One thing is very clear from the outset of Dark—it is aptly titled for many reasons. Lots of outlets had theorized, TGON included, that Dark was a German iteration of Stranger Things, but it is going to be a much darker series than anything we were served up in Netflix’s supernatural hit. This first episode, entitled Secrets, begins with an ominous Albert Einstein quote that sets up the show’s relationship to time and time’s proximity to itself perfectly.
We open the events of the episode already fast-forwarded in time to June of 2019, where the father of one of the young protagonists hangs himself, leaving behind only an ominous letter stating it not be opened until after 10:13 P.M. on November 4th. Dark has an emotional weightiness to it that is evident throughout the entire episode. From the music to the lighting, or lack thereof, everything in Dark is meant to be bleak and as if we are peering through darkness that is –in this episode anyway—still lurking at the corners of the screen.
It becomes clear rather quickly that the nuclear power plant that has called Winden home for 20 years is an ominous and ever present force in the tiny German town. As the episode unfolds we are introduced to Ulrich, a police officer whose brother, we later find out, disappeared 33 years ago. Much in the same fashion as the boy Erik, who we see is missing on a poster right after we get our first of many shots of the power plant. Ulrich isn’t the most upstanding of gentleman, as we are made aware pretty early on in the episode that he is having an affair with the widow of Jonas’ dad. All the characters in Dark so far seem to be flawed and human. No white knights or damsels in distress, as of yet. The high point of the episode comes when the group of high schoolers decide to steal their missing friend’s weed that he’d apparently kept jammed in a moldy old chair next to the creepiest cave/tunnel in the woods outside town. The kids meet another student out there but quickly it becomes clear that either someone or something is out there with them. I won’t spoil it here but suffice to say they will be making their way back to the caves this season. For all the talk of time travel in the lead up to the show, they stay in 2019 for the whole of this one, at least they appear to. There are two sequences in a brightly lit and colored room with an old TV playing 80’s music videos that doesn’t fit with the rest of the bleakness in the episode. Here we our provided our one glimpse of the missing boy, Erik. He is still alive but it is not clear where or even when he is.
It should be stated that Netflix preloads Dark with an English language dub, but you can set it to the original German with English subtitles, which I did to ensure the actors wouldn’t be moving their mouths with no sound coming out. But there is an English option if you prefer. Dark laid a lot of foundation in episode one and definitely finished with a flourish, setting up what could be something unique and really interesting for Netflix viewers.
Final Score: 8/10