THIS INSTANTLY ACCLAIMED NETFLIX SERIES begins with a quote from Albert Einstein: “The distinction between the past, present
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So even in this first episode, it’s going to get messy. But it’s worth it!
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Time is relative
JUST TO MAKE IT EVEN MORE CLEAR that time is going to be a fluid concept in this series, the first voice we hear immediately starts telling us we don’t understand time as the camera opens on a dim, cloudy sunrise:
“We trust that time is linear. That it proceeds eternally and uniformly into infinity.
But, the distinction between the past, present and future is nothing but an illusion.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are not consecutive. They are connected in a never ending circle.
Everything is connected.”
(By the way, my quotes in this post are from the English dub, not the translated German captions.)
As the voiceover explains we don’t know the first thing about time, the camera shows a bunker, then a dark place (maybe inside the bunker) filled with a crazy yarn wall connecting pictures of many different characters at various ages, and lots and lots of weapons.
Say hello (and goodbye) to Michael Kahnwald
The camera cuts to a nice little house almost claustrophobically encased in greenery.
Inside the house, Michael Kahnwald (played by Sebastian Rudolph) finishes writing a letter, seals it, and sadly but resignedly climbs onto a stool, puts a noose around his neck, and kicks the chair out from under himself. As he dies, the camera cuts to the letter he just sealed. It’s not addressed to anyone, but it’s labeled on the front with “Do not open before November 4th, 10:13 P.M.”
Jonas Kahnwald (played by Louis Hofmann), Michael’s son, wakes up gasping for air, panicked. It’s unclear exactly how much time has passed since the last scene occurred. He puts his head in his hands, still breathing heavily, and takes a pill. Maybe he was dreaming about his father’s suicide.
By the way, the Dark’s opening credit sequence is extremely trippy. I like it a lot. It’s pretty normal images, but twisted and reflected enough to make them disturbing and very interesting.
Ulrich is not a good guy
The subtitles state that now the show has skipped to November 4th, 2019. This is the day the letter is meant to be opened, but it’s still morning. Jonas walks
Unknown to Jonas, his mother Hannah Kahnwald (played by Maja Schöne) is having an affair with Ulrich Nielsen (played by Ludger Bökelmann). She tells him “I love you” to which he awkwardly responds “You’re beautiful.” Ouch. She looks a little disappointed, but it seems she expected that type of response.
Ulrich climbs out the window, down the vines on the outside of the house and jogs away through the forest. Hannah is left alone with an empty room and a framed, half torn photo of herself, Jonas and Michael. Clearly, someone has been removed from the photo.
We get our first of many looks at the nuclear plant
Jonas bikes through a desolate forested countryside. He pauses for a moment to stare at the nuclear cooling towers looming over the trees, busy venting massive amounts of steam into the cool rainy air. Jonas glances at a poster taped to a traffic light pole, which reads “MISSING Erik Obendorf.” Jonas rides past the poster. He’s obviously seen it before.
Ulrich jogs along the forest trail, passing a signpost showing the paths to Winden Caves and Winden. He chooses the Winden path, but the camera chooses Winden Caves, and we get our first look at a picturesque but ominous cave opening. A weird unearthly noise plays.
Jonas walks through the forest with his therapist Peter Doppler (played by Stephan Kampwirth). Peter compliments Jonas’ progress on healing from his father’s suicide, but Jonas almost immediately starts screaming about it. He says he thinks his father is trying to tell him something in his dreams, something about why he killed himself, and why he did so with no note or explanation.
Why doesn’t Jonas know about the letter?
Of course, he did leave a note, and it’s currently sitting in a very ornate wooden box held by Ines Kahnwald (played by Angela Winkler). Ines is Jonas’ grandmother, and we see her, Michael, Jonas
Ulrich gets home. Magnus is a jerk.
