Dark, episode 2, Lies, picks up 9 hours after Mikkel’s disappearance. There’s still no sign of him. Large search parties fan out over the area, methodically covering every inch of the countryside.
The hooded man who exited the cave in episode 1 stands on a hillside and watches one of the search parties. He’s covered in dirt and grime, still wearing his hood, and carries a battered suitcase and a backpack. He looks down and notices a dead bird on the ground at his feet. He doesn’t seem surprised by the bird, but he is interested, and bends down to examine it.
Jonas startles awake in bed. He sits up and realizes that blood is running out of his right ear (or possibly an oily black substance?). When he gets up to look at his ear in the mirror, a man whispers his name. Jonas turns toward the mirror, and sees his father’s reflection. Michael looks the same as he did when Jonas saw him the night before in the woods- covered in blood or something else that’s dripping and black.
Jonas startles awake, again, this time for real. That was the recurring dream he described to Peter, during therapy in episode 1, in which he can tell his father wants to tell him something, but never does. Jonas and Peter were very close to the cave when they had that conversation.
The medical examiner explains the autopsy report to Charlotte, while standing over the body of the boy who was found the night before. This boy is 10-12 years old and died about 16 hours ago. There are no signs that he was sexually abused in any way. The burns on his face and eyes seem almost as though they were made by melting. His ears are also destroyed, both the ear canals and inner ears. His eardrums have burst, from a very loud sound, a large, fast air pressure change (such as from a quick change in altitude) or too much rotational force (extremely rapid spinning).
The ME also explains that otoconia are tiny grains in the ear canal that help the brain determine up and down, which can get confused. Rotation (spinning) makes people dizzy, and they lose their balance, for example. The boy’s otoconia are all in the wrong places.
Ulrich searches Winden cave, spotlight in hand, calling for Mikkel. Deep inside the caves, he finds a tunnel that’s been sealed with a concrete wall and a locked, metal door. The power plant’s radiation symbol is painted on the door. Ulrich pounds on the door and calls for Mikkel, but gets no response from anyone.
Magnus waits for Franziska on the edge of the woods, in order to confront her about the night before. He’s overwhelmed with guilt about Mikkel, and needs someone else to blame. When he sees Franziska, he shoves her up against a tree and demands to know what she was doing in the woods. She calmly tells him that she overheard his and his friends’ conversation about Erik’s drugs, and decided to get there first. She doesn’t know what she was thinking, but she’s really sorry about Mikkel. Her speech defuses Magnus’ anger, and he walks away.
Peter Doppler sits in his car and listens to a radio report about Mikkel and Erik. He cries, sobbing uncontrollably.
I think it’s safe to say that Peter has some unknown connection to this case. He either feels very guilty because he’s involved in the crimes or thinks he should be able to stop the crimes, or he loves one of the boys like they were his own son.
While Jana, Ulrich’s mother and Mikkel’s grandmother, is in the other room calling Ulrich by phone to check on him, Tronte, Ulrich’s father, is secretly doing laundry. His sweater from the night before has blood on the sleeve, that he doesn’t want Jana to see. Ulrich doesn’t answer his phone, so Jana leaves a message saying she wants to know how they are, and if she can help.
When she’s done on the phone, she tells Tronte they should go visit Katharina and Ulrich, but Tronte can’t, because he’s getting ready to join one of the search parties. Jana asks why he wasn’t in bed last night at midnight. Tronte makes up the lame excuse that he was getting the rose bushes ready for winter. When Jana says that the car was gone, too, he claims that he ran out of rope, so he drove to the gas station to get more.
Jana tells Tronte that Mikkel’s disappearance is exactly like Mads disappearance, but he doesn’t respond before leaving the house.
Martha asks Katharina how old Ulrich was when his younger brother, Mads, disappeared. Katherina explains to her daughter that Ulrich was 15 and Mads was 12. Martha tells her mom about the kids’ conversation in the woods about Erik, when Mikkel said he thought it would be the worst to be lost and never found. Katharina assures Martha that Mikkel will be found.
Bartosz calls Martha, but she doesn’t pick up. He leaves a brief message.
Charlotte briefs the rest of the police officers on the boy’s body that was found last night. There was red soil all over his clothes, but no red soil where he was found. He was dressed in clothes from the 1980s and carrying a Walkman, also from the 80s. Around his neck, he was wearing a one pfennig coin from 1986, looped through a red cord.
