First up, this is a post being written after finishing the second season of Netflix’s German-language show Dark. The show is a science fiction time travel thriller, based in a fictional German town, Winden. At the core of the story are four families.
“What if everything that came from the past was influenced by the future.”
Remember the dream you have where you’re stuck in a horrible situation, life-and-death, and no matter where you run or what you do, you fail to escape the grim reality waiting for you at the end of the tunnel? That’s one of the two feelings that Dark evokes in me. (We’ll get to the second a while later).
Dark is a show about Free Will vs Determinism, whether we’re ever really free to make our choices, and why, if we aren’t, is that so? As in the dream, what if I took a turn towards the right instead of the left? Can I save myself?
As The Stranger says to Jonas in season 1, “We’re not free in what we do because we’re not free in what we want.”
Without spoiling much, Dark’s first season that came in 2017 starts with some teenaged kids and a preteen from the sleepy town of Winden. The town also has a nuclear power plant. The preteen kid, Mikkel, vanishes one evening, and all hell lets loose. There’s convoluted family trees, small boys being experimented upon and killed, people moving to the past to change the present and illicit affairs, to name but a few.
I’d watched the first season of Stranger Things before watching Dark, so I identified with the parallels that were being drawn between the two. Both series are from Netflix, both are set in sleepy towns, both are science fiction stories with the premise of a young boy’s disappearance. But by the time episode 1 ended, it was clear to me that the German-language show was way trippier than Stranger Things ever was, with a lot more emphasis on the philosophy of life and an overt acceptance of religious themes. And the time travel, multiple actors playing different ages of the same character, completely messed-up family trees, these added a whole new dynamic to the vanishing story.
Let me make it clear that I’m not saying one of these shows is better than the other. I’m not. What I’m trying to say is that despite a similar-looking premise, both of them are hugely different. The suits at Netflix must have known this, of course, which is why they greenlighted both projects.
The second thing that watching Dark brought forth for me was how the little things that we choose to do, or not to, can sometimes lead to these hugely different routes in life. Sitting down for a minute to listen to what a family member has to say, turning around and walking away a moment sooner, these are things that we don’t notice in the drudgery of everyday life. But they can be massively important, as we see here.
The biblical parallels are pretty obvious too. There’s Adam, there’s Noah. We have Peter Paul Ruben’s “The Fall Of The Damned” showing a parallel with the actions of the characters too.
The Fall Of The Damned. Image Credit.
But all the buzz around time travel and biblical wars can’t make viewers care for a show if they can’t identify or believe in the characters. The writing, led by Jantje Friese, is top-notch here, which allows the superb ensemble cast to show their bag of tricks. There are emotional costs to their actions, and coming to terms with the mystery and science of it all isn’t easy for anyone. But almost everyone does a terrific job. Louis Hoffman as Jonas is the emotional and moral centre of the story, and I’ve loved his work here. Over both seasons, he’s been outstanding.
Louis Hoffman as Jonas Kahnwald. Credit.
A word here for the cinematography and musical score. The camera work is superb throughout the 18 (so far) episodes. The facial emotions, the terror, the impending sense of doom, all are shown amazingly. The simple phrase, “tick tock, tick tock,” signifying both the passage of time and that of time running out, is repeatedly used in the background score to chilling effect. We do have a lot of drone shots, which are naturally gorgeous when showing woods. Then there’s the use of different filters to show different timelines. I first noticed this in the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film “Traffic.” As there, here too the colours add to our viewing experience.
Watching the series, it is easy to be depressed about the motivations of the creators. Many times, whatever a character tries to do to “break the loop,” as the series says, proves fruitless, repeating the same cycle again and again. But, despite that, the sparkling, dense writing and the shocking twists and turns keep one engaged till the end credits roll.
The soundtrack of the show has a lot of English-language songs. Here’s the full version of the title song ‘Goodbye’, from Apparat.
If you haven’t checked out Dark yet, you’re probably missing out on some of the best television out there.
I can’t wait enough for the third and final season to arrive.
Here’s the trailer for the first season :
Featured image courtesy.
Have watched the series? What are your favourite Netflix and/or Sci-fi shows? Let’s strike up a conversation in the comments section. You can also find me on Twitter @bloggeray23.
This post is written as part of Blogchatter’s A2Z festival.
Thanks for reading.