Much as with The Accursed Kings, I feel cheapened by the way I found the TV series Dark. It was recommended by a Facebook friend as a new Stranger Things. Albeit, he said, a more “adult” version.
The similarities are there. Even if that worm hadn’t been put in your ear, if you were a fan of Stranger Things, you would probably immediately start to make a connection. Dark is a show set in the 1980s*, with a number of the main characters in their teens and younger. The show has them attempting to unravel the mysteries of and then save themselves from some kind of supernatural happening caused, or perhaps controlled by, a nearby government facility. Finally, of course, they were both created as Netflix Original Series.
To view this new show that way is to cheapen it (and to cheapen myself, having only been drawn in with the gimmick). Dark is no knock-off of Stranger Things. Beyond the similarities stated above, it is a very different story and experience. Dark is a German-language series created entirely for Netflix distribution. Fortunately, when it came to the language, forewarned is forearmed. Netflix supports user-selected combinations of language and subtitles, so I was able to reconfigure my options right at the beginning to use the original dialog subtitled in English. I firmly believe that re-dubbing film in different languages detracts from the original’s quality. I want to hear what the actors are actually saying, not substitute actors reading some translators lines, none of whom are the original artists.
Dark a show with solid acting, well done mystery elements, and plausible science fiction. I was also particularly pleased with the soundtrack. The way the show uses songs helps to orient the viewer relative to the time-travel aspects as well as occasionally hinting at deeper meanings in the plot. It is also a nice mix of classic American/British 80s music with (perhaps equally well known, if you are German) German language songs. This is a well put together series from end to end. I’d be pressed to identify any weak links.
One last bit of similarity between the shows. November 12th, in each of the years of Dark‘s story, is the key and final date of the supernatural occurrences**. In Stranger Things, the climactic shows of season 1 all take place on November 12th, albeit in 1983. In Back to the Future, November 12th (1956 this time) is the date of the dance and the night that the town clock is struck by lightning. The connection hadn’t occurred to me before, but it seems to me that both shows were deliberately referencing the Back to the Future timeline with the dates, if not (more roughly) the years. The “present” of Back to the Future (1985) sits between the two presents of those series.
I’m sure its obvious, but I’m glad I watched this one. As much as I complain about the Stranger Things -based marketing, I have to admit that without some kind of hook, I would probably would not have chosen to take a chance on a German-language show, particularly when it is Netflix streaming -only. In the early days of Netflix original content, they had an extremely high batting average, but these days I’ve come to see the “Netflix Original” tag as a somewhat negative indicator. Without the ability to look up ratings and reviews on other sites (and, for me, the Netflix DVD rankings still seem to be the most accurate indicator), you’re stuck going out on a limb.
This time the climb was worth it.
*By even trying to discuss this, I risk ruining several of the “reveals” of the show. Don’t read on if you’re planning on a viewing experience that remains uncorrupted. The show starts out in 2019 and for some time, while there is reference to happenings in 1986, remain set firmly on that date. There are children who have gone missing in the here and now of 2019, despite the foreshadowing of links to the past. Eventually the show makes the better case is that 1986 is the “present” and 2019 is the “future” (of course it is, right? It’s only 2018!).
**Yes, I’m trying to be deliberately vague.