Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe - making things previous relegated to science fiction, possible.
It’s deliberately paced with a tinkling, repetitive piano score that telegraphs its seriousness of purpose. Ultimately, all that serves to help the show get under your skin. The series is mesmerizing in its consideration of universal human experiences, and often deeply emotional because of it.
Tales From the Loop presents a kaleidoscopic, thought-provoking examination of humanity within a single small town. While sci-fi mysteries abound, what really sticks are the movingly relatable stories of the people who live in the town where those sci-fi mysteries are merely a fact of life. The series invites viewers to live with those mysteries too. While it offers few concrete answers about the Loop and the odd events it causes, fantastic revelations isn’t really the point of the show. Tales From the Loop is a unique series that peels back the layers of its compelling characters to make sometimes profound, sometimes mundane observations about people. That makes it hard to quickly sum up the series in words, but makes the experience of watching it rich and rewarding.
Den of Geek said:
Is Tales of the Loop for everyone? No. Fans of hard science fiction will want to get at the mysteries of the Loop far quicker than the pacing of the series allows. However, Halpern’s writing is filled with literary nuance from the symbolism of a leaky roof to the implications about motherhood that arise from a visit from the past. It’s a quiet and unique exploration of life in a small town affected by singular circumstances in the tradition of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology and a brilliant homage to the Stålenhag paintings.
TV Guide said:
The science fiction elements throughout the series [...] serve as means to dramatic ends. It's unclear from this sampling [of episodes] if the series will spend much time exploring the origins and functions of the Loop, but these episodes suggest there's no real reason to do so. Like Stålenhag's art, they work in part because they keep their mysteries to themselves and suggest more than they reveal. The design occasionally recalls the look of Lost, but the stories work without any obligation to reveal an underlying mythos or the drive to uncover secrets. Tales from the Loop's ultimately less interested in how its strange universe works than what it's like to live within it — and the ways that universe can reflect our own lives back to us.
The universal elements of grief, aging, parenthood, loneliness, and love are all explored in the series, given a fresh coat of paint thanks to the show’s striking retrofuturistic conceit. Stålenhag’s aesthetic of pastoral Swedish landscapes with an eerie sci-fi element is dutifully paid homage to by Tales From The Loop, which looks more beautiful than most other sci-fi series out there, simply by virtue of not flaunting it style. The series manages to capture that uncanny feeling of Stålenhag’s paintings by showing a perfectly idyllic scene, and making something a little off — a dead robot hidden in the grass, or the oppressive gray color scheme that coats so many moments. Through those detailed little touches, the series manages to evoke that dreadful loneliness of his paintings.
The show’s retrofuturistic stylings — characterized by a mid-century look coupled with a sleek 1960s vision of a technologically advanced future — is actually quite subdued, leaving the machines and sad-eyed robots to linger in the background. It’s an approach that works to highlight the character drama of the series. But this restrained approach often leads to dull stretches of…nothingness. At the show’s best, it reaches a sense of soulful quietude that opens your eyes to a new, unexplored aspect of humanity. But at its worst, the show’s slavish dedication to its aesthetic threatens to swallow up the entire thing. Halpern, who is best known as a writer on Legion, has that same flair for style that characterized the FX series. But the series often toes the line between beguiling and boring, through it shows enough flashes of brilliance to keep you hooked.