‘Dark’ is a Netflix-original German series set is a small town of Winden where the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy kickstarts a series of events that tie a knot between the past, the present and the future. It is one of the handful shows that will twist your brain and leave you thoroughly confused at every turn. If you haven’t yet seen the show and are planning to do it sometime in the near future (the sooner the better), then I advise you to sit with a chart and a pen and make your notes through every episode! Seriously, it’s that confusing. This series has been compared to ‘Stranger Things’, but the American show is not nearly as confounding nor as indulging in its themes as this German series. You watch ‘Stranger Things’ for fun, but for ‘Dark’, you need to keep your mind alert under all circumstances.
The first season set the ground for the things to come with some massive cliff-hangers, leaving the fates of the main characters in a dangerous balance. The second season resolves a great number of things but then leaves you with stronger mysteries. You can predict very few things with ‘Dark’ and this is what makes it one of the best shows on Netflix right now. Here, I have tried to decipher some key points of the storyline. If you haven’t yet seen it, head over to Netflix.
Summary of the Plot
The story of ‘Dark’ takes place in multiple timelines. So, where exactly the story begins and with whom is very difficult, if not impossible, a task to pinpoint. You see various loops forming between time and family and in a character’s own life. Where it starts and ends for the characters is a matter of another discussion, but for the audience, it begins with the suicide of Michael Kahnwald. On June 21, 2019 (which is exactly when the second season premiered), he hangs himself to death in his studio. Six months later, his son, Jonas, is still recovering from the trauma. He comes back to school to find his girlfriend, Martha, in a relationship with his best-friend, Bartosz. Meanwhile, there is a nuclear power plant that is the life source of the town, but there are some secrets that the owners of the place aren’t telling anyone. The disappearance of two children brings the plant under scrutiny and everything goes haywire in the town.
One Giant Family Tree
If you think you have too many relatives, that in your town, everyone is related to someone, then prepare yourself to be surprised by the way the residents of Winden are related to each other. You think Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are the only nephew-aunt pair to have a complicated relationship? Well, Jonas and Martha aren’t faring well in those waters, either. The second season goes a step further and pulls a mild ‘Predestination’ trick, and redefines the meaning of “family tree”. It is not really a tree anymore.
Let us have a look at the relationships of some of the major characters in the show.
The first people that we know were unwittingly involved in incestuous relationships are the Kahnwalds and the Nielsens. Ulrich and Katharina Nielsen have three children: Magnus, Martha and Mikkel. Magnus is in a relationship with Franziska Doppler, and Martha is in love with Jonas Kahnwald. In November 2019, Mikkel travels through time and finds himself in 1986, from where he is unable to come back. There, Ines Kahnwald adopts him and he changes his name to Michael. Michael grows up to marry Hannah Kruger and they have a son, Jonas. Also, Hannah has been in love with Ulrich since forever, and after Michael’s death, they begin an affair.
While this relationship between Nielsens and Kahwalds seemed like a big deal in season one, season two made it look like a minor affair after the revelation of Charlotte Doppler’s parentage. From a recap of the previous season, Charlotte is the chief of police in Winden. She is married to Peter Doppler, a psychiatrist. They have two children- Franziska, who begins an affair with Magnus, and Elisabeth, a deaf and mute 11-year-old. Peter is the son of Helge Doppler, who, in turn, is the son of Bernd and Greta Doppler.
Bernd is the founder of the nuclear power plant and brought it to Winden in 1953. We have a lot of clarity about everyone’s parentage in Winden. Charlotte’s, however, remains shrouded in mystery for a while. We know that she grew up with her grandfather, H.G Tannhaus. He is the man who wrote the book about time and created the time machine that helps everyone travel back and forth. Considering Michael’s case, we know that Charlotte and Tannhaus might not be related by blood. But we don’t pay much attention to that in the first season. It seems too trivial a detail to follow. In the second, however, it becomes a major plot twist.
In the simplest terms, Charlotte is Elisabeth’s daughter and vice versa. Elisabeth marries Noah, who has travelled to the future and has a daughter. “They” take baby Charlotte away from Noah and Elisabeth. We don’t yet know why “they” are but, I guess, that’s the mystery for the next season. Noah had been travelling back and forth in time, doing what Adam asked of him while also looking for his daughter.
The best guess is that Adam took Charlotte, travelled back in time and gave her to Tannhaus to take care of her. He already knew of Charlotte and Elisabeth’s relationship, and also, he is the one who strictly sticks to allow things to happen as they have happened before. He didn’t tell Noah about it because he knew that Noah would want to keep his daughter with himself. Claudia knew about it and had noted down this detail, like every other one, in the last pages of her diary. When Noah killed her and got to know the truth, he decided to make Adam pay for this. But another plan was already in motion.
