Last year, the German Netflix original series Dark took a major plot leap with the introduction of another world in its Season 2 finale “Endings and Beginnings.” Three portals were opened at the same time creating a wormhole between generations: the primary base in 2020, the post-apocalyptic Winden, Germany in 2053 and the origin base in 1921. Until that very moment, we were led to believe there is only one Universe. But when Martha Nielsen (Lisa Vicari/Barbara Nüsse/Nina Kronjäger) appeared in Season 2, Episode 8, “Endings and Beginnings” at the scene of her own death, it opened up ineffable situations for Season 3.
Dark Season 3, Episode 1, “Deja Vu” begins with a quote by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills,” which practically foreshadows Martha’s plan of taking Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hoffman/Andreas Pietschmann/Dietrich Hollinderbäumer) to a parallel world where she belongs. In a side story, this episode also introduces three new characters called The Unknown (Jakob Diehl/Hans Diehl/Claude Heinrich), who appear to be the same person from three stages of his life, setting fire to Adam’s origin base. Do you notice how many times the number three frequents? Hold that thought.
When Martha brings Jonas to her world, if you notice closely, the wound on her right cheek from the previous scene is now on the left. Jonas’ hair is parted the other side too. This is probably why the title card Dark is also displayed in a mirrored format. Martha tells Jonas that June 27, 2020 is when their worlds “form a knot that is inextricably intertwined. Her parting words, “I’ll make this right, I promise” is extremely reminiscent of what Jonas proclaimed in the previous season. She uses the time machine again, leaving Jonas to fend for himself in her world.
The world that Martha brought Jonas to is in its pre-apocalypse phase. The series of related events in this timeline commences on November 4, 2019 with Martha waking up from a dream. Things in this world look as if they were a reflection of Jonas’— his house is now hers, her bed is on the opposite side of the room, and her father Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci/Winfried Glatzeder) never shows up for breakfast. Their torn family photo in the kitchen suggests Ulrich is no longer there. There’s a possibility that Ulrich plays the role of Michael Kahnwald (Sebastian Rudolph).
Ulrich doesn’t live Michael’s life but he’s surely cheating on his pregnant wife Hannah Nielsen (Maja Schöne) with Charlotte Doppler (Karoline Eichhorn/Stephanie Amarell). Charlotte’s daughter, Franziska Doppler (Gina Stiebitz/Carina Wiese) is deaf-mute while her sister Elisabeth Doppler is not. But their grandfather Helge Doppler (Tom Philipp/Peter Schneider/Hermann Beyer) is yet again chanting the phrase, “It will happen again.” Ulrich is the chief of police instead of Charlotte in this timeline, and is now investigating the disappearance of Erik Obendorf (Paul Radom). This is intriguing because if everyone’s story is misaligned with the timeline we know of, why is Erik’s the same? It’s easy to argue, now that he has an elder brother Kilian Obendorf (Sammy Scheuritzel) who’s dating Martha.
Martha also wears Jonas’ yellow jacket to school which is a major tip for us conspirators. This parallel world revolves around her, making her Adam’s counterpart who eventually grows to become Eve. The immediate biblical reference here has to be of Adam and Eve, the first man and first woman to be created as per the Book of Genesis. A number of smartly placed imagery throughout the series supports this, namely the opening theme with an apple and the two Michelangelo-esque portraits of a man and a woman at Eve’s quarters.
During the first few scenes at school, Martha walks up the stairs with Magnus Nielsen (Moritz Jahn/Wolfram Koch) and Bartosz Tiedemann (Paul Lux/Roman Knizka). If you look at their background, you will see two girls standing shoulder-to-shoulder, holding hands and wearing an outfit similar to ‘The Grady Sisters.’ These twins represented death in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)— could this mean either of their mothers is going to die? Not to mention Kubrick’s obsession with mirrored references in his adaptation.
