“You and I are perfect for each other. Never believe anything else.” – Jonas Kahnwald, June 20, 2019, in an episodic pattern of behavior with no beginning or end.
“We’re never free in what we do because we aren’t free in what we desire.” – Noah, opening voice over, S2,Ep8
Buckle up, kids, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. As we enter the post apocalypse prime world and the Alt Martha world and try to figure out whatever Claudia’s up to this time around, let’s keep the endgame in mind.
What is the endgame? Lol, I’m not going to give away spoilers!
Or am I? Even I don’t know anymore.
“What we know is a drop. What we don’t know is an ocean.” – Bernd Doppler, November 5, 1986, S1Ep3
Season 3 is both repetitive and deceptively complex, while also rewriting and clarifying what happened in the previous two seasons. The end is the beginning is the end of the line. Are you with me?
I want to thank everyone who sent nice comments and encouragement, asking for season 3 recaps. I’m thrilled that so many people look forward to reading my middle of the night ramblings. I’m writing as fast as I can, but between my disabilities and the amount of research I put into these recaps (especially for a show like Dark), it just takes time. I don’t get the episodes early, so I’m watching along with all of you.
It doesn’t ever hurt to remind me you’re waiting for something, though, because that gives me an idea of how to prioritize what I write.
The new importance of Schopenhauer’s influence really through me for a loop, though I can see from rereading my old stuff that I’ve felt it there all along. Reconciling his thoughts with Einstein and Nietzsche takes a minute. Plus they sneakily edited Goethe into S1Ep4. The future has affected the past. I almost threw something at the TV when Franziska’s math class was suddenly an English class during my rewatch.
Please bear with me as I try to keep all of this straight in my head and coalesce it down into something readable for you without also giving away too much information, too soon.
Here is my Dark tag, where you can find all previous recaps and theories, some of which turned out to be startlingly correct, some of which are now trash. S2Ep7 has a sort of index of topics I’d discussed up until that point, if you need to review basic ideas like the eternal recurrence or Ariadne’s Thread. There is a Complete List of Characters as of the end of season 2 here. Discussion of Gordian knots and religious knots, which are tied and untied ritually, here. I talked about classical mythology and Dark here. It’s worth rereading my recap and theories from season 2 episode 8.
Remember that time there was an apocalypse in Winden…
We open with one of Arthur Schopenhauer’s most famous thoughts on Will: there is no free Will because we are unable to control our deepest desires and will always by led by them, no matter how noble our ideals. We are ultimately the sum total of our inborn character, experiences, environment and Will. When all of the variables are considered together, our actions in a given situation can be considered predetermined and unavoidable.
If you thought the apocalypse might signal a bright new beginning for Dark, you should know that Schopenhauer’s “work has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism.” (X)
Good times ahead with the addition of this guy’s influence to that barrel of laughs Friedrich Nietzsche.
The opening voiceover is done by another of the new additions this season, Adam’s alt world counterpart, Eva.
“If we knew how things would end, where our journey would take us, would we still make the same decisions? Or would we choose a different path? Could we even escape our fate? Or would something, deep within us, lead us to the same end, like an invisible hand? Does it matter which path we choose, when we end up standing before ourselves, again and again?”
In other words, is the beginning the end and is the end the beginning? Do the future and the past predetermine each other? Does free Will even exist? Here’s a hint: Tannhaus already gave Stranger Jonas the answer to this in season 1.
A Note on the word Will: I’m going to capitalize the w in Will when I mean the philosophical concept of the driving force within an entity, sometimes seen an synonymous with the undying soul, in order to differentiate it with other uses of the word.
A tall man with a scar on his lip from cleft lip repair surgery walks into Adam’s study, which is dusty and appears to have been abandoned for a long time. He’s soon joined by his older and younger selves. He picks up and pockets a diagram with instructions for how to build a spherical time traveling device. Then he sets fire to the room, including the photo board and Adam’s signature painting.
The three versions of the man stand together and watch the room burn.
We aren’t given a year, but the Netflix website says that this is 1987. The website calls the trio the Unknown. They don’t say whether this was in Martha’s world or Adam’s world.
Darn. That room was a migraine sufferers’ dream room. I’ll miss it. Wonder why Sic Mundus abandoned it so far ahead of the apocalypse. Maybe the radiation from the 1986 power plant accident made it unliveable. Or once the plant was under construction in the 50s, there was too much activity nearby.
After the new opening credits, which are very, um, feminine, we return to the final moments of S2Ep8. The black hole dome forms over the power plant and Alt Martha uses the golden snitch to whisk a confused Young Jonas off to her world.
They land in the caves, and Jonas continues yelling questions at Martha almost without pause, which I thought was pretty impressive. He may be severely depressed and have just watched the love of his life die, then seemingly come back to life, but the man still has nerves of steel.
He has an iron Will. Nothing can break it.
But Martha isn’t his match in 2 worlds for nothing. She ignores his questions about where, who, when, etc. and tells him, “Today is the day that everything started. The day we first met each other.”
Jonas: “What are you saying?”
Martha: “That you and I, your world and my world, they form a knot that is inextricably intertwined. I’ll make this right. I promise.”
She continues to ignore his very valid questions about what the heck she’s talking about AND LEAVES, IN A PUFF OF GOLDEN GLITTER. OMG THESE TWO ARE THE WORST COMMUNICATORS EVER.
The golden glitter is a nice touch though, in keeping with the magical feel.
Martha also slipped in that she’s dealing with the whole knot issue. The apocalypse didn’t untie the knots in Winden, as Adam hoped. Instead, it created a knot that bound Martha and Jonas’ two worlds together. Or revealed the knot that had already been created in a previous cycle, the future and past being tricky things and all.
Jonas is left alone in the cave, not knowing what just happened, other than that a Martha who says she’s not his Martha brought him there.
Alt Martha/ Eva’s World, November 4, 2019
We get an exterior shot of what’s always been the Kahnwald house, but this time, Martha startles awake in a mirror image of Jonas’ room. It’s her room, in this world, with her stuff hanging on the walls. She gets dressed and runs downstairs, retrieving the milk from the fridge and smelling it before she uses it, just like Jonas does every day of his life, whether he’s 17 or 50.