Agnes Nielsen came to Winden with her son Tronte. She had been working with Claudia, but later changed sides to join Adam. Agnes and Noah are siblings; however, we don’t yet know about their true parentage. We see a young Noah, probably in his late teens, in 1921. He hasn’t been a traveller yet, so that’s where he is actually from. We also see a young Agnes when Jonas finds himself in 1921. So, in 1953, she has also travelled in time. Whether Tronte really is her son, we can’t be sure of. Even if he is, who is his father?
By now, we know that Adam is the one who really has all the cards in his hands. Not only has he changed the course of things by travelling through time, but he is also responsible for making more Travelers. His and Claudia’s fate is interlocked, and he has played a pivotal role in turning her into a Traveller, and eventually his archnemesis, as well. He is also the one who saves Noah and Agnes. From what? We will find out. Noah is clearly a puppet for Adam’s plans and Agnes also seems done for. She is so dedicated to the cause that she kills her own brother. Could this dedication be love?
When Doris asks Agnes about her husband, she says he was a pastor and wasn’t a good man. This is the time that she had been working with Claudia, who is against Adam. With all the prophecies and turning the world into a paradise deal, Adam is like a prophet. At least, Noah treats him like one. How and when Adam decided to take Noah and Agnes under his wing and what relationship he pursued with Agnes is yet to be seen. Could Adam be Tronte’s father? For now, everything is speculation, but ‘Dark’ isn’t the kind of show to hesitate from complicating family matters. If Adam really is Tronte’s father, that would truly bring the Nielsen family circle to a wrap and we wouldn’t know who is whose grandfather!
The Timeline: Adam and the Apocalypse
Throughout the first season, the mystery that drove the plot and forced the main characters to travel in time is the disappearance of children. Who is killing them and why? There were a lot of overlaps in who is connected to whom, but there was one character that came to focus and felt like the potential villain of the story. That was Noah, the mysterious priest who shows up in all the important places and manipulates people to do his bidding. He manipulates Helge into kidnapping kids and performing experiments on them to better the art of time travel. Noah is the one who seems to be running everything and the past and the present seem strongly connected through him. Until the finale, where Jonas travels in the future. A new world is introduced to us and this event becomes the true factor that influences everyone’s decision.
Jonas’ quest begins with trying to save Mikkel, which then moves on to trying to save Michael, and finally, he realises, that more than his own family line, the whole world’s future is at stake. In 2053, he witnesses a post-apocalyptic world. Almost everyone he knows is dead and is found by Elisabeth’s group who have enforced their own order. There is a forbidden zone that no one is allowed to enter.
After finding Jonas, Elisabeth asks him to find the entrance of the cave and help them fulfil the prophecy which states that they will find a way to paradise. She, too, seems to be heavily under the influence of the ideas propagated by Adam. Jonas discovers that the forbidden place is actually the dilapidated power plant, and there is a black mass, which is later identified as the God Particle, which is what triggered the apocalypse. Jonas uses it to travel back in his time but mistakenly lands in 1921. There, he is found by Noah who takes him to Adam. This is where he discovers that Adam is his future self. Adam sends him back in time to stop Michael from committing suicide and stop all this from happening.
However, once Jonas intercedes, he figures out that he is the one responsible for all of this. Michael didn’t really know anything about the debacle, except the fact that he had travelled back in time. He wasn’t planning on killing himself, he hadn’t written any letters. He had made his peace with the fact that he was stuck in his current life and that there was no going back for him. His childhood had become a faded memory. It all became fresh when Jonas turned up at the door asking him not to kill himself.
This is where Jonas finds out that he is the one who took Mikkel through the cave and stranded him in 1986. It also turns out that since Jonas grows up to be Adam, and Adam is the one who manipulated Noah, who manipulated Helge to experiment on children; it is Jonas who has been the perpetrator all along. Why is Adam doing it then? What is the point of the apocalypse?
Jonas started travelling through time at a very young age. He loses almost everyone in his life and gets frustrated by going back and forth watching his loved ones repeating the mistakes that would eventually kill them. He tries to change the events but ends up back at the same place. Time and again, he discovers that he is his own enemy. No matter where he goes and what he tries to change, he realises that he is the one who started it and he is the one who will destroy the world. In the end, he decides that it is Time that he needs to win against.
Time is the thing that has knotted up everything so bad, Time is the one that brings everything to an end, Time is the thing that has thrown him into an endless loop which is what has made his life so miserable. He wants the world to end because he wants to start anew. He wants to have control on Time, for which he needs to be able to control the God Particle. He wants to break the 33-year cycle; he wants to be able to go back and forth in time without any restraints.
