rather than being the creative of nightmares we all assume it to be, the conclusion returns to the more familiar sci-fi tropes but also adds a good dose of poignancy and a kind of conclusion to George’s childhood trauma. Although, Frankenstein was both an early example of gothic horror and science fiction, so this new ‘monster’ isn’t too far removed from this text.
Time, and especially memories, are treated as concepts to be toyed with. The brilliance of this whole series has been the acceptance that anything is possible, and usually is, but on a very microcosm level. What’s happening in Mercer could well be happening across the world, but we would never know as we don’t venture out from this small town, even though the constant focus on the horizon, miles and miles away, hints at a world yet to be explored, yet to be fully realised. If you are a fan of Simon Stålenhag, you’ll know that what we’re seeing here is but a taste of what could very well come in future series. His is a world in which the Loop has caused untold damage; a truly post-apocalyptic world in which Cthulhu-like mechas walk the earth and we are but ants in their path. A science experiment we are already seeing going wrong across this debut season. Juts no-ones connected the dots yet. At their peril.
Tales from the Loop is streaming now on Amazon Prime.