A young girl investigates her mother’s secretive work at the mysterious “Loop,” in the opening episode of Amazon’s Tales from the Loop.
Tales from the Loop introduces us to the mysterious via its founder, Russ Willard, who speaks to the camera directly. What is commonly referred to as the “Loop” by residents of Mercer, Ohio, is an experimental facility called the Mercer Center. The Center’s purpose is to “unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe.”
Slowly, the episode opens up to showcase the show’s universe. People come and go from MCEP every day, like a regular job. It isn’t clear yet in which period Tales from the Loop takes place.
We meet Loretta, a young girl who performs well academically but doesn’t have much support at home. She lives with her mother, Alma. Alma works at MCEP, when we first see her, Loretta overhears a tense argument between Alma and an unidentified man who accuses Alma of stealing something called the “Eclipse.”
Over dinner, Alma reveals that she didn’t steal it, but “obtained it” to use in an experiment. Later that night, Loretta hears strange noises and finds Alma staring at a glowing computer monitor. Suddenly the lights go out, and the windows crack.
After school the next day, Loretta waits for Alma outside of MCEP, but she never shows up. At their house, Loretta discovers a large circle drawn in the snow. In the center, she finds a strange black rock, possibly the Eclipse?
Loretta becomes intent on finding Alma. While investigating the woods near their home, she meets Cole, a boy around her age who likes throwing rocks at robots. Loretta tells him to stop, and she seems to sense that the robot is sentient, or at least “working.”
Together, Loretta and Cole come upon an abandoned shack. Cole labels it haunted, and we can see why when they enter. A pile of snow slowly lifts skyward, and while Loretta investigates, her and Alma’s house also comes apart piece by piece and floats into the sky.
Cole questions whether Alma works at the Loop and says his parents do too, he offers Loretta the chance to ask them about her mother. We briefly meet Cole’s family, his brother, and his parents. His mother is seen chatting with Willard, from the beginning. He is her father-in-law.
Cole’s mom brushes off her son, leaving a frustrated Loretta to seek answers elsewhere — and here’s where things truly get interesting. The pair storm into MECP and questions the guard, Gaddis, about Alma. According to him, Alma has never worked at the MECP before.
He calls Cole’s mom and tells her that Cole and the girl were looking for someone named Alma. Slowly, the show reveals that Cole’s mom is Loretta. Somehow, the young Loretta and the adult Loretta are existing in the same timeline. It’s fitting that this episode is called “Loop,” since we learn that Loretta is in a time loop of meeting her past self over and over again.
Sadly, it also means that Alma never comes back, and neither we or Loretta, ever found out what happened to her. The two Lorettas arrive inside of the MECP, and adult Loretta shows her younger self the fabled Eclipse. It is a giant black sphere composed of the tiny black rocks like the one young Loretta found in the snow, the one that Alma stole.
Everything that happens in Mercer happens because of the Eclipse. It sounds like maybe the Eclipse was part of the town first, and the Underground was built around it to study it and its abilities.
At the end of the episode, the two Lorettas appear to merge back into one. Loretta realizes that the way she was treating Cole was eerily similar to how Alma treated her. One touching scene even has the young Loretta giving her older self a reality check. Cole thinks Loretta doesn’t want to be a mother, the same way Loretta thought Alma didn’t want to be a mother.
Loretta attempts to make amends with Cole by giving him a pinecone since he collects the “good ones.” It’s a sweet moment and a tender way to nod at what Loretta learned from her younger self. It makes you wonder what each iteration of Loretta has learned from the one before.
If you’re expecting to get a full explanation, I don’t think you’ll find it in Tales from the Loop. The series has explicitly said that sometimes the big questions go unanswered. The mysteries on this show will be explored, but not necessarily unraveled. So we don’t know how this Loretta time loop happened, how long it will continue, or how it affects the town as a whole.
Odds & Ends
- Based on photos from the remainder of the season, I’m guessing we will learn more about Gaddis the guard, the robot, Cole, Cole’s brother, and Cole’s father (and his mechanical hand) later.
- What was Alma’s experiment? Was what she did responsible for creating Loretta’s time loop? It seems like it is possible since, in one scene, Loretta sees Alma singing a song in the bathtub and later sings the same song while alone.
All eight episodes of Tales from the Loop are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.