If you like crime, time travel, and head burstingly-complex (but also incredibly well thought-out) plots, you’re probably going to like Dark.
Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese’s rainy, 10-part mystery thriller is Netflix’s first foray into German-language originals. It’s moody, it’s ambitious, and even though I was constantly struggling to remember who people were or understand what the sweet hell I was watching, it immediately had me hooked.
So what’s it all about?
Dark is the sort of show that will have you spending hours trying to figure out what exactly you’ve just watched, then even more hours theorising about why it happened, what it meant, and what’s going to happen next. It’s the type of TV that lengthy, Reddit-based dissection was made for, in other words — and the sort of show that’s very hard to summarise in just a few sentences.
Still, let’s give it a go.
Dark is set in the small German town of Winden in the year 2019. The town has a controversial nuclear power plant, some fairly ominous caves, and a bunch of families with intertwining back-stories that are every bit as tangled as the plot. At the start of the show the town is in a tense state because a teenage boy has been missing for 10 days. Police haven’t turned up any leads. Then another little boy goes missing, the burned corpse of yet another unnamed child turns up, and the story quickly spirals into a spectacularly complex mish-mash of secrets, murder, and enough time travel to set your head spinning.
Why should you watch it?
Some people have been likening Dark to Stranger Things, but really this comparison only goes so far. Both shows have that small-town-with-weird-stuff-going-on vibe, and they both have coming-of-age elements and a link to the ’80s. But Dark is very different stylistically. Despite the sci-fi elements it probably has more in common with the drizzle-soaked bleakness of The Killing than it does with the Duffer Brothers’ nostalgic love letter to the horror genre.
The show is very much its own beast. You could take certain tropes found in Stranger Things, combine these with the style of The Killing, roll both together with the likes of Primer and Donnie Darko and you might be slightly closer — but you still wouldn’t be quite there.
That’s half the pull of Dark, though. It feels unique. There are nods to plenty of other TV shows and films, but Odar and Friese have created something that feels impressively original.
It’s really, really ambitious too. The storyline is mind-bogglingly epic. The show addresses themes that are on a scale with those tackled in The OA, and then it manages to do something that’s tricky to pull off in speculative genres — it ties everything smoothly together without the need for a deus ex machina ending.
In a story that tackles super-complicated themes over a three-generation-long timespan, it’d be easy for some aspects to fall by the wayside.
Dark has about 20+ main characters, for instance, with even more minor figures who show up in the background — surely some of these are underwritten?
Well, amazingly, no. The characters are just as intricate as the plot itself, with motives and patterns of behaviour that make more sense the more we delve into the town’s complex past.
Also bonus points have to be awarded for this mysteriously sinister priest played by Mark Waschke, who’s basically the German Jude Law:
The sweet, sweet music
Music doesn’t tend to be the first thing people think of when assessing how good a show is, and admittedly it’s not necessarily the most important thing — but it can still make a huge difference.
The good news is the music in Dark is awesome. It’s used at key moments to very good effect and it’s introduced me to a bunch of great new songs (the theme song, in particular — which you can skip to about 1:30 in the video below to listen to — works in tandem with some eerie visuals to create an intro that’s up there with the likes of True Detective).
It’s very rare for me to like the music in a show so much I’d consider seeking out the soundtrack, but in this case that’s something I absolutely will be doing.
Don’t let the subtitles put you off. The honest truth is that the show is so beautifully confusing that the fact it’s in another language will be the least of your worries.
There will be moments when you find yourself forgetting who people are, and what’s going on, and what year the events you’re viewing are even taking place in — but you just have to go with it.
Things may make more sense in the end, and then again they may not. But either way you’ll have an awesome time on the journey.
Dark is available now on Netflix.
What that new ‘Jessica Jones’ character means for the season and the series
Friend or foe?
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones has been a revelation for women ever since it premiered in 2015. Not only did it present us with a deeply flawed and traumatized protagonist, it dealt with her history and insecurities head-on.
In Season 2, we still have a host of varied, complicated women; from Carrie Ann Moss’s struggling Jeri Hogarth to Rachael Taylor’s unraveling Trish to our newest character, played by Janet McTeer. It’s a pivotal role with DEEP complexity and physicality, the likes of which is rare for women in action shows – especially women of a certain age.
