Dark is the first Netflix Original Series coming from Germany. Yes, that enigmatic, complex and wonderful country in Central Europe. And as you might expect from an original production from a country where quality, efficiency and creativity are more than guaranteed, this new series already shines among the prolific library of the popular online content platform, mostly because of early positive reviews.
However, let’s skip the technical review of the series for another time and let’s try to figure out what really happen along the first season, because with the high count of characters, the intricate plot and the outstanding twists, I bet more than a bunch of people watched the last episode wondering what the hell was going on. And yes, that’s why we are here, because without further ado, we will analyze and explain the first season of Dark.
1 ^ What is the theory Dark was based on?
Dark is a series based on a philosophical concept called «The Eternal Return». There are two ways to look at this idea, and considering that the series plays with both perspectives, it is necessary to explain them separately. I will try to do my best because the concept itself is a bit complicated.
The first way: the future is our past and the past is our future. Just like we walk around a block and we return to the same point we started, TIME will eventually lead us to the same point when we were now. According to this perspective, the universe will eventually return exactly to any point when it had been in the past, including human beings themselves. This implies that time is a solid and unmodifiable structure, where every single action is predestined. Just like in that movie called, well, Predestination.
The second way: the universe, time and space, has a beginning and an end, but that end is the new beginning of a second universe that will eventually end up being identical to the previous one, on so many levels that it is impossible to differentiate one from the other. This implies that, with every iteration of the universe, it is possible to introduce changes.
In nine of the ten episodes of the series, it is implied that every action of the characters is predestined, but just in the last episode it is subtly exposed that maybe the timeline indeed can be modified. But, we will have to wait and see how the writers answer this questions in the next seasons. Because, trust me, there will be next seasons.
2 ^ So, what the hell is going on in Winden?
In the small town of Winden, Germany, within an intricate cave system there is a hole that is connected to three time gates, the first one in 1953, second one in 1986 and the third one in 2019. Anyone in any of these three time points can enter the hole and according to the way you take, you can end up in any of the other two.
According to Noah, each and every one of the actions taken by individuals, is already predestined. If someone travels from 2019 to 1953, their actions have already affected 2019. And there is no way to change the situation. However, the final scene of this season could indicate that everything is not as set in stone as Noah says.
3 ^ Who the hell is Noah?
Noah is a time traveler who takes advantage of the black hole in Winden to achieve his purposes. Noah is a manipulative, perverse and unscrupulous individual who does not hesitate to use anyone available to achieve its goals, goals not revealed in this first season, but it could be (I’m theorizing) ensuring his own existence.
Despite not believing in God, Noah usually wears the garb of a minister. There’s even a theory that points that Agnes Nielsen, Ulrich Nielsen’s grandmother, had a relationship with Noah, and that he is the father of Tronte. This theory is based on the fact that Agnes tells Doris Tiedemann that her husband was an evil priest.
4 ^ What the hell happened to Mikkel?
The plot of the series begins when Mikkel Nielsen, an 11-year-old disappears into the woods in the fall of 2019. Somehow Mikkel entered the time hole and he ended up in 1986, where he was left to nurse Ines Kahnwald, who adopted him and raised him under the name of Michael Kahnwald.
Michael Kahnwald, or Mikkel, married Hannah Krüger and they had son, Jonas. The proximity of the date on which he disappeared and most likely the fact of seeing his family, his father and his mother, and a young version of himself, unable to say anything, lead him to suicide.
5 ^ Who are the main characters in Dark and how they are related to each other?
Chronologically, the first Kahnwald we see is Ines in 1953 when she pays a visit to HG Tannhaus . Then in 1986, Ines is a nurse and she have a very bad time because she can’t get pregnant. Ines adopts Mikkel, who is raised as Michael Kahnwald, he marries Hannah Krüger and their son Jonas, is the protagonist of the story. Jonas realizes that The Stranger is actually an old version of himself, 33 years older to be exact.
