Amazon delivers a new sci-fi show about a town where the impossible is possible.
Welcome to Mercer, Ohio, home of the Mercer Center for Experimental Physics, or “the Loop” as it’s often called by the locals. The Loop was founded by Russ Willard (Jonathan Pryce) and many of the employees and researchers are his family members, but basically everyone in the town is involved with the Loop in one way or another. Because of the rapid advancements in science that come from the research, a lot of things around Mercer seem to be less bound by the traditional laws of physics, or nature, than most places. Still, you’ll find stories of people looking for love, dealing with tragedy, working on family issues, and everything that you’d expect in a normal town.
If you saw an ad for a show whose premise is “town where everyone is involved in scientific advancements and strange stuff happens,” you may have thought that such a show was on Syfy 15 years ago. Well, the premises certainly are similar, particularly the part where this place appears on the outside to be a quaint little town that also has random roaming robots and the occasional supercomputer going haywire. However, Eureka, which was one of my favorite shows for years, was primarily a comedy. This show very much is not, with most of the episodes focused on either drama or a kind of existential horror. There are funny moments, but the tone definitely isn’t as comic as that other town.
Most of the episodes actually feel like episodes of Black Mirror, The Outer Limits, or a similar anthology series, where some new technology or physical anomaly creates the impetus for the story. Unlike those shows, though, this is an actual serial, with many of the episodes featuring the same characters interacting as supporting in each others’ narratives and with most of the episodes feeding into the next ones.
The main thing that the show does well is tying the sci-fi or fantasy aspect in with some understandable human experience. They also don’t avoid the traditional sci-fi devices or tropes, instead choosing to re-use them in new and interesting ways. For example, one episode focuses on the idea of being able to stop time like the classic Twilight Zone episode “A Kind of Stopwatch” or the film Clockstoppers, but it’s used to try and expand on the most passionate moment in a relationship: when you first fall for someone. Most of the episodes are like that and I really appreciate that they manage to take old ideas and refresh them.
The one downside to the show is that every episode is about 10 minutes too long. Most of the episodes are between 50 minutes and an hour, but that really lets some scenes have a bit too much filler. Still, with such great cinematography and creative imagery (the show is based on a series of paintings), it’s a price that you can willingly pay.
Give it a try sometime. It’s only 8 episodes long, but I genuinely hope they keep it going.
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