I came late to Dark. The pandemic had just begun, and I was casting about for something to distract me. A friend suggested I try the Netflix-produced German series, noting that its two seasons would blow my mind. He was not wrong, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked, a sworn disciple of the sci-fi tinged drama, pushing it on nearly anyone who would listen. “Watch Dark” became my catchphrase. It still is.
Now, it’s true that I happen to prefer shows with complex, puzzle-like narratives designed to surprise and startle, shows that are enshrouded by a sinister fog of mystery. Dark (★★★★★) fits that profile perhaps better than any show in television history since Lost. And it does what Lost ultimately failed so miserably at: It makes perfect sense out of the seemingly impossible.
Dark tells the story of Winden, a small German town with a metric ton of unspoken angst generated by unseen forces that exist in a realm occupied by quantum science. Dark takes the notion of time travel and spins it on its axis. There is no chicken and egg in Dark. There is only scrambled.
At the show’s core lie four interconnected, conflicted families who are the dynamite to the show’s long fuse, one ignited at the series onset by the disappearance of several children. When a tragic suicide forces a teenager named Jonas (Louis Hoffman) on an impossible journey through time, it opens a pathway to a destiny that straddles a precarious line of malevolence and munificence.
For those who have not yet experienced the jaw-dropping revelations of seasons one and two, just start watching. For those eagerly anticipating the third and final season, debuting this Saturday, June 27, a key date in Dark‘s mythology, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar provide a brilliant endgame that is as deeply satisfying and emotionally resonant as any fan could possibly hope for.
For all its complexities, there’s an efficiency and clarity to the storytelling in Dark that is a testament to bo Odar’s meticulous and expertly crafted direction. The design of the show — and in particular its transfixing, kaleidoscopic opening credits — is one of pure Germanic gloom, with persistent rainfall, drained, desaturated colors, and looming, ominous iconography: a nuclear power plant, a nefarious bunker, a tantalizing, gaping opening to a cave that no one in their right mind should ever wander into.
Hoffman is a master at combining resolve with anguish, and his portrayal of Jonas is the show’s anchor. But season three truly belongs to Lisa Vicari’s Martha, who exhibits a stunning emotional range, and Julika Jenkins as Claudia, a woman who becomes central to just about everything that occurs. Several new characters are introduced, including a trio of men, each a different age, who are every bit as evil as they appear. (Or are they?)
There are times in the early parts of season three where you might feel as though your brain is being crushed. You may even want to stop. But trust and perseverance are key. And by the time the eighth and final episode has played out, the narrative hasn’t just landed, it’s done so both perfectly, with a profound emotional richness that not even a clairvoyant could see coming.
Dark is available for streaming exclusively on Netflix.
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