A German original Netflix series, DARK portrays how several families are affected by the eerie mounting disappearances of several town children, evoking a response from some of the adults that “it’s happening again.” This is a crazy, dense, complex, dark, intellectually challenging (and exhausting) show. I really, really liked it, though I didn’t connect with any of the characters–all of them deeply flawed–enough to love it.
The show has been compared to STRANGER THINGS (though nobody teams up in DARK, and it’s much, well, darker) and TWIN PEAKS (overall weirdness and tone). To which I’d add IT (strange events happened 33 and 66 years ago that are happening today, and the villain, who seems to understand what’s going on more than anybody and obeys its rules, is awesome) and LOST (new mysteries are introduced as old ones are resolved). There’s a great cosmic aspect centered on travel. We’re shown the lives of a large cast both in the present, past, and distant past, along with numerous theories of time travel and time travel paradoxes.
The craziest paradox is how the future can influence the past, a problem I also had with the film ARRIVAL. It works like this: I’m drowning and will definitely die without help, but I find a life preserver and survive, because my future self came back and threw it in the water for me to find. The same paradox occurs in DARK at least twice. Several other strange things made me wonder, such how a kid (and the dog) get through the portal, somebody coming out in the present though the police tape is missing, etc., which seem to be creative license shortcuts and continuity errors.
Yes, I’m nitpicking, but it’s that kind of show. You have to pay attention to every single detail (and numerous characters at different ages on the three-point timeline) to follow what’s happening. Despite the amount of information, the show has a fairly solid pace. For about 4, maybe 5 episodes, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on, but then the show starts introducing reveals that sew up the dozens of loose ends one by one until the striking last episode’s conclusion. I was able to figure out two big reveals before they happened (through intuition and luck), but otherwise it’s a show that leaves you guessing until it’s ready to slap the next puzzle piece on the table. In more than one way, I was satisfied when it ended, as I found it kind of exhausting albeit oddly penetrating. I don’t know if DARK will get a second season; I’d be happy either way. The show wraps things up nicely, with just enough loose threads to make you wonder and perhaps long for them to be sewn up as well in a season 2.
DARK is yet another example of why TV is in a golden age, while film kind of sucks despite the odd gem. It’s TV that challenges you, that makes you think and feel something different. I really liked this one and hope for more of the same.