Leaving Ines for the moment, Ulrich finally reaches his own house. Inside, his wife Katharina Nielson (played by Jördis Triebel) marches quickly around the house, getting ready for the day. She admonishes her son Mikkel Nielson (played by Daan Lennard Liebrenz) to change into less ridiculous clothes (he’s wearing a skeleton hoodie and pants). He declares himself to be a magician and his need for a “distinctive style.” Magnus Nielson (played by Moritz Jan) steps into the room and whacks his brother on the back of the head for no reason at all. Their sister Martha Nielson (played by) is a typical teenage activist revolting against no one, but with good intentions at least. She says she’s on a hunger strike and won’t eat as long as a child starves to death every ten seconds. Katharina has no interest in humoring or discussing the issue and dismisses it in a businesslike way. Ulrich walks
Jonas does not feel comfortable being back at school
Jonas is standing outside the school, looking at the passing students in a paranoid way. His friend Bartosz Tiedemann (played by Paul Lux) comes out of nowhere and welcomes Jonas back after his two-month absence. He lied
Ulrich walks into the police station, where he is apparently a detective. He walks right into the middle of a ruckus with parents yelling desperately at police detective Charlotte Doppler (played by Karoline Eichhorn) to find their son, Erik Obendorf. She assures him calmly that the police are doing everything they can, and they’ve even enlisted many volunteers to help in the search. Erik’s mother doesn’t care about any of
Ulrich is good at calming people down. The caves are creepy
Ulrich steps in, taking control of the situation. He proposes that maybe Erik ran away, which is apparently something he’s done before for a few days at a time. Erik’s parents don’t buy it because it’s been 13 days since Erik’s disappearance, but their anger has been spent on the implacable Charlotte and they leave quietly when prompted by other officers.
Back at Winden Caves, a mysterious figure, shown from behind, walks forward to the opening, then stops and stares.
Magnus smokes a joint outside the school in a dark alley between buildings. He halfheartedly hides it from Franziska Doppler (played by Gina
Jonas and his friend Bartosz sit in the auditorium, waiting as the other students file in before the assembly begins. Martha Nielson walks in and Jonas greets her with a smile, but she walks right past him and kisses Bartosz briefly. Bartosz says kind of smugly, “Actually, guess something did happen.” Jonas looks shocked and betrayed, but says nothing.
Erik Obendorf’s disappearance
Katharina steps up to the podium amid universal
Charlotte summarizes the case of Erik’s disappearance with Ulrich. There isn’t really much to say, it’s mostly just details about how they don’t know anything and there’s no leads to follow. Ulrich again proposes that maybe he ran away, which Charlotte thinks is ridiculous. “But the money he left under his bed? His phone? You’d take those if you were running away.”
Ulrich shrugs. “Sometimes you just want to get away.” It sounds like Ulrich is projecting his own issues onto Erik. Very bad detective work, Ulrich. Charlotte just moves on. It seems she’s used to him being unhelpful.
Charlotte does question his certainty that Erik ran away though:
“So why would you be so convinced that he ran away?” “This is Winden. Nothing like that ever happens here.” “You know that’s not true.” “Listen: this has nothing to do with what happened to my brother. Nothing.”
So far we know nothing about his brother, but this is obviously showing us that something about Ulrich’s past will be important. Ulrich gets up to leave, either just annoyed or actually because he thinks they’re done talking. Charlotte lets him
Regina Tiedemann is having a bad day
Regina Tiedemann (played by Lydia Maria Makrides) takes her head out of her hands to answer the phone. “Hotel Winden. Regina Tiedemann here. How can I help you?” She listens for a long moment, and starts pleading and then ranting furiously at the banker on the other end. “You bankers sit there on your piles of money and try to bully folks that work for a living! I built this business myself, without help!” She slams the phone on the receiver repeatedly after the banker hung up.
Jonas and Bartosz are bored. They’re sitting in class, staring blankly as Franziska presents a project on black holes. Bartosz starts talking quietly to Jonas, pointing out that if Erik was killed or kidnapped, all his drugs could still be at Winden Caves. It sounds like Erik was a minor drug dealer before he went missing.
Jonas looks surprised and confused. “So?” Bartosz is a little frustrated with his lack of comprehension. “So we get it and… bam!” Whether Bartosz is talking about taking drugs or taking over Erik’s possible drug business is unclear, but Jonas seems to know what he means now.
Ulrich doesn’t like his mom
Ulrich visits with his mother, Jana Nielson (played by Tatja Seibt) in her apartment. He’s sullen and clearly doesn’t want to be there. She reproves him for not visiting more often, and he admonishes her to never call the emergency line again just to contact him. She ignores that very reasonable
“I saw something in the woods again. This time I saw it very clearly. A dark figure with a gigantic looking head.” “Mom.” “You don’t believe me. There are some things out there our little minds can’t understand.”