6 foot tall version of Mikkel sits in Michael’s spot at the table, staring at his phone. (Daan Lennard Liebrenz must have grown at least a foot in the last few years.) He’s wearing a red winter hat with huge ear flaps and a red and black plaid shirt, instead of his skeleton costume. Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time plays on the radio.
Claudia said those words to Regina in S2 in the message she sent through Bartosz. You don’t know how badly I want to highlight those words in the S2 recap, but it seems like too much of a spoiler.
Katherina tells Martha that Mikkel has been having the same nightmares he always has.
Martha: “Maybe that wasn’t a dream. Maybe the here and now is and none of us are real. Ever thought about that?”
Martha and Mikkel are both having nightmares about the terrible events in their other lives, which are like a dream to them in this life. But this life, this eternal recurrence, is just another dream.
The lights flicker on and off. Throughout this scene the camera has been doing slow pans as if it were a disembodied person following the characters, instead normal cuts between shots, but now it moves faster, as if the person is dizzy and disoriented.
This is likely the time when the other Alt Martha brought Jonas to the cave, given the flashing lights. Did the camera’s movement signify Time itself becoming disoriented or was it the lingering remnants of someone’s Will who’s no longer part of the story? Someone who’s no longer “real”?
Katharina hurries Mikkel along so that he’s not late for school. He pinches Martha on his way to the stairs and says that he’s checking to make sure she’s real.
Katharina hollers upstairs to Magnus that he’s about to be late and she’s going to come get him out of bed in a minute.
In the other world, in the pilot, Ulrich and Hannah were having sex in her bed, then he climbed out the window so Jonas wouldn’t see him.
In this world, Magnus and Franziska are having sex in the same room. He has long black hair and black tattoos. Yes, he’s the Severus Snape of Winden. Franziska, meanwhile, is the Elizabeth of this world- she’s deaf and mute. Magnus puts a hand over her mouth because she’s breathing too hard as they finish up, then she pulls an Ulrich and climbs out the window. They don’t speak a word to each other, in sign or otherwise, but they do look lovingly at each other in the afterglow.
I didn’t think this relationship could be given less depth. Like Ulrich, these two are examples of following the pull of Will without using much reason, especially Magnus. But Franziska will now be left out of conversations the way Elizabeth was last season, so her common sense will be lost to the group.
Magnus runs downstairs and steals Martha’s breakfast from her plate (he took Mikkel’s in the pilot), then rushes out the door, telling Martha he’ll race her to school.
Katharina offers Martha a ride to school, since it’s going to rain in a while.
Poor mirror Winden. It doesn’t even get to be sunny.
Martha refuses the ride and says she’ll be home late because she has play rehearsal. Katherina reminds her that the kids are scheduled to stay at their father’s house tomorrow. Martha tells her, “That sucks.” Katherina looks over at the family photo hung on the wall where the Kahnwald family photo should be. Ulrich has been torn out, just like Ines had been torn out in the other world.
Over at the big, brick Nielsen house, Ulrich brings a bakery treat to… Hannah, who is just waking up. She tells him she had another bad night. He says that he was gone so long because it’s the first day of school, so the line was long at the bakery. Then he throws in one of their favorite shared lines, “The apocalypse is nigh,” to distract from his lie.
He used the long bakery line excuse on Katharina and the kids in the pilot in season 1. In that breakfast scene, Mikkel wanted to do some magic before school, Martha was on a hunger strike out of empathy for starving children in other countries, and Magnus couldn’t find his shirt. Katharina was trying to get everyone out the door.
We’ll see character consistency across universes.
We’re about to see some now. Hannah asks Ulrich to stay with her for a while more. He tells her he’s already late, but he’ll see her tonight. Hannah stands up, revealing that she is VERY pregnant. She tells him that she loves him. He gives his standard response to her, “You’re beautiful.”
In every world, Ulrich treats women badly and Hannah can’t catch a break. Her unmet need for love is one of the cyclical sacrifices that endures.
Martha rides her bike to school in her yellow raincoat, signaling that she’s the chosen one in this world. Jonas exits the cave. In his charcoal grays, he’s so lost in the mist that he looks like a ghost. As he moves further from the tunnel, he’s like an actor entering from stage left into this world.
There has to be a Shakespearean tragedy where a man emerges from a fog and doesn’t know where or who he is. Actually, that’s probably half of them. (Let me know in the comments if anyone has thoughts.) But I’m getting Tempest feelings, too. And Midsummer Night’s Dream, though no one’s laughing. Plus, as long as Jonas and Martha are involved, they will be Ariadne and MacBeth, in addition to the other roles they take on, I feel certain of that.
When you look at Jonas’, or anyone’s, arrival in a new time period from inside the cave, it can be seen as them emerging from the womb, with the cave acting as Mother Earth, having mated with Father Time. The metaphor is too cheesy, I know. I don’t make the rules. I’m just the messenger. But it’s sort of a lovely illustration of Einstein’s views on the laws of nature ruling us and gives us Tannhaus’ simpler season 1 view of time travel. He would also be Prospero, the exiled Duke and sorcerer of The Tempest.
Martha heads inside the school. In this world, it’s school theatre week and multiple plays are being performed.
Unlike the world we just came from, Martha’s world knows it’s in a multiverse.
Martha opens the door with the theatre programs- she accepts her role in the theatre of life. Magnus is immediately next to her, saying he won the race to school. She tells him he’s an idiot who doesn’t understand what’s important, an ongoing theme between characters, though usually they’re about to kill each other when they say it (“You still don’t understand how this game is played”).
Magnus: “”Welcome back to H–l.”
We’ll talk about this and the connection to Dante at some point, but not this episode, since everyone wants me to publish this already. I wrote A LOT about Dante in my The OA recaps* if you want to familiarize yourself. That’s part of the reason I’ve avoided him so far in Dark, though Tannhaus brought him up in S1. But I can’t deny the connection any longer.