Meanwhile, Jonas figures out that Martha hasn’t become a traveler yet and tries to breakdown who is whom here. He finds Regina Tiedemann (Lydia Makrides/Deborah Kaufmann)’s grave— thanks for the head’s up, Mr. Kubrick. And also finds that Michael Kahnwald doesn’t exist, which means Mikkel Nielsen (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) never time traveled in this world.
Martha and the kids meet by the Caves to investigate Erik’s disappearance, the Caves being his solace during the summer. Everything repeats: two bangs from the Caves, torches flicker and the group runs for their lives. Although this time, they hide inside the nearby Doppler bunker, a few moments before dead Mads Nielsen drops out of a wormhole.
Jonas finally encounters an older Martha. “I’ve waited for this moment for so long, for you to come back,” she says. “Yet, this world has the same fate, it’s been damned like yours,” she blames the endless loop on him and herself. In Dark Season 3, Episode 2, “Survivors,” she takes him to the Erit Lux base (Latin for “Let there be light”), an alternate secret society for Sic Mundus Creatus Est (Latin for “Thus, the world was created”) and explains how both the worlds are connected in an infinite time loop.
Meanwhile time-traveling Martha is on a quest similar to nascent Jonas’. Her older self is guiding her on a path filled with deceit which she later claims is necessary for the loop to continue. After leaving Jonas in a pre-apocalypse Winden-2 (let’s name it for our sake), she travels back to Winden-1’s 1888 to look for Jonas and the kids. Remember they escaped the apocalypse in Dark Season 2 Episode 8, “Endings and Beginnings?” They ran out of dark matter, essentially being trapped in 1888 with a time traveling prototype under Gustav Tannhaus’ (Linus Fischer/Axel Werner) ownership. And Martha is here to fulfill their need.
It’s not surprising the team is at a Tannhaus property. The Tannhaus family carries the legacy of clockmakers, and the one we meet in 1888 is H.G. Tannhaus’ (Arnd Klawitter/Christian Steyer) grandfather!
But this group wasn’t the only one which survived. When Katharina Nielsen (Nele Trebs/Jördis Triebel) opened the portal in 2020 in Winden-1, she found the path leading to 1987. Dark Season 3, Episode 2, “Survivors” explains what’s left of Winden post the apocalypse. Peter (Pablo Striebeck/Stephan Kampwirth) and Elisabeth Doppler (Carlotta von Falkenhayn/Sandra Borgmann) were in the bunker during the apocalypse, rendering them safe during the wipeout too. Charlotte, however, ended up in 2053. Also, time traveling Claudia Tiedemann (Gwendolyn Goebel/Julika Jenkins/Lisa Kreuzer) brings her cancer ridden daughter Regina to 2020. Not to forget Hannah who traveled to 1954 in Dark Season 2, Episode 7, “The White Devil.” Instead of helping Ulrich, she starts living there as if nothing ever happened.
In Dark Season 3, Episode 4, “The Origin,” Hannah is pregnant with Egon Tiedemann (Christian Pätzold/Sebastian Hulk)’s child. She meets Katharina’s mother Helene Albers (Mariella Josephine Aumann/Katharina Spiering) at an abortion clinic waiting for her procedure. Meanwhile Winden-1 Jonas takes Winden-2 Martha to 2052 to show her the future. An older Martha intercepts their path to describe each of their roles in history. Of course, she lies to them about the infinite loop. Adam and Eve are meant to guide their younger selves on a path of repetitive mistakes that eventually keeps the 33-year cycle running, perpetually. After returning to Winden-2’s 2019, Jonas impregnates Martha. Three women — Hannah, Helene and Martha — are pregnant. See, three? Yet one of the finer details, Jonas and Martha’s child is the “origin” of the knot and bearer of the title Unknown.
