Past and Present
Sic Mundus Creatus Est
As you Sow, So You Shall Reap
Everything Is Now
Alpha and Omega
Tense, weird and mind-bendingly complicated, Dark grabs you from the opening scene and relentlessly strangles you into submission in this gripping thriller. Despite the slight similarities to Stranger Things, comparing the two would be doing Dark disjustice. The two shows are completely different with Dark far more complex and sinister in its approach. Thought provocative, mature themes are explored throughout the series too and fully fleshed, complex characters help to elevate this German sci-fi show. There are times where its unnecessarily convoluted; the plot jumps between time periods with reckless abandon making it hard to follow at times but if you can persevere through this, Dark is an incredibly complex puzzle that’s well worth taking the time to solve.
The story begins in the near future of 2019 Germany in a small town called Winden. This tight-knit community is rocked by the sudden disappearance of two young children and what unfolds is a supernaturally charged, slow paced tale full of dread and layers of depth between the various characters as they try to find out what’s happened. To give away much more about the plot would be landing in spoiler-infested water but suffice to say, Dark certainly delivers one heck of a story, full of twists and surprises hidden in every episode. As Dark reaches the mid-way point of its 10 episode adventure, the plot does become a lot more complicated and difficult to follow, with no prior warning as it jumps between time periods. Its here that Dark is a little too artistic for its own good as it shows different characters at different stages of their life. Seeing the same character as a child, an adult and a senior is certainly an intriguing prospect but showing this in the space of a 20 minute segment without warning does take some adjustment to get used to. Although it does eventually click into place, it can be jarring for a while to remember which time period the scene is set in and Dark does suffer a little for this.
Despite this confusion, Dark is never frustrating to watch. Its helped in this respect by a host of interesting characters, each of them complex and full of secrets. Although the plot jumps to different characters and family units in this town, some of the key characters deserve a special mention here for standing out among the rest of the excellent cast. Dad Ulrich (Oliver Masucci), investigator Charlotte (Karoline Eichhorn), Jonas (Louis Hofmann) and Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) each do a really good job portraying their characters. This calibre of acting throughout really helps Dark craft a believable, secret-filled town on the verge of a meltdown.
As a German Netflix release, its worth mentioning that the best way to watch this show is of course in German. Having re-watched a few episodes with the English dubbed audio instead of the German, its far more effective and endearing with the native tongue. Whilst the English isn’t inherently terrible, its not very good either and actually dissipates some of the tension and power portrayed by the characters.
Dark is the perfect name for this show, illustrating both the tone and aesthetic of this time-bending thriller. A grainy, saturated colour palette sucks the brightness out of every scene and a harsh off-key string segment fills every episode with dread and anxiety. Unfortunately this is overused to the point of losing its effectiveness, especially toward the end of the season but there’s no denying that Dark boasts some incredible cinematography. Everything in this series feels deliberately placed and the clever use of a chilled, lighter toned vocal track to end every episode showing the various characters does a good job of loosening the stranglehold of tension that grips the show. Although the title segment does feel a little cheap in this respect, its a minor point and doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the show.
Dark is an example of how to do good sci-fi TV on a small budget. The distinct lack of CGI-heavy scenes helps the effectiveness crafted from the excellent acting and brilliant cinematography all round. Its not perfect, the convoluted storyline is a little hard to follow at times and coupled with an overuse of certain musical string segments to invoke dread, Dark certainly isn’t without its problems. Dark does end on a cliffhanger too and with no definitive word on whether there will be a second season, this is a little concerning. Thankfully, most of these problems are easy to forgive in this excellent German Netflix Original. Dark is thought provocative, regularly surprising and full of interesting characters to keep you watching until the final scene. Don’t let the German audio put you off, Dark is an incredibly unique show that deserves to be watched, even if the storyline is a little hard to follow at times.