Martha: “Just because you’re too pea-brained to see education is the only way out of this dump, doesn’t mean we all share your stupid opinion.”
Stay in school, Magnus. Learn about the mechanics of time travel.
Magnus: “Don’t forget to breathe.”
He’s saying she spends too much in her head. As we know quite profoundly, breathing shows you’re alive and tethered to your physical body.
Martha: “Don’t forget to think.”
It’s our thoughts/Will that will get us out of here.
I feel like Magnus shows himself as Claudia’s agent here, reminding Martha that they need to move slowly, not all at once, even though, as far as I know, this message comes from a subconscious level. Maybe that’s the role he and Franziska play, guiding the subconscious portions of the cycle. As Adam said endlessly last season, the pieces need to be moved into place.
Bartosz arrives. In this world, he looks like Tom Riddle, aka young Voldemort. Alas, I can’t say more about my thoughts on this until the beginning has become the end. Somebody remind me if I forget in my eventual S3Ep8 recap.
Magnus asks why Martha’s putting in so much effort, when they will all die in the end. Martha asks if he’s adopted.
On this show, both are good questions.
As they walk through the halls, they pass an honest to goodness series of evil twins and other characters from the plays the students are putting on, who just happen to be relevant to the show the characters are living in. I didn’t get a screencap, but I think Caliban from The Tempest is also in the hall, which would make the bride and groom Ferdinand and Miranda, not Romeo and Juliet. They leave the island instead of dying.
The angels are dark and light. Has one fallen? And what of the saint who is in between them?
Oh look, here comes a saint now. Martha’s boyfriend Kilian, named for an Irish saint who moved to Germany and was martyred, joins them. He’s Erik Obendorf’s brother. Erik has also been missing for 2 weeks in this world. He says that Erik has run away before, but he’s never been gone this long without making contact. Erik’s father said similar things to the police in S1Ep1.
This won’t be made very clear in the show, but the Netflix website says that Kilian lives in a group home rather than with his father. The actor who plays Kilian appeared in season 1 in the play as an unnamed student, but otherwise he and the character haven’t been shown before.
They’re called to a school assembly, just as they were in the other world. Bartosz lingers behind the others for a moment to look at Erik’s “Missing” poster. Has he already started working with this world’s version of a secret time travel organization?
Old Helge chants “It will happen again”, something heard constantly in season 1. He lives at home with Peter and Charlotte in this universe. Peter asks Charlotte about her early morning doctor’s appointment. She brushes him off by saying it was routine, then leaves for work.
Oh, and Helge is a Cyclops in this world.
There are some important rules to remember for watching Dark. Rule #1: Jonas is always Jonas. And Jonas is a creature of habit. When he’s lost or confused, he goes home, no matter what time period he’s in. The Kahnwald house survived the apocalypse intact because Jonas willed it to. He had to live, because older versions of him exist, and he refuses to live without the possibility of sleeping in his own bed at night. You can do anything to him, but don’t take that bed away.
I’m moderately convinced that the Kahnwald house is the center of the universe, possibly the center of the black hole. Maybe the place where the original time travel plot was hatched, long ago.
Did anyone care about the potentially life-saving bunker in S2, really? No, they all kept running to Hannah’s house.
So, where does Jonas go, now that he’s out of the cave? Home, obvs. He stares at the table that should be round, but is now oval, and the family photo that’s not his family. He runs upstairs to his room where Martha has a photo on the wall of herself sitting between Bartosz and Killian. There is no sign of Jonas anywhere.
It’s like she cut him out of their trio with a knife.
Well, that’s just all kinds of wrong. And the photo is hung right over Jonas’ bed, where he has all of THOSE dreams.
Jonas is cut to the quick. So am I.
As we shift to the police station, we discover that Torben is not a cyclops in this incarnation, in this world. Here, he only has one arm. Probably because he hung his
god Aleksander out to dry in the other world without lifting a finger to save him, thus starting the apocalypse. It’s a Snowpiercer type punishment, but jarring nonetheless.
I skipped over something important earlier, with Helge. In mythology, the Cyclopes always come in groups of 3 brothers. This has vexed me, since Torben and Benni seemed to be a pair. But here is Helge, with his mysterious parentage and time origin, to round out the trio. I will have more to say on this at some later date. River Song and I struggle to avoid spoilers.
Oh, one more sign of a world gone mad- practical Charlotte has gotten blonde highlights in her hair and is wearing a V-necked sweater. Y’all know a woman with blonde highlights won’t be able to concentrate on her job, right? (Warrior Katharina is obviously a natural blonde who gets more sun in this world, now that she’s free of Ulrich’s unreasonable demands on her time and body.) 😉 Kidding- both women look great.
Ulrich is the police chief in this world. He gives a briefing similar to what we heard in S1Ep1. Erik has been missing since October 22. They’re out of leads, so Charlotte reminds Ulrich that they could pursue the shift schedules from the power plant. He gives her that assignment and assigns Torben to pursuing the tire tracks, same as in the other world. Then he assigns Jankowski to interviewing Erik’s parents again, since he’s run away before.
In the other world, the pilot began the next day with the Obendorfs in the police station yelling at Charlotte that she hadn’t done enough to find their son. In the Prime world, Ulrich showed empathy toward the parents, but also suggested that their son might have run away.
Hannah vacuums her house and discovers a blonde hair on Ulrich’s hoodie. She smells his jacket to see if it smells like another woman. This mirrors Katharina’s day in the pilot. This time, we know for sure that it isn’t Ulrich’s first affair.
Geese fly south, because that’s their inborn instinct. Jonas goes to school, because, where else would he go? Everyone he’s looking for is there. When Mikkel was lost in a new time period in the pilot, he followed this same pattern of going home and then trying to find his parents, which happened to mean going to the school and the police station.
Bartosz is giving a presentation on black holes in science class. Franziska gave the presentation in the pilot, while Bartosz mocked her, then told Jonas about his plan to find Erik’s drugs, which he was certain were hidden in the cave. The whole gang ended up going along later that night. They discovered Franziska had gotten there first. Then Mikkel disappeared.
