“Neither ever, nor never, goodbye” the title song of the series holds special importance in the hullabaloo of time travel of German series, Dark.
When this show premiered on Netflix in 2017, I had low expectations since it looked like a rip-off of a widely popular series Stranger Things. As I inched towards the series with each passing episode, it got more difficult to understand and much interesting to watch. This series is one of the few which has had a lasting impression on me even though the second season aired almost 2 years after the first one.
If you ask me, Dark is more of an equation to solve than a series to enjoy and that is what makes it interesting as well as unforgettable.
The story starts in 2019 in a small town of Winden based in Germany where a man named Michael Kahnwald hangs himself and 2 months later a 9-year old boy, Mikkel, disappears on a fateful evening, kickstarting the search for the town’s generational history. We eventually learn that Mikkel travelled through time to 33 years earlier in 1986, got trapped there and grew up as Michael Kahnwald. We also learn that Charlotte, the chief of police of Winden is actually her daughter Elizabeth’s and Noah’s daughter, who was transported into 1970’s from 2040s as a newborn. Michael’s son Jonas Kahnwald is on the path of setting things right so that none of these bizarre things happen again.
As Noah came as the main culprit of the time travel who transported children back & forth, killing a few in the process, we learn in season 2 that it was Adam aka old Jonas Kahnwald who was turning the wheels of time and maintaining the loop forever. By the end of season Jonas’ love interest and aunt, Martha is killed by Adam while the apocalypse is due any minute. Jonas stands by the body of Martha, in disbelief of what happened, another Martha appears with a time travel device and takes Jonas with her.
Now, this is where the series gets more complicated, we learn that the Martha who took Jonas away is from another world which means there’s one more world out there apart from Jonas’.
If you are into time travel content, you must understand that while it may be possible to travel back in time and alter its course, you can never change the final outcome. If you do, you are creating another reality where the earlier variables may or may not exist.
In season 3, we witness the debut of Eva from New Martha’s alternate world. We soon learn that it’s none other than Martha herself. Just like Adam, she keeps repeating the loop by using young Martha as well as others like young Claudia, old Egon Tidemann, Bartosz, young Noah, etc. as her pawns.
Martha and Jonas being unaware of how their actions are leading them to the same results every time, keep following both Adam and Eva one way or another. In the end, turning into Adam and Eva themselves. There’s one scene in with Jonas and Alt-Martha go to the power plant to stop the apocalypse and Jonas realizes that they might have been misled by Eva into triggering the apocalypse, they return to Eva for answers where Jonas gets killed by other Alt-Martha in the presence of four Marthas from all-ages. I pitied Jonas for a while because of how this guy ends up always at the wrong place but at the right time (pun intended).
Season 3 reveals the origin of the whole loop, turns out it was Martha and Jonas’, son. Given the history of this series, entangled relationships and births did not surprise me anymore. But is killing their son enough to stop the apocalypse? Our man Adam tries doing that too but it again ends up in vain.
The most interesting thing occurs when Eva explains ‘Quantum Entanglement’(In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when separated by great distances). There’s also a time in the infinite loop when the time itself stops for a moment before changing. This is the glitch in the matrix or a loophole which can be exploited to change the course of the time. Eva knows this very well and exploits the hell out of it, while our boy Adam gets to know it only by the end of the season.
The winner of this time game is revealed to be Claudia, not Adam and Eva. Claudia successfully figures out the loophole and goes to Adam asking him to stop everything from where it first originated, to keep the things in order in the original world. Yes, there is a third world. God, can this series be more difficult? Anyway, Claudia reveals to Adam how Jonas and Martha are the ones to blame for everything and they are the ones who can stop everything from ever happening.
We learn that H.G Tannhaus whose name resembles the famous novella writer H.G Wells who wrote the famous book ‘The Time Machine’ is the one who triggered both the worlds.
Back to the story, so we come to know that Tannhaus lost his family in a car accident in 1971. In hope to bring them back from the dead by getting his son just before the accident happens, he sets on a path to create the ultimate time machine. Taking more than a decade to construct, this machine backfires, in the end, creating two separate worlds i.e. of Jonas’ and Martha’s.
Claudia tells Adam that he must get Jonas from his world before Alt-Martha gets him, and ask him to get Alt-Martha from her world and travel to 1971, stop Tannhaus’ son’s accident from happening. Jonas and Alt-Martha successfully complete the task but this is where the paradox occurs. Since the accident never happened that means Tannhaus never lost his family, he didn’t have any agenda to create the time machine and he never did. This maintained the order of the original world thus removing any signs of the other two worlds.
The series has a special preference for the number 3, the cycle happens every 33 years, there’s a triquetra which resembles the three worlds and then there’s only 3 seasons of the series.
Dark did a fabulous job on closing all the loops which started first in season one, like middle-age Noah coming face-to-face with his younger self for the first time in a motel-cum-restaurant. Elizabeth’s survival of the apocalypse, marrying Noah, giving birth to her mother & daughter Charlotte and her baby being taken away by her own older self from 2053. (It’s bewildering how Elizabeth named her daughter Charlotte after her mother which means she was named after herself).
Jonas’ favourite pickup line for Martha “We are perfect for each other, never believe anything else”, gets really deep in the final episode when they team up to stop Marek’s accident, freeing everyone from the endless loop of agony.
Some of the characters who had less screen time surprisingly had a greater impact on the time-loop. Like, Bartosz travelling to 1888, marrying Silja (Jonas’ step-sister), and fathering Noah and Agnes (Tronte’s mother). Agnes was one of the first members of the Nielsen family line. Tannhaus maybe had 5-6 major scenes in the totality of the series, but he was the one who triggered the time-loop.
It’s also heartening to see the parent-child relationships in the series which is also the major connection between the time loops. Like Michael killing himself to set Jonas on the path of finding answers, Ulrich travelling to 1986 to find Mikkel, Noah joining Adam’s force to bring his daughter back to his wife, Eva maintaining the loop so that her son can exist, and Claudia fighting the loop to ensure Regina’s survival.
We do see a glimpse of the original world and its kind of sad how there were only a few who belonged there.
The acting of Jonas and Martha’s son who always appeared in instalments of three i.e the child version, middle-age, and old-version of himself took the piece of the cake. It was a real delight to watch them together especially when they mimicked each other’s actions.
There’s no plothole in the entire series. The director and write duo Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese who in real-life are husband and wife made this into an epic which will be remembered for a long time in the history of time-travel shows.
My assumption of the series title ‘Dark’ is because of how everyone in Winden, as well as viewers, are kept in dark about the fake worlds (should not have existed in the first place) of eternal pain and suffering.
If you are still planning on watching the final season, I would suggest you visit darknetflix.io, official website of the series to revise the earlier seasons.
“Neither ever, nor never” raised the question of whether what we are seeing in both the worlds ever happened or didn’t happen at all.
About the Writer
Ashana Jha is a marketer by profession and time-travel lover by passion. She loves the intricacies of scientific writing in cinema.