dark season 3 review

Mild spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Season 2   

There is a moment at the end of Dark’s series finale, when one of the show’s lesser-known characters states, ‘You don’t get to choose your family’, to which another responds, ‘But I chose you’.  As someone who has followed this show since it was deceptively promoted as the ‘German Stranger Things’ in Season one, this is Dark at its strongest. It’s humanity in the times of the apocalypse.

Dark has always been ambitious in its scope, utilizing the best tools storytelling science fiction and existential horror genres have to offer, and weaving an expansive apocalyptic mythos centred around the residents of one town. Each character, each family, each sub-plot had been broken into thousands of strings over the past two seasons, and to bring those strings together and adding more, was always going to be an herculean task.

Therefore, Dark wastes no time in the first three episodes of Season 3 – introducing (and this is a spoiler if you haven’t seen Season 2) parallel universes and their respective shadow societies early on. In Season 2 there was Adam, a future version of the male lead Jonas; and now there’s Eve, a future version of Martha, the female lead. Adam and Eve are locked in a biblical battle to preserve and/or destroy their universes across space and time. As we see their game of human chess quickly unfold across the screen, the beginning of Season 3 will feel familiar to fans of the ‘Fringe’.

Of course, if you thought keeping track of the characters, motivations and their place in the timeline was difficult in the earlier seasons, then the addition of another dimensional layer doesn’t help. This also means that Season 3 has a problem of over-exposition, since there is too much to put together, very quickly. The story, the characters, and the pieces of the puzzle move at speed reminiscent of Game of Thrones’ last two seasons – and the result can sometimes be jarring.

However, Dark starts doing what it does best in episode five (Life and a Death) and episode six (Light and Shadow) – keeping the stories human and tight. The show’s strength is in its ability to take high concept sci-fi and let it thrive within the confines of family drama or an illicit love affair. The constant sensation of dread I’ve felt in the show has not originated as much from the threat of the end times, but from the actions and motivations of its characters. It works here too.

In its final outing, Dark’s creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese have delivered an ending the show deserved – one that isn’t perfect, but befitting.

As for the ending – Dark pulls off a ‘BoJack Horseman’ in a perfect and praiseworthy way. In plain sight lies a somewhat satisfying and fulfilling ending, and however uncharacteristically hopeful it may be, it is rewarding to its ardent fans and casual viewers alike. But on further dissection, there seems to be a lot of room for interpretation – and I for one am looking forward to the fan theories.

For all its overwhelming exposition, the show in the end reverts to what made it truly brilliant – a poignant, well performed human story, powered by cinematography and a soundtrack that makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen. For those worried about how the sub-plots, character stories and connections get resolved, this is not really a spoiler, but they don’t, because they were never meant to.

The point always was to keep your eyes on the screen in the moment, and not on the Winden family chart, since the entire point of the show was to change a destiny that was written – so does it really matter what Ulrich’s fate was in one universe, versus the other?

In its final outing, Dark’s creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese have delivered an ending the show deserved – one that isn’t perfect, but befitting.

 

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