Dark is probably one of, if not the most tightly written shows ever created*. Granted, it is in German, so they could’ve just been saying nonsense the whole time and I wouldn’t know. If that were the case, then whoever wrote the subtitles did a really good job of making it coherent. Thank you subtitles man (or woman—I’ve been told women can also write subtitles). Is Dark the “funnest” show of all time? No, funnest isn’t a word. And if it were a word, still no. Dark is among the most protractedly bleak things I’ve sat through, and I almost failed Geometry! (This is a joke about protractors.)
While its lows aren’t as low as say, The Leftovers (that lasagna was pretty sad), it maintains a pervasive hopelessness for 26 straight episodes. Everyone suffers, endlessly. It’s like eating leftover lasagna, forever, but the lasagna is a time travel cave, and the pasta sheet things in the lasagna are rocks that an angry german cop beats you over the head with. The ending is the most uplifting part of the series, and it’s still very sad, albeit more cathartic. So why would I recommend that you spend 26 hours of your life being sad? I mean, what the fuck else are you gonna do? Go outside?
And yet, Dark remains a worthwhile watch, like a Rolex that’s on sale for less than a Rolex would normally cost. The show’s production is incredible—seeing the amount of painstaking effort that went into just the casting is a marvel unto itself. And watching the narrative intricacies gradually unravel, first adding complexity to the point that it becomes nearly impossible to track, and then explaining everything (in a satisfying way!) is pretty amazing.
Lots of media have dealt with the topic of time travel, but often handle it carelessly. Time travel has been used as a novelty, a plot device, an intertextual reference, or, at its worst, the focal point of a stupid, incoherent sci-fi plot that some guy with a creative writing degree who’s waaaaay too into Star Wars wrote. Sometimes time travel stories are good, but often they aren’t about time travel itself; it’s a mechanism to set up interesting situations, but the temporal aspects might not matter. You could accomplish the same thing with any number of scientific or magical contrivances, time travel just happens to be one that’s recognizable. In Dark, the writers manage to construct one of the most expansive, cohesive, and desolate time travel narratives I’ve encountered. Everything falls into place, recurrently, and it’s heartbreaking every time you see it.
A while ago there was a funny meme that Zack Snyder (auteur of such works as Batman v Superman and Justice League) created films in the genre of “German Nihilistic Expressionism.” While I don’t believe that term means anything, I do think Dark is the closest thing to it, by which I mean a Zack Snyder film. The show is clever, but not pretentious, inventive, but not gimmicky, beautiful, but not hopeful, and most of all DARK.
So you should watch it!