GORE IN THE STORE
DARK SEASON 3 *****
Starring Louis Hoffman, Lisa Vicari, Dietrich Hollinderbaumer.
On Demand from June 27th on Netflicks.
Over the three seasons of Netflix’s most mind-bending series yet a mantra was often repeated by various characters at different times; “The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning.” It serves as a perfect summation of the series with its mysterious and cyclical nature. For the first two seasons, it was often confusing trying to keep track of who was who and how they related to each other throughout its time-hopping storyline. Now with the arrival of the third and final season, we have the added complication of where events are taking place with the introduction of a parallel universe.
Introducing such an aspect into a series that delights in confounding the viewer may threaten to tip the series over into an incomprehensible mess. Still, thanks to the skill of writer Jantje Friese and director Baran bo Odar it manages to keep its story of the unintended side effects of trying to right one wrong in the past to compelling and exciting new heights.
What started with the disappearance through time of young Mikkel has now sprawled out into a tale set across three centuries involving an intergenerational battle for not only the small town of Winden, where this all started but possibly existence itself. At the centre of these complicated events is teenage Johan now dragged sideways into a new yet familiar setting by a new yet familiar character who seemingly suffered something terrible at the apocalyptic climax of season two. The stage is set then to untie the complicated knot that has tangled and tightened itself over three centuries with a sprawling yet closely connected cast of characters who have become twisted by love, loss and revenge.
From its beginning Dark has been a series where each episode raised more questions with its surprising revelations, piling them into a dizzying construction of shifting story lines. It is with this final season where all must be revealed. In recent memory the closet comparison to such ambitious storytelling could be LOST, a series that sadly became more interested in spiritual cod philosophy than answering the various mysteries it seemingly made up along the way. Friese and Odar, however, seem to have planned out this storyline, that at one point in this season is described as “inextricably intertwined”, to a satisfyingly emotional climax that is not afraid to put its characters, and audience, through the wringer. Of course, any storyline involving time travel can explain away certain plot inconsistencies or loopholes. Still, for the most part, Dark manages to embrace the more twisted yet logical developments to create a story and cast who keep looping back on themselves in ever more creative ways.
There are a small number of instances where it is used as a get out of narrative jail card with the unexplained re-appearance of certain characters. However, with the pace of the complex plot in these final episodes, the opportunity to properly dwell on such matters does not present itself until afterwards when trying to figure out if everything adds up the way it should. More notable though are the characters who have been side-lined here in this rush to wrap everything up. Jonas’s mother Hanna being the most prominent example as she barely appears in the second half of the season after apparently setting up more plot threads.
These small issues aside, however, cannot take away from the fact that Dark is one of the most impressive pieces of time travel fiction in film or television for some time. If you have still to experience the series as a whole, the bonus of being able to watch and keep track of its ambitious storytelling in close proximity instead of the year-long waits between seasons will provide you with an epic yet intimate science-fiction series that stands tall as one of Netflix’s best examples of serial storytelling. The promise of re-watching also is just as enticing when knowing how all the pieces are supposed to come together. It turns out the end is the beginning after all.