Let’s now take a look on the Nielsens, which are the most numerous and important family of the series. The first Nielsen we see is, chronologically, Agnes Nielsen in 1953 with his son Tronte . As we said above is quite possible that the father of Tronte is Noah, but that has not been confirmed. In 1986 we see that Tronte is with Jana with whom he has two children: Ulrich and Mads . Mads was one of the children that Noah kidnapped and killed and whose body was later sent by the black hole to 2019. What happened to Mads left Jana with a very delicate mental condition.
Ulrich, a rebellious teenager in 1986, eventually marries Katarina (a cheerleader) with whom he has three children: Magnus , Martha and Mikkel . Magnus pursues a relationship with Franziska, despite her strange businesses. Martha is in love with Jonas, while keeping a relationship with Bartosz and Mikkel, as we saw, disappears in 2019, to appears back in 1986 and some years later, he becomes the father of Jonas.
Chronologically, the first Dopplers we see are Bernd and his wife Greta . Bernd is an entrepreneur who wants to bring nuclear power to Germany to replace coal, he is very rich and the nuclear business is an investment. Greta is a very strict and severe woman who usually mistreats her son Helge.
Over time, we see Helge serving as an assistant to Noah in his experiments where several children die. Helge at some point should have marry and have a son, Peter. But we do not see Peter until 2019, as an adult, when he’s already married to Charlotte. Charlotte was the girl we see drawing the dead birds on a notepad in 1986 and the partner of Ulrich, in 2019.
Peter and Charlotte have two daughters, the eldest daughter, Franziska who has a relationship with Magnus Nielsen and Elisabeth, a deaf girl who was very good friends with Yasin.
Now, the Tiedemanns. In 1953 Egon and Doris Tiedemann lives in the same house that years later becomes Ulrich’s family house. Egon is a police officer and Doris is a housekeeper, their daughter Claudia is an excellent student, with a gift for mathematics. In 1986 we see Claudia (now leading the Nuclear Plant) has a daughter, Regina, although we don’t know who Regina’s father really is . Regina is constantly bullied by other kids from the school, especially Ulrich and Katarina until Aleksander puts a stop to the matter.
Aleksander Köhler is actually a false name because the real name of the subject is Boris Niewald. In 2019, Regina manages a hotel that remains mostly empty through the whole year. She also suffers in silence a severe case of cancer. The son of Aleksander and Regina is Bartosz who keeps a relationship with Martha Nielsen.
6 ^ Why does Aleksander use the last name Tiedemann?
The last name Tiedemann, unlike the Nielsen name or the Doppler name, has a strange line in the series. Obviously it was the last name of Egon who used him as a family name for his wife and daughter. It is very curious that Claudia’s daughter, Regina, uses her mother’s maiden name. Was Regina the product of an extramarital relationship? Or did Claudia’s husband adopted her wife last name as his?
Now, about Aleksander, let’s remember that his real name is Boris Niewald, and Aleksander Köhler was a false name he used to escape from some kind of crime committed elsewhere in Germany, or perhaps in Poland or Hungary. For him to adopt the surname of his wife would not be very traumatic because he was just changing a false name. Or maybe he thought that the Tiedemann name was well established in Winden to change it. Or maybe it is because he loves Regina so much, that he just loves to use her last name as his.
7 ^ Why is Noah kidnapping children? What happened to them? Why did they have a horrible scar on their eyes?
Noah kidnaps children in 1953, 1986 and 2019 with the collaboration of Helge to conduct experiments that may provide a method for time travel without being tied to black hole options. We know that in 1953 he had kidnapped a boy because his parents were asking Egon to find him. Another kidnapped child was Mads in 1986, whose dead body ended up in 2019.
The other two cases we know so far are those of Erik (2019), whom we see being tortured by Noah in the first episodes, and Yasin (Also 2019), Elisabeth Doppler’s friend. When these two died because of the experiments, they were thrown into 1953 where Egon Tiedemann finds them, with the great mystery that his clothes were made in China, and one of them was Arab or Turkish.
