Dark Season 2 (Netflix)
Written by Jantje Friese, Daphne Ferraro, Ronny Schalk, Marc O. Seng, & Martin Behnke
Directed by Baran bo Odar
You know how when a serialized show in American starts a new season and they sort of ease the audience back into the story, maybe using new characters to reintroduce the cast? Yeah, Dark just says, “Where did we leave off last time? Yes? Let’s go” This show does not let up for these eight episodes, and it is all the better for that. By the time you reach the prophesied final moments of Winden, your brain will have been stretched and tied into a knot. Yet, the showrunners throw a curveball that sends your mind hurtling into questions about what the third season could possibly be. This is science fiction on a human relationship level done oh so right!
Jonas has begun his never-ending trip through time, caught in the 33-year loops of 1921, 1954, 1987, 2020, and 2053. His older self comes home to his mother Hannah, and he shares the truth about Mikkel and Ulrich’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, the mysterious and sinister Noah continues to manipulate events, and it is revealed he works for a figure known as Adam. Adam has a century-old rivalry with Claudia Tiedemann, who contacts herself in the 1980s to begin her own time-traveling journey. Both Jonas and Claudia learn how for all their efforts to change the horrible tragedies in the lives of the people they love it appears that these events are predestined and that the travelers’ actions are what lead to these inevitable outcomes. The big question is if they can prevent the end of the world, with only six days until something happens that will change everything.
If Dark were just a show about time travel, I wouldn’t love it as much as I do. What elevates the series to something better than only a cheap SyFy program is the deep focus on human relationships. This is the cosmic and infinite played out on an intimate level. We see information about fixed timelines conveyed through character-focused stories so that when Jonas is learning about how time travel operates in his universe, he’s also facing the ideas of mortality and predetermination. These are the two big themes of the show. Is the end of our lives already decided for us? Are we the masters of our own lives, or have they already been written? With each episode, Dark tragically answers these questions showing Jonas and Claudia how as much as they want to save their loved ones that’s just not how it happened. In fact, to prevent the death of their loved ones could erase the travelers from existence, which opens up a whole other set of existential questions.
In Dark, there are all the best things from shows like Lost and The Leftovers, a poetic sadness. The showrunners achieve this through beautiful foreshadowing and attention to detail. In the first episode of this season, the older Jonas returns home. While explaining who he is to his shocked mother, Jonas glances, at a seemingly innocuous spot on the floor. That spot will become an important place for the younger Jonas by the end of the season. The older Jonas has been sporting a brutal scar around his neck, obviously from a noose. The payoff for that happens early in the second season. In Season 1, Noah tells a story about a stranger staying in his mother’s inn when he was young and in season 2 that moment pays off. Much like the clockwork time machine at the heart of the story, the plot moves along like a cold and brutal mechanism, delivering characters where they must be and allowing them to soak in the cruelty of fate.
If you enjoy media like the things I’ve mentioned above or time travel stories like 12 Monkeys and Primer, I would highly recommend Dark. It’s just complicated enough that your brain will be in knots but grounded in the humanity of the characters that you never lose sight of the emotional stakes. Season 2 is all about showing how concrete this timeline is and sets up the main characters for some exciting twists in the third season, which will likely show how such a fixed timeline can be cracked and changed for the better, with a cost.