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Binge Club: Netflix’s emDark Final Season Recap

Binge Club: Netflix’s emDark Final Season Recap

Welcome back to Winden — what year is it again? Netflix’s German sci-fi thriller Dark has returned for its third and final season, and there’s a lot going on in this fictional town, regardless of what timeline (or universe) you’re in.

If there’s one thing to know about Dark, it’s that time travel is a very real thing. Time is essentially a circle, as characters are able to travel 33 years into the past and future, bringing us everywhere from post-apocalyptic 2053 to 2019, the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1800s. The time travel allows for impossible romances (and incest) as the four families at the center of Dark are connected to each other in a myriad of ways, crossing over decades and murky timelines. (Who knew it was possible to be your mother’s mother, like Elisabeth?)

When we were in Winden last, the world had ended — kind of. 2053 Elisabeth turned on the time machine, activating the dark matter and opening a portal to 2020 Charlotte. Katharina, meanwhile, opened the Sic Mundus gate in the cave. Jonas, sitting over Martha’s lifeless body, was then met by a chic Martha with bangs, who said she’s from another world — not another time. Who is this alternate reality Martha? What happened to Elisabeth and Charlotte? Can the apocalypse still be stopped?
Get ready to dust off the Winden family tree, it’s time to dive in.

Episode 1, “Deja-Vu” 

The season kicks off with a quote from the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.” (I see what you did there, Dark.) The camera focuses on a wall of framed photos of the four families as a voice-over asks us if, knowing what we knew, would we still make the same decisions — or choose a different path?

A strange man walks through a room littered with papers, holding a lantern. It’s not immediately clear what year we’re in. He picks up one and blows dust off it, only to reveal what appears to be a smaller blueprint of a time machine. A young boy and old man enter the room with lanterns, revealing Adam’s study, only to set it ablaze. All three men have the same scar running from just under their nose to their upper lip and wear the same outfit — are they three versions of one person? The photo wall from the opening montage burns as the camera focuses on Martha Nielsen and Jonas Kahnwald.

Jonas is confused while chic Martha with bangs tells him, “We don’t have time now.” She takes a gold orb-like device, twists it, and places it on the ground. Jonas is exasperated as the device whirs, asking her what time she came from. “The question isn’t what time,” she says, “the question is what world.” The 2019 Martha we know is on the ground, her face and shirt covered in blood. The device whirs and suddenly light particles are dancing in the air, transporting Jonas and Martha to the cave.
Jonas is frustrated and wants answers — who is she, how did they get down there?

“Today is the day everything started,” Martha tells him. “The day we first met each other.” It’s the first day his world and her world formed a knot that is inextricably intertwined.

Martha twists the gold orb again and places it on the ground. She promises Jonas she will make things right as the device buzzes and she ditches him in the cave.

It’s November 4, 2019. Martha wakes up, sweaty — and she has bangs. They’re a little scraggly and her hair is longer than chic Martha’s, though, signaling this is a third Martha. She goes downstairs to the kitchen, where Mikkel Nielsen is sitting at the table. “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher is aptly playing in the background. Katharina Nielsen (who is now sporting glasses and some chic center-parted bangs of her own) tells Martha that Mikkel has been having “the same nightmares.” Martha teases Mikkel that maybe it wasn’t a dream, “maybe none of us are real.” (Are you real, Martha?) The lights keep flickering as Martha and Mikkel have breakfast.

Katharina calls up the stairs for Magnus Nielsen, who is a little too busy having sex with Franziska Doppler — and has dark, shoulder-length hair and several tattoos. Franziska sneaks out of the house through his window, a scene eerily reminiscent of Ulrich Nielsen sneaking out in season 1. The opening credits’ symmetrical images make total sense now: mirrored images across parallel universes.

Katharina reminds Martha that tomorrow she is staying with her father. Martha doesn’t seem too thrilled by the prospect of seeing him. The camera cuts to a framed photo of the Nielsen family with half the image torn out, Ulrich notably missing.

Next, we’re with Ulrich, who has a bag from the bakery. He wakes up Hannah Kahnwald. It’s the first day of school and the line at the bakery is long. “The apocalypse is nigh,” he jokes. Hannah tells him she loves him before getting out of bed, revealing she’s pregnant.

Martha bikes through the fog to school, wearing a yellow rain jacket similar to Jonas’. She pauses at the stoplight by the power plant, staring at the stacks, and glances at a poster. “Missing: Erik Obendorf.” Seems some things never change.

