Dark is the Netflix sci-fi thriller original series from Germany and is obsessed with time travel. But for its first two seasons, even as Dark explored the many aspects of time travel in confounding but mesmerizing ways, it ignored to entertain the discussion of parallel worlds. That changed at the end of season 2 with Martha Nielsen's (Lisa Vicari) death when a Martha with bangs — let's name her alt-Martha — showed up out of nowhere, and said her puzzled and grieving love Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann) that she was from another world. It actually blew up Dark's central pride, for one possible time travel theory — used in a number of modern fiction, including Avengers: Endgame — states that multiple presences are the result of playing with the past
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen Dark season 3, you might want to stop now. Thematic spoilers and veiled references to storylines ahead. Continue at your own risk, if you don't want to have some sections of Dark season 3 spoiled for you.
Except Dark has frequently denied the idea that the past can be changed. Throughout the first two seasons, several of its time-traveling characters agreed they would fix everything in the future by changing something in the past. But every single time they tried to change their reality, they hardly helped make about what they had set out to change. In short, Dark apparently believes indeterminism. Or rather, so do its husband-wife creator duo Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, who works as the director and writer, respectively, on all Dark episodes. That would suggest there is no free-will, per se. Alternately, Dark's universe — now, a multiverse — is governed by the laws of destiny and fate, as oft supported by the older, wiser versions of its time travelers.
That sustains true on much of Dark season 3 — also, the final season — as you would assume, but it's surprisingly upended with the help of a late-game twist. Considering you've followed Dark's early concepts well, you'll see the twist coming all season long. But not the result. Deconstructing Dark's takeaway towards the end is an interesting choice, not least because it opposes what Dark has been seeking to say since the start, but also because it helps bring about what's forced to be a polarising end. Maybe it's a matter of the Dark creators trying to outsmart the audience and the fans with their endless ideas, but in doing so, Dark season 3 prioritizes surprise over internal logic.
Where the Netflix series has continuously considered powerful is with its characters, mainly because its time travel mechanics — any jump you make takes you 33 years into the future or past — have permitted us to see them across the course of their lives. Dark season 3 increases our understanding of them in mostly satisfying ways, showcasing how they ended up as who they are, by a combination of good aims and unspeakable things. At the same time, the difficulties of its time travel-driven dilemmas — there is now more than one version of the characters at the same age — do somewhat reduce the meaning of big moments on Dark season 3.
Choosing up right where it left off at the end of season 2, Dark season 3 brings Jonas to alt-Martha's parallel world. Besides it's November 4, 2019 — where the show started — in this version of the fictional German town of Winden. That's intended, as it provides Dark season 3 to draw parallels to season 1. Martha is the one with Jonas' yellow jacket, and she and her family reside in the Kahnwald home. Instead of Jonas' mom Hannah (Maja Schöne) and Martha's father Ulrich (Oliver Masucci), it's Ulrich's son Magnus (Moritz Jahn) and Franziska Doppler (Gina Alice Stiebitz) privately having sex. Franziska's mom Charlotte (Karoline Eichhorn) isn't the chief of police, it's Ulrich. While some things are different, some are the same, owing to the individual's nature.
In many cases, the similar dialogues and events from season 1 are repeated in the parallel world on Dark season 3; generally, they take on a new meaning. The re-exploration of season 1 casts a new light on Dark's beliefs, in that we are doomed to our destiny not because it's predetermined but as a result of who we naturally are. It's emotional. But at times, Dark season 3 is so picked up in drawing those parallels that it ends up re-treading season 1 ground. And since this is the final season and much of the puzzle is already in place, it does diminish the role of most alternate versions of characters, compared to their “original” counterparts. Talking of, the few survivors of the apocalypse are scattered across time in Dark season 3, with some of them in an as-yet-unseen time period.
That leaves Adam (Dietrich Hollinderbäumer) — the head of the secret society of time travelers, Sic Mundus — who remains to continue the “origin of it all”, in the hopes of defeating it and putting everything to rest. (A dialogue from The Matrix remains to serve as overt motivation, and it's joined by Avengers: Infinity War in one pivotal moment.) In the end, Dark season 3 follows through on Adam's claim, in the face of all past proof, with the Netflix series opting for a solution that massively simplifies its multiverse. For a series that thrives in its complexity, it's unexpected. Its endgame choice also somewhat detracts away from the resolve of its characters and the lives they led; there's something wonderful about the human spirit of persevering, particularly in the face of terrible odds.
As for the technical side of points, Dark season 3 is top-notch for the most portion. The dark and spooky background score from Ben Frost does its job to the teeth, and Udo Kramer's production design amazingly fuels life into every time period and setting. Odar the director takes his reasonable time, giving six hour-long episodes and ending with two 70-minute episodes. Nothing is ever hurried, though Dark season 3 does lose a bit of momentum midway through, and in the penultimate chapter, which feels like a table-setting episode. But with two worlds now in the mix with several time periods, and this being the final season, the slow and deliberate pace might actually support some viewers not feel overwhelmed and relish what remains.
On the other hand, those with a fine eye will read some Dark season 3 events just before they arrive. There's still a lot of mental computation required elsewhere, with the Netflix series turning into a maze akin to Westworld. That's not the alone HBO series Dark season 3 competitors; having already surpassed Game of Thrones in terms of incest, it now pushes past with matricide and filicide, though the characters aren't always aware of the relationship. Some of that suits in with the biblical overtones that continue in the final season. That's been central to Dark from the start, as has its interest in examining mortality, human nature, pain and loss, and determinism. How you feel about the ideas of the last of those on Dark season 3 will depend on your belief in a higher power.
That is twisted with Dark's view that time is a circle, and that what happened before is connected to happen again. Which makes it like the Battlestar Galactica reboot from the 2000s, with the two shows bringing very similar lessons too. Circular storytelling is always romantic, and on Dark, it's built into the concept itself. The end is the start, the start is the end.