*Warning: this article contains spoilers for the first episode of the third season of Dark. Continue at your own risk!*
After much anticipation, the third and final season of Dark has finally arrived, being available to stream on Netflix from June 27th. If you’ve forgotten where the second season left us, we’ve got you covered here. Otherwise, let’s take our chances once more in the Winden woods…
Not Just Time but Space
When we left Winden at the end of last season, Jonas was cradling the body of the dying Martha, who had been shot by Adam to prevent Jonas from closing the time loop. Imagine Jonas’ surprise and bewilderment then at a second Martha, complete with different, big-fringed hairstyle, walking through the door, only to say the question isn’t when she’s from but where.
Bringing an alternative dimension into an already complex knot of time loops was a risky creative decision. How much more complication can you add to your narrative before fans get turned off? Thankfully, showrunners Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese pull it off extremely well by using this opening episode to focus on the differences and paradoxes within this new, alternate dimension, slowly revealing and focussing by episode’s end on how this dimension fits into the bigger picture of the show’s world.
The episode begins with alternate-Martha bringing Jonas to Winden in her dimension on November 9th 2019 – the night that Mikkel was taken 33 years into the past in Jonas’ dimension. Here, alternate-Martha leaves Jonas to fend for himself, without instruction, to go, as we find out by episode’s end, to the past – 1888 to be specific – to find Stranger-Jonas in a workshop curiously named as being owned by Tanhauss. She’s come to help Stranger-Jonas so that they can find the starting point of all this time-knot mess and undo it.
But what dimension is she in? Stranger-Jonas is astounded to see her and is amazed that she is still alive. But, as Martha tells him, she isn’t his version of Martha. Which begs the question: which version of Jonas is this?
Because surely the adult Jonas would remember that he was taken by the alternate-Martha when he was a teen? He would know that his Martha was dead. Are we seeing a third dimension at play? It can’t be a Jonas from Martha’s dimension because, as we find out, there isn’t a Jonas that was born there…
Different but The Same
It’s interesting to note that Jonas lands in the alternate-Winden, the caption that gives the date is flipped as if being seen in a mirror’s reflection (the caption that tells us we’re in 1888 is not flipped). This flipping extends to the alternate-Winden itself.
Sometimes this leads to superficial changes (the dumped chairs by the cave are on the right not the left; Aleksander Tiedemann now has a beard and Peter Doppler doesn’t) and sometimes the changes are more profound (it is Fransizka here who is deaf, not Elisabeth, and she is already having a sexual relationship with Magnus; Ulrich has left the Nielson household and is living with a pregnant Hannah, who he is cheating on with Charlotte Doppler; Peter Doppler is a priest; and Martha is in a relationship with Kilian, the missing Erik’s brother). But always the same themes rear their ugly heads: adultery, secrets and missing children.
The biggest change of all is that Jonas wasn’t born at all in this dimension. As he discovers when he realises Mikkel does not come to the caves in this dimension, Mikkel (who is older here) did not go out that night at all and therefore was not sent back in time to become Michael Kahnwald and form the loop that produces Jonas.
What is important, and why I believe Martha brought Jonas to her dimension, is that whatever common thread pulls through and connects these dimensions is the relationship between Martha and Jonas. As Jonas is told by an old-aged version of Martha, who appears to him as he leaves the sleeping Mikkel, the world he hoped for without himself does not undo the knot and, even though Mikkel does not go back in time, time still conspires to bring forth all the damage it caused in the other dimension. Jonas not being in the world does not undo what has and will be done.
“Because of You…and Because of Me”
As the younger Martha and her friends hide in the bunker while electrics go crazy and the gate reopens in November 2019, the body of Mags Nielson is spat out by time right at their feet. The non-existence of Jonas didn’t change that. Nor does it stop Aleksander Tiedemann finding the police wanting to inspect his plant (to which he reacts by arranging for Jürgen Obendorf, Erik’s father, to bury the nuclear waste in a different location).
Helge Doppler is still repeating over and over again that “it is happening again” and “tick-tock,” although he now lives in the Doppler household as opposed to a retirement home. Ulrich still won’t tell Hannah he loves her, avoiding the remark by telling Hannah she’s beautiful instead. Nothing changes. Jonas is only a small pawn in the game after all.
Or is he? The older Martha makes an interesting remark. After telling Jonas that a world without him doesn’t alter the bigger picture, she then says to him: “everything will fall apart, in this world just as it will in yours. Again and again. Because of you…and because of me.”
If the same things will happen in a world without Jonas, why put the emphasis on Martha and Jonas being the harbingers of a doom that is going to happen anyway? Also, if Jonas is part of the problem, why bring him to a dimension in which he doesn’t exist if he will only cause damage? But then, this is coming from the older Martha, with wisdom and experience gained, whereas it was her younger self who brought Jonas across. Is the older Martha trying to intervene in something she now realises is a mistake? And, like all interventions in time in Dark is it doomed to fail, to bring things to an already-decided conclusion?
One thing’s for certain. Dark has come back firing on all cylinders and has found a way to expand its narrative and enrich it, without losing any of the delicious mystery that it holds so dear. The course has been set – will they stick the landing?
On the basis of this initial showing, we have nothing to fear.