This Netflix Series Might Be The Greatest Sci-Fi Show Ever
BY CHARLES HANNEYPUBLISHED AUG 11, 2021
There have a been wide array of sci-fi television shows that are able to transport viewers to unique worlds, but this one stands out the most.
During a 2019 Golden Globes acceptance speech for his film Parasite, Master filmmaker Bong-Joon Ho claims, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Although not a film, that statement has never rung truer for a piece of entertainment like Dark.
The German thriller science fiction series, which is Netflix’s first German-language original series, centers around 4 families trying to discover the truth behind the recent disappearances in their small German town. Through this, they begin to uncover something far more dangerous and complex than they ever imagined. Dark premiered in 2017 and concluded in 2020, running for 3 seasons and garnering exceptional reviews from critics and fans. Main creators, writers, and couple, Baron bo Odar and Jantje Friese had the whole storyline planned out, and after watching it, it very much shows.
What could’ve been another small-town crime drama that revolves around a missing person instead turns into something far more otherwordly. Dark takes a genre and concepts that have been tackled numerous times and puts its own unique spin on it, making it the most absorbing Sci-fi television show ever (yes, it’s ahead of the widely popular Stranger Things).
Whether it’s Back to the Future or Hot Tub Time Machine, time travel has been present in many storylines (working especially well in comedy due to the looser plot holes that can pass by). The “getting a chance to rewrite the future and undo any mistakes” is a common trope that is starting to become too repetitive and when Dark introduced time-travel, that same thought popped up. But what Dark does so well to stand out is taking the time-travel concept to another level, adding layers upon layers to it all.
The whole concept of time travel feels so well planned out (unlike in Avengers: Endgame) and detailed that it starts to feel as if it can exist. Going back to those disappearances in this fictional town, it turns out there is this cave deep in a forest that serves as a portal for people to time travel. The time travel is based on a 33-year cycle, jumping from 2019 to 1986 to 1953 or to 2052 and even to 1920. While characters are transported to different years and even to alternate dimensions, it becomes really confusing as viewers have to keep up with not only 4 different families, but those families’ younger selves and older selves and how they all intertwine to create an endless cycle/loop.
This time travel concept sets up this intricately written story that takes its time to explain all of the elements involved without losing logical explanations. On top of that, the time travel component brings up philosophical and religious themes of destiny, human origin, and the power of free will, as it treats the power of this portal like a God. It has much more to say than any other basic time-travel show and one that carries a greater amount of depth. Once viewers understand the complexity of it all, it becomes one mind-bending journey.
Other than the science fiction aspect, the characters and the family drama are another reason to become invested. Similar to Game of Thrones, there are a lot of characters to get a grasp on, which only makes the show that much more impressive since every character is fully realized and 3 dimensional. Every character has their own internal struggles to deal with that will compel viewers to empathize with them to a greater extent. There is no purely good character as every character carries a darker side within them that is explored in greater depth throughout each episode. Many of them change along the way and are placed into moral dilemmas which reveal their truer selves, making them feel even more fleshed out. If not the time travel, the emotionally enriched characters will have viewers wanting to follow along.
And having so many characters sets up the family drama, with each character navigating the relationships they share between each family and also how they interact with their younger or older selves. It sets up these emotional arcs that construct a more impactful time travel story. Big themes of loss and grief and how far one would go to save the ones they love are all here, and only make it that much more engaging.
From a technical side, Dark is remarkable. A sense of dread looms over this whole town, and everything from the cinematography (which resembles the beauty of A24 films) to the score are able to capture that darker, grittier tone beautifully. The slow zoom-ins and out of the camera accentuate the sense of dread and loss that has struck the town and these families. The eerie forest creates an unsetting feeling that leaves the characters in panic and fear. The ominous score full of string instruments invites audiences in, adding to the uncertainty of what will occur next. And the look and design of the time travel portals, which look quite immaculate, are limited on-screen to not lose viewers in the CGI and to keep the story grounded as much as possible. It is all crafted so skillfully.
This well-written, poignant, binge-worthy show can’t be recommended enough. It goes beyond what is expected and takes familiar elements and spins them on their heads. In a time where it seems superhero shows are taking over the film and television industry, it’s original stories like this that can feel so refreshing, surprising, and earned.
All 3 seasons of Dark are available to stream on Netflix.