I still think that Franziska was already working with her older self at that point, who told her to keep the gang out of the cave. Which likely means that in this world, Bartosz is already working with his older self or Noah.
Bartosz: So a black hole forms when a collapsing central region appears. And then inside that, there are neutrons. Well, more like neutron matter. But not enough of it. So when the light of a star three times the mass of the sun goes out, it explodes. No, it implodes. And it turns into a black hole.”
We’re all made of star stuff, peeps. Does the black hole have to form from one star 3 times the size of the sun, or could it be from 3 suns imploding at once? Asking for a friend. Also, Bartosz accidentally described the Big Bang, Big Crunch cycle.
Jonas walks in. He didn’t even bother to wash his hands or face while he was at home, never mind putting on clean clothes or showering. Jonas is absolutely always depressed, at least since June 21, 2019, but he really just doesn’t care at all now that he’s seen OG Martha die
(by his own hand). If a lack of personal care is a sign of mental illness, you’re looking at a textbook case.
Or maybe subconsciously he’s realized his body is a cage and he wants out, once and for all. He doesn’t care whether it’s through Adam’s nihilism turning him into black hole or some form of transcendence, like the saints of old.
The teacher asks Jonas who he is. Jonas talks his way into the class and sits behind Martha.
Bartosz pauses and accepts Jonas’ gravitational pull for a second, then he continues: “So then we have a black hole. And it has a huge gravitational pull. Everything flying around the hole is drawn to it and somehow dragged inside. Other stars, planets, even light. The gravitational force is so strong, that even light is pulled into it. Nothing can escape once it’s inside. Basically, no one knows what’s behind it. Maybe nothing or maybe a new world, in which nothing is as we know it.”
He reads this as if it’s a children’s story. It actually sounds like an explanation for children. It’s certainly the nicest way in which Bartosz has ever told Jonas that everything is his fault.
Jonas is that darkness that draws in everything else, make no mistake.
Meanwhile, Martha looks back at Jonas in confusion. Jonas notices that his hands are coated in the other Martha’s blood. This is Alt Martha’s world, not his. It was the gravitational pull of her as a black hole which pulled him into this world. Now he’s gone beyond the veil of life as we know it, and is an object flying free in someone else’s world. He hyperventilates again, just a bit, proving he’s alive in this world.
Charlotte visits Aleksander at the power plant, where he’s still the director. He’s looking sharp with a nicely trimmed white beard. In this world, Regina lost her battle with cancer in September, 2019, so this is a heartbroken version of Aleksander. Actually, that explains why Bartosz is also so droopy and resigned to his fate.
Charlotte asks Aleksander to send the shift schedules for the period surrounding Erik’s disappearance to the police station, which he readily agrees to. She asks how he’s doing, then gets up to leave once he says he’s okay. Before she goes, she asks if Erik could have found a way onto the grounds. He says that would be impossible because, “The access points were sealed up years ago. No one can get in that way.” He looks a bit guilty when he says it, but Charlotte accepts his answer.
Hannah stops by the school to talk to Katharina. She says that she won’t interfere with Ulrich’s relationship with the kids or Katharina. Katherina spitefully says that’s generous of Hannah. Hannah reveals why she’s really there, to ask if Ulrich stopped by to visit that morning. Katharina understands immediately what’s going on, since Ulrich’s habits haven’t changed. She tells Hannah that they haven’t seen him.
When Martha’s class ends, Jonas approaches her to remind her that she didn’t tell him why she brought him to this world. But this Martha doesn’t recognize him. At all. As in, she’s never seen any Jonas.
Kilian comes to get her. She forgets her copy of Ariadne on her desk. Jonas starts to pick it up, but then thinks better of it with the blood coating his hands. He tries, but can’t wipe it off.
Maybe not Dionysus in this world, then.
This is a stretch, but I’ve long been on a quest to find Inspector Clausen’s real brother. Martha’s teacher, who is nameless as far as I can tell, is another candidate. He was also Franziska’s teacher in the pilot and another S1 episode.
The mildly interesting thing about him is that he helped Magnus and Franziska’s relationship get started and now he helps Jonas get his bearings in this new world. After Martha leaves, he remembers Jonas’ name, asks if he’s okay and tells him the date, including the year, but doesn’t try to impede Jonas’ movement. Is he a spirit guide? In the other world, he read a passage about symmetry, doubling and Goethe, way back in season 1.
Jonas runs out of the room and downstairs, straight into his mother. On a metaphysical level, I don’t think any version of him has seen her since Stranger chased her into the 1950s. This version said goodbye to her one day more than a year ago in his life, then left to become a time traveler. She had no idea what was happening.
But that was the other world. He still hasn’t gotten used to the fact that Alt Martha practically kidnapped him, then abandoned him in this strange new world.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jonas has some serious abandonment issues. I think they stem from his father’s death. 😉
Hannah walks by him. When she gets a couple of steps past him without acknowledging him, Jonas says, “Mom?” She turns around and asks if he said something to her, if he’s okay and if she can help him. He shakes his head, more like he’s shaking himself out of a daze than saying no, though I think it’s actually both. Hannah walks away, turning to look back at him one more time as she leaves the building.
Hannah has her faults, but she is one of the most compassionate characters on Dark. She always at least stops to check on other people who are in need. It’s not always her place to help them, so sometimes she has to walk away, but she tries.
This isn’t her son. Prime Jonas has to go through this adventure without her and she has to let him. But Jonas goes as white as a sheet and actually has the breath sucked out of him, he’s in such deep shock.
I was kind of afraid for Louis Hofmann for a second there. The fact that he managed to go even paler was a great feat of acting. We super pale people only get that white when we’re about to pass out. He and Paul Lux are giving some nuanced performances this episode, after already re-creating their characters last season, along with the rest of the cast.
When Charlotte returns to the police station Ulrich calls her into the file room. She tells him they have to stop meeting like this. He says that’s not what she said earlier today, when his pregnant wife was sleeping. Then he kisses her.