She shows him a gold candy wrapper with the word “Raider” on it that she found in the forest. “Mads loved those.” We haven’t seen Mads yet (just a picture), but I’m sure we will.
Ulrich takes the wrapper silently. His mother continues:
“You know this whole business with that missing kid Erik? It’s like your brother, back then. Everything’s repeating itself. Everything’s like it was 33 years ago.”
The camera cuts to a home for the elderly in Winden, where an old man, Helge Doppler (played by Hermann Beyer) shuffles his hands nervously, murmuring “It’s gonna happen again. It’s gonna happen again. It’s gonna happen again.”
The camera cuts again to a very, very retro music video, playing on an old CRT TV.The wallpaper of the room is a clearly a pattern meant for a child’s playroom, covered with little cartoon animals. A glass a milk sits on the table, untouched, and a stuffed bear sits posed on a chair in one corner. Erik Obendorf (played by Paul Radom) lies on the bed with his hands over his ears.
He turns and looks toward the TV, breathing heavily. His blanket and bed are covered cartoon animals on skis and snowboards. The door of the room is
In the center of the room is an evil-looking chair, covered in restraints, and with power cables running from it to the wall. There’s some kind of strange metal band around where a person’s head would go, and the cables seem to lead to that part of the chair. Erik turns back to the wall.
Bartosz wants Erik’s drugs
Jonas and Bartosz are walking through the school, going over the details of Bartosz’s proposed drug heist. Jonas is still skeptical:
“What do you do with all of it? Sell it?” “No way dude. We’ll smoke half of it ourselves. But it there’s a need out in the market, psssh. Then we’ll just sell a bunch.”
They run into Martha and Magnus, and let them in on the plan to go there at night and find the drugs. They walk together, and Martha starts talking about the weirdness of the caves.
“Fanny once told me they found a dead squirrel with five legs in the caves. … Just because you can’t see past your own nose doesn’t mean there’s not really weird stuff going on out there. The kind of stuff the nuclear power mafia keeps secret from the public.”
Still, they all agree to go to the caves that night and look.
Hannah goes to the nuclear plant
Hannah Kahnwald is at the nuclear power plant, waiting outside her car, talking to Ulrich Nielson on the phone about a possible weekend getaway. Back at home, Katharina Nielson discovers one of Hannah’s hairs stuck to Ulrich’s hoodie from earlier that day. She holds it up to the
Hannah walks through the nuclear plant with a large piece of luggage. The next we see her, she’s in Aleksander Tiedemann’s (played by Peter Benedict) office, the boss of the plant. She’s massaging his back as he lies face down on her massage table she brought with her. There’s a strange marking on his back; some kind of large scar from an old wound. Hannah says, “It’s supposed to rain later. Our muscles sense that. They see into the future, so to speak.”
Aleksander sits up, still tense. He’s anxious about the plans to close the whole plant in a year. He inquires how she and Jonas are doing, and she lies “Good. We’re both good.”
Ines is repressed
Ines Kahnwald listens to a voicemail Hannah left earlier. blaming her for the power outage at their house. It sounds as if Ines owns the house Hannah and Jonas are living in, and Ines is responsible for paying the bills. Hannah’s recorded voice says “If you want us out of the house, then just say so. You know, your grandson hasn’t seen you in over three months. You think Michael would have wanted that? It’s sick. You’re sick.”
Ines puts the phone down. Her face doesn’t change at all. If she has any feelings, and I’m sure she does, they’re completely repressed. She opens the ornate wooden box, pulling out the letter once again, but it’s still not 10:13 PM yet. She turns to the clock; only 6:14 PM. Just under four more hours to go.
Back at the school, Hannah and Katharina meet. It’s after school hours, and the place is deserted except for them. They hug. Katharina tells Hannah to go on in, and she’ll follow in a minute.
The kids all meet up
Jonas rides his bike in the dark toward the meeting place at the railroad tracks. Martha is already there. She knows that her being with Bartosz is weird, and tries to explain. Jonas doesn’t want to hear
“I just had a deja vu. The light, the forest. It’s as if it’s all happened before.” “A glitch in the matrix.” “Huh?” “If the world’s a simulation, then a deja vu’s a glitch in the matrix.” “Or a message from the other side. I read that somewhere. I sure am glad you’re back.”