The scar on the children’s eyes is the result of the design of the device Noah is testing. This device covers the eyes of the person inside and exerts a charge of energy just in that area of the face. But since the device has not been perfected, it charges the individual inside with so much energy that the tissue around the area of the eyes is heavily damaged and burnt. These experiments take place in 1986 in the bunker next to Helge’s cabin, this time with a nice wallpaper.
8 ^ What’s in the bunker next to Helge’s cabin?
The bunker next to Helge’s cabin is exactly above the trifurcation of the caves, otherwise known as the time hole. Each time someone travels through the time hole (or black hole), a rift occurs exactly above, in the bunker, allowing the communication between time points without having to make the journey through the caves. Noah and Helge knew the dates (some were written in a notebook and some were written on the wall) and used the rift to dispose of the dead children bodies.
9 ^ What is the mystery of the Winden Nuclear Plant? What’s behind the door with the symbol of radioactive material?
Actually the mystery of the Nuclear Plant Winden has nothing to do with time travel, but with a technical problem which arose before 1986 and which resulted in the production of toxic wastes that Helge’s father, Bernd, hid to avoid public paranoia, after what happened with Chernobyl. Bernd hid the toxic waste in an access point to the caves and only told Claudia about what was happening when she noticed about the incident when reviewing the data.
Claudia, to avoid any mishap, ordered Aleksander to seal the access to the point where the wastes were being kept. That is the door seen from the caves, and through which Ulrich thought that Mikkel had infiltrated the plant. Already in 2019, precisely because of Ulrich’s suspicions and the order to check the plant, Aleksander ordered Obendorf, one of his employees, to remove the barrels with radioactive waste from the caves and get them into a truck to prevent they were found by the police . Precisely in this truck, Jonas finds the radioactive material needed to run the Tannhaus device.
10 ^ What is the device designed by Claudia and manufactured by H.G. Tannhaus?
The device was, in theory, capable of destroying the black hole that was within the caves. Claudia designed it to restore the order of time and to guarantee that everyone remained in their original time without the alterations that Noah (and others) introduced. To achieve that goal, she asked the help of Peter Doppler and Tronte Nielsen.
Jonas used the future version of the Tannhaus device and brought it to H.G. in 1986. Tannhause could finish the device by seeing the future version of itself and he realized that the smartphone Ulrich had left behind reacted with it. But the last piece to ignite the device was the radioactive material Jonas got from the waste Aleksander was hiding.
However, as it was explained by Noah, instead of destroying the black hole, the Tannhouse device actually created it.
11 ^ Why does the lights flicker from time to time in Winden? Why do animals die when this happens?
Every time someone travels through the black hole, a type of electromagnetic pulse is emitted fractionally affecting electric and electronic devices that are nearby, it also affects the ears of animal species sensitive to very low sound frequencies. The animal’s’ ear is damaged and some die of an internal bleeding, like the sheep, or die when losing orientation, falling to the ground, like the birds.
12 ^ What is the meaning of the final scene of Dark? Where is Jonas at the end of the episode 10?
In the first episodes, it was implied that any change introduced by the time travelers, affected perfectly the past or the future. They were expected and predestined. But, when the old Jonas ignited the Tannhaus device, a rift occurred in the bunker next to Helge’s cabin. This rift doesn’t seem to fit within the plans of Noah or the Old Jonas, and when the young Jonas and the young Helge touched hands, they traveled not only through time, but also space. This seems a wink on the idea that it is possible to make changes on the timelines, avoiding the vicious circle.
Jonas ended up in what it seems the space of work of his old self, with all the photos of the people involved in the game of time created by the time travelers. When he leaves the place, he’s again in the woods of Winden, and there are changes, like billboards with several languages and lots of people with different ethnicities. We might think that this year is 2052, thinking in the 33 years cycle that is referenced through the season, but since Jonas traveled there through a time rift and not the hole itself, it is very likely it is a different year.
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