For now, they won’t make news of this body public. They’ll continue the search for Mikkel and Erik, and contact the office for missing persons to figure out who this boy is.
Ulrich rushes in, excitedly yelling to Charlotte about the door he found in the cave. He wants to get a search warrant for the power plant to see what’s on the other side. He realizes Charlotte was right, all three boys are connected. He’s sure that it has something to do with the power plant. Mads disappeared from the same area as Mikkel.
Charlotte reminds Ulrich that the plant is a high security area. It will be difficult to get a search warrant. She checked all along the fence and it was intact. But she’ll try to get the warrant.
Aleksander Tiedmann, head of the Winden Nuclear Power Plant and Bartosz’s father, tells Jürgen Obendorf (Erik’s father) that the police will be looking around the power plant sometime tonight, so they need to “get rid of them tonight”. Jürgen wonders if someone else should get rid of them, since the police might be watching him, because of Erik. Aleksander asks if Jürgen is trying to blackmail him. When Jürgen says no, Aleksander makes another veiled threat and tells Jürgen to get it done, tonight.
The hooded stranger makes a grand entrance into Regina’s hotel and asks for a room.
Jonas takes a flashlight up to Michael’s art studio, since the power at his house is still off. He slowly looks over Michael’s work, looking for clues.
Durng the search party, a kind woman tries to reassure Tronte that, unlike when his son, Mads, disapppeared, Mikkel will be found. Tronte thinks that Mikkel probably won’t be found, either.
Jana goes to the box of Mads toys that she still keeps, and picks out one. She visits his grave, where there is already an action figure standing atop the gravestone, and switches them out, in what is obviously a regular ritual.
Another man, wearing a raincoat and hood, appears in the cave’s entrance.
The stranger has showered and created an organizational board on the wall of his hotel room. He looks it over wearing only his bath towel, giving us a view of the scars on his back. It looks like he was whipped or in a serious accident. He has a red scar on his neck as if he’s been garroted.
He’s also unpacked his suitcase, leaving a gun out, the book “A Journey Through Time” and a key on a string. He has scientific papers and diagrams all over the room and the wall, plus articles about Mikkel’s disappearance. He uses the key to unlock the outer casing on a device from his suitcase that is made up of many gears. There’s no hint what it’s for, other than, y’know, it’s a time travel show.
Charlotte calls Ulrich to tell him that Aleksander blocked their search warrant, but they’re appealing it with a judge. A minute later, Ulrich blocks Hannah’s call.
Katharina stands on the sidewalk in the rain, waiting for Mikkel to come home. Magnus comes home instead. He goes to his room and punches the foam soundproofing insulation until his hands bleed. Martha stands at her window and rejects Bartosz’s calls.
Jonas lies on the floor in his father’s studio and contemplates life and death. Then he sits up and looks around for a clue or something out of place. He finds a loose board in the ceiling, and inside that, a large, handmade, detailed map of the Winden area. Jonas spreads it out on the floor, and begins looking for recognizable landmarks.
Erik Obendorf is back in the torture chair, in the room with the fifties decor. The TV in the background is playing a children’s science show. The voice of the scientist, who is speaking about black holes, sounds like the voice from the opening voiceover in the first episode.
“And so, at least hypothetically, because of these gravitational anomalies, it is possible to bend time and space. The question is, will we ever be able to travel through a black hole to see what lies beyond? And, if we were to do this, what price would we pay? How far would scientists go?”
Erik struggles in the chair. He’s about to find out how far one person will go.
Ulrich pulls up to the power plant gates. There are several armed guards already there. Aleksander comes out to speak to him personally. Ulrich begs to be allowed to search for Mikkel in the power plant’s section of the caves and the surrounding area. Aleksander is unmoved by Ulrich’s grief and desperation. He stays blank-faced as he tells Ulrich, a long-time police officer, that the power plant is a high security area and he can’t let just anyone in. His own men search the area everyday. If there were anything to find, they would have already found it.
Ulrich loses control, and shouts angrily at Aleksander to open the gate, calling Aleksander names, swearing, and saying over and over that it’s his son he’s searching for. He vows to come back with a search warrant. Aleksander just continues to watch Ulrich with his flat lizard eyes. After a minute, he tells Ulrich that he’s sorry he can’t help and walks away.