Jonas exits the cave and takes in his surroundings as Martha enters school. Martha runs into Magnus as Bartosz Tiedemann — who also has shoulder-length hair — catches up to them. Magnus is wondering why they’re bothering with school since “we all die in the end.” Martha greets Kilian Obendorf, Erik’s brother, with a kiss.

We cut to Helge Doppler, who is missing an eye and holding the penny on the red string. He warns, “It will happen again.” Peter and Charlotte Doppler (who now has longer, wavy hair) watch as Helge repeats his warning. “Tick tock,” Helge says, agitated.

Hannah is vacuuming as a photo of her and Ulrich sits on the mantle (starting to sense a theme here). She pulls a hair off Ulrich’s jacket and sniffs it. Has he been up to his old ways?

Back at school, Bartosz is explaining how black holes work. (Very handy information for this show, to be honest!) Jonas enters the classroom and the teacher has no clue who he is but lets him join. Martha watches him carefully as he takes a seat in the corner of the classroom.

At the power plant, Charlotte is questioning Aleksander Tiedmann (who sports a beard) about Erik’s disappearance and notes tire tracks, but she doesn’t have a warrant. The entire conversation feels eerily familiar. She’s wondering if he made it onto the grounds since the caves extend under the power plant, but Aleksander says the access points were sealed years ago.

Back in the classroom, Jonas approaches Martha and asks why he’s there. She has no clue who he is. Jonas then asks the teacher what the date is. November 4, 2019. A different world indeed. He then encounters Hannah, who was visiting Katharina, in the hallway, but she doesn’t know who he is.

Back at the police station, Charlotte and Ulrich nearly kiss — yet again some things never change.
Elisabeth Doppler comes home as Helge continues to repeat his warning. She doesn’t appear to be deaf in this world. “The beginning is the end,” he tells her. “The end is the beginning.”

Jonas stumbles upon Regina Tiedemann’s grave, which notes she died on September 2, 2019. Jonas is trying to look for his father, Michael Kahnwald, for answers, but the only person buried is a Daniel Kahnwald from 1964.

Suddenly it’s September 21, 1987. The trio from the opening scene enters a home, looking for the master key to the power plant. They kill a man in a wheelchair as he tries to call the police.

We jump back to 2019. Martha bikes to the woods and searches for Kilian but encounters Jonas instead. He explains they know each other in another time — it’s deja vu — but she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Jonas thinks he’s figured it all out: he’s there to change things. Magnus, Kilian, Franziska, and Bartosz appear, but Mikkel isn’t there. The group ventures through the woods, wondering who Jonas is as they search for Erik. “The apocalypse is just around the corner,” Bartosz reminds everyone. 

Magnus tells a story about the “cave monster.” As he begins to explain how experiments were done in the cave, a sinister noise rumbles from the entrance and everyone’s flashlights begin to flicker. (Way to go and freak everyone out, Magnus.) Martha breaks off from the group and hears her name coming from the cave. A Martha covered in a black matter reaches her hand out.

The group finds their way in the bunker as the black hole opens up, dropping a boy with burned eyes: Mads Nielsen.

Jonas, meanwhile, is approached by an older woman with bangs who tells him she’s waited for him to return. Mikkel didn’t travel back, she explains, and Jonas will never be born in this world. The world, unfortunately, has the same fate. It’s been damned, and everything will fall apart because of him — and her.

We travel to September 21, 1888, where Martha walks past a gate that reads “Tannhaus.” In the factory, the lights flicker as devices buzz and spark lighting bolts. Jonas tears up, relieved to see her alive — but she isn’t “his Martha.” She came back to help him find “the Origin,” the one thing that is the beginning of everything in both worlds.

Burning questions: Just how many Marthas are there? Does this alternate-reality Martha genuinely not know Jonas? And what exactly is the Origin?

Episode 2, “The Survivors”

We begin with Martha’s steamy and sinister dream (or is it a memory?). Martha and Jonas are having sex, cut with clips of bloody hands and Martha standing at the entrance of the cave. She wakes up to see the 1888 Jonas, who is holding a letter addressed to himself.

Martha changes and enters the factory, where Bartosz, Magnus, Franziska, and Jonas are waiting with her. They all seem stunned to see her alive — but Jonas informs them she isn’t Martha. She’s there so everything can end at last.

We bounce to September 22, 1987. As a disheveled adult Katharina descends the stairs, the answering machine goes off with a cheery greeting from Ines and Michael Kahnwald. The message is from the postal service threatening to cut off phone service as a pile of mail sits on the floor, implying the Kahnwalds aren’t around. Katharina bags some missing posters for a young Michael/Mikkel as she leaves.