OMG, he uses the same cliche spots and lines for all of his affairs. Extra gross, on top of cheating on his very pregnant wife.
Torben walks in on them to give Ulrich the very urgent tire track report. They give each other the stink eye while Charlotte tries to keep things professional. The 2 men looked like it might end in pistols (or lightning bolts) at dawn before the cycle closes out.
Martha as Ariadne begins reading her lines while Ulrich is still on screen: “From then on I knew that nothing changes. That everything remains the same. The spinning wheel turns. Round and round in a circle. One fate tied to the next. [Jonas enters the auditorium, as he did in S1.] A thread, red like blood, that connects all our deeds. One cannot unravel the knots. But they can be severed. He cut through our knot with a fine knife. And yet something remains that cannot be severed. An invisible bond. Some nights he pulls on the bond. And then I wake with a start, knowing that nothing ceases to be. That all remains.”
This is the same speech that Prime Martha as Ariadne gave in the S1Ep5 version of the play, though Prime Martha wore a white dress with a red cord around her waist and Alt Martha wears an unadorned black dress. ( In S1Ep6, Martha wore this under the white dress as a 2nd costume.) In season 1, Jonas went backstage after the play and told Martha what he did last summer. At that point, she was in the unadorned black. She kissed him. Also, as Prime Martha gave her speech in 2019, in 1986 teenage Hannah watched Ulrich and Katherina have sex for the first time.
In other words, in Hannah’s world, Ulrich was caught cheating on her with a different blonde each time that Ariadne spoke of invisible, unbreakable bonds.
The speech itself speaks of a lover who tried to end the connection between himself and Ariadne, but they will always be connected, through every repeating cycle, by their actions within the unchanging cycle. The lover was successful in his attempt to sever the knot that connected them, but it didn’t matter. There is a deeper, invisible bond which connects them which can’t be severed. And since that bond remains, everything else that connects them ultimately remains as well. In the end, they both know this, even when they seem separated from one another forever.
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. It’s the principle of conservation. Once something exists, it always exists. When you try to get rid of it, you’re playing a game of Whac-A-Mole. This is true on every level of existence. Jonas has repeatedly explained this, but it never gets through to the characters. Jonas is, was and always will be Jonas, anywhere, anyway, anyhow. It’s not just true for him.
In S1Ep5, the scene ended with Ariadne’s speech. Now, Killian appears next to Martha, in a white shirt with a slash of red makeup across one eye. He says: “And because they were blind with eyes and hearts, so they were punished for their sins, here and now. And what was in flight plummeted to the earth. And what was on Earth changed its shape. Revealed its grotesque face, which was nothing more than unholy blasphemy made flesh.”
Killian has his hand over Martha’s eyes and heart while he says his lines. When he’s done, he kisses her neck and makes her giggle. The teacher ends play practice for the day, since there’s a meeting in the auditorium that night. (The counterpart to the one we saw in season 1.)
Killian’s speech seems straight out of Adam’s playbook, discussing the need to accept the darkness in people and that people are nothing more than unreasonable desires run rampant, making them monstrous. Jonas drinks it up.
Killian’s speech was much more gentle in season 1, simply emphasizing that even a beautiful princess has light and darkness within her.
Killian says goodbye, reminding Martha that they’ve planned to meet at 9:00 by the bridge.
As soon as he’s gone, Jonas tries talking to Martha again. She tells him to go away. Whatever he wants, she doesn’t have it and she wants nothing from him. She tries to walk away, but he grabs her arm and doesn’t let go. He tries to explain to her that they have to stop Mikkel from disappearing. Then he catches himself, and tries again, describing Mikkel as Hannah’s husband, Michael Kahnwald.
Martha corrects him. Hannah’s husband is Ulrich. There is no Michael Kahnwald. Jonas can just bug off.
There is no one here for him to save.
As Martha walks away, the auditorium lights come up, leaving Jonas standing alone in the light, a place he never expected to be and is not equipped for. A bright white light shines in the back of the Ariadne cave set.
It’s the light of God/Paradise. Rather than going toward the light, Jonas assumes this is a mistake and runs straight back toward the darkness (the graveyard). He wanted nothingness, but not in the LIGHT, for heaven’s sake. He’s a NIHILIST.
Okay, back to the reality of Martha’s World.
Snape Magnus takes a walk to the bunker, where he meets Franziska, who is now in Mikkel’s red and black plaid, for a quickie. They say “I love you” to each other.
The bunker walls are devoid of any markings. There are no photos or flyers on the walls and no shelves. Just the bench. No one is using the bunker for their time travel HQ.
Young Elizabeth, who is able to hear and speak in this world, returns home and finds Helge repeating standard phrases with urgency: “Tick tock.” “The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning.”
Jonas deals with having seen the light by visiting the graveyard in front of Noah’s church, on top of the Sic Mundus HQ. He searches for his father’s grave, but it’s not there. The graveyard is much emptier than in the Prime World. Peter, who is the church pastor rather than Noah, tells him that the only Kahnwald in the cemetery is Daniel Kahnwald, Ines father, who died in 1964. Jonas wonders if he’s in this world to prevent Mikkel from going back to 1986 for the first time.
Peter wonders what Jonas is talking about. Then he has deja-vu and asks if he knows Jonas, because he feels like he’s seen Jonas before. Jonas doesn’t answer because he’s already walked away.
The veil between the worlds has thinned and we jump back to the Prime world, where the Unknown Trio are out for a stroll. It’s September 21, 1987 and they’re paying Bernd Doppler a visit in his mansion. The Child enters first, without knocking. He asks Bernd for the master key to the power plant. When Bernd doesn’t give it to him, he looks around, then goes to a bowl of apples and picks one up.
As Bernd calls the police, the older 2 Unknowns enter. Adult Unknown hangs up the phone and pulls out a garrote. Bernd asks what they want from him.
Adult Unknown: “Nothing is free. No breath you take. No action. No word. No pain. An everlasting miracle of Oneness.”