They’re interrupted by Magnus, who unexpectedly brought Mikkel with him. Mikkel is still in his skeleton outfit, but with a jacket over it. Bartosz jogs up and hits Mikkel on the back of the head. “What’s this idiot doing here?” Magnus reacts territorially. “Only I can do that.” He hits Mikkel, to prove his point. Mikkel has already been hit on the head at least five times today. This kid is going to get brain damage.
Helge walks through the cold night, still murmuring, “It’s gonna happen again.” I’m not sure how he got out of the home for the elderly, but
Charlotte updates the town on Erik’s case
In the school assembly hall, Charlotte Doppler addresses all the parents about the case. She says there’s no real leads or updates to the case, and the parents are quietly angry and frightened. She hands the meeting over to Katharina, and Katharina starts to inform them of new security measures before Regina Tiedemann interrupts her, with a nasty expression on her face. She ridicules the idea of having a solution when there may not even be a problem, meaning, Erik may have just run away.
Mikkel gets contemplative
Walking through the woods, Mikkel leads the group in conversation. People don’t want to talk about Erik, but he just keeps going.
Mikkel: “What do you guys think happened to Erik? Kids in my class were saying someone kidnapped him, and has him locked up in some basement somewhere.” Magnus: “Shut up. He just ran away.” Mikkel: “But it could be that he’s trapped. You know, locked up somewhere, and he can’t get out. Why would someone do that? Grab someone and lock them up?” Bartosz: “It’s like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. When she gets hungry, she’ll eat Erik. Ow!” Martha hits Bartosz. “Well, even if our parents tell us that most people are nice,, you have to know that in this world, there are some real creeps out there that are anything but nice.” Magnus: “Like your sister.” Martha: “You idiot.” Jonas: “My dad used to say, good and evil is a matter of perspective.” Awkward pause. “Dead dad, bad subject?” Mikkel: “So what if Erik’s not alive? What if he’s lying dead somewhere, and nobody finds his body? That would just be the worst. Even if you’re dead, you’d want to be found at least.”
Regina and Katharina have some history
Regina and Katharina are now openly fighting. Regina wants to keep Erik’s “running away”
Helge comes into the assembly hall, the sound of the closing door loud in the lull in the fighting. Everyone turns around.
Helge: “It’s gonna happen again.” Charlotte: “Helge, what are you doing here?” Helge: “Yes? Is it already too late?” Charlotte: “Helge, it’s me, Charlotte. I’ll take you back now, okay?” Helge: “I, uh… It’s gonna happen again!”
Charlotte escorts Helge out of the room as everyone stares.
Ines is doing her own share of staring. She’s standing in front of her grandfather clock, watching the hands, which are pointing at 10:02. Only twelve minutes left.
The kids are walking past the nuclear plant. Jonas pauses to stare at the ever-present clouds of steam from the cooling towers through the barbed wire fence.
Ulrich meets with Hannah outside the school, and they kiss.
10:13 PM, November
4th 2019. It’s letter time
Ines checks the clock again as it clicks over to 10:13. She takes a letter opener and carefully opens the letter, and starts reading.
Bartosz checks Erik’s hiding place for the stash of drugs he expected to be there, but it’s already gone. Franziska walks out of the caves. “Looking for this?” She holds up a bag of pills. Bartosz walks over angrily. Franziska offers to sell the drugs for less than half what they’re worth, but Bartosz shoves her to the ground and takes the drugs by force.
They’re all interrupted by a bizarre, unearthly sound that echoes out of the caves. It’s sort of a windy
Bartosz hears a crackle in the
The caves are bad news
The caves sound again, and the flashlights they’re carrying all start strobing. Everyone runs but Mikkel, who stares, transfixed. Jonas runs back and grabs him by the hand. “Run!” Ines is reading the letter left by her son Michael and sobbing, the first sign of emotion we’ve seen from her. Jonas and Mikkel are running through the woods as fast as possible. Mikkel is running ahead of Jonas, but only a few feet ahead. Jonas is keeping track of him, unlike Magnus, who abandoned him as soon as it got creepy near the caves. But Jonas trips, and when he looks up, Mikkel is gone. Jonas hears a ghostly voice. “Jonas.“
Say hello to Michael Kahnwald’s ghost, or something
He turns, hesitant. His flashlight is working again, and he slowly turns to find the source of the voice. He comes
Magnus, Martha, Bartosz
Helge pauses outside the school, and Charlotte, behind him, pauses too. He looks up
Ines puts the letter back in the box in slow motion, folds it in her arms and puts her head down on the box, sobbing.
