It is often useful to receive a little nod or clue in a show’s title, and you certainly get that with Dark. This German TV series, the first Netflix original from the country, is layered, moody, and challenges the viewer throughout its 10-episode span. The series was co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese (who also teamed up for 2014 hacker pic Who Am I).
The tale is told across three time periods (1953, 1986 and 2019), with 33 years separating each passage. It focuses upon the disappearance of two children in the German town of Winden, and the truly odd and mysterious nature of their disappearances.
I know what you’re thinking: if it is the story of two missing kids, how does it span across three generations of time? Excellent question, and the answer to that is that all is not what it seems. There are large and complex plot mechanics at play here that make Dark larger and more layered than the average mystery-thriller.
The 33-year recurrences of similar events, coupled with the missing kids, instantly draws comparisons with It, and in some ways the two are rather similar (not to the detriment of Dark, it must be said). This added layer of time loops and black holes has led many to compare the series with Stranger Things, which is understandable as – within its tales of “coming of age” and “loss of innocence” – there is a darker, more complex (if, let’s be frank, convoluted) story arc churning just underneath the surface.
Oliver Masucci (Look Who’s Back) and Maja Schöne (Tatort) star amidst a talented ensemble cast, and the acting as a whole must be credited with keeping this train on track, despite the constant assault upon the viewer with somewhat bizarre and far-reaching concepts.
As we move forward (or backwards, or sideways) and as each fragment of the puzzle falls into place, there is a dark and often disturbing underbelly that is slowly revealed, and it is in this unpeeling of layers that the story remains rich and intriguing.
The pacing, unfortunately, is an issue. The series moves swiftly yet smartly through the set up of the premise, and most of the mapping and character/story development is in its final stages of completion by around episode 4 or 5. Despite this, by the time the series wraps up at episode 10, little in the way of progress has been made from that halfway point in the show’s run. Mind you, such pacing is deliberate; one imagines that the team wanted to ensure the show’s far-reaching philosophies and ideals are given adequate focus and time. That being said, there is a lull between episodes 6 to 9 that takes some of the sting out of the show’s initially wonderful sharp bite.
Nevertheless, a strong ending and an overall intriguing tale means that the show is not only enjoyable, but reasonably unique, and the big-wigs at Netflix would seem to agree – it has been commissioned for a second season. Hopefully, Dark takes a page from its spiritual sister Stranger Things and moves forward in its second season, instead of treading water.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10