Dark is a German-language series that has garnered rave reviews over the course of its two-season run. While initially appearing as a small-town drama, the show heavily incorporates elements of time travel. Relationship struggles, power discords, crime, school, ageing, and youth represent some of the tropes. The programme shifts between different time periods, with thirty-three-year intervals. Dark is notable for being the first German-language show on one of the streaming providers. Some viewers have opined that the show reminded them of ‘Stranger Things’. Following the success of the first two series, the show has been renewed for a third and final season.
The show follows four families in Winden, starting in the present before alternating between 1986 and 1953. The second season utilises similar timing, but a year later. Winden, though fictional, is a picturesque town in the countryside. This barrio could stand for any other German locale. In short, Winden forms a microcosm of evolving Germany. Jonas is one of the main characters, who loses his dad Michael at the onset. His mother, Hannah, is together with the married Ulrich. The latter suddenly comes to his senses after his youngest son, Mikkel, goes missing. Mikkel goes through the wormhole and comes out in 1987. Here, he is under the care of a nurse. He likewise meets Hannah and marries her, changing his name to Michael. Other residents soon discover the delights of the tunnel, including Jonas and Ullrich – who desperately wants to find his son.
A mysterious group known as Sic Mundus apparently owns the rights to the wormhole. Situated in a cave on the outskirts of town, the portal becomes the agent of escape. Several children deemed unworthy become dead ball. The whole process reminds me of ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ or ‘Being John Malkovich’, where you could count on your own adventure once you get past that door. However, as the townsfolk would find out, you almost never ‘get to live happily ever after.’ Often, you do not end up in your desired time period. In every instance, you become an anachronism. Whether travelling forward or the opposite, you will not just blend in. Your strange clothes and items will mark you as an outsider. You have to think on the fly or you will be outed. What you did yesterday has a ripple effect in the river of time. Changing the past endangers a domino effect.
While ‘Stranger Things’ has a sizeable cast, the various time periods and volatile faces make Dark a confusing series. However, the show remains a riveting watch. While the different periods may inspire head-scratching, it is also a visual feast. One of the characters, H. G. Tannhaus, is a watchmaker who authored the book, A Journey through Time. Said text is a staple in the plot. Apart from penning the impressive work, Tannhaus is notable for building a time machine. Mention of time travel elicits similar reactions: utter surprise, awe, and disbelief. Whether they be adults or teenagers, the notion of time travel – even in 2020 – is an improbable conceit.
Fifties, Eighties, and now
The crew does an admirable job of capturing the peaks and valleys of various stretches. For instance, the show provides a good image of German families in the eighties and nowadays. Moreover, small-town politics are explored, giving us insight in how areas like Winden operate. The show likewise unpacks teenage life in ‘87 and 2019/20. In addition, childhood is presented, revealing the jump from rural, undeveloped 1953/54 to retro eighties and finally, the present. The programme goes a step further, supplying a bleak vision of the future. In Dark’s universe, tomorrow looks more like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. The show delivers an effective message; upon eyeing the incredible scenes you’d say, ‘I’ll having what they’re having.’ While there are many storylines, Dark did well in focusing their attention on one setting only. All in all, it’s a formidable show that ticks many boxes.