I get a few things from this conversation. For one thing, Aleksander must be the most powerful man in town, or very close to it. He is also basically a mobster, operating at best on the fringes of legality, and probably crossing the line any time he wants. He enforces his will through fear and the threat of violence. Given what we’ve already seen of his wife and son, this isn’t surprising.
It’s likely that there’s a personal history of bad blood between him and Ulrich. And Aleksander has something to hide, which we also know from his prior conversations with Jürgen. From this conversation, it seems like he has a personal stake in whatever might be discovered. He’s not just worried about the business or town. He doesn’t have enough empathy to care deeply about anything that won’t affect him personally.
When Bartosz, Daddy’s little psychopath, examines Erik’s bag of drugs, he finds a cell phone inside, but he can’t guess the password to unlock it.
Hannah visits Ulrich at the police station. He drags her back to the records room so that she won’t tip anyone off to their affair, but he doesn’t particularly want to see her. Hannah tries to offer sympathy, then she tries to initiate sex. Ulrich stops her, and tells her he’ll call her.
We all know “I’ll call you,” means “I’m no longer interested,” in guy language, and she gets the message. He can’t be blamed for wanting to focus on his family, with his son missing, but Hannah needs a lot of attention to shore up her insecurities.
Jonas brings the map back to his room and examines it there. He notices a note which says, “Where is the Crossing?”
Ulrich looks over the evidence found with the third boy’s body, and what little they have on Erik and Mikkel’s disappearances. He notices that some of the tire tracks near the scene belong to a van, and remembers that Jürgen drives a van. Jürgen also works at the power plant, and was there the night Erik, his own son, disappeared. No one has questioned Jürgen about Mikkel’s disappearance yet.
Ulrich drives out to Jürgen’s house and searches the buildings. He lives in a trailer, and there are other buildings, like garages and barns. Ulrich discovers a trap door in one, with a chain leading down into the hole underneath. Jürgen finds Ulrich just as Ulrich is about to open the sack he finds at the bottom of the pit. Jürgen tries to stop him, but Ulrich keeps going.
It’s Jürgen and Erik’s drug cache. They were in business together.
Ulrich forgets the drugs, and asks Jürgen if he was at the power plant when Mikkel disappeared. Jürgen wasn’t there, and he doesn’t seem to have any other useful clues. Ulrich gives up and leaves Jürgen. He tells Jürgen that he doesn’t know where Erik is.
The second man with a raincoat drags Erik’s dead body through the woods. Erik’s face is burned, the same as the other body.
On the other side of the woods, under cover of darkness, Aleksander supervises, as heavy machinery loads trucks with whatever it is the power plant needs to hide.
Since the power is still out at Jonas and Hannah’s house, they talk by flashlight. Jonas wonders if Mikkel will be found. He asks Hannah if she misses Michael, and if she thinks he had secrets he kept from them. Hannah says she misses the idea of Michael more than the reality, but she’s not sure she ever knew who he really was. She wonders if we ever know who people really are. Jonas asks if she loved Michael, just as the power comes back on. She smiles, but doesn’t answer.
Late at night, Tronte gets out of bed again to go somewhere secret. Jana is awake, but stays still and doesn’t let Tronte know.
Ulrich goes home, tired and defeated. He finds Katharina in Mikkel’s room. She hugs him, then makes him promise that he’ll tell her the truth about what’s happening with Mikkel and the case, no matter what. She doesn’t want him to lie to protect her.
The cave becomes active. Lights flicker randomly, all over town, and birds drop dead. Charlotte finds hundreds of dead birds on the pavement outside the police station.
The Stranger in the hotel room pins up more papers on the wall. One is an article about Mikkel, with the headline, Where is Mikkel? He crosses out “where” and changes the headline to When is Mikkel?
At dawn, Mikkel finds his way out of the same opening in the cave. The surrounding woods look only a little different. Mikkel is covered in dirt, but otherwise unchanged. He runs home and finds that his neighborhood does look odd.
When he gets home, Mikkel’s key doesn’t work in the lock. Teenage Ulrich opens the door and is a jerk to Mikkel. Katharina arrives a moment later, and they leave for school, after assuring Mikkel that he’s an idiot and doesn’t live there. Katharina asks who Mikkel is, and, based on his skeleton suit, Ulrich tells her he’s death, the Grim Reaper.