Bernd asks who they are. Adult Unknown strangles him with the garrotte as an answer. The camera focuses on the bowl of apples- the forbidden fruit.
What Just Happened?
I’m going to take a stab at interpreting the Unknown’s speech, but he’s still very much a mystery to me.
Schopenhauer was quite mystical and influenced by Buddhism. He worked with the ideas of both an individual Will or consciousness that survived eternally and a cosmic consciousness where there was no distinction between individuals. We are in a constant struggle between our desires, or Will, which leads to selfish acts, and our deep knowledge of our Oneness with all of reality, which leads to compassion and self sacrifice. I know for certain that those are concepts you should keep in mind. They have actually been in play all along.
I think that one aspect of what the Unknown is doing with Bernd is meting out Eternal Justice, balancing the scales of taking and giving, good and evil, pain and pleasure, life and death. Notice he said nothing is free, not even pain. He’s not handing out retribution for crimes. He’s balancing the overall energy system of the universe, which is neutral in the long run and not a form of judgement. The physics equivalent would be Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This is usually done by the spiritual self internally and subconsciously as karma or fate or the like. But Sic Mundus and Winden have tampered extensively with the natural order of things, so perhaps fate needs a bit of help. Or perhaps the next cycle can’t begin until certain pieces are in certain places and it’s the Unknown Trio’s turn to get them there.
I suspect that the cycle changes which create new openings in Time are some combination of naturally occurring phenomena and time travelers tickling Time into believing that everything is in balance the way it should be for a cycle change, when in reality they’ve made a few tweaks.
Claudia and Jonas have essentially said this. So Eternal Justice/Time/the natural balance of the universe has to be fooled into “believing” the correct conditions exist, and then the price for that will have to be paid somehow, at some point.
Maybe with generations of human suffering. Or an apocalypse. Or, if payment can be held off long enough, a Big Bang. Both cycle changes we’ve seen so far involved human suffering and death (Helge died, but came back), an expansion in time travel capabilities and violent action.
The Unknown Trio move in unison when they want to, suggesting that they are in balance with the Oneness on a regular basis, having suppressed their Will to the point of self-actualization/sainthood/transcendence. Or that they are psychic. Or both of those things. Transcendent beings, having left the boundaries of individuality and the demands of the Will behind, have powers the rest of us lack. They live on a different plane of existence, even when they still inhabit their physical bodies.
RIP, Bernd Doppler. It seemed pretty certain that he’d died around this time already, but that’s a tough way to go.
We swoop back to the Alt World, where it’s dark out and Aleksander is paying a visit to Erik’s father, Jürgen Obendorf, at his trailer and junkyard. Aleksander pays off Jürgen in cash to move the infamous Yellow Barrels of Time Doom before the police can get a search warrant.
In the Prime World, Aleksander needed to bully Jürgen to hide potential evidence in the case of his son’s disappearance. This Jürgen gets the cash instead. Though he’s more subdued, Aleksander is still a mobster in the Alt World.
Alt Martha rides her bike to the bridge and the old railroad tracks where she promised to meet Kilian at 9:00. She’s the first one there. This is the spot near the caves where the kids frequently met in S1 and S2, as well.
Loud metallic groaning and clanging can be heard in the distance, sounds made by the barrels being moved.
Jonas appears out of the misty dark. He still hasn’t even washed his face. Martha is scared and asks what he wants. Jonas says he doesn’t want to scare her.
She asks why he said they know each other. He replies that they do know each other, but in another time. She asks what that means.
A Warning from Mom
Okay, let’s pause here for a public service announcement. Kids, these conversations are beautiful and meaningful between strangers in fiction. But in real life, please, PLEASE, do not do what Martha is doing. If someone who’s clearly mentally ill stalks you, grabs you the way Jonas did earlier, follows you to a secluded spot, and says you’re his/her/their destiny, get to someplace public and crowded, then call someone you know or an emergency number. Running isn’t always the best choice. Deal with the stalker carefully, using your instincts, as you try to move away.
Unless you’re certain you’re actually a member of a mystical time travel cult and the stalker is your soulmate trying to awaken your current incarnation to your true self, the way you’ve done for each other in countless previous incarnations. Then, by all means, continue the way Martha and Jonas are, alone in the dark, where generations of Winden women have probably been raped and worse.
But then my advice is not to join a cult and get stuck in a time travel loop.
Anyway, let’s let them continue.
Jonas repeats the words they said in S1 in this spot and Martha and Stranger said in Hannah’s kitchen in S2.
Jonas: “You’ve seen all this before. The light. The trees. Me. It’s deja-vu. Or a glitch in the matrix.”
She’s enthralled and a little teary.
Jonas: “I think I know why I’m here now. Why you came for me. So that I can change it.”
He’s moved in close to her now.
Martha: “Change what?”
History repeats itself and the other kids show up. In the Prime world, Martha and Jonas had grown very close the previous summer, but he’d gone away for mental health treatment and she’d been dating Bartosz while he was gone. During the corresponding scene, the undeniable chemistry between them was working, but they were interrupted before they could kiss.
In this world, Magnus, Franziska, Kilian and Bartosz arrive without Mikkel, confusing Jonas. He thought he was here to stop Mikkel from going back to 1986 for the first time.
Jonas gets angry with Magnus for leaving Mikkel at home, explaining the way things went in his world- Mikkel was sick and the babysitter canceled, so Magnus brought Mikkel along.
Magnus and Kilian are both angry that Jonas is there. Magnus informs Jonas that Mikkel can take care of himself and doesn’t need a babysitter. He says, “Get lost, freak!” Then the kids walk away, calling Martha to follow along. She does so, with a look at Jonas, but she doesn’t say a word.
It’s almost time for the parents meeting at the school. Ulrich offers Charlotte a ride over from the police station. He and Torben give each other the evil eye again. Hannah is at home alone. She doesn’t have a child in school in this universe.
The gang of kids walk to the mouth of the cave, as they did in season 1. Kilian asks if Martha knows Jonas. She denies it. Bartosz, who is the kid with the dead parent this time, says that Nostradamus predicted that the world would end this year. Magnus scoffs, but Bartosz insists that the apocalypse is right around the corner. Magnus, who isn’t including Franziska in the conversation, says he’s glad he has a girlfriend with her own bunker.