Next is Mads’ funeral, but the coffin is empty. Jana Nielsen is furious and berates Tronte Nielsen in front of everyone for sleeping with Claudia Tiedemann as Mads went missing. (Yikes.) She tosses newspaper clippings on the ground: Claudia has been missing since June 26, the same day her father was found dead.

We jump to September 22, 2020, where everything is in shambles. As a hooded figure (is that you, Claudia?) enters the boarded-up police station, a radio informs us scientists around the world have been trying to figure out what happened on June 27, 2020. The presumed origin of the catastrophe is Winden, of course. French scientists believe the world stood still for a nanosecond, causing the divergence of tidal forces. It sounds like the rest of the world experienced quite the event: tidal waves, plane crashes, and electrical outages at nuclear power plants.

We move back to 1888, where the group is trying to figure out who this Martha is. They seem doubtful of what she’s saying: a parallel world where Mikkel didn’t disappear, Franziska is mute, and Jonas doesn’t exist. Everyone’s dead because her world ends just like theirs.

An older, blind man in a top hat enters and informs Martha she has a visitor and that he sees more than those who have sight before we move back to school in 1987.

Katharina is asking students if anyone has seen Michael/Mikkel as she runs into a teen Ulrich. He doesn’t recognize the older Katharina as the teen Katharina comes over to greet him. Both Katharinas are visibly uncomfortable and the teen Katharina is understandably suspicious. Teen Hannah informs the adult Katharina that someone grabbed Michael and took him to the cave.

Next we’re with 2020 Claudia, who is hanging photos of Tronte through the years. We immediately cut to Peter and Elisabeth, who are staring at a similar wall of photographs — only here, everyone is in a body bag. They’re looking for Charlotte and Franziska.

Back in 1987, adult Katharina is furious and wants answers as to where Michael/Mikkel is, but she won’t give up any information about herself. She’s informed Child Protective Services know where Ines and Michael are.

In 2020, Claudia is broadcasting a message: it’s three months on and she is one of the only survivors. If the God particle can be stabilized, it could provide a way to return to the past — and save everyone.

Back in 1888, Bartosz apologizes to Martha and explains how they arrived in that year: they traveled at the exact moment everything was destroyed. The device, unfortunately, is empty, as nuclear material is difficult to find in the 1800s.

The blind man asks Jonas if Martha is a traveler as well — when he found Jonas, it was a “sign.” They’re going to create paradise, he says, and destroy the world’s suffering before it exists. “Sic mundus creatus est,” he says, which is also etched into his cane. Well, if that ain’t a familiar phrase.

Back in 1987, adult Katharina visits Ulrich at the hospital — who is even older than she is. He’s been there for 34 years and was just released from solitary. She vows to get him out.

In the 2020 police station, Tronte visits Regina as she lays in a bed, visibly sick. “It’s the only way to save you,” he says as he suffocates her with a pillow. 

As we jump further ahead to September 22, 2053, Elisabeth enters the cave where a group is resting. “Everything will be okay,” she signs.

Back in 1888, Bartosz brings Martha to a large study full of empty chairs. It’s a secret society, Bartosz explains, and Tannhaus’ father thought he could supersede the rules of time and space. Bartosz asks Martha who Adam is. Martha seems stunned Bartosz doesn’t know — Jonas is Adam, she tells him.

The shot abruptly transports us to the older woman with bangs in a study-like room with two Adam and Eve paintings side by side. Is this yet another Martha?! “We don’t know our end, but our end knows us,” she tells Jonas as she walks across the room. On the floor are two elaborate family trees proving just how intertwined everyone in Winden is. In the center, linking the trees together? An infinity symbol. “They’re all going to die,” she tells Jonas. The apocalypse can’t be stopped.

Burning questions: Did the two Katharinas seeing each other affect anything? Where’s Charlotte in the 2020 timeline? Can the apocalypse actually be stopped?

Episode 3, “Adam & Eva”

The episode opens with a horse-drawn carriage making its way through the woods in the rain. The inhabitant is wearing a ring with the Sic Mundus logo and has the blind man’s cane with the etched phrase. He closes the book he’s reading — Ariadne, the same play Martha left behind in the classroom. “This play was beloved by your mother,” he tells the blind boy sitting across from him. He opens his pocket watch to reveal an engraving: “For Charlotte” — the same one Noah gives Elisabeth in season 1.

