Shortly after the final season of German sci-fi series Dark premiered on Netflix, fans of this show took to different online platforms using a plea to maintain the online spaces spoiler-free (recall when Game of Thrones came out?). Since the inevitable leaks started trickling in, a person wrote: “Why are people concerned about season 3 spoilers for Dark? I mean frankly somebody could post the full script and I would not get it.”
The comment may have been made in jest, but it isn’t far from reality. The series has created a reputation for successful elements with the drama of science fiction, set in the city of Winden. Four interconnected family trees are hard to keep track of with no members traveling across timelines. Insert in the intricacies of time loop and a heavy dose of doctrine, and you also get one of the most highly-rated first television shows.
The season of this show picks up where season 2’s last episode left: the apocalypse. As the clock ticks to zero in Jonas’ Winden, Martha Nielsen (Lisa Vicari) arrives to take Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann) into another world where the four households are similar but untouched by Mikkel Nielsen’s disappearance or even Michael Kahnwald’s suicide. Here, Ulrich Nielsen is married to Hannah Kahnwald (he and Katharina are blessed ), and Martha’s family in what was formerly Jonas’ house. In this world – Martha’s world – the yellow jacket is worn by Martha, and it is she who travels through time to solve the mysteries of their world.
The contrasts between Martha’s and Jonas’ Widens’ events and dialogues are numerous as Dark re-ups the determinism versus free will debate. Are our lives dictated by destiny or from our individual choices? From the first two seasons, the assumption was that the disappearance of Mikkel triggered the events in Winden; but what if that does not happen? Across eight episodes, Dark invokes the familiar topics of retro-causality (i.e., how the future affects the past), time loops and biblical symbolism, but the powerful theme of this season is the power of filial ties and the lengths to which a parent could go to make sure the protection of the child.
About the challenges posed by the multiple variations of the very same characters and the non-linear timelines, Dark was a real danger of ending up in a tangle of hackneyed plot lines. Creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar have not only steered clear of this but also raised the preparation they’d done in the 18 episodes. The writer-director couple, along with the unbelievable cast and crew, has made a masterpiece.
With in an IndieWire interview, Baran bo Odar demonstrated that one of those challenges while deciding on the actors was not to cast people who were too distinct as it could be distracting to this Young/Teen/Old story; this level of attention to detail is evident throughout. Time and again, I found myself marveling in the casting department’s capability to find older and younger versions for integrating identifiers to distinguish the same actors in different worlds, along with the stylists. Production designer Udo Kramer and composer Ben Frost deserve a particular mention for the leading sets that brought the phases that are various to live, as does cinematographer Nikolaus Summerer for the bright palettes, which helps viewers keep track of the worlds along with the eerie background scores.
Dark’s ending has, expectedly, been the origin of much debate. Fans of the show will notice that not all of the threads have been tied up. In art as in life, not all questions are answered and some mysteries remain such. Since the end credits rolled and Nena’s’Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann’ (‘somehow, someplace, sometime’) played was reminded of exactly what Keanu Reeves stated: “We may not understand what happens after we die, but we know that the ones that love us will miss us.”
Dark Season 3 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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