The clock is ticking for the residents of Winden as our time loop reaches both it’s start and finish line. Unknowingly, all of our players are in their positions and all of their subsequent actions with project them right back into the cycle they have been trying to break free of. This isn’t a reinterpretation of a do-well character traveling back into the past, getting into hijinx, before correcting the future. This show is trying to answer a fundamental philosophical question about whether our fate is cemented in stone. This concept of determinism vs. free will is in complex waters, which Netflix’s DARK wades well.
We open episode 8 titled (BLANK), with The Stranger talking to H.G. Tannhouse, the towns watch repairmen. Tannhouse will one day write a book on time travel and create a small time machine with the ability to create wormholes. As the show and Tannhouse explains, that is exactly what the town of Winden and possibly the entire world has been affected by. The wormhole causes the events in time to be set on a sort of endless repeat mode with the years 1953, 1986, and 2019 being accessible to one another every 33 years. Without time being on a linear path, actions must be repeated for the timeline to stay in a circle. Past, present, and future exist dependent on one another in an endless Triqueta. Well, The Stranger is determined to break that loop by using a device that Tannhouse created long ago, but now needs to be repaired.
In the caves, Ulrich has managed to follow Hegle into the time gate, but when he comes to the fork in the tunnel, he goes left instead of right. Thus landing him in 1953 instead of 1986. Time travel doesn’t suit our shoot first and asks questions later Ulrich who all but tells young Tronte and Jana, “Hi Mommy and Daddy” when he sees them around town. He enters young Tannhouse’s shop, the must-see destination of all time travelers for answers. But Tannhouse is a far cry from his older, wiser 1986 self and is little help to Ulrich. When Ulrich overhears young Ines and Jana discussing two boy’s bodies being found in the future power plant site he rushes off to determine if one of those bodies belongs to his son, Mikkel. He doesn’t know that Mikkel is safe and sound in 1986 and rushes to the police station, leaving his jacket and cell phone behind.
When Ulrich arrives to the police station he’s babbling like a madman. He demands that Officer Egon let him see the bodies of the young boys to confirm whether or not it’s Mikkels body. When Ulrich determines that they aren’t his son, he asks the officer where Hegle Doppler is, who at the time is a young boy. Realizing that Hegle’s actions are what kills Mikkel, Mads, and the other children in the future. Ulrich realizes what he must do, kill the young boy that is Hegle. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, he is unsuccessful in his assassination attempt and only manages to lock Hegle in the fall-out cellar with a bloody face.
Back in 1986 Jonas and Hegle are both on missions to change the future. Hegle warns his past self that he has to stop helping Noah. A warning that may have been better received if Hegle would’ve said things like “Your actions are going to have horrible consequences in the future” instead of “You’ve got to stop”. Half the events on the timeline could have been avoided if characters had clear directions for their past selves rather than vague rantings. But it’s easy to make that criticism when safe on a couch in 2017. Jonas is now determined to take Mikkel back to 2019, even if that means the end of his own existence. Afterall, his creation is a big paradox that he believes if corrected, will right the universe. Unfortunately, Noah and Hegle are waiting for him and kidnap him just as he arrives in Mikkel’s hospital room. It looks like he will be the next person they will use the time machine on.
In 2019 Charlotte is back at the police station and finally listens to Ulrich’s voicemail. Since he has been suspended, Charlotte has been less than enthused with her partner’s behavior and even less interested in what he has to say. However when Katharina storms in looking for her husband, Charlotte begins to take his voicemail more seriously. He says that Hegle will be the one to kill the boys, but not in 2019, in 1986. Digging through the archives of 1953 Charlotte discovers that a young Hegle went missing in 1953 and Ulrich was later arrested for the crime. Yes, even though Ulrich hadn’t actually killed Hegle, the child’s body was never found because he goes through the wormhole and ends up in 1986. It seems that Hannah got her wish. Ulrich’s life will be ruined, but not by the blackmailed Aleksander, but by his actions in 1953. Beaten while handcuffed to a prison bed, Ulrich will never be able to explain where Hegle’s body went or that he is from the future. He may be in fact stuck in 1953 until he dies.
On the other side of town in 1986, The Stranger goes back to Tannhouse’s shop to retrieve the completed time machine. Apparently, Tannhouse would not have been able to build the machine if Ulrich hadn’t left his smartphone at the shop in 1953. Hence the past is dependent on the future (view timeline below). As The Stranger completes the machine by adding the radioactive Cesium stolen from the power plant barrels, the same barrels in fact that Claudia discovered but was hidden from Charlotte during her investigation, it’s clear that he is going to attempt to destroy the wormhole inside the caves, thus ending this time loop once and for all, but little does he know, it’s this very action that will create the portal in the first place.
But why does The Stranger have to be the one to attempt to destroy the wormhole? Well, it turns out he is Jonas, himself sent back from the future. As he runs through the caves in 1986, he sees himself trapped in the bunker. Present Jonas pleads for him to release him, but future Jonas insists that he cannot, because this current Jonas has to end up in the future and return with the knowledge to destroy the wormhole in the past. Present Jonas screams that this doesn’t make sense, and quite frankly it doesn’t. If the portal was, in fact, destroyed then this whole Jonas meeting Jonas event wouldn’t need to keep happening, the fact that they are even having this conversation undermines the entire theory that future Jonas’s plan worked. Instead Jonas is only going to create the black hole and thus seal everyone’s fate in the loop once more.
As Noah explains in the car to a newly recruited Bartosz, everyone’s action’s have been repeated and the events of past, present, and future are intertwined. No one has been able to break the time loop and Noah wants to keep it that way, The forces of good and evil are currently in a battle for time. Evil, being Noah, and good being Claudia. That’s right, the old CEO from the power plant is trying to right the wrongs created by the power plant itself. What wrongs? As Jonas is catapulted through time to the future, he finds that the town of Winden has suffered a nuclear fallout similar to what happened in Chernobyl. Claudia may be trying to stop this disaster from happening and will teach the newly arrived Jonas what his role in destroying the portal will be. Too bad, it’s these actions that keep causing this cycle to repeat itself indefinitely. Will our character realize this crucial mistake in the timeline? Only time and season 2 will tell.
Season 1, Episodes 8-10 (S01E08-10)
Dark streams on Netflix.
Armani Barron | Contributor