Review: Tales From The Loop Episode 4

William Gibson’s landmark cyberpunk novel, ‘Neuromancer’ begins with the line: “The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.” Although unrelated and quite different from Amazon’s science-fiction series, ‘Tales From The Loop,’ the line perfectly captures the mood of the show’s fourth episode and its overall atmospheric tone.

Based on William Stålenhag’s art book, ‘Tales From The Loop’ tells a small-town tale with science-related mystery and intrigue without flashy AI vs human warfare, alien attacks or intergalactic politics. Instead, the series uses an anthological structure to tell human-centric tales with just a hint of science fiction. It would be more appropriate to call the series “science-based,” similar tohow Alex Garland’s ‘Devs’ is described. The show is set in a tiny town in Ohio that is located above an underground, experimental physics center.

Tales From The Loop Episode 4 Recap:

Russ is looking after his grandson, Cole. Cole catches a firefly in a jar while his grandmother takes pictures of him and Russ. The next day, Cole’s firefly dies since he forgot to punch air holes in the jar.

Russ gets a vision of a young girl. Cole sees a dead deer when he is out with Russ. Then, Russ takes Cole to a giant rusted orb in a field known as The Echo Sphere. Upon Russ’ insistence, Cole shouts inside the orb and the echo of an adult’s voice reverberates. The sphere predicts the lifespan of a person, Russ explains and asks Cole to count the number of seconds that the adult voice is reverberated for. Russ’ shout returns no echo.

Russ tells his family that he is going to die soon. Cole gets angry and goes to his room. Russ talks to Cole and they discuss after-life. At work, Russ tells Loretta that he wants her to lead The Loop after he dies. He also shares his regret over not attending Loretta and George’s wedding.

Russ is hospitalized when he falls unconscious at his home after getting another vision of the girl. Cole takes his brother to The Loop, thinking that there might be a cure to Russ’s illness inside. Since they are not allowed to enter through the normal door, Cole goes to the fields where he opens one of many manhole-like objects. It leads to the underground section of The Loop. He goes to The Eclipse but Loretta catches him just before he can touch it.

Cole wants to see Russ at the hospital. George takes him to see Russ but asks him (Cole) to remember how Russ was (past), rather than how he is (present). On his hospital bed, Russ gets a vision of the girl. But this time, it is raining. It is revealed that the girl in his visions is his wife, Klara. Russ starts blabbering.

Later, Russ dreams of going to the Eclipse. He pushes his head towards the large sphere and it (Russ’ head) enters The Eclipse as if his head or The Eclipse were dimensionless. George gets a call from the hospital informing him of his father’s death. Cole goes to The Echo Sphere and shouts into it. Then, moments from Cole’s future life are flashed in various shots like a montage. Then, fireflies emerge inside The Echo Sphere.

Tales From The Loop Episode 4 Ending Explained:

Here is the thing about ‘Tales From The Loop:’ it is so focused on its characters that viewers are left wondering whether the seemingly mundane activities that are depicted mean something. There is some kind of yet-to-be described futuristic technology in the town that the show is set in. Hence, it is natural for viewers to look for signs that might explain what it does. However, the show also deals with some pretty complex themes. Hence, viewers also find themselves trying to make some meaning.

The fourth episode ends with Cole’s entire future life flashing in front of him, followed by a few fireflies emerging in the Echo Sphere. Previously, Russ is seen flowing into the Eclipse. Both, the Echo Sphere and the Eclipse are a part of the Loop. The Echo Sphere predicts how long a person is going to live. However, could the ending connote that the Echo Sphere and The Loop, in general, do something more than that?

In the first episode of the series, a particle from The Eclipse makes Loretta’s childhood version replay her life and meet her adult self. Hence, there is some indication that The Loop plays with the idea of space and time. There is also the possibility of alternate, parallel realities. In the sixth episode, for instance, Gaddis ends up being transported to a parallel reality where he meets a clone of himself.

By the above logic, it can be speculated that Russ probably goes to a parallel reality and does not actually die. The only proof of this is the scene wherein he pushes his head inside the Eclipse as if it were dimensionless and the scene involving the fireflies. Could the final scene indicate that Russ sends a few fireflies from his dimension onto Cole’s reality to assure him that he is not dead? Perhaps, his afterlife is another reality.

Previously on the episode, Cole ends up killing the firefly he catches by not punching holes in the jar where it is stored. There is a chance that Russ sends the same fireflies to him, although that would be a little too presumptuous. This theory could also be entirely false and the ending might not actually mean anything.

Death is a central theme of the episode which depicts how humans still do not know anything about it. Hence, the final scene could just signify the beauty of life and death, rather than the fear of the latter. Life is all about beginnings and ends. With every end, there is a new beginning. That is why, when Cole sees his life flash in front of him, the final shot involves his grandson (presumably) blowing on his birthday cake’s candles. Cole is depicted to be aging at this time. Hence, the ending could denote the never-ending cycle of life and death and how one must accept it since there is no escape from it.

Tales From The Loop Episode 4 Review:

After reading the recap, it might make more sense why the line at the beginning of this article is apt for the fourth episode, and ‘Tales From The Loop’ overall. The show’s true strength lies in its seemingly slow, yet brooding tone. It tells human-centric stories with individual experiences at the heart of its narrative style. Moreover, it employs a very atmospheric mood which couples well with the conflict of the characters. Hence, while the setting of ‘Tales From The Loop’ might not have a port, one can imagine the color of its sky to resemble a television screen tuned to a dead channel.

Titled ‘Echo Sphere,’ the fourth episode of ‘Tales From The Loop’ turns out to be rather inconsequential as the plot does not seem to move forward. However, it ought to be noted that, at the time of writing this review, critics were only provided with episodes 1, 4 and 6 for review. Hence, it is entirely possible that the episode feels more impactful after watching the second and third episodes.

Yet, ‘Echo Sphere’ keeps viewers engaged with its theme of death: a philosophical topic whose true answers we do not possess yet. Viewers might find themselves looking for recurring events and tiny cues to attempt to form some meaning. However, that quest is as pointless as the quest for finding out what happens after death. This letdown might be the biggest disappointment for the episode.

The fourth episode strongly makes the case for ‘Tales From The Loop’ to be categorized as a science-based story rather than a full-blown sci-fi. One might wonder what makes ‘Echo Sphere’ slightly more enjoyable than just watchable.

The reason that one would find themselves glued to the screen is the exceptional characterization and even more impressive acting. A fast-moving plot is not missed dearly as one gets empathetically invested in the people populating each frame. Unsurprisingly, Jonathan Pryce nails his role and the episode belongs to him. A scene where he is depicted crying ends up being extremely powerful due to Pryce’s believable and heartfelt performance. ‘Tales From The Loop’ manages to keep viewers engaged but risks losing their attention if the plot moves this sluggishly.

Rating: 3/5 

Read More: Tales From the Loop Episode 1 Ending, Explained