If you haven’t already noticed, I have a thing for science fiction, all forms of science fiction. I have no predilections about where or how stories are told, if they’re done artfully and show me something new and interesting about the world. Television was the first great storyteller in my life, as is probably true of most people in my generation and beyond and somewhat less in the boomer generation. Perhaps it was the extreme poverty my mother experienced, but there wasn’t a TV in her home until the late 50’s.
During my undergraduate degree, film was one of many courses I could take to round out my creative writing education and I enjoyed my cinema review course quite a lot. I met some movies and genres that have become favorites, such as film noir and “The Usual Suspects.” I enjoyed discussing and writing about film so much, I took a Women in Russian Film course that sticks in my memory as one of the most enjoyable courses I ever took, probably because I got to study both the art of Russian film and how women’s place in Russian society was reflected in some pretty amazing films.
Unfortunately, a feature of the cognitive dysfunction I struggle with has caused my information processing to slow to such a degree that I can no longer keep up with subtitles. Lucky for me, many Americans just outright refuse to make the effort if a film has to be watched with subtitles and more and more film companies are happy to accommodate by dubbing foreign film.
It’s easy to access dubbed versions now, though less so for independent and art house films. Netflix, which has become a global powerhouse of TV and film making and distribution often releases their films and TV shows with a number of language options and I’m very grateful I can watch most of the titles I’m interested in. This has created a revival of a good deal of foreign film and television in my life and I’m much happier for it, especially since I don’t get to read as much as I would like. I have to get my fix somewhere.
In light of this, it’s not so surprising that the first thing I feel compelled to write about is a German TV series on Netflix called “Dark.” Dark has audio versions in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish and is subtitled in English, German, Spanish, traditional and simplified Chinese.
Netflix describes “Dark” in one simple sentence; “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers as they unearth a mind-bending mystery that spans three generations.” Mind-bending is right.
The best categorization I’ve seen of “Dark” called it sci-fi noir and if that’s a valid genre, I want more. What starts out as a seeming murder mystery expands quickly to include some of the most intriguing mysteries of science including wormholes, time travel and whether humans really have free will or if our lives are predetermined by factors we can barely even begin to comprehend.
Dark is probably one of the most ingenious television shows I’ve ever watched in the science fiction genre. The central mystery of this marvel may be so complex it’s bit hard to follow, but if you hang in with it, it pays off in dividends with the most surprising and satisfying of endings. With just three short seasons, they tell this amazing tale in its entirety.
The show takes place in multiple time frames, often with the same characters at various stages in their lives. Following all the moving parts and people and trying to understand the motivations and reasoning of certain key characters definitely makes this an engaging and mind boggling show about the human condition one can’t easily turn away from. Throw in the complexity of the scientific mysteries begging to be solved and you’re in for one hell of a ride.
It’s easy to fall into the subplots and become embroiled in the drama of the character’s daily lives. Perhaps this is one of the things which makes the ending especially shocking and yet satisfying in its simplicity in contrast to the chaos from which it was born.
I’d imagine the more you know about Einstein-Rosen Bridge theory the better. I found myself wishing more and more I had brought to the viewing a deeper understanding of it. In hindsight, it’s really not necessary. By the end, all was clear and we’re left with the sense all is right with the world once again.
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Dark is the ideal show for the person who loves films like “Inception,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “The Matrix” and shows like “Stranger Things,” “12 Monkeys,” or “The OA.” Like most of these stories, we discover each piece of a vast puzzle right alongside the characters. It’s practically impossible to guess the arc the show will take, let alone how it could be resolved.
Binge-worthy Doesn’t Quite Cut It
The complexity of the show, combined with the number of characters to keep track of over multiple time frames makes Dark excellent binge watching material. We watched it as it was released, but felt confused after a year-long break between seasons 1 and 2. By the time the third season came around, we gave up 15 minutes in to the first episode and started over again, binge watching the entire show in the span of a week or so. This could be solely because of our failing memories, but with a show with so many moving parts, I can’t help but think it’s best watched in a short time span regardless of whether you have issues with memory.
Don’t worry too much about getting lost. The Wikipedia entry on “Dark” is quite thorough. It even includes family tree diagrams for each season. Family trees can be messy in real life. In this world, they’re enough to make even Einstein’s head hurt a bit trying to work it all out. But do hang in there on your own if you can. It can be quite rewarding to figure it all out on your own.
One of the things I admire most about this show is the integrity with which they carried out such an immense vision. I also appreciate a story that lets the audience take the full ride with the characters, crediting viewers with the intelligence to understand that which is inferred.
The rich cinematography and art direction are also incredible to behold. Elaborate set design and the changing of fashions over the decade go a long way to tipping us off to where, or when, we are. In this show, the end is the beginning and the question is often not who, but when. All will be revealed in good time.
Of course you don’t have to take my word for how great this show is. Dark has been nominated for 19 awards and it’s cast and crew have taken home five. With an IMDB rating of 8.8 and a rotten tomatoes score of 94%, you can be sure I’m just one of many fans of this show. Without a doubt, Dark is a series I know I’ll find myself returning to again. It’s a show that holds up to multiple viewings and fans will enjoy spotting the foreshadowing and other Easter eggs aplomb in this fascinating show.
What’s your take on Dark? What’s one of your favorite sci-fi shows to binge? I’m always looking for new things to watch and would appreciate the recommendations. You never know if it might be what I review next.