Boxset Binge: Dark (2017) – Season 1

The opening season of the German science-fiction drama Dark may seem like it has a convoluted narrative with many different plot strands, but is actually very satisfying when you connect the clues across three separate eras.

*Warning: Contains Minor Spoilers*

In recent years, many of the big-budget science-fiction television shows have gone down the route of eye-catching effects and a casting of good looking actors who don’t feel relatable enough. Dark favours grittier cinematography and has cast very good actors who also look as though they could be your next door neighbour. This is very effective when a large portion of the early narratives centres on children going missing in the woods. As every parent’s literal nightmare, the gloomy production values and the focus on the impact the events are having on the stretched families is very effective. Even the soundtrack, featuring horn and eerie whispering sections, help to convey the dread the characters are drowning in towards the audience. I was worried in the first episode that the series would rely on jump scares but the writing was far too intelligent for that, constantly keeping me on my seat. I’m also glad that the German language was utilised; again it feels grittier and more authentic than if it was written in English.

Whilst the atmospheric elements and writing were top notch, the use of sci-fi was also very intelligent. Jumping between narratives in three time periods creates many questions for the audience members and resolving these only leads to more. The 1986 narratives were just as compelling and strong as the 2019 ones, helped by some great acting performances. As for the two episodes set in 1953, there was a great deal of potential but, due to its sheer time difference from the contemporary action, its use was limited. I hope this era can be seen more in the next season, especially with where the first season leaves the characters there. On the other hand, I did predict some of the twists, one of them involving the identity of a mysterious character but I am unsure whether that is down to me or the writing not being as consistently good in the final couple of episodes.

With the exception of the primary antagonist, who was suitably creepy and dangerous, there are very few characters who have either completely black or white morals. At the climax of the season, with many questions left unanswered, there are several characters who have their own agenda and manipulate others in order to achieve them. What I think was conveyed well though was how these characters are translated to the audience with some emblem of empathy; even if they are in opposition to the protagonist or have shady morals, they still feel relatable with their personalities and psychology. If the society we are in is thrust into a similar situation, I believe that the actions and motivations of the characters in this show would be repeated in ours.

As for the closing moments of the season, I appreciated how the writers connected all of the characters from the three eras, even though it took me a second or two to remember who they were. The climax brings yet more new questions to the show. Has the protagonist stepped into a new period completely or has the present as we know it been altered by the preventative actions of those out of their time? The second season is certainly a mouth-watering prospect and you’ll be reading my take on that very soon.

Dark is an intelligent yet gritty take on the contemporary science-fiction drama, using every element from the German language to the soundtrack to produce a show that asks a lot of questions of the audience. If you enjoy putting the pieces together of a mystery and appreciate non-English shows, then you will love this.

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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