Attention, this article contains spoilers on the content of season 3 of Dark!
Like its credits, the deep meaning of the Dark series takes time to unfold. The images that compose it, made cryptic by a kaleidoscopic editing effect, become progressively as you view the keys to understanding the series. Characterized by the complexity of the family ties between his characters who travel between different eras (and different worlds for season 3), the series created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese is above all a universal parable on the concept of filiation and determinism, the loss of loved ones and love stronger than anything, to the point of abolishing the concept of space and time. While this third and final season, darker than the previous ones, further increases the density of intrigue and space-time travel by a notch, it ends on an overwhelming note.
Escape from destiny
To save his son and his family from the car accident that cost their lives, Tannhaus, the old watchmaker, seeks to do the impossible: go back in time, and escape from determinism and fatality. But his attempt creates a loophole that condemns Winden to destruction. The fact that the city is wiped out again and again illustrates the determinism of its inhabitants, stuck in the dreary daily life of a small industrial town lost in the middle of the forest. When we see young Peter Doppler arrive in Winden for the first time (episode 5 of season 3), he meets the equally young Charlotte there at a bus stop. If the spectator knows that they will become husband and wife, the adolescent warns the newcomer: “Winden is a black hole. Once there, you don’t come out.“In this dull city where everyone knows each other, and where young people deceive their boredom by trafficking in the forest, each family bears the weight of secrets and mistakes of the past. Whether we are at the beginning of the century or in its alternative reality, Winden is like a leaden chappe which descends on the fate of its inhabitants and prevents them from fleeing, or from aspiring to something other than the path they think is being traced for them. , the places and the actions of the inhabitants remain immutable. But as soon as we know its past, and we know that it influences the future (and that the future influences the past, like the mantra of the Dark series the said), is it not possible to chart a new course?
When the mistakes of the past repeat themselves
One of the key phrases of this season is “the end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end.“Each event in the series is intrinsically linked to a past action, whether it is that produced or experienced by a character in his youth or the consequences of the actions of their elders on their future. If we take the example of Hannah (whose the first name is a palindrome, a word which can be read in both directions), this one is constantly unhappy with the men, that it is the father of Jonas or Ulrich. And even when it is found in the past to have an affair with Egon Tiedemann, or in an alternative reality where she lives with Ulrich after he has separated from Katharina and is expecting a child from him, she is systematically rejected or deceived, victim of the repetition of the knot which inevitably leads to the explosion of the Winden power station in 2020, and to the outbreak of the Apocalypse.
After two seasons following the instructions of the future Jonah and Adam, then of the future Martha, Jonas will finally understand that the only way for him to save Winden is going to be not to do what is expected of him, and to stop reproducing the mistakes of its elders. The desire to break the knot thus symbolizes the fact of escaping the weight of heritage and traditions, and of not being satisfied with a fatalistic vision of the future from which it cannot escape. Through the flow of dark matter which condemns Winden following the explosion of the power plant, one can read in Dark both the embodiment of the threat of nuclear power and the corruption of the elites (and an indirect reference to the Chernobyl disaster), but also a rather optimistic ecological message for the younger generations: even if the actions of our elders seem to condemn us, we must never stop fighting for better days.
Redemption in sacrifice
The quest for Jonah is symbolized by Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers who accompanies him everywhere in the form of a medallion. Throughout his existence, his ultimate goal will be to save Winden; but in the course of trials and time travel, his hope turns into fatalism. A fatalism that turns out to be embodied by Eva, the future Martha: for her, the time knot cannot be broken, the cycle must be preserved at all costs, even if it means perpetuating suffering and death. The salvation of the people of Winden ultimately comes from Claudia, the “white devil“, who has never given up hope of saving the life of her daughter Regina, suffering from cancer. Jonas, Claudia and Martha will finally understand that the salvation of Winden and their loved ones lies in a terrible solution: that of ‘cancel their own existence.
This sacrificial aspect echoes the Christ figure, reinforced by the duo formed by Adam and Eva with reference to the founding myth, illustrated in the series by the famous painting by Rubens Adam and Eve and by the fact that dark matter allowing time travel is called “the particle of God” by old Jonah. But then, why are the two heroes sentenced to un impossible love?
First of all, Jonas and Martha are linked by mistake. The cosmic loop that unites them gives them a relationship: Noah is the brother of Agnes, who is Ulrich’s grandmother. Ulrich is the father of Mikkel, who turns out to have become the father of Jonas … And therefore makes Martha his aunt. Their union (incesteuse, therefore) in season 3 gives birth to “the origin” (die Ursprung in German), a son, whose mission is to perpetuate the knot that condemns Winden and its inhabitants to the apocalypse, by making disappear certain key protagonists who could jeopardize the repetition of events. A tragic union which, despite the power of the love that Jonas and Martha have for each other, must be destroyed.
Then, the fate of Martha and Jonas is translated by the metaphor of breadcrumb, to which the series makes several references (Jonas follows a red thread that guides him in the cave in season 1, and the two versions of Martha play the Ariane’s role in the play at the Lycée de Winden.) In Greek mythology, Ariane allows her lover Thésée to escape from the labyrinth of the Minotaur thanks to the thread she unrolled there.
On the other hand, the myth has several often overlooked alternative endings, in which Theseus then abandons Ariadne on an island, consequence of the punishment of the gods. We can see in the conclusion of Dark a form of a wink to Ariadne and Theseus, who triumph together over Evil but see their love sacrificed in the name of a divine fatality that exceeds them. In Dark, Jonas and Martha finally understand thanks to Claudia that their existence is an error in the time loop created by Tannhaus. If they manage to break the knot, the city and its inhabitants will be saved, but their existence, which depends on this error, will be canceled.
This outcome worthy of a Greek tragedy allows the three crazy seasons of Dark to converge on an intimate and bittersweet conclusion, which may surprise, but which will undeniably mark the world of series by the ambition of its concept: that of bring the general public to a philosophical reflection on space-time.
Dark season 3, available on Netflix: