Tales from the Loop Season 1, Episode 4 recap: What happens at the end of Russ’s story?

The fourth episode of Tales from the Loop explores complex themes of life and death as Cole spends time with his grandfather and the Echo Sphere.

The fourth episode of Tales from the Loop explores complex themes of life and death as Cole spends time with his grandfather and the Echo Sphere.

We’re focusing on Russ Willard in the fourth episode of Tales from the Loop. Russ is the founder of the Loop. “Echo Sphere” begins with Russ watching a young Cole run around in the backyard, Russ’ wife, Klara, takes pictures of him. It’s a serene peek into a pleasant moment of their lives.

Russ and Cole genuinely enjoy each other’s companionship, which is a stark parallel to the cold relationship between Cole and his father, and George with his father, for that matter.

After George arrives to pick up Cole, Russ shows a few dead fireflies to Klara.

“Your grandson forgot to punch air holes in the jar.”

Russ goes to work and watches Loretta work in another room while sitting at his desk. Russ copies some of the equations she wrote down on a chalkboard into a notebook but then scratches them out. Is he trying to understand her thought process?

He then receives a sobering phone call from his doctor.

Tales from the Loop

Tales from the Loop — Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

When Russ and Cole are together again, Russ brings his grandson to the massive, hollowed-out Echo Sphere in the middle of nowhere. It has “N-770” inscribed on the side. He tells Cole to call out inside of it. When he does, Cole’s voice is echoed back to him, each time becoming increasingly distorted.

His grandfather explains that the device tells you how long your life will be. Cole can hear himself as an old man, he counts his voice repeated six times, which means he’ll live a long life.

Does that mean Cole will live for 60 years? Or is it 60 years added to his current age? Or is the six an arbitrary number? Honestly, I’m not sure I would want to know that information.

Cole encourages his grandfather to step up and count his echo, too. Unfortunately, when Russ does it, there is no echo to be heard. We can infer the doctor gave him bad news and that he doesn’t have long left to live.

Russ then tells Cole that he’s dying, and he doesn’t take it well.

Later, at a family meeting, Loretta asks how much time Russ has left. Russ doesn’t have an exact timeframe, but he knows it won’t be much longer. George and Loretta are disturbed that both Russ and Klara seem so accepting of this news.

“How can you be so calm about this?” asks George.

Cole hides out in his room during the majority of the conversation. He is obviously devastated by his grandfather’s death sentence.

He wonders if there is something in the Loop that can save him, why not? Cole lives in a family that has seen strange and impossible things from the underground. Cole has big questions concerning death and the afterlife, questions that even Russ cannot answer.

Russ and Loretta have a conversation at work the next day. Russ offers her a chance to take over the Loop after he’s gone. He advises her to take a sick day now and then because time passes in the blink of an eye.

The next day, Russ takes Cole to a field. Russ shows his grandson how to turn on all the towers we’ve seen scattered around Mercer, Ohio. He tells him to remember you can always find light in the dark.

That night, Russ collapses at home and is taken to the hospital. Cole doesn’t receive the news well and breaks into the Loop, hoping to find a way to save his grandfather. He brings Jakob/Danny with him, and robot-Jakob watches him quietly as he slips inside the secret back entrance.

Cole approaches the Eclipse (remember the massive globe-like structure with moving black particles from the first episode?), but Loretta finds him before Cole can do anything.

Cole says that he thought the Eclipse could help since it was made out of the same stuff young Loretta was carrying around (although Cole doesn’t know who the girl was). His mother tells him that, unfortunately, while Russ built the Loop to do many things, it cannot stop death.

At one point, Cole overhears George wish his father would die already. I definitely want to know more about George and Russ’s relationship. Since George knows that Cole heard him make such a depressing comment about his beloved grandfather, the least George can do is take his son to see his Russ.

While visiting him in the hospital, but Russ is entirely out of it and doesn’t seem to understand who Cole is. He starts talking as if he’s speaking to Klara and telling her to come inside from the rain. It appears the girl we’ve seen in Russ’s flashbacks is a much younger Klara.

Seeing as Cole is just a kid, it’s not surprising that he becomes upset by his grandfather’s deteriorating state. He runs out of the room in shock and continues to cry throughout the night afterward.

To make matters even worse, Cole doesn’t have his brother to comfort him. Danny doesn’t know Russ, he has no attachment to him, and while he tries to comfort Cole, he’s very uncomfortable and overly hesitant in every move he makes.

Tales from the Loop

Photo: Jonathan Pryce as Russ in Tales from the Loop – Credit: Jan Thijs – Courtesy of Amazon Studios/EPK TV

That night, Russ sneaks out of the hospital and heads to the Eclipse. He appears to merge with the mysterious apparatus.

The next day, George receives a call. Russ is dead. He tells Cole he didn’t die alone, Klara was with him. Then we see a touching montage of all the places left empty of Russ’s presence. Klara places Russ’s urn in the spot on the shelf he had pointed out earlier.

At his grandfather’s wake, Cole meets a young girl who asks him whether he would prefer to be buried or cremated. He’s not sure. She says she would like to be buried, like her mom. I wonder if we’ll see her story in another episode.

Slowly, the Willard family begins to move on, Cole spends more time with his grandmother. One day, he wanders into Russ’s office. He asks Klara what Russ did in there, and she says, “he never told me.” To be honest, I kind of got the vibe that Klara lied.

When George returns for Cole, Klara gives George a framed photo and tells him its for Loretta. It’s a little odd that she would explicitly gift the photo to her son to give to Loretta instead of both of them, or just to even George. It lends to the idea that George and Russ did not have a relationship, or at least not a good one.

Instead of directly offering to help fix the toilet at Klara’s home, George says he’ll “send someone out.”

When alone again, Klara whistles to herself, something Russ used to do all the time. The episode ends with Cole visiting and using the Echo Sphere again. For each echo, we see a brief moment of Cole’s future life.

Odds & Ends

  • I love how this show cleverly tells you the timeframe without coming right out and saying it. We know that Jakob is actually Danny in this episode because, at one point, Cole is seen looking at Danny’s pet tarantula.
  • That was a sad, but beautiful episode. I like how the ending conveyed the many ways Russ is staying alive through people like Cole and Klara. The fireflies inside the Echo Sphere for the final moment were a nice touch.
  • The reviewer at The Cinemaholic has a theory that when Russ “pushes” himself inside the loop, he goes into parallel reality and the fireflies at the end are his way of telling Cole he’s not dead after all. I thought that was an interesting thought, although I’m not sure I agree with the fireflies bit.
  • Leaping off The Cinemaholic‘s theory, it is possible that Russ went into the “afterlife” or elsewhere, as he and Cole once discussed. Interestingly, we do not see Russ’s body after he dies. We’re simply told he is dead and then we see his urn. When Russ and Cole discussed the afterlife, Russ asked if he would have a body. Cole eventually came to the conclusion that he might not. So perhaps Russ did find an afterlife in the Eclipse at the end, and maybe he became something different in the new place.

All eight episodes of Tales from the Loop are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.