If you belong to the admittedly small group of individuals who are of the opinion that Stranger Things is simply overkill as a TV series, like Starbucks trying to pass off a tie-dye Frappuccino as coffee, then Dark is the TV show for you.
Dark is a German series produced by Netflix. It is set in a forest town by the name of Winden where everything seems to be normal on the surface, right up until the show begins. It is reminiscent of Twin Peaks in some ways, mostly for the corniness which permeates the more ‘serious’ side of the show. Like Stranger Things, Dark also derives some of its charm from nostalgia for the 80’s. Additionally, it is packed with mystery and sci-fi to the brim. In fact, Dark is probably one of the more difficult shows to keep track of since it deals with the stories of three generations of townsfolk, the residents of Winden, simultaneously. As the title of one of the episodes proclaims : “Everything is Now”
In a fundamental sense, Dark’s premise has been done to death decades ago. Another TV show which comes to mind is Lost. Dark is actually much closer to Lost at its core and follows similar narrative techniques. Although not as ambitious as Lost, Dark still manages to get into the heads of its viewers as it promises to do something that very few TV shows and movies have succeeded in doing : delivering a satisfying mystery/sci-fi show which doesn’t overdo it.
Dark has the brooding mystery and intriguing drama to be just enough engaging until the esoteric and sci-fi elements take over. And this is where Dark follows a different path from Stranger Things – it stays grounded. Dark is a show where the characters are the strength. It does employ redundant tropes and not sparsely so; there are times when the German production comes across as simply amateurish in pursuing sci-fi. There are areas where the plot progression is downright dreary the exposition is unnecessary. Dark, on the whole, is not perfect but it has a charm that is absent in most TV shows of today.
Dark has an undercurrent which may or may not be explained fully by the end of its run but it still manages to attract more attention than the cliffhangers from other shows which are there simply as signifiers of “coolness”. But unfortunately many of these signifiers are the opposite of what they purport to be. It is this undercurrent that makes Dark special. It has a sense of self-awareness which catapults it past its peers.
Having said all of that, the biggest reasons to watch Dark are perhaps the tone and the setting. This is a show which understands the atmosphere it creates in the viewer’s eye. It doesn’t rely overly on the rather fantastic elements because there is a lingering awareness that any story of sci-fi is basically a romance and good romance needs a good setting and characters full of flaws.
To conclude, watch Dark if you’re in the mood for a paradox or two but don’t be surprised if the show grows on you and compels you to go deeper into the cave it opens into the esoteric.