Police cars pull up to where the kids are standing, frightened and shocked. Hannah runs up and hugs an unresponsive Jonas. He stares past her into the
Peter Doppler has a secret
Peter turns toward the wall, repeating the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Ulrich, still sitting in his car, hears the call on the radio that they found a child’s body. He runs to where they found it and Charlotte, already there, hugs him as he cries. He kneels next to the body. The face is covered, and he scrabbles at the leaves, still
A song starts playing as the camera zooms in on the Walkman, which gets louder when the camera cuts to the TV again.
The raincoat man looks like a serial killer
Another music video is playing on the TV in the room where Erik is being held captive. The camera shows his arms and legs being bound by an unknown, raincoat-wearing figure using restraints. Erik isn’t struggling, though. He’s breathing heavily around a gag that’s been pulled tight around his
The raincoat man hangs a 1 pfennig coin from 1980 or so on a necklace around Erik’s neck. They’ve switched to the euro since, but I checked just to make sure it was German money from the 80’s, which it is. The unknown man walks behind Erik, inspecting the apparatus. He slowly closes the two metal pieces as Erik looks wildly back and forth. They lock into place over his face and the episode ends.
It’s only the first episode, but the show has already shown us multiple anomalies, things that are out of place in time or just plain weird. Some, like the second music video,
What happened to Ulrich’s brother, Mads Nielson?
Mads’ disappearance seems to be what Helge, Charlotte
The Raider bar
I did a little research on the candy bar wrapper Jane Nielson found in the forest. Turns out, Twix bars used to be called “Raiders” in Germany. They were changed to fit the original UK brand name “Twix” 1991. The wrapper that Jane holds up looks entirely new, clean and undamaged, not like it’s been outside for 28 years. As yet, there’s no way to know what this wrapper means, if anything, but it’s definitely strange.
I’ve collected the two songs from the music videos in this episode. They are both from the 80’s.
The song playing on the TV when we see Erik for the first time is “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” from Dead Or Alive, released in 1985. I’ve included it below.
The second one, playing as Erik is strapped into the machine, is on the same old TV. The song is by a German artist, Nena, and it’s called “Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann” which translates to “Anyhow, Anywhere, Anytime.” The title is definitely appropriate for the show. I’ve included it here for your listening enjoyment.
Is Jana Nielson a psychic?
It might be a little early to call this one, but she sure sees weird things. It’s not clear if she thinks what she sees is
“I saw something in the woods again. This time I saw it very clearly. A dark figure with a gigantic looking head. … You don’t believe me. There are some things out there our little minds can’t understand.”
They wouldn’t put it in the show if it didn’t mean something. Is the gigantic looking head the hood of the raincoat? The raincoat of the guy who walked out of the cave and is holding Erik captive? I might be making a mistake in looking for answers too early. Or making a mistake in looking for answers at all.
What’s the significance of the coin necklace?
The mysterious kidnapper (I assume he kidnapped Erik. Erik doesn’t want to be there, that’s clear) hangs a 1 pfennig coin from the 80’s around Erik’s neck. It seems like a very serial killer type of thing to do. Very ritualistic. And nobody ever looked more like a serial killer than that raincoat guy.
I can tell it’s from the 80’s because Germany switched their coins since then. The one shown is definitely from no later than the 80’s.
Since dates are so important in this show, I can safely guess that the exact year of the coin is significant.
Who has the answers we want?
My guess is whoever rigged up the crazy yarn wall of pictures and has all those weapons from the beginning of the episode has a fair idea of what’s going on. But they’re probably not the only one. It seems to be an open secret that the town is not normal, and
Ines knows something from the letter, I hope. The letter might be something too vague to be helpful, but they’d better show us what it says at some point this season or I’m going to be mad.