Netflix provides a cornucopia of binge-worthy viewing opportunities. However, few shatter traditional story arcs and monotonous plot devices quite like Dark. Netflix’s first original German series was co-written and directed by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, and was released in 2017.
The enthralling 10 episode German production has often been compared to Netflix’s hit Stranger Things. On a surface level the comparison is just. Both series are set in the 1980s, and feature a small town reeling from the loss of a missing child. Both towns are shrouded in mysterious circumstances, and have multiple story lines encountering different parts of the same enigma. This is where the comparisons between Stranger Things and Dark end. And by the end of the first season, the viewer recognizes that the comparisons are largely superficial. This is not “Stranger Things for Grown-Ups.” “Grown-ups” enjoy both series, just for vastly different reasons.
The opening scene presents a father setting down a handwritten note that may not be opened unit November 4th at 10:13 PM. Then he climbs up to a noose hung in the same room and hangs himself. This scene sends the message that Dark is aptly named.
The show then transitions to the family that the mysterious man left behind. Our main protagonist Jonas (Louis Hoffmann) and his mother Hannah (Maja Schone) now respectively fatherless and widowed, trying to find a new normal after such a tragic event. To make dynamics more complicated, a police officer Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci) is secretly cheating on his wife with the recently widowed Hannah.
The town is also reeling from the loss of a missing teenager. named Erik (Paul Radom). Since Erik has a history of disappearing for a few days, police are fairly certain that he simply ran away from home. Erik’s parents however are unconvinced, and are committed to the belief that his disappearance is due to something much more sinister.
One night, Jonas and his friends stalk the forests that surround their small town in search of Erik’s hidden drug stash. Unfortunately, instead of a hidden trove of bliss, they eventually encounter a ominously dark cave. Suddenly, Ulrich’s youngest son Mikkel (Daan Lennard liebrenz) disappears. The disappearance suspiciously coincides with loud noises, flashing lights and other strange phenomena in and around town.
As the community becomes fearful of someone targeting their children, the elder townsfolk find the event reminiscent of events long past. Then, a dark hooded man is shown to be holding a newspaper clip which reads “Where is Mikkel?” He crosses out the “Where” and rewrites the headline to “When is Mikkel?” It is here where the show opens the viewer to the mystery and complexity of its world. As each episode passes the assumed linear thriller blossoms into something more.
Everything Is Connected
The dynamics between members of the town’s community are significantly more complex than the story initially indicates. The layered relationships become apparent and confounding as the time bending story progresses.
The vast majority of shows that feature time travel either avoid or explain away the innate paradox that time travel creates. Dark revels and shines within the paradox. It is where the humanity of the characters can truly and uniquely be explored.
Dark begins with a quote from Albert Einstein. “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Dark’s dedication to exploring the illusion is compels us to dive further into the abyss with its characters.
Regardless as to whether or not ones memory is good or bad, our mind will alter that memory over time. So even our most sacred thoughts are subject to change. Our world past and present is an illusion of our own making. The path between reality and illusion is a journey innate to human condition. The characters must grapple with travelling through multiple timelines, as well as the subsequent effects such actions would reap upon their own consciousness.
This becomes more prominent after the third episode in the series “past and Present.” Time travel is often portrayed to be a god-like power. Dark removes such notions. Instead the characters feel forsaken and unenviable. Observing the connections and interactions between the characters’ past and present selves feel lonely almost. Our perspective of these seemingly normal characters slowly begin to warp as we gleam more information from the different timelines. Each character’s pain, ego, anger and insecurity becomes more magnified, more palpable.
Sound That Moves
The music is thoughtfully and purposefully integrated into each episode. The result is a show that ties its integral visual moments with a beautifully haunting score in a way that’s both emotionally powerful and substantive. Dark delicately weaves chilling sounds with suspense masterfully
TLDR – But Should I Watch Though?
Walls of text aside, Dark is an awesome show that you should definitely watch. It is unique, beautiful and most importantly, unpredictable. Also, keeping track of the characters throughout the different timelines may present a daunting experience for some viewers. Dark does not hold any hands in this area, and can be confusing if some episodes are not watched conterminously. So again, set aside a block of time, your snacks and your snuggie, then prepare the binge.