‘Dark’ Mysteries Unfold in Netflix’s New Addictive Series
In the few years since Netflix began producing its own original programming, the streaming giant has carved out a niche genre of its own that follows a very specific formula. Behind the science fiction elements, and various ’80s callbacks, at the core of these shows, they are dramatic mysteries centered around families in peril, that engage the viewer further as the lore unravels. Netflix originals such as “The OA,” episodes of “Black Mirror,” and the cultural juggernaut “Stranger Things” all set a precedent for this type of program. Much like those that came before it, Netflix’s newest science-fiction-mystery-drama “Dark” fits right in. However, don’t be fooled, as the newest creation is as fresh and original as its comparable titles.
Serving as the backdrop for the mystery to unfold is the fictional small German town of Winden, where tall forests surround the water-brushed streets, and a nuclear power plant can be easily viewed from nearly every gloomy locale. The misty setting is the foreground for an underlying mystery when a local teenage boy, Erik (Paul Radom), goes missing. However, the young man’s disappearance is merely the beginning as more strange events begin to unravel, with the focus drawn towards the ever-mysterious power plant. Each episode has a lot of moving pieces, but the story never feels too crowded and remains quite engaging throughout. Befittingly, the name of the town itself derives from wendugen, the German word for twists, and alludes to the intricate design of the series which mashes up intriguing components of multigenerational storylines, time travel, and even supernatural elements. In terms of plot, the rest is best unsaid.
At the core of the mystery rests a large ensemble cast who make up much of the Stephen King-esque small wooded town. There is a newly widowed mother, Hanna (Maja Schone), detective Ulrich (Oliver Masacci) and his school principal wife, Katherina (Jordis Triebel), the cool loner kid, Jonas (Louis Hofmann), whose father’s suicide shakes the town, and siblings, Mangus (Moritz Jahn), Martha (Lisa Vicari), and Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebremz), who wander into the woods looking for Erik, or remnants thereof. Each relationship is intricately laid, as they weave together in surprising affairs and romances. And every actor levels with their respective screen partner.
Created by Baran bo Odar, the German filmmaker also had his hand in penning the story and even sharply directed seven out of the ten tightly wrapped episodes. Before “Dark,” Odar helmed the German computer thriller “Who Am I” alongside his producing and writing partner, Jantje Friese – who also joins him here. Even with minimal experience, Netflix certainly has an eye to grab emerging talent to helm their programming. It is a risky move that ultimately pays off.
Notably elevating was the edgy synth score by Ben Frost. Reminiscent, at times, to Disasterpeace’s “It Follows” score in its dreamy demeanor, other beats consisted of heavy dramatic string cues that curled at pinnacle moments.
“Dark” is the first German-language series produced by Netflix, in an attempt to move into international programming. While the task of reading English subtitles will ward some viewers off – kudos to Netflix for not simply remaking the series for English speaking audiences. The original is powerfully effective, with the perfect balance of brood and mystery. Dedicated viewers will be rewarded.
‘Dark‘ season 1 premieres Dec. 1 on Netflix.