No one should be surprised that Netflix brings some of the best stuff to their service. They’ve disrupted television and film distribution in a major with a LOT of damn good (better than most of what’s on TV or in the theaters) shows and movies. Their push to be 50% original content in the next few years is a bold one, but if they can bring shows with the kind of sophistication and daring as the German-produced DARK, it’ll be a gamble that pays off.
Synopsis: “A family saga with a supernatural twist, set in a German town, where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among four families.”
Like your relationship with your ex, this show is…complicated. On one level it is a time-travel show like Back to the Future on mescaline. It handles the very idea of time-travel in a wholly original way that leans a bit closer to movies like Donnie Darko or 12 Monkeys than it does BttF or Looper. The idea of time-travel isn’t romanticized at all – in fact it’s treated more like a natural disaster … of sorts. Really though, the whole time travel gimmick is just a way to kickstart some drama between these four families in a small, isolated town.
That’s what makes Dark such a fascinating show – it examines the grimy underbelly of a seemingly idyllic life. It sets up these “normal, first-world problems” (cheating husband, ex-girlfriend dating your best friend, etc) with a very slow, methodical pace in the background while the town begins to freak out about missing kids. Then, just as you think you’re getting your head around what’s going on and you’ve got all the answers – Dark changes the questions by revealing some deeply rooted family secret in a flashback to the 80’s. BOOM! Your whole world view is upended just like that! This show zigs when you think it’s going to zag – and their zigs are fucking catastrophic.
Without going into too much detail – okay, it’s a time travel show so this isn’t a HUGE spoiler – one character does go back in time to the 80’s and the revelation about the far-reaching implications of them being stuck in the past will make you throw down your remote control and make you turn to the person next to you and say, “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat….!?!?” Seriously – there are more than a few revelations in this show that leaves you gob-smacked and wondering if your own life is just built on a foundation of lies and paranoia.
What’s great about Dark is that it earns every one of those moments. The writing on the show feels much more authentic than other murder-mystery type dramas. Usually in those shows there’s at least one or two times in every episode where a character gives a lot of exposition (even though no one ever does that in real life) to help clarify things for the audience. You know the kind of dialogue (annoyingly prevalent in superhero films these days) where a character just re-states and summarizes what’s already happened – just in case anyone wasn’t paying attention. Basically it’s the writers’ way of talking down to the audience because they don’t think we’re smart enough to keep up, but with Dark – they give you next to NO inorganic exposition.
As a viewer you’re really challenged to keep up with each twist really figure out the implication of each revelation on your own. Characters don’t overtly state their feelings or give grandiose speeches about what’s happening. All that bullshit is stripped away and replaced with smaller, poignant moments that are brimming with subtext; it’s a show that writes UP to its audience rather than spelling things out for us – which is damn refreshing. And kind of confusing at times as well, especially since our brains have turned to mush over the years thanks to being spoon fed everything – luckily TV Guide (yes, that’s still a thing) supplied viewers with a chart that explains who is who.
Dark also earns its shocking moments of revelation by truly making the mysterious and dramatic intertwining family storylines equally as interesting as the sci-fi element. As previously stated, the time travel stuff is really well done, but its just the spark that sets the whole town on fire (metaphorically speaking). The show builds out this world brimming with tension between all the major characters and that added element of missing kids/time-travel just set it all off!
Netflix is seriously killing it with the original programming and Dark is a perfect addition to the catalog (pro-tip: watch the show with the original German audio dub and English subtitles. I know reading is hard, but come on – don’t play into that lazy American stereotype!). We’re only six episodes in to this one so far and we’ll do a follow-up review after finishing the last ep, but as of right now: 100% on board for the rest of the season and many more seasons to come (Netflix has green-lit S2 already!).
Check out DARK on Netflix and let us know what you think about the show on Twitter @Official_FAN