Dark Season 2 Ending, Explained
The final episode of the second season of ‘Dark’ resolves many mysteries. Charlotte’s mother’s identity is revealed, and we finally get to witness the apocalypse. Michael’s storyline is also resolved as we get to know the true reason behind his disappearance and why he decides to kill himself. Claudia’s motivations and how she becomes a Traveller are also revealed. Jonas tries his best to save Martha, but fails again, when Adam comes back in time and shoots her. Let’s get clarity on who is where for now.
In 1921, we have old Adam, who has presumably returned from 2020 after killing Martha. There, we also have Magnus, Franziska and Bartosz, whom old Jonas had saved in 2020 by taking them back in time. We also have Agnes there who kills old Noah.
In 1954, we have Hannah and Ulrich. Ulrich has been admitted into the psychiatric hospital and has been pinned with the murder of two children and for attempting to kill young Helge. Hannah travels back in time, in what seems like her attempt to save Ulrich, but she eventually decides to stay there and have a fresh start.
In 1987, Mikkel has gotten used to his life with Ines. Ulrich finally gets to meet his son, after Egon shows him the picture of Mikkel. Egon figures out the time travel thing but is killed by Claudia who tries to stop him.
In 2020, just before the apocalypse takes place, a portal opens up and Elisabeth and Charlotte get to see each other. Most likely, the people at the power plant die, but considering the function of the God Particle, they might as well have landed into the future or some other section in time. Meanwhile, we have Peter, young Elisabeth, middle-aged Claudia, a dying Regina and young Noah in the bunker. This is where Elisabeth and Noah meet which eventually leads them to have Charlotte.
The main event here is what happens with young Jonas. After Adam kills Martha and leaves, as Jonas watches her die, another person enters the room. He is startled by her and we discover that it is actually Martha. But how is she alive? The only explanation is that she has come from another time, which is what Jonas asks her. It is the same question that drove Ulrich, Claudia and Jonas himself in search of answers. The question that Mikkel had posed while playing a trick. It is not how, but when. However, the new Martha renders it outdated.
Now the question isn’t what time, but what world? This points towards the possibility that not only is there a scenario of multiple timelines, there is also a scenario of multiple universes. In this universe, Martha is dead, but in another, she is just another Traveller who has come to save Jonas. Also, she uses a device much smaller than the one Jonas, and others, usually use. This reminds me, the time machine has been growing smaller with every season. First, it was the caves, which then turned into the bunker, which then turned into a device you can carry in your briefcase, and finally a ball-like structure that you can carry in your hand. Will the third season show another evolved version of the time machine?
Dark Season 3: What to Expect?
With its smart storytelling, a gripping plot, heavy tone and strong discussion of themes like time and freedom of choice, ‘Dark’ has massively outdone its first season. It has further cemented the story, giving more ground to its characters to grow and expand their impact on each other’s lives. The web has become even more intricate and there are more mysteries for the third season to come. It is set to be the final season and hopefully, will resolve all the knots. As to when will it premiere, the second season premiered on June 21, 2019, the same day that Michael kills himself. In the second season, the apocalypse occurs on June 27, 2020. So, that is the day you should prepare yourself for the final season.
The most important thing that the next season needs to answer is: do we have free will after all? Until now, everything has happened as it was supposed to. Jonas and Claudia try to save their father but their interference turns out to be the reason behind their deaths. When Jonas takes Claudia into 2020 to save Regina, he tells that they just might change things after all. Adam tells Jonas that there is a loophole in this fixed timeline, but had he said this to trick Jonas into triggering Michael’s suicide or did he actually believe it is questionable. The old Jonas knows that Martha dies but he still tries to save her by locking her in the bunker. But, if he had already met the Martha from another world, shouldn’t he have known that his very act of trying to save her would be the death of her? Did he deliberately do it then? What role this new world plays in the current story will be a major plotline of the third season.
We have seen young Jonas turning into old Jonas and the events that shape him. What turns him into Adam will be another thing that will have an update. Tronte’s parentage is another mystery we would like to be resolved, and does Ulrich ever get back to his timeline or does he spend the rest of his years in the psychiatric ward will also be resolved. Also, what happens to Katharina? She had been in the cave when the apocalypse occurred and when she opens the secret door, we see a blinding flash of light. If she does travel in time, where will she find herself? What happens to Charlotte and other people in the power plant? Where does old Jonas take Marcus, Franziska and Bartosz and how do they end up in 1921? What role does Hannah play in 1953? There is a potential of an affair between her and Egon. Does that mean there is another character with questionable parents? And who is Tronte’s father?