Netflix's Dark is a complicated and mind-bending sci-fi thriller that deep-fries your brain and defies all explanation.
With season three, avid followers are struggling to piece together the unfolding mystery and new viewers are struggling to catch up on the show that has everyone abuzz. As we try our best to wrap our heads around the complexities of Dark, maybe a recap is in order. So here we go:
The townsfolk of Winden harnessed the ability to travel through time using a wormhole in the caves, yet regardless of how deep they plummet into the past to alter the present, the result is always the same – they get destroyed in an atomic explosion. The cliffhanger to the last season comes with the revelation of another world.
This is where season three begins. Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, the creators of Dark, make landfall right at the heart of the series - the other realm. The first episode of season three takes us back to square one: a community given to secrets and lies, and burdened by the disappearance of a child.
But in this world, the pieces are on new squares – The adulterous father is with a different woman; a character who was alive in the other world has died in this one. A whole new matrix of grief and intrigue has wrapped this season with no more laws of quantum superposition to warp.
The plotline continues bunny-hopping from the current year (2019) to the future (2053), to the past (1954 and 1888). Each world has a different Winden and doubles down on the time-traveling conundrums from the first two seasons.
One of the most confusing of these problems is when Mikkel goes missing in the present, inadvertently travels to the past, gets stuck, and grows up as Michael - only to have a son who is older than him when he went missing.
What is more difficult in this season is the lack of explanation of the massive ensemble of characters. The makers of Dark seem to have assumed that viewers remember the context of each of younger and older versions of the same character from different timelines. The only markers are certain memories flickering across the timelines, like little details from the earliest episodes.
Somehow, though, it manages to make sense. The threads from character to character, timeline to timeline, realm to realm, all leave a relatively easy trail to follow. The key word here being "relatively".
Further opportunity to explore the nuances of the mirror world disappears when the Winden townsfolk from the alternate engage in a central battle where they are divided on the belief that Armageddon is avoidable and those who think vaporising the neighbourhood once again is the only way out of the purgatorial time loop.
The number of point-of-view characters in season three continues to grow, and Jonas is still at the center - moving forward in vain, dragged along from the last season with Martha, joining forces to unravel the time loops, in hopes of saving both their worlds from falling apart.
In one of the episodes, Jonas angrily says, "I am tired of having all these obligations". The phrase is simple, but as a viewer, these seven words were enough for me to empathize with Jonas's vulnerability. How much hardship can one person endure to save the world(s)?
And while Jonas and Martha - who has now become a transformed person as she has been travelling between the endless paradoxes - struggle to find a solution to preserve both worlds, it is revealed that their battle has less to do with confronting an actual villain and more about battling the ideologies between Sic Mundus and some new players.
Odar and Friese leave a few loose ends and plot holes and we are still left questioning whether or not humanity has free will. Yet the series finale of Dark climaxes in a haunting journey through time and space - compensating for any shortcomings and ensuring that our minds are blown yet again.