Depth in the presentation can always induce a particular curiosity in you to understand more about the subject and discuss it. During a 2017 interview, Jantje Friese, the co-creator of Dark was asked what she really wanted the audience to take away from the series. And in her reply, she said she will be happy if the series triggers a switch in the head of the audience to think more about the theories that are there about time and reality. She also said that both she and Baran bo Odar wanted to please the person who was only looking at it as a fun time travel saga. While the first two seasons presented various paradoxes at a gentle speed, this third season is a broader and deeper look at the maze. Spoilers ahead.
We saw a Martha from a different world, saving Jonas at the end of the second season. Jonas realizes the fact that this particular Martha is from a parallel reality in which Mikkel never went to the cave and Jonas never existed. But that doesn’t change the ultimate reality of an apocalypse in that world too. Both of them wanted to save their worlds from the apocalypse and all they had was the guidance they received from their own older selves. Season 3 is ultimately the quest for that origin so that both Jonas and Martha can escape from this endless loop.
The grandfather paradox we get to see at the beginning of the season that is set in Martha’s world has all the events in Jonas’ world but happening at a different time or with a different person. The intertwined nature of the story had that peripheral excitement in the first season mostly because of the fact that a part of us was interested in the complicated family tree of the characters. Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese are very much aware of the fact that a repeat of the same excitement might not give you the same high. So they are trying to give us a broader understanding of the idea of time travel. When both Jonas and Martha are getting confused about the intentions of Adam and Eve, we as an audience are also in the exact same space. Every complication or every selfish decision of either Adam or Eve feels like a scaled-up version of a lot of conflicts any human being has faced. When you can find such relatability in the core principles of a time travel fantasy, it is partly scary and completely fascinating.
Everyone may have found a catchy element about the concept they have presented. For me, it was the duality factor. Everything we see around us is based on some form of duality. Some people agree to an idea and the rest disagrees and both parties are sort of making sure that this clash sustains there for an eternity. This different interpretation of Adam and Eve, setting it free from the usual constraints of romance was a brilliant thought. The political ideologies, religious ideologies, moral ideologies, etc have this dual nature and in Dark, we are seeing a fantasy version of these intellectual thoughts. And the conclusion or solution the makers have given to this loop is also a hypothetical one that feels legit.
When it comes to Dark season 3, even though it still remains complicated, there is a better overall overview of the context. It gives us this idea that the real key players here are Jonas, Martha, and Claudia. The brilliance in the writing here is that as you understand each character, it sort of shatters the narrative you had in your mind about their whole journey. If I go back and watch the whole series again, it may or may not have the same puzzle-like structure in my head, but the intricacy it creates through the time-traveling that at times goes up to a millennium can still blow my mind. The people who are shown as villains in the prior seasons are no longer the bad ones. And they play a huge role in the “the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning” philosophy of Dark.
Baran bo Odar again uses stunning and mostly static imagery to generate that impact. He uses color palettes, mirrored settings, and even aspect ratio to establish the time setting. They are not using any subtitles to make it easy for the viewer to understand in which world the scene is happening. It is mostly that one shot in the beginning that shows us the orientation of a house that communicates that part. The screenplay is also complex and at the same time exciting. It knows how to bring the scenes of certain characters so that they will stay in that family tree inside the viewer’s head. Editing is another aspect that really binds the story together. The editing pattern has that unpredictability in bringing footage from a different timeline. It is only towards the end, we get to see linear sequences, as a lot of tracks are getting their closure. Breathtaking visuals that mark the eeriness in the ambiance as always help the series in building the mood. The camera always maintains the same angle in establishing a place and that also helps the viewer in understanding the evolution that happens in a span of 33 years. The background score is perhaps the only element in the series that feels a bit typical. And by typical, I don’t have an opinion that it was a misfit. It evokes the right emotion and I felt the subtitles dictating us the intention of a musical score was an insult to the composer Ben Frost.
The performances are definitely on the glorious side here and the casting also deserves to be appreciated. Louis Hofmann gets to play the extremely clueless version of Jonas this time. Martha Nielsen of the new world played by Lisa Vicari was also impressive. Julika Jenkins was able to add that composure and clarity to her performance as the evolved Claudia.
Even at the end of it all, the glitch in the matrix was still there. It is either the makers giving you a hope that another season may happen (officially this is the last season) or they are just telling us about how less we know about time and reality. The seemingly happy ending of the series felt almost like setting a suffering person free by killing that person; you are happy that the person won’t suffer anymore and at the same time you have to accept the reality that the person never got a chance to live a happy life.
While the first two seasons presented various paradoxes at a gentle speed, this third season is a broader and deeper look at the maze.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended