It turns out that Tales From the Loop is about identity. The first episode is about who we turn into. The second episode is about who we could be. And the third — and so far best — episode, “Stasis,” is about who we want to be. The first two episodes are about how people can and do, change. “Stasis” is about the fundamental human desire to stay the same.
But the episode is about more than not wanting to change as a person. It is about wanting everything to stay the same. The complaint at the heart of “Stasis” is that moments never last. It’s inherently paradoxical. They can’t last — that’s what makes them moments. And by looking at that complaint through an exaggerated science fiction lens, Tales From the Loop digs in. It proves in its third episode that this show is about people.
“Why Can’t That Moment Last?”
“Stasis” centers around May, who we first met in Episode Two, “Transpose.” May is the girl who Jakob had a crush on before he and Danny switched bodies. Then, after Danny gets trapped in Jakob’s body, she and Jakob-Danny began dating. Not only does this confirm that each episode is likey connected by characters. It also affirms that Tales From the Loop is entirely crazy, and living in Mercer would be very confusing.
When we find May at the beginning of “Stasis,” she is disappointed—disappointed with Jakob-Danny—dissatisfied with life in general. But mostly, she seems frustrated by the way her life will never slow down. She wants something that feels like it will last. When she meets Ethan, the episode’s other major character, she tells him that she never wants to be alone. The two being spending time together and quickly become very close.
Meanwhile, May has been tinkering with a machine she found in a lake. May is the kind of person who is naturally curious. She likes to take things apart and put them back together, so fixing this mysterious machine is just natural to her. She convinces Ethan to help her swipe the piece she needs off a maintenance truck. When the two go back to May’s house, they head up to her bedroom and begin to make out on her bed. But May’s mother quickly interrupts, and Ethan is sent home. One of the many moments that was over too soon for May.
This Stunning Stasis
When May gets the machine fixed, she finds out that it has the incredible ability to stop time. She immediately runs to school and tells Ethan that she has found a way that they can be together. They both put on a bracelet that May found with the machine, and May flips the switch. The entire world instantly freezes in place. Ethan and May are free to go wherever and do whatever they want.
The two start off making the kind of casual mischief that you would expect from teenagers. They run down main street honking car horns and picking up dropped change. They sneak into a bar and pour themselves some drinks. And then, of course, they have sex in the middle of the road. A moment reclaimed from the clutches of time.
As the two get more comfortable living in their frozen moment in time, they get braver and braver. May steals some clothes from, and shop and Ethan steals a compound bow. Then the two go to a house that May says she’s always admired and just decide to live there. In their fantasy house, May tells Ethan that she never wants to be alone. “Then it would just be me,” she says. “And I’m not my favorite person.” To comfort her, Ethan says that he will never leave her. Then they take a joy ride down a wide empty street on a motorcycle. A pair of people bound together within an eternal moment in time.
“Things Are Special Because They Don’t Last.”
Soon, we find out that May and Ethan have been living in their frozen moment for over a month, from their perspective. Reluctantly, both agree that it is probably time to get back to real life. But when May flips the switch to turn the machine off, nothing happens. Opening it up, she finds that the same part that was bad when she found it has gone bad again.
In a moment of fear, Ethan asks if that means he is “stuck here.” May, not thrilled about Ethan’s attitude, reminds him that she is here too. The line works to say “We’re together,” but also “Don’t be selfish.” And the delivery is excellent. May quickly takes charge and the two teenagers begin searching every supply truck and tool shed they can find in search of a new part.
But in one house, May finds something she wasn’t expecting. While Ethan looks for the replacement part, May finds a familiar set of earrings on a strange coffee table. Moving into the bedroom, she sees her mother — frozen in time — having an affair with a strange man. Of course, Ethan doesn’t realize that the woman is May’s mother, and begins to make jokes. May bristles at this and the two get into a fight. Each calls each other a cruel name and Ethan parts ways with May. Unlike May, he likes to be alone. And he hasn’t been in over a month.
Examining her mother once again, May realizes something she hadn’t on first observation. She looks happy. It probably confuses her. May wants something that will last forever. And her mother, presumably, has that with her father. But she’s risking it for this relationship, and she’s happy. It’s a moment that’s over quickly but also seems foundational to the point of the episode.
May finds the part she needs and rebuilds the machine. But she does not want to start time back up without finding Ethan. She searches all over town, retredding all the places the two of them have been together. Her path reverses us back to the episode to the very beginning. Eventually, she finds him, back at the lake where she first found the machine. She apologizes, saying she was upset that he feels “stuck” and she’s scared that he will leave. But Ethan doesn’t hear any of it, because he’s taken the bracelet off. He is now frozen in time like everyone else. He’s left May alone.
When May switches the machine back on, Ethan looks at her and then silently walks away. A few days later, May is back at the same lake with her dad. He asks about Jakob, who May is still dating. She says it won’t last much longer. To comfort his daughter, May’s father tells her “Sometimes things are special because they don’t last.”
Staying and Leaving
“Stasis” is the best episode of Tales From the Loop so far. The subject at its center is plain from the outset, and it is perfect for a science fiction series to explore. The characters are also more developed, so the way they struggle with each other is more obvious.
But what really makes “Stasis” special is the message at its core. Tales From the Loop is a show that has made the decision to center all of its episodes around young people. But the resolution of “Stasis” is one that people only learn with time. Appreciating that things don’t last, and that’s okay, is difficult. It takes time. It takes lived experience. The idea is genuinely difficult to grapple with.
So the episode provides an easy question and a difficult answer, all wrapped up in a fun package. Ultimately, that’s what great science fiction should be. “Stasis” is a fantastic episode, and we aren’t even half-way through the season yet. With each episode better than the one that came before, I have high hopes for what the rest of the season can deliver. At this point, the quality of the show is outstanding.
I hope it lasts.
What did you think of “Stasis?” Which episode of Tales From the Loop is your favorite? Have you finished the whole series yet? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to check back here every day for a new recap of Tales From the Loop.