Franziska asks what’s going on, but Magnus doesn’t translate, even when she smacks him.
He prefers her as a sex doll who’s part of his personal apocalypse survival kit.
Jonas runs home, ’cause that’s where Mikkel lives. It’s his true home as well.
The noises in the woods spook Martha. The kids have come to the cave to search for Erik or signs that he’s been there, since he sleeps there sometimes in the summer.
That must have made him easy to grab.
Magnus: “Have you heard the story of the cave monster? This is legit. About 100 years ago, just after World War 1, they did experiments in there.”
Martha asks to hear more, but the metallic noises turn into a roar and their flashlights flicker uncontrollably, so they run away.
Martha trips and falls. When she gets up, everyone else is gone. She sees another version of herself with black goo dripping down her head, reaching out. The apparition says her name. Martha runs.
The apparition is Young Martha, wearing the white dress she wore the night she and Jonas had sex in the Prime World, during Katharina and Ulrich’s anniversary party. The night before Michael’s suicide. This apparition is trying to remind her of the same things Jonas has been trying to wake up in her.
Jonas saw a similar apparition when he ran away from the cave on the same night in his world, but he saw his middle-aged father covered in goo. Well, the goo is really Cesium 137, the stuff that makes time travel possible. These apparitions are actually a physical representation of people covered with Time.
You can take the metaphor where you want from there.
For one thing, Winden has been hoarding Time for decades, as if it’s barrels of oil they’re stockpiling. Are Mikkel and Martha covered in it because of an explosion/accident or because they discovered it in the ground and Time spouted up out of the well like a geyser?
Did someone pour Time over them like they poured pig’s blood over Carrie? Time hasn’t treated Martha or Mikkel or Ulrich well.
We’ve also seen Mikkel covered in Cesium 137 multiple times. Young Jonas saw him in his bedroom a couple of times in S1 and Mikkel sat with Stranger while he closed the passage at the end of S1.
Adam saw an apparition of Martha wearing this dress in S2 during a montage when the characters were feeling both love and guilt.
And I can’t help but think of the screencaps I posted above, showing Ulrich with the slashed, bloody face and Killian with a slash of makeup. They’re more stylized, but those images have similarities to the Cesium 137 images.
The apparitions Martha and Jonas’ saw in the woods were trying to wake them up to their true selves. I wonder if Mikkel has been seen more often because he just likes to hang around Jonas like a ghost, since neither was ready to be separated when Mikkel died. It was so traumatic. Maybe his Will has kept him near his beloved son.
Lights are flashing/time travel is occurring.
Katharina leaves the meeting alone and without incident. There’s no Regina to pick a fight.
Hannah’s baby seems to react to the lights going haywire/time travel occurring.
Ulrich and Charlotte parked in a field to cheat on their spouses instead of going to the meeting. Birds die around them.
Aleksander supervises Jürgen’s work.
Kilian finds Martha in the woods.
Jonas finds Mikkel asleep in his bed in the attic room that was Mikkel’s studio in the Prime World. Jonas tearfully looks up at the ceiling beam that Prime Mikkel hung himself from, grateful that fate has been averted in this world.
Helge looks at the lights and sheds a tear. It’s hard to guess what he thinks or knows, but at least he’s with his family, both Peter and Eli, in this reality.
The kids run to the bunker. The lights stabilize just as they close the door behind them, so they wonder if it’s over.
Of course not.
hellmouth rift in time and space opens in the bunker wall and spits out the body of Uncle Mads Nielsen, who definitely would have been the cool uncle and is a great loss to Winden. He must have made somebody at Sic Mundus HQ really angry though, since he’s dead in both realities. His body comes out of that rift at an impressive velocity. The Underworld did not want it.
In the Prime world, chronologically, Mads’ body traveled to the bunker in S1Ep1, but it wasn’t revealed until much later in the season. Peter and Tronte skulked around with red dirt and guilty looks for several episodes. If I remember right, Peter had gone to the bunker to pray and try to stop himself from cheating with Benni. In this world, Charlotte cheats instead and the kids receive the body.
In the Prime World, when the body arrived, Claudia appeared in the bunker to give Peter and Tronte instructions, which included following a list in the triquetra diary that foretold when more bodies would appear.
In the Alt World, Claudia doesn’t appear and Mads still has his ID attached.
As Jonas leaves his house, an older woman waits for him in the shadows. She tells him that she’s waited for this moment, when he’d return. Jonas asks who she is.
Old Eva: “Mikkel. He didn’t travel back. He won’t become your father. And you will never be born in this world. A world without you. Isn’t that what you wanted? Yet despite that, this world is doomed to the same fate as yours. Everything will fall apart. In this world, just as it will in yours. Again and Again. Because of you. And because of me.”
She doesn’t answer. I’m going to spoil y’all and admit that yes, this is Old Martha, who goes by Eva, the same way Old Jonas goes by Adam. It was in the trailers and the contextual clues are there, so let’s go ahead and be clear.
We’ve spent most of the last hour in a world without Jonas. Despite what Claudia told Mikkel and Jonas when she convinced them that Mikkel had to die, it’s not much different from the Prime World. That was the point of all of the parallels in this episode. Saving Mikkel didn’t save anyone else, not even Mikkel’s own family. But it doesn’t appear to have significantly harmed anyone either.
Except for the fact that Claudia’s daughter, Regina, is dead. In the Prime World, the apocalypse was about 9 months after Regina’s death in 9/2019. Regina was in very serious condition at that point. I don’t think she was going to get even 2 years past her Alt World death date without a miracle. Alt Claudia will consider the effect of these manipulations on her daughter’s life at some point.
But Claudia was likely right about the elimination of Jonas. Jonas and Martha seem to be essential to each other’s functioning within the Time cycle, so they have to be available to each other in some way at crucial points in the cycle. With 2 worlds, there only needs to be one of each, split between the worlds.
