Netflix's Dark review - Psychedelic melodrama across space time whose pull is irresistible
The following article may contain some spoilers ahead for the third season of Netflix's German language original series 'dark'. So if you haven't watched dark yet, proceed at your own risk.
Humanity is always fascinated about forces that are beyond their reach. We have an innate desire to tame everything in our sights, which is a by-product of our basic nature, that of conquerors. The need for conquering whatever lies in our sight has driven humanity through history. We started off by conquering fellow clans, then expanded to conquer territories. But, when we understood that there are forces out there beyond our comprehension, our desire to tame them became an obsession. When we learned that no matter what, all living things age and die, we developed a compulsion to fight death. And it extended to trying ways to conquer time and space, because when the straight ways to conquer death was not working, it is only natural to think of other ways, and the attention changed to time. If we are able to control time, we are able to control our own fate and ultimately cheat death. But will we be really able to alter anything, even if we know that things are going to happen the way it is going to happen, or are we also a part of the plan and we end up instigating the same thing that we are trying to stop? Are we really able to control our own destiny, or are we just pawns who are having a pseudo potency which makes us fallible to our own arrogance?
Netflix's german language SciFi original, Dark is a series exploring these complex concepts of mortality, destiny, loss, and of course, time travel. The first two seasons of dark showed us the town Winden, where the lives of four families are entangled across time. There are mind-bending secrets shared by their people and the skeletons in their closet threaten to bring about apocalypse itself. Jonas is a resident of Winden whose father committed suicide recently and he is just coming out of his grief. A series of events lead to him discovering the means to travel through time. Winden is housing a wormhole, which connects a time period 33 years in the past and 33 years into the future, which is the solar lunar cycle. Jonas learns about the bizarre family secrets and the ties that exists between various residents of Winden. It is there he learns about an acolyte group named 'sic mundus' who want to control time travel and are willing to go to any length for it. He also learns about the apocalypse that engulfs the world in the present time line and is in a race against time to prevent it. In a bid to stop it, he tries everything, and in the process, Martha, Jonas love interest is shot dead by Adam, the leader of sic mundus, at the moment of apocalypse with a terrible revelation that he is in fact the future version of jonas. Just before the apocalypse another Martha comes in and explains about another reality where she is from and takes Jonas to her universe.
Season 3 begins from the alternate reality where Martha comes from and explores the various relationships and the differences it has with the original reality. The alternate universe is where Jonas never existed because Mikkel was never lost in time. However, this universe is also bound to be destroyed by the impending apocalypse that is going to happen soon. There is another group in this universe trying to control time travel and lead by Eva, who is the future version of Martha.
We are not free in what we do, because we are not free in what we want.
Dark is all about the exploration of the psyche, with a deep thematic tone. Although it is a scifi show, the show is driven by the love that connects the main characters. Jonas and Martha was never meant to be together, yet they are the perfect match each other could find. If there is one force which can transcend the concepts of space and time and exerts its force across the dimensions, it is the force of love (This concept was well explored by Christopher Nolan's Interstellar). Dark takes its cue from biblical references like genesis and apocalypse. It takes its structure from scientific concepts like Schrodinger's paradox, wormholes, recurring timeloops. But the success of dark lies in binding these differing concepts using a thread called humanity and its emotions. The sheer love the characters have and the unfathomable grief they inflict on each other in the name of love.
Season 3 has a sense of deja vu written all over it. Due to the alternate reality that has taken over, we see some similarities and as a result the pacing of the screenplay suffers a little bit, especially in the middle of the series. The sheer jumps between dimensions and the timelines may be a bit overwhelming for some viewers, but the slow burning initial few episodes prepare us well for that. The big reveals feel satisfying and the closure given is very neat to the characters. This feels refreshing amid all the disappointments of the big series finales to live up to the mark.
The performances from the two leads, Lisa Vicari as Martha and Louis Hoffman as Jonas, is certainly laudable. Other characters like Claudia played by Julika Jenkins and Lisa Kreuzer are given meaty roles and each actor has done their job really well.
It's a testament to the skills of the writer director couple, Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, that the show does not feel convoluted despite dealing with complex concepts like Quantum entanglement, God particle, time travel and alternate realities. The technical aspect of the show as always is sound. The cinematography by Nikolaus Summerer perfectly switches between the desolate wastelands of the future and the lush setting of the past with equal aplomb. The chilling background score by Apparat and Ben frost elevates the tension.
Every decision for something is a decision against something else
Ultimately, dark is about the choices a person is making and how that choices affect their surroundings in an unexpected way. There is always a second nature to the things and things are not always colored in black or white. Each choice has a cause and a consequence. This duality makes the choices that much more important. However, the choices always have a third dimension to them, which ultimately decides the level of impact the choices have on the consequence. Dark is a complex love story where, to be together with the person you love, you have to move away from them and to save every person from demise, ultimately you have to sacrifice everything you hold dear. There is a poignant moment in the ending where Claudia understands this and ultimately we get salvation.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending cycle. Everything is connected
Dark is ultimately an experience, that starts of as a thriller and moves into science fiction and ends as a psychological analysis that explores grief, pain and sacrifices. The elimination of sorrow happens not in ignorance, it lies in sacrifice. Humanity is endlessly fascinated by the concept of love and time. Dark is about the thirst for humanity's desire to tame the un-tameable. What happens, when people driven by grief, begins a quest to control time itself to undo all that sorrow? What happens when love drives a quest to conquer time and death?
Verdict: A must watch netflix original
Bingeopedia rating: 4.5/5
Available in: Netflix