Ready for some breathing exercises? The Unknown and Agnes Nielsen (Antje trust/Helena Pieske) are Tronte Nielsen (Walter Kreye/Joshio Marlon/Felix Kramer)’s parents which makes Martha Ulrich’s great-great grandmother! Take a minute to process that because the next one’s going to blow your brains out. Hannah doesn’t abort her child with Egon and names her Silja (Lissy Pernthaler/Aurora Dervisi). Adam kills Hannah in 1911, takes in Silja and moves around a few more chess pieces. He asks grown-up Silja to meet Bartosz in 1890 and eventually marry him. Silja gives birth to a boy called Hanno a.k.a. Noah (Till Patz/Mark Waschke/Max Schimmelpfennig) and dies a few years later while giving birth to her daughter, Agnes. All this doesn’t happen until Dark Season 3, Episode 7, “Between the Time.” It’s in this penultimate episode we find the actual origin. Well, yes the Unknown’s birth is kind of an origin but not entirely.
The white witch, or as we rightfully dubbed Claudia in Winden-1, is actually a savior. Throughout the entire story, we see her planting ideas in people’s minds. We often think of her as a crucial chess player but never realize the impact of her decisions. In Dark Season 3, Episode 5, “Life and Death,” Winden-2 Claudia asks Winden-1 Claudia to join Eve’s cause. “There are two groups out there fighting for superiority in time travel— Light and Dark,” she says. “I want you to join our side, Eve’s side.” Though she agrees, her motives run much deeper than Adam or Eve’s ever did. She recorded every event in history from Winden-1 and Winden-2, connecting the four families with Tannhaus across timelines.
An interesting fact to remember: the radioactive element that powers the time machine is cesium-137. Dark repeatedly mentions the 1986’s Chernobyl disaster during which traces of cesium-137 was actually released. The Dark team really enjoys these references, doesn’t it?
The final episode fills an exceptional number of gaps between all three seasons. It is unsettling that series co-creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese waited until the seventh episode to reveal H.G. Tannhaus created the origin. In an attempt to save his son Marek Tannhaus (Merlin Rose), daughter-in-law Sonja Tannhaus (Svenja Jung) and granddaughter Charlotte Tannhaus (not to be confused with Charlotte Doppler) from a car accident in 1971, Tannhaus starts building a time machine to reverse it.
While powering his machine in 1986, he destroyed the origin world and created two nearly identical ones — Adam and Eve’s. The Triquetra is not only a representation of the Caves, the number three in 33 years or present-past-future relations, it also represents the existence of three worlds. “Our thinking is shaped by dualities, but this is false,” an older Claudia tells Adam soon after he kills Winden-2’s pregnant Martha. Adam thinks killing Martha with the alleged origin/Unknown would restore balance.
“I lied to you. And to Eve. But the knot had to stay tied,” Claudia says. “I had to make sure you were both in the dark.”
Dark — we finally understand what the title means. Thank you season finale!
Adam travels to Winden-1’s June 27, 2020, minutes after Winden-1 Martha’s death and tells Jonas everything. Together with Winden-2 Martha, he travels to 1971 to prevent the first trigger of time travel. He tells Marek, “What we know is a drop, what we do not know is an ocean,” something which his father celebrates. Incentivized to repair his relationship with his father, Marek heads home which in turn distorts the Triquetra.
Dark Season 3, Episode 8, “Paradise” ends with six characters having dinner together: Hannah, Regina, Katharina, Peter, Torben Wöller (Leopold Hornung) and Bernadette Wöller (Anton Rubtsov). Characters who were born as a result of time travel or a ‘glitch in the matrix’ don’t make it to the origin world, namely Tronte Nielsen (hence, the rest of the Nielsen family) and Charlotte Doppler. This epic finale of the battle between science and intuition wipes Jonas and Martha out of existence.
In many ways, Tannhaus and Claudia mirror each other like Jonas and Martha: both try unseemly ways to keep their children alive and imperceptibly portray Adam and Eve in the origin world. The standing debate of Light versus Dark is truly inconclusive like Claudia says, you can’t perceive one without the other. And to comprehend both is just a drop in the ocean.