McTeer is first introduced as Dr. Leslie Hansen, a scientist linked to the ominous IGH, but we quickly learn that there’s far more to her. She has abilities like Jessica’s, but dialed up to 11; with her super strength comes a rampant rage – a dissociative disorder that’s a side effect of the experiments IGH actually conducted on her.
When that switch flips, she becomes incredibly volatile, but with an almost childlike fixation on the source of her distress. McTeer communicates all this with a clenched jaw and unwavering gaze – and that’s before all the stunt work.
“That was fun, you know, the idea of being someone who works really hard to control her emotions, control herself,” McTeer told Mashable at the Season 2 premiere in New York. “She doesn’t know how to do that particularly but she tries very hard in all kinds of different ways and doesn’t always succeed.”
And then there’s that Episode 6 reveal, the shaky word a disbelieving Jessica says after tracking her quarry back to the house where she lives: “Mom?”
At first, turning this new character into Alisa Jones feels like a bit of a MacGuffin for Jessica’s quest to figure out exactly who or what she is. The tragic loss of her family is one of Jessica’s most formative experiences, like so many other superheroes. It’s infuriating to think her mother was alive this long and that their paths never crossed. Alisa didn’t even seek her out.
Episode 7 addresses all of that in flashbacks, but it’s still maddening. Especially with an ostensibly retconned dead boyfriend plot for Jessica that ends up being her mother’s fault (that jacket reveal though…:crying emoji:).
As the season builds to a climax, it’s hard to reconcile those revelations with a forced mother-daughter vigilante bonding subplot. Sure, there’s a tenderness to Alisa tending her daughter’s bullet wound that we haven’t seen Jessica experience before, but Mama Jones is a ticking time bomb and combustion is all but inevitable.
By now, we know how this ends: Alisa goes rogue (Jessica with her, for a time) and there’s no reeling her back in. By the final episode, she’s lost the only person who could help her scientifically and joined Jessica in the dead boyfriends’ club – she also murders a detective in a surge of violent energy reminiscent of Kilgrave himself.
“I’ve never seen a woman play a part like this,” McTeer said. “I’ve seen men do it very often but you know, I’m a middle-aged woman, so that was fun. Hard, harder than playing it when you’re 25 because it’s very physical, but still great.”
“You do something like this and you hope someone will go ‘Oh, that’s a good idea, let’s do another one!'” she added. “‘Does an FBI agent have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman. Does that person really have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman.’ I’d like that to happen more.”
If any show was going to do it, it’s this one.
Jessica Jones Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Offred is 1000% over it in new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ teaser
The Handmaid’s Tale just served up an International Women’s Day teaser of Offred and her sisters fighting back. After a first season that explored women losing all their agency, Season 2 shows shows the women of Gilead refusing to be oppressed any longer.
The teaser is mostly a few flashes of footage and imagery – including Offred in front of a noose and a weeping Moira (Samira Wiley) – narrated with the emotionless cadence Elisabeth Moss perfected as Offred. She lists the requirements of the handmaid like commandments: “Wear the red dress, wear the wings,” and eventually, “Shut your mouth, be a good girl, roll over and spread your legs, yes ma’am, may the lord open.”
And then the teaser ends with a burst of frustration: “Seriously, what the actual f–”
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25 on Hulu.
Obamas in talks with Netflix about original shows, report says
Netflix Originals from the Obamas may be coming.
You could soon be watching Netflix Originals commissioned by Barack and Michelle Obama.
According to a report by The New York Times, the former president and first lady are in “advanced negotiations” with the streaming giant to produce a series of shows.
The proposed deal, the Times reports, would see Netflix paying the Obamas to commission exclusive content, which would “highlight inspirational stories.” Exactly how many shows and episodes we can expect, whether these will be documentaries, mini-series or otherwise, has not yet been confirmed.
How much the Obamas will be paid is also still unclear.
Netflix currently boasts 117 million members in over 190 countries — quite the robust platform for the already social media-dominant Obamas to potentially leverage.
But the Times surmised that Obama wouldn’t be using the platform as “a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com,” writing:
Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming.
Netflix isn’t the only streaming service interested in content commissioned by the Obamas it seems, with the Times reporting that executives from Amazon and Apple had also “expressed interest in talking with Mr. Obama about content deals.”
Mashable has reached out to Netflix for comment.
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