There’s a reason German sci-fi Dark is regarded as one of the best Netflix Originals on the platform. The intricate knot of timelines, ideas and challenging time travel concepts are unrivaled in this medium. While 12 Monkeys managed to streamline this into a more mainstream appealing idea, Dark is far more comprehensive and challenging by comparison, eclipsing what Syfy’s underrated series managed to achieve when it was on-air.
As we approach the prophesied apocalypse, we’re facing a brand new cycle.
An Unknown Timeline
In Adam’s office, within the heart of Sic Mundus, papers lie strewn across the floor as a man arrives and finds dust-covered schematics for the time machine Adam was using. With a cut lip, an old man and a young boy with the exact same scar arrive and throw their lanterns on the ground, watching as the fire engulfs the room hungrily.
2019 – Our World
In 2019, the other-Martha uses the contraption just before the apocalypse strikes and takes Jonas to her world. Only, this transports him straight to the caves, where other-Martha confirms this is the first day they met each other. It turns out their two worlds are inexplicably linked together. “I’ll make this right, I promise,” She says before disappearing before his eyes, leaving Jonas alone with his thoughts.
4th November 2019 – The Other World (Day)
Martha awakens from her dream and heads downstairs. Only, in this world Mikkel is still alive. Magnus and Franziska are together properly too – with the former deaf rather than her sister Elisabeth. Unfortunately this happy familial outfit is strained by Katharina and Ulrich who have broken up; the symbolic ripped photo showing no Father.
Ulrich and a pregnant Hannah are together instead and joke that the apocalypse is nigh – if only they knew how accurate that statement was. Some things never change though and Hannah and Katharina’s frosty reception certainly extends to this world too.
Symbolically, Martha is the one wearing the yellow jacket in this reality and she cycles up to the power plant, stopping to eyeball a sign about Erik missing. One of the constants here happens to be Erik’s disappearance and this proves to be a catalyst for what follows later on.
Jonas steps out the cave and heads back home, seeing first-hand that Martha now has his room but everything is the other way around. Walking in a daze, Jonas heads to school to try and make sense of what’s happening.
Martha is now in a relationship with a boy called Kilian and shoots Jonas a glance in class when he turns up. Much like everyone else there, no one seems to know or recognize who he is.
Helge is still alive here though, albeit with one less eye, and he continues to ramble “It will happen again, tick, tock.” When Elisabeth arrives to see him, he mutters how the beginning is the end.
At the police station, Ulrich leads the team in his determined effort to try and find Erik. Only, in this reality he happens to be having an affair with Charlotte and Woller has one arm rather than a missing eye.
Jonas heads to the church and sees Regina is dead – in this reality she hasn’t made it. The priest approaches him and advises Daniel Kahnwald died but no Michael. This is enough for Jonas to suddenly realize things in this reality have played out in a very different way.
21st September 1987 – Other World
The trio we saw at the beginning of the episode approach Helge’s mansion and request the master key for the power plant from the man inside. As the older and younger version watch on, the grown man, sneering through his cut lip, proceeds to strangle him.
4th November 2019 – Other world (Night)
Martha rides her bike along the familiar forest road, parking up against the gate and heading to the train tracks. There, Jonas steps out from the shadows and ironically calls their meeting a glitch in the matrix. This, of course, happens to be the very same thing they joked about in the first episode of season 1.
Magnus, Kilian and Franziska suddenly arrive but Mikkel is nowhere to be found. Given the 4th November is when another child goes missing, Jonas realizes this could play out very differently in this world.
By the mouth of the cave, Magnus mentions experiments that took place there around 100 years ago. Just as he continues on, the familiar rumbling roars into action as Martha is the one who finds herself separated from Kilian. A sinister voice materializes into a woman covered in strange black goo (the same that’s used to power the machines, perhaps?) whispers her name and Martha rushes away.
As Martha runs, she finds Kilian and in this world everyone returns from the woods unscathed and hides out in the bunker. While huddling together, a portal materializes and from it, Mads Nielsen drops to the floor. Is this where our world’s Mad Nielsen appeared from?
Outside his house, a strange old woman approaches Jonas and confirms this is a world that’s existed without him. Ironically, this world will still has the same fate as his Winden and everything will fall apart in this endless cycle. As she steps up, Jonas realizes to his horror that this old woman is Martha.
21st September 1888
Our time-travelling Martha (younger this time and presumably not long after dropping our Jonas off in her world) walks through the pouring rain and arrives at a science lab. There, she finds Jonas (at the same age as The Stranger) working in his lab and shocked that she’s still alive. Only, she tells him she’s not “his” Martha but instead, she’s there to help find his origin which happens to be the beginning of everything. The first episode ends things on an almighty cliffhanger.
The Review Write-Up
With the third season mixing things up with a new world and a new set of rules to play with, Dark wastes no time getting right to the heart of the drama. The subtle differences and juxtapositions between both worlds are great to watch and the familiar musical montage returns too; a staple of this highly ambitious sci-fi series, and a chance for us to breathe and digest what we’ve learned up until that point.
The idea of this second world and seeing these characters play out their own realities does well to ease into the final season and it certainly leaves the door wide open for where this one may go next.