Another swoop back to the Prime World, where it’s a dark and stormy night in
Dr Frankenstein’s lair the old Tannhaus clock factory. It’s time to catch up with the Alt Martha who dropped Young Jonas off in her world and ran. She jumped back to the Prime World and landed on September 21, 1888.
Alt Martha makes her way into the factory, where she finds Stranger Jonas at work creating his God particle machine. He’s alone in his workshop, with blue lightning flying around the room and his back to the door.
She says his name and he jumps, as if he’s heard, then seen, a ghost. He shakily goes to her, with tears in his eyes.
Stranger: “You’re alive. You’re alive!”
Alt Martha: “I am not Martha. Not your Martha.”
Jonas: “What does that mean?”
Martha: “I came here to help you find the origin. The one thing that’s the beginning of everything. In your world and in mine.”
How many times must we break Jonas’ heart??
But wait, why doesn’t Stranger know Alt Martha? Where are the teenagers who went to the 1800s with Stranger? How did they end up in a factory owned by the TANNHAUS family?
SO exciting! But, spoilers, y’all, spoilers. We’ll have to wait for the answers.
While you wait for Dark recaps, I recommend The OA, Twelve Monkeys, Orphan Black, Travelers and Fringe if you haven’t seen any of them already. Agents of SHIELD and Snowpiercer are also good. Twelve Monkeys is probably my favorite time travel show ever, with the most well done ending of all time. Yes, I said it. Orphan Black has a lot more in common with Dark than you’d think at first. I might be convinced to do recaps for 12 Monkeys or Orphan Black someday, if enough people were interested.
That whole Tannhaus basement set up was cool, in a Da Vinci meets steampunk way, but nothing good ever comes out of 19th century factories being struck by lightning. Dark has always had a Gothic element, which I don’t think I’ve written about, have I? I’m not sure it’s possible to get more Gothic than that last part. That was every 19th century horror element rolled up together and gift wrapped.
At least in Martha’s World, she and Jonas share the blame, according to her. We haven’t heard Bartosz weigh in yet. Magnus was ready to blame Jonas for everything without even knowing his name.
For comparison’s sake, here’s Kilian’s S1Ep6 speech from Ariadne: “Now you surely have heard of her, the daughter of Minos. You think you know her. Is she not beautiful and good? You have let yourself be enchanted. By all her words. By her pretty gaze. But believe me. Everyone, whether they are the daughter of a king or not, has one foot in the shadow and the other foot in the light.”
I’m still working out my Gordian Time knot theory, but I know that they’re purposely tying them through incest and other sins which create suffering and each cycle creates more complicated knots. On the day they met in S1Ep4, Mikkel’s first conversation with Hannah about being able to will magic in coming true and doing magic in secret, then only revealing the result when it’s finished, are very important and very Schopenhauer.
The use of knots is also based on ancient religious ritual knot practices, in which knots were ritually tied and untied in specific sequences while saying incantations or prayers, similar to the way prayer beads are still used. Sic Mundus is looping and knotting intentions, people and time. That somehow combines with the energy of human suffering (maybe the intensity of the will’s longing for change) and a large burst of time energy to open up new connections in time, which allows for time travel to expand to further away times, and now to a different world.
Schopenhauer saw the Will as similar to the soul in other belief systems, as the part of each entity that survives its death and carries its essence into its next incarnation. Schopenhauer believed in individual reincarnation, while Nietzsche believed in the eternal recurrence as the reincarnation of the whole system at the same time, hence the death of Winden in S2. Einstein saw only the mechanistic laws of nature, as Tannhaus did in season 1.
The Harry Potter imagery is subtle but striking in this episode. All that gold glitter, the golden snitch sphere, Magnus/Snape, Franziska/Lily Potter, Bartosz/Tom Riddle, various scarves and props. We’ve always known that Mikkel was a big magic fan. I suspected that Martha and Mikkel were close from the way she missed him so much, whereas Magnus was less affected. Is Martha also a magic and especially a Harry Potter fan? Did that give her world a tinge of positive magic? We know she loves theatre and literature from her bedroom posters and her part in the play, so maybe she loves JK Rowling’s books.
This episode is titled Deja-vu. Trust me, we’ll all be having deja-vu all season. Nietzsche thought there would be a point in each cycle of the eternal recurrence where people would become aware that they were in a repeating cycle and had suffered the same fates before, which explains much of the characters’ deja vu in previous cycles.
Peter’s deja-vu wasn’t so easily explained. Is the Will connected to its brethren across worlds, especially in a spiritual man like Peter? Is the veil thin in that particular spot, home of a church, graveyard and God particle? Did he sense that a version of Jonas should exist in Martha’s world?
There is also the issue of these recurring statements that they all say to each other, like the one about beginnings and endings or that old chestnut about drops and oceans. I feel even more strongly now that these are code sayings, passed between the characters to awaken them on some level each cycle. The sayings act like post-hypnotic suggestions to trigger certain actions or levels of subconscious knowledge, which form part of a cycles long Sic Mundus plan.
Whatever else Jonas is in the Alt-World for, he was there to have that conversation with Martha under the bridge about the glitch in the matrix. Eva waited to speak to him until he’d had that conversation, using code phrases we’ve already seen them use across cycles to trigger recognition of each other and to move into the next phase of existence for each.
After Young Jonas had that conversation in S1, he became a time traveler and Martha lost most of her family to the cause. In S2, after Stranger said those words to her, Martha died. She left the bunker where Stranger was trying to keep her safe, perhaps signaling that the subconscious part of her which understands the plan agreed to go through with it. Stranger didn’t follow through with keeping Martha safe and is now in the past doing dangerous experiments. Perhaps because he knew all along how this works, but he still needs to punish himself, meting out eternal justice to himself.
I wish Young Jonas had curled up on the floor next to Mikkel’s bed and refused to ever leave. He could claim to be an orphaned long lost relative- the DNA would prove him out. Eva didn’t give him more than 5 minutes of happiness before she dropped her bombshell.
Images courtesy of Netflix.