Available on: Netflix
Air Date: December 1, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction, Drama
My words won’t do this series justice; all that can bring the truth to your eyes is watching it for yourself. Regardless, I’ll try to do my best in giving our readers the gist of what makes Dark one of the best series of 2017, and the new year. No, not just that… one of the best series involving time travel to ever be made. The intertwining connections between the multiple characters is a daunting, yet beautiful, exploration of the causality of time. The past depends on the future and the present, the future depends on the past and present, and the present depends on the future and past. It’s all connected.
This absolute mind trip begins after two kids disappear out of thin air. The mystery revolves around four families and how they’ve interacted with each other throughout the past three generations: in 1953, 1986, and 2019. And, before you ask, there is no coincidence that all three years are separated by a 33-year difference. Fate has an interesting way of slowly revealing itself to be the driving force behind each important character’s actions. And that’s one of the best elements of the show. As the first season of Dark progresses, you are introduced to the concepts of time travel, causality, and fate in a manner unlike any I’ve seen before. Each family has their secrets, and the disappearance of Mikkel (the second kid to go missing) sparks the end of a time loop that the town has been stuck in since 1953. It’s a beautiful, haunting, and thought-provoking piece of television that not only explores those previously mentioned philosophical concepts, but also the dangers of nuclear energy.
There’s a lot more to Dark than the amazing story and tightly woven character arcs, though. The first time you switch the show on, you’ll be genuinely hooked within the first 5 minutes. The intro and its music is a perfect start for the kind of series that Dark is. But the excellent soundtrack doesn’t end with the intro; throughout the span of the ten episodes, you’ll experience a unique sound composed by Ben Frost that resonates with a deep buzzing bass, almost as if you yourself are about to be transported through time. As each episode progresses, you’ll also hear a variety of songs that relate to what’s going on in the show itself. The song “Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann” (Anyhow, Anywhere, Anytime) by Nena is a prime example of how the soundtrack helps convey the show’s meaning. A snippet of the German lyrics translate to: “We fall through the time stream; then awaken from a dream. But a brief blink of an eye, and then returns the night. Somehow the future starts somewhere deep in our hearts.”
The setting where the story takes place, the wooded town of Windon, an area of Germany that’s hinted to be affected by the Chernobyl incident, is almost worth the binge alone. Shots of the extensive landscape and eerie forests make up a lot of the scenery in Dark, as well as the creepy vibe surrounding the town’s infamous cave. Blaring sounds erupt from the dark crevice, and you’re immediately left wondering why. As the season progresses, you discover that the cave, along with many of the town’s other influential landmarks (like the nuclear power plant) have a direct impact on how the characters make their choices in the past, present, and future. I loved that. Not only was it pleasing to the eye, but the setting rooted itself into the narrative by making it a crucial feature of the endless time loop that the town is stuck in.
From all the good that came in the first season of Dark, there was also a little bad, too, unfortunately. Being a show in German, Netflix decided to have English voice actors do dubs of all the dialogue. So, like watching an anime in English, you’re forced to deal with the fact that there will be a slight delay in what you hear and what you see. I didn’t have an issue with this; I was thrown off guard with some of the English voice acting itself. I began to see a pattern by the eighth episode or so where the problem may not have been with the voice acting, but, instead, with how the dialogue was written. I shouldn’t have had to direct my attention away from this aspect in the show to make up for its shortcomings, even if it happened more sporadically than consistently. I became distracted, which in turn took away from how each episode impacted me.
Whether or not the English voice acting got lost in translation or the writing of the dialogue didn’t meet expectations, Dark is an exceptional show. A wide array of three-dimensional characters, settings, and storylines connect with one another to form an ever expanding universe unlike I’ve ever seen before. I’ll give it to Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese for creating and developing this world so that it both confounds and moves you with a remarkable balance. Usually, shows or movies that involve the use of time travel end up falling short because of how exhausted the concept has become, but Dark manages to pull it off in a unique and mind-bending fashion. Thinking caps required, or you too will end up lost in time.
Verdict: Dark is an imaginative take on the time travel genre. Creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese have painted a canvas sprawling with powerful characters, thought-provoking questions, and a straight-up great story. The various settings that depict the town of Windon in 1953, 1986, and 2019 are used as tools in exploring the world and how it has been shaped by the character’s choices over time. The soundtrack evokes an appropriate response, almost as if you’re being hurled through time as well. My only qualm: the dialogue feels as if it was written with not a lot of time to spare, and so both the English and German audio versions suffer because of it (although the German one is a little better). It’s not perfect, but this series makes a solid case for being one of the best pieces of science fiction Netflix has to offer, right next to Stranger Things.
- A soundtrack that resonates
- Setting in all three time periods
- Exploration of complicated philosophical concepts
- Overall presentation of the story
- Breaking free from the downfalls of the "time travel genre"
- Writing of dialogue
- Voice acting lost in translation?