Dark, a Netflix original German web series, is among the most convincing time-travelling series – moving to and fro across six timelines and three worlds. Characters appear in various ages in different worlds, meeting their younger and older selves, reliving their birth and death, and everything that falls in between. Human beings are the only logical creation among all species. They are the only creature that has rationality and the ability to evolve. Human beings are the only creature that has the desire and the determination to fulfil those desires. Our actions, however, fall captive to time and space. What if we gain over that? What if we can go in the past and change a few actions or go in the future and set a few things up for us?
In this Dark web series Review, we are going to analyze the flaws in human nature, the impact of small errors, and the result of our desires.
“What we know is a drop. What we don’t know is the ocean.”
Sic Mundus Creatus Est
Missing children’s cases are piling up unsolved in Winden, a fictional place in Germany, when Jonas returns from an asylum after two months, struggling to overcome his father’s suicide. Parents and the school come together for safeguarding their children, the police leave no stones unturned in their investigation, and the entire town mobilizes, and amidst all this Mikkel Neilsen goes missing followed by a recovery of the corpse of another boy. Turns out, the corpse is of Mads Neilson who died thirty-three years ago – sixteen hours ago according to the forensics.
At the same time, a sinister-looking stranger wanders in the forest of Winden, trying to guide Jonas to the steel door. Ulrich’s infidelity, Peter’s illegitimate relationship with Benni Woller, Hannah’s insecurities, Helge’s fears, and all their lies, envy, and vengeance contribute to the knot. It isn’t very late when we realize that a small slip up, like Ulrich forgetting his jacket with his phone in it, can be among the many root causes of the trouble. Not only does the past influence the future but the future influences the past too, hence the loop cannot be altered.
It is not long before we realize the extent of their desires and acts of revenge can be like Hannah’s going to the past not only to refuse to rescue Ulrich but also makes sure he gets the message. And very soon we find ourselves weighing down under loads of our guilt.
If everything starts again, what would you desire?
It is said that to err is human, which means it is natural for humans to make mistakes. And every error done on the part of humans have one thing in common – a human desire, a strong determination to gain something that nature does not allow. Every determination is backed by one presumption – that we are free to make our decisions. However, we fail to understand that our decisions affect other people and their decisions. As a consequence, we often end up wanting to go back in time and undo a few things, extremely unaware of the complexity of the desire.
“There are moments when we must understand that the decisions we make influence more than just our own fates.”
Besides human error, the Dark web series also tells us the human inability to accept reality – characters’ repeatedly reciting the Serenity Prayer is a reminder of this fact. Had Old Tanhaus accepted the reality of his son’s death, he wouldn’t have made the time machine. He infused his life-long study and all the knowledge he had to alter the past, consequently causing endless pain over Winden.
Along with not realizing the intricacy of our decisions, we also fail to predetermine the loads of guilt that would follow; which again brings us to the same desire of going back in time to either undo a few things or apologize for our actions, like Helge who tries to stop his younger selves from committing the error he had made or like Claudia who goes to 1953 to apologize.
To live is one thing, to repetitively live is another and here characters are made to live and relive their mistakes, their deaths, and their losses over and over again in one lifetime. Losing his father once was already traumatizing for Jonas, only then he didn’t know he’d be living those moments all over again. To see his father for the last time and to know that this is the last time was even more difficult for him than to see him dead. Similarly, Regina meets her mother after all those years of her missing.
We see characters losing the most important people of their lives – when Hannah finds out about Michael’s childhood when Katharina finds out that her son was always there all her life when Claudia sees her daughter dying of cancer. We see characters transition from good to evil – when Jonas, now turned into Adam, kills his mother or Ulrich tries to kill Helge.
In the nonlinearity of the timeline, we find the characters misplaced, seeking redemption from the never-ending loop of time. There’s a constant search for a home, metaphorically, a Winden with no mystery. It is about the paradoxes of life – the creator is the destroyer, the saviour is the destructor, the predator is a victim, the gap is the bridge, and the beginning is the end.
The Infinite Loop
“It’s not just the past that influences the future, the future also influences the past.”
Dark web series believes in time being non-linear; that the distinction between past, present, and future is an illusion; that time doesn’t move into infinity but in a loop. This infinite loop and parallel worlds are shown through narration, split screens, and montages. The erratic narration leaves the audience hanging somewhere in between all the time. Characters who are decades apart appear next to each other like Mikkel and Ulrich do after their failed attempt to cross the door. They are framed parallel to each other while they are decades apart and would, perhaps, never meet.
Montages further add to the flow of the narration and build up to the complexity of the plot. Like a montage of faces of every character along with the narration that talks about how puzzled man has been about his origin. It is only later that we understand the complexity of characters’ origins, like Charlotte, Noah, Mikkel, and Silja. That is how montages are played with.
Jonas and Slija move towards the dead zone, Hannah and older Jonas move towards their house in 1986 – here the split-screen represents that they are about to make a great revelation. This is followed by older Ulrich in his psychiatric ward and Tiedemann shuffling the papers and trying to make sense of it – here it shows the comparison since Ulrich knows everything while Tiedemann still is clueless. This is followed by Hannah’s discovery of Micheal and Charlotte’s discovery of Noah present in a group picture clicked a hundred years ago. Here the split-screen draws a similarity between Charlotte and Peter on one side and Hannah and Jonas on the other. Next comes Jonas and Slija discovering the God Particle, followed by Claudia’s revelation about time travel and all this happens while Thunder by Ry X plays in the background – and that’s how audiences are taken through great revelations.
The Third Dimension
Towards the end of the series, the knot would look too complicated to ever get solved but once it does get solved, we realize the answers were given in the first series itself – the third dimension, the third world. The inner loops remain in question – what about Charlotte and Elisabeth, what about Micheal and Ulrich, Katharina, and all those characters who are born in one era and die sometime in the past. If time-travelling would have never happened, a few of the crucial characters would have never existed.
As I said earlier, the Dark web series is among the most convincing time-travelling series because of the mind-blowing revelations the audiences make – like discovering that Charlotte is her own grandmother, that the protagonist and the antagonist are the same, that Bartosz is Noah’s father and so on – which keeps them on the edge of their seats. Among others, the most stand-out moment for me was when older Claudia goes in 1953 and middle-aged Claudia digs it out in 1986, though thirty years later but simultaneously. Also, though the older characters and younger ones are played by different people, they all do look like themselves, save the weariness of age.
In all, the Dark web series is going to appeal to not only sci-fi lovers but is also a treat for mystery/thriller lovers. It is among those series you cannot leave halfway and in the end you’ll find yourself somewhat believing that time travelling is perhaps true.
“We’re not free in what we do because we’re not free in what we want. We can’t overcome what’s deep within us.”