Dark season one- the meaty bits explained. Spoilers
Down the rabbit hole
Dark is aptly named, it is a twisted complex story of a town that has a time travelling worm hole and the citizens who fall in. The story can be watched subtitled in its original German or dubbed into English. It isn't easily binge-able, as it took me three or four days to wade through the heaviness of the script and topics. But it is well worth the wild ride down the rabbit hole where you wind up not in wonderland, but Winden, Germany. The time loop/continuum will mess with you- a lot. The trailer is located here.
The story takes place in Winden, Germany in three different years, 33 years apart- 1953, 1986 & 2019. 33 is an incredibly important number in this series, as it is one solar/lunar cycle. It pops up throughout the season, if you pay attention. It revolves around four families- Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler and Tiedemann.
Winden is a small German town which is occupied by a nuclear power plant. While comparisons to Stranger Things will be made, Dark is as if ST was directed by a German Guillermo del Toro with much more sinister story lines, it can be watched here.
The important questions in this season are 'when is Mikkel' and 'who/what is Noah'. If you feel lost now, just you wait. The characters are hard to keep up with, the lines rarely use the characters names and that's before the characters are experienced in different years. I found a name chart here that helped. Don't be fooled, there will be no happy ending here and there is no resolution.
The opening scene is a hanging suicide of the main character's father (Jonas). He leaves behind a suicide note that isn't opened and read for a number of episodes that left me feeling like Brad Pitt in Se7en, 'what's in the boooox'. Once it is opened, its only viewed by Ines. episodes later, older Jonas (dubbed the stranger) gives younger Jonas the letter. Here Jonas learns his father is actually Mikkel, the boy who goes missing in episode one; he's made out with his aunt and essentially everything he knows about his family isn't true. Jonas learns the worm hole is the cause behind the missing boys and that a machine is causing their deaths. Future Jonas attempts to close the worm hole while 2019 Jonas is trapped in the creepy machine room. Future Jonas detonates a bomb, that doesn't close the time loop-but in fact opens the worm hole causing the time loop and wakes up to the butt of a gun in 2052. This is where season 1 ends- much to my dismay.
The dead body of a boy who is found in the woods at the end of the first episode is revealed to be a boy who went missing 33 years earlier, Mads. Mads eyes have been seared out of his skull and his ear drums have been destroyed. These same wounds are found on the other two bodies which go missing during the season- Erik, a pot dealing local, ends up in a body dump in 1953 and Basin, a deaf boy who also goes missing and also ends up with the body dump in 1953. This MO of death also occurs to birds in the 1986 and 2019; as well as to 33 sheep in episode 3. While the boys are identified as guinea pigs for the time machine; the death of the birds and the sheep are left unexplained.
Ulricha police detective is at the center of this unfortunate story as his son is Mikkel and his brother was Mads. Ulrich's story line is further complicated by the fact that he is carrying on an affair with Jonas' mom, Hannah. Ulrich in an effort to look for his son, wanders into the worm hole and out in 1953, soon after the discovery of the two bodies at the nuclear plant. He attempts to murder a small boy named Helge in an attempt to prevent the murders from happening in the future. In the hope that the dead bodies of the two boys killed in the future would disappear. However, he fails at murdering the boy and at the end of the season is left incarcerated in 1953.
MikkelMikkel's story line is perhaps the catalyst and saddest of the many interwoven characters in Winden. He goes missing in episode one, he falls through the wormhole into 1986. He is taken to the hospital where he meets Ines. He escapes the hospital during a power surge thinking he can get home during this event. He can even hear his father in 2019, which was tragic. He has injured his leg and is re-hospitalized where he meets Ines. Ines adopts him and changes his name to Michael. Michael meets Hannah at the hospital, they grow up together from 1985. Have Jonas in the early 2000's. At the beginning of the season he commits suicide by hanging. His story line ends.
HelgeHelge is the boy Ulrich attempts, and fails to kill. He is the son of the man who built the nuclear facility and he is heavily bullied by his classmates. He grows up and assists Noah in the acquiring of the young boys for the testing of the time machine. He isn't so much evil as he is a pawn. In the final episode, Helge and Jonas touch via the worm hole, catapulting Helge into 1986 and Jonas into 2052. While left unexplained, Helge must somehow get back to 1953 (presumably via Noah) as he ages normally throughout the rest of the time loop.
Jonas’ Mom/Michael (Mikkel)’s widow. Masseuse. Having an affair with Ulrich. In 1986 Hannah filed a false rape claim against Ulrich because he had sex with Katrina.
Principal of the school. Married to Ulrich. Mother to Mikkel, Magnus and Martha
Ulrich’s daughter. Jonas’ crush, prior to his father’s suicide. He tries to reignite the romance following his absence, until he finds out she is his aunt.
In 1986- is a student at the school, draws the dead birds. 2019- the police chief. She is married to Peter, they are estranged due to his meddling with a transvestite prostitute. Mother to Franziska and Elisabeth.
Daughter of Charlotte/Peter, dating Ulrich/Katrina’s son Magnus
Deaf daughter of Charlotte/Peter. She is 8, and her boyfriend is Yasin- one of the boys who goes missing. She meets Noah, who leaves her unharmed and bequeaths a watch to her that ‘once belonged to her mother.’
Classmate/boyfriend to Elisabeth, deaf. Murdered by Helge and Noah. Body dumped in 1953.
Noah is first mentioned as a shadow character by older dementia ridden and pajama wearing Helge, all we know initially is he is responsible for these disappearances and must be stopped. Throughout the season we see him in different times/years- he is mentioned in the 1953 arc as the 'no longer with us' husband of the boarders the [name] take on mid season, they are Ulrich's grandparents. In the 1986 story arc he is the priest reading to Mikkel who kidnaps Jonas to prevent him from rescuing Mikkel. In 2019 we see him talking to Claudia's grandson, Bartosz. He is so far the only person in the time loops who does not age. He appears to be the same age throughout each era, his outfit (that of a priest) is also the same throughout all time loops. He has an interesting back tattoo, which is revealed in the last few episodes of the season. It is eventually revealed that he is the creator of the time machine.
1986- first female head of the nuclear power plant. Uncovers the nuclear waste being hidden in the cave. She is Regina’s mother, a time traveler and Noah’s opponent in the ‘war for control over time’.
1986- self-harming, loner teenager who is often bullied by her peers. 2019- She is married to the current head of the power plant and has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mother to Bartosz.
Former best friend of Jonas, their relationship is currently strained due to Jonas’ involvement with Martha. After Erik’s disappearance, he steals his drugs and begins pandering them. During this discourse he meets Noah. Who leaves him unharmed, he does not inform him of the ‘battle’ for control over time. He agrees to be Noah’s ally thinking he is a drug dealer.
This is not an exhaustive list of characters, but a highlight of the ones who I found important so far. I found this website infinitely helpful in deciphering the twisted tale of Dark, and keeping the characters straight. It does contain spoilers, but they do not ruin the tale- but I found, helped me understand it. If you can stick with it, and not focus on what you don't understand initially- the story unfolds as it should and it is utterly brilliant.
Bio: Emma Beazley is a pickle hating, caffeine addicted super mom who spends her weekdays playing paralegal and her weeknights absorbed in science fiction/fantasy and horror. Whether tv shows/movies or books she doesn’t discriminate. Her weekends are spent chasing waterfalls, exploring abandoned houses, cooking eleven-teen meals a day and on her newest sci-fi obsession.