Beginnings & Endings
Lost and Found
An Endless Cycle
The White Devil
Endings and Beginnings
The stars we see in the night sky are particles of light from months, sometimes years ago. Given how long light takes to reach our planet, looking in the night sky is the equivalent to looking backward through time. Up to four years to be precise. It’s a strange thing to think about, especially when you consider some of those stars may have burnt out years ago and yet, their presence lingers on thanks to the passage of time. Time is ultimately the key word here and as German Netflix hit Dark shows us with its second season, it’s highly unpredictable and almost impossible to second guess.
I have to admit, I started writing recap notes for each episode but given the sheer complexity of the narrative and intricate web of time-bending details (there’s now five different timelines this year), I decided against it for fear of getting characters or dates wrong. Dark is clever like that though, blending and merging its timelines together with precision and confusion but doing so with a keen eye for style and characterisation along the way.
Much to the credit of the show, the story is reasonably simple to follow, on the surface level at least, with an apocalyptic event linked to the nuclear power plant acting as the anchor to which these five timelines spiral around. The level of detail and sheer complexity of the characters though make Dark’s second season far more complicated than its first. With narratives split from the 1920’s through to 2050’s, Dark sees more characters jump between time periods whilst maintaining the same tight writing and consistent plot reveals the first season had.
Around the midway point of the show, things are shaken up thanks to a big plot reveal regarding Adam’s origins as the apocalypse grows ever nearer and all our characters begin to collide in messy and unpredictable ways. The early feelings of hope are chipped away and replaced by an overwhelming sense of dread and inevitability, as we see all our characters come to realize the futility of their actions and how cruel time can be.
I know this sounds awfully vague but to be honest, Dark’s second season is such a masterclass in how to write time travel, it would be a disservice to the show to give anything away. Given the first season’s problems with dialogue and its confusing narrative, Dark Season 2 takes this idea, adds another level of complexity and frees itself from the shackles of its expository laden dialogue. Three or four episodes in, you do find yourself starting to get to grips with the five time period set-up and it’s here where Dark lulls you into a false sense of security and hits you with relentless gut punches. Shocking twists after horrifying revelations are uncovered, all leading back to the first season and the 30 year period so often talked about but never explored. There is a cliffhanger ending here too and the final reveal is one that promises to add yet another complicated layer to a show that’s already full to bursting with ideas.
The 8 episodes are a perfect length and there’s never a time when Dark feels like its outstayed its welcome. This is thanks in part to the style which remains consistently impressive throughout. Whether it be the split screen montages at the end of each episode or the unnerving discordant chimes that burst in during some of the dread-inducing moments, Dark knows exactly when to add a big story moment or let things peter out for a while.
The cinematography in general is very good and the slick camera work, combined with the editing and switch between time periods (without warning I may add), is made all the more impressive when you realize some of these characters have future and past selves now shown on screen.
Dark’s second season is not perfect but it does eliminate almost every issue inherent with the first, thanks in part to its much improved dialogue. Despite the cliffhanger ending, Dark manages to impossibly deliver a story that’s both simple and complicated, juggling 5 time periods and a handful of characters at different stages of their life. I’ve long believed 12 Monkeys’ fourth season would remain the best time travel series but Dark’s second season completely blows it away. It is a bit of a slow burn but when that fuse finally ignites, the ensuing explosion delivers one of the crowning achievements of German television, and a top contender for TV show of the year.