One of the best sci-fi shows on Netflix goes off the rails

On the recommendation of several Mary Sue commentators, I watched the first two seasons of Netflix’s first German original series, Dark. The show is, well, an extremely dark mystery thriller in a category I’ll call “urban science fiction.” His characters exist (for the most part) in current trappings, but then we get weird stuff involving wormholes, time travel, time machines, and increasingly complex conspiracies that make Lost it looks like a kindergarten play by comparison. I was on board for this weird ride, but in the third season of the show, I felt like we had gone too far. I rarely give up when it comes to media consumption, but I couldn’t finish Dark. This was disappointing for a show that had me hooked and felt like a TV binge for two seasons.

I don’t remember what item it was when our reviewers started recommending Dark. It was after tales of the loop blew me away? My intense love story with station eleven? My inexplicable flirtation with the objectively bad Manifest? Whatever it is, several of you were here saying that when it came to weird sci-fi stuff happening to everyday people on TV, Dark it was the way to go. And it’s not hard to see how this show caught the attention of so many around the world. Dark, which first debuted in 2017, is the kind of narrative that keeps you on perpetually uneven ground, peeling back more and more layers and revealing absolutely crazy connections. Oh, also, they’re all unreliable narrators, probably! Just when you think maybe you know what’s going on, turns out you’re wrong. Don’t pass, don’t collect $200, go straight to plot jail, there’s no way you can guess what’s going to happen next.

***Some spoilers for Dark ahead***

The series begins with the disappearance of a boy, which is a standard enough thriller, but it turns out that the boy is missing because he traveled back in time and is actually the father of one of the show’s leads. Wild stuff, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet. Dark takes place in the German town of Winden, a seemingly picturesque place, except it’s surrounded by a huge scary (dark) forest that people keep venturing into for some reason. The city is also dominated, and perhaps poisoned, by the country’s first nuclear power plant, heavily influencing the plot arcs. But most pressing is a sprawling cave system in said spooky forest, where special tunnels can guide you back in time by multiples of 33 (so you can head to 1986 and 1953, respectively, and then much further into the past and into the future as well). the future ).

So after meeting Winden’s interconnected families that are actually more interconnected than we or they could possibly have conceived (the lovesick teens are actually aunt and nephew! A girl is actually the mother of her own mother!), we are ready for the journey of trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Most of the characters are similarly clueless, so at least we’re in good company. The first two seasons of Dark they are compelling in their twisted glory and, at times, harrowingly hauntingly emotional. The heartbreaking season two episode “An Endless Cycle” where Jonas (Louis Hofmann) travels back to prevent a life-altering death from him, only to realize that he’s actually there to cause live in my head rent free and stay there. One of the most impressive and effective elements of Dark it’s that the more the characters try to change the past to prevent tragedies they’ve experienced, the more we see that they were the unwitting instigators of those events in the first place. There are fascinating insights into free will and cause and effect; this is truly a show that deals with time travel and its consequences like no other.

The large cast is excellent, pulling off an almost mind-boggling feat of casting many characters across multiple time periods. The casting directors of Dark they deserve an award for finding actors who look so much alike to appear at various stages of a character’s life that I often wondered if the actors were actually related in real life. And the other elements of the production are evocative and well crafted, from poignant scripts to special effects, haunting sets and haunting music.

Two versions of Jonas sit on a bench in Netflix's 'Dark'
A plethora of Jonases

So: I was on board with Dark. But as the twists got more complicated, the end of season two and the beginning of season three threw me into such a loop that I found I couldn’t continue with the show. SPOILERS, but suddenly, at the end of the second season, it is revealed that there are not only many multiple timelines, but also multiple worlds. Jonas is transported to an alternate Winden where much of the cast is the same, but everything has radically changed and the characters we’ve come to know are essentially completely different characters. And, reader, my brain grew weary at this development. I tried to watch a few episodes from the third season, but found it too exhausting trying to learn about this completely new Winden after barely being able to understand the chaos that happened there during the first two seasons.

Maybe I should have trusted that Dark I knew what I was doing. After all, the series had shown an astonishing amount of foresight in keeping its many, many, Many balls in the air. Unlike, say, LostI would like to imagine that Dark he always knew where he was headed and that the sudden introduction of, essentially, the multiverse was always the plan rather than a huge leap of the shark. Maybe I just got too drunk on this show too quickly, and if I had been watching it on the timeline of fans who had to wait years between each season’s release, I would have been hungry for this weird new world. But I could not do it. I gave up.

Yet here I am still thinking of Dark a few months later, so it might be time to give it another try. One more twist aside, I’m still curious about what happens to the characters and what really is the “truth” in a show whose foundations are like quicksand. Might be time to revisit Dark. If you’ve finished the show, let’s talk in the comments about whether I’m seriously missing out by skipping season three, or if I should hold on to the bewildered enjoyment I got from the first two seasons and leave it at that.

(images: Netflix)

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