Mikkel is left standing in front of the door. He looks down and reads the headline on today’s paper: Chernobyl- Half a Year Later.
Then he sees the date– November 5, 1986.
The Dark theme song and opening credits never get old. I love both, and their mysteriousness fits the show completely.
There are a lot of secrets and lies in the Nielson family already. Ulrich didn’t tell his parents that Mikkel has gone missing. Tronte goes out at night for mysterious reasons, and comes back with bloody clothing, which he hides. He’s probably not going out for juicy, rare burgers, then. Ulrich is having a secret affair. Katharina suspects, but doesn’t say anything.
Ulrich’s inclination is to investigate Mikkel’s disappearance alone, which leads me to believe that the investigation into Mads’ disappearance was badly botched by the police, so Ulrich doesn’t trust anyone else. He intends to make sure every avenue is pursued, as quickly as possible.
Does it always rain in Germany? On this show, it’s either raining, has just stopped raining, or is about to rain. The characters’ rain gear seems to be a permanent part of their bodies.
Ulrich calls Mikkel the Grim Reaper. How much foreshadowing is there in that?
It was good to see Hannah and Jonas have an honest conversation where she gave him her undivided attention. They seemed close in that moment. Otherwise, he seems so solitary. But Hannah seems to struggle to connect as well.
The scenes in the room with the TV and the turquoise wallpaper are incredibly creepy.
New characters will be added at the bottom, as they’re introduced.
Cast from the Episode 1/Secrets murder board:
Charlotte Doppler in 1986 and 2019. Married to Peter, mother to Franziska and Elisabeth, daughter-in-law to Helge. Police Chief.
Hannah Kahnwald, in 2019 and 1986. Mother to Jonas, widow of Michael, daughter-in-law of Ines, having an affair with Ulrich. Massage therapist.
Helge Doppler, in 2019, 1986, and 1953. Son of Bernd and Greta, father of Peter, father-in-law to Charlotte. Nuclear power plant guard.
Ines Kahnwald, in 2019, 1986 and 1953. Daughter to Daniel, adoptive mother to Michael, mother-in-law to Hannah, grandmother to Jonas. Hospital nurse.
Jana Nielsen, in 1953, 1986 and 2019. Tronte’s wife, mother of Ulrich and Mads.
Jonas Kahnwald in 2019. Son of Hannah and Michael, grandson of Ines. High school student.
Katharina Nielsen in 1986 and 2019. Wife to Ulrich, mother of Magnus, Martha and Mikkel. High school principal.
Mads Nielson, 1986, age 12. Missing since then. Ulrich Nielsen, 1986 and 2019. Son of Tronte and Jana, husband of Katharina, father of Martha, Magnus and Mikkel, lover to Hannah. Police officer.
Michael Kahnwald, 2019, husband to Hannah, father to Jonas, adoptive son to Ines. Deceased artist.
Regina Tiedemann, 1986 and 2019. Wife to Alexander, mother to Bartosz, daughter of Claudia, granddaughter of Egon. Hotelier.
Magnus and Martha Nielson, 2019, children of Ulrich and Katharina, siblings of Mikkel. High school students. Franziska Doppler, 2019, daughter of Peter and Charlotte. High school student. Aleksander Tiedemann, 1986 and 2019, husband of Regina, father of Bartosz, son-in-law of Claudia. Director of Nuclear Power Plant in 2019. Bartosz Tiedemann, 2019. Son of Regina and Aleksander. High school student, aspiring drug dealer.
Tronte Nielson in 1953, 1986 and 2019. Son to Agnes, husband to Jana, father to Ulrich and Mads.
Jürgen Obendorf, maintenance worker at the nuclear power plant, and Erik Obendorf’s father. And Erik Obendorf, high schooler and drug dealer, missing for 2 weeks.
Peter Doppler, therapist, married to Charlotte Doppler (police chief), son of Helge Doppler, father of Franziska and Elizabeth Doppler.
The Stranger, a man who appeared in 2019 from the cave and is living in the Tiedemann’s hotel. He appears to be investigating Mikkel’s disappearance.
Images courtesy of Netflix.