Dark, a ten episode Netflix Original Series from Germany.
In 2019 a man hangs himself, leaving his son a letter to not be opened until after a specific time and date. The son, after a few traumatizing months in the nuthouse, returns home and heads to school to meet his friends. The same week a boy goes missing. Oh, and this town lives in the shadows of a power plant. When the son and his friends go to the caves where the boy’s drugs are, the youngest of the group disappears. The families are fractured and the search for the missing children unfolds, not where, but when…
Aside from the obligatory Stranger Things missing boy & weird town vibe/comparison, what really makes Dark amazing is the cinematography and the camera work. This town is eerie as sin and everything within it is creepy. The drone shots of the forest and the cave that is the crux of the story is beautiful, but also dour. The music hits all the creep factors at the correct moments. The constant rain. The setting really is the outstanding character for this series.
That said, I loved the characters – all three timelines worth! (Get to that in a moment) These characters, kids to adults, are so layered, so broken, so normal, so beaten its amazing. There is so much drama, that I hated then loved characters from episode to episode. I yelled at them for their actions, like literally yelled at the screen. Sighed heavily at decisions. That is what makes great TV! Each actor was great, even the minor side characters. The casting was spot on and each actor/actress nailed their roles.
Sidenote, I watched the German version with subtitles, I would suggest doing the same. I personally hate dubs but I think you truly lose the heart of the story if you don’t have it in German.
Holy crap how amazing was the time-travel aspect of this show? I mean it was simply awesome! The fact the show was such a sllllllllloooooooooooooooow build really helped it. You have mysterious strangers knowing things, three timelines, missing children, murders. All across 66 years. Like serious cyclical events happening. It was just downright great, I don’t know how the writers kept their stuff together, but it was flawless. As a viewer, we didn’t know what the heck was going on, which made the mystery all that more gratifying to follow. Even all three timelines (2019, 1986, 1953) had their unique aesthetic to them, just great stuff all around.
One more note on the slow burn aspect. I know most people, especially in the current era, we want instant gratification. We expect to know things quickly. But I thought the slow burn approach to this story was the perfect route to take. When the man hanged himself and left the note, the viewer doesn’t know what’s in it until episode three. That made the mystery worth it. Then we learn the truth about the time-travel, wow. That wouldn’t work if it all happened in the first episode. The luster would have been worn off.
This part might turn off viewers, but I absolutely adored the ending. Even if Netflix doesn’t make a second season, I think the ending was perfect. It doesn’t matter if there are so many cliffhangers, I think that was the point. I want to know who Noah is, what’s with the chair, what he says to Bartosz, when did Jonas go, does Ulrich get back to 2019? Like those are all important questions left open, but the point of the story was the cyclical nature of time. Is there fate or predetermination? Can we change that? Those are the basic questions asked by the show. I think the ending left it open for viewer interpretation and that, in my humble opinion, is brilliant!
What doesn’t work:
Really the one thing that is a bit flawed about this show is the giant cast of characters. Since it is only ten episodes, some characters get lost in the shuffle and their plots are weak (aka older emo son and rebel daughter). The problem is with three timelines and all these characters at different ages, juggling all of them is hard to do. Yes, the show did a great casting job that it is easy to see the transition of who is who over the time periods (moles, destroyed ears, other character traits), but there are so many characters to remember that it can be tough. It never would work if it was a weekly regular TV show.
My only other qualm is there were times when characters kept secrets from others. So the cheating part of Ulrich’s plot was fine. The cop and her husband’s marriage due to the husband’s gay preferences was fine. Those secrets are great story-telling. But there were times when the cop and Ulrich had info that could help solve each other’s case but they danced around the subject and didn’t say what they knew. I get it for drama aspects, but after a few times, it grew annoying. Like just tell them!
5 out of 5.
This show was fantastic. Every episode drew me further and further into this world and I didn’t want it to end. I can be happy with the ending if it stays this way. But I also want more! It was dark (intended), layered, genre-bending. I loved it, nothing more can be said about it.