I enjoyed season 1 of THE DARK and looked forward to the second season of this German science fiction thriller series watchable on Netflix. Where the first season sets up all sorts of spooky plot questions based around a time travel portal in the woods near a small town, the second season answers much of the mystery while going for broke on the premise. The result is engaging and fun, though it comes close to flirting with the ridiculous extremes of LOST and feeling at times like a sci-fi soap opera.
The second season picks up where the first left off, with various characters trying to understand the connection between disappearances in the town now and 33 years earlier, or becoming time travelers themselves and players in a contest between two warring sides. One side wants to end the cycle of time loops that culminate in the apocalypse, the other wants the apocalypse to occur but save a certain portion of humanity. I think that’s the case, it’s actually not clear, nor is it entirely clear who the good and bad guys are.
The show is a real workout for the brain. Because the time travel occurs in 33-year jumps, the story plays out in 1920-21, 1953-54, 1986-87, 2019-20, and 2052-53, after the end of the world. As a result, you see characters at different times in their life–as children, adults, and seniors. There are numerous characters and family relationships to track. Then you have the mystery of the time travel itself, how it works and its influence on events.
A great deal of the fun of the show is in the bootstrap paradox. This is where time travel reverses cause and effect such that events seem to create themselves with no discernible origin. For example, suppose you’re about to die, but future-you comes back and saves you in the nick of time. The paradox is that in linear time, you should have died, so future-you would not exist to save you. ARRIVAL plays with the same idea. The concept is milked to full effect in THE DARK, which I found as frustrating as fun if not more so, as it eliminates cause and effect, and the show starts to rely on constant emotionally heavy, paradox-based reveals until every character is heavily involved in the time travel and the plot starts to become meaningless while producing yet another paradox. Time travel changes everything, but everything must happen as it always has in the loop.
In the end, THE DARK is a fun ride. The characters are likeable, the science fiction aspect and its mystery are compelling, and the writers tease out a good combination of mystery and reveal.