“Why do we die?” the boy asks the man. “The dead are never truly dead,” he explains. “Everything that once lived lives on and on forever in the eternity of time.” We cut to the older version of the blind man holding the same book and pocket watch in a horse-drawn carriage. The strange man stabs the horses and enters the carriage. Tannhaus figures out he’s a traveler and wants to tell the world. The man has a different plan as he approaches Tannhaus, poised to kill.

Back in the room with the Adam and Eve painting, Jonas asks Martha where they are. Martha asks him if he remembers what he told her under the bridge. “A glitch in the matrix.”
“Why am I here?” he asks her again.

“You and I, Adam and Eva,” she says,” that’s what we are. A glitch in the matrix. You want to know why you’re here? To save them. Your world — and mine.”

We jump to the police station in the alternate reality as Ulrich informs everyone that Kilian, Bartosz, Franziska, Magnus, and Martha found a boy’s body with clothes, a Walkman from the ‘80s, and an ID card. Ulrich is visibly shaken as Charlotte pulls him aside and tells him to go home. Ulrich thinks someone held on to Mads’ belongings for 33 years and stashed them in the bunker with the kid. An exhausted Ulrich finally tells Charlotte he can’t cheat anymore.

Over in 1888, Bartosz and Martha return to the others. Jonas and Bartosz are arguing as Bartosz demands Jonas tell everyone how Martha really died. Jonas runs outside and Magnus pushes him, prompting a fight as Bartosz calls on Jonas to tell everyone who Adam really is. “Jonas was always the problem,” Bartosz tells the others. “He is Adam.”

We’re back with Martha/Eva and Jonas, who tells him that he can’t let Martha go — they’re tied for eternity with an invisible ribbon. Adam tried to sever it, but it’s impossible. She hands Jonas the silver pendant he gave her. He pulls it out of his own pocket as well. “If you want to save your Martha, you have to choose the side of light,” she says.

Jonas isn’t happy with the “must.” “I’m sick to death of having all these obligations!” he says.
“Then consider what you want,” Eva says. “Should she live?”

In 2019, Ulrich visits Martha, wanting to know what really happened in the bunker. Martha explains exactly what happened, how the body fell down, but all Ulrich doesn’t buy it and demands to know what drugs they took.

Hannah arrives at the police station with brownies, looking for Ulrich. She hugs Charlotte and gives her a surreptitious sniff — someone has clearly figured the affair out.

Eva tells Jonas that everything repeats itself for eternity because no one is prepared to let go of the past. Martha needs to see her future to understand what must be done, she says, and Jonas must be the one to do it. “It is your fate she’s bound to, just as you are to hers.” She hands Jonas an angular device that looks similar to the orb light he previously used in the cave.

Back in 1888, Martha is holding the silver pendant. She insists she didn’t write the letter and asks Jonas what Sic Mundus is. Tannhaus’ father tried to bring his wife back to life, Jonas explains, and thought every error could be corrected before it occurred. “But it doesn’t bring back salvation,” he says. “Only damnation.” Everyone is dead in her world, Martha says, and she won’t give up. She wants to earn Jonas’ trust.

Outside, Martha digs up the same gold orb she traveled with. She hands Jonas her only way out of 1888.

The trio come to see Eva. They bring her a folder, the play, and pocket watch. “We must preserve the knot,” she tells them. Martha must die so all others can live. In the folder are two keys and paperwork for the nuclear power plant’s volume control system.

Charlotte returns to the bunker and finds a penny attached to a red string. We cut to Helge, who’s also holding the penny. “Tick tock,” he says as he gets up.

Hannah wants to offer Aleksander a deal. She unfolds the plastic bag and asks him if he recognizes it. The contents are in a safe place, but only if Charlotte is destroyed.

Charlotte visits Peter at the church. She wants to know where Helge went after dinner and begins interrogating him about 1987. She wants to know if he used the bunker for anything and pulls out the penny. Peter suddenly gets a call — Helge is at the police station, confessing even though he never left the house.

An angry Ulrich asks Helge what he did. “You’re alive,” Helge says to Ulrich in wonder. “It was him,” he repeats. Charlotte finally figures out there are two pennies on red string.

Over in the woods, Martha runs into Jonas. She’s frustrated and wants to know how they know each other. Jonas begins listing childhood memories of Martha’s. “Where I come from, our paths are nearly identical,” he says. He knows Martha saw her future self last night in the woods. He wants to show Martha how everything is bound.

Back in 1888, Jonas fires up the time machine, but it doesn’t quite work. Martha, meanwhile, goes to her bedroom and uses her orb to leave.

In 2019, Jonas and Martha enter the cave. We then jump to September 20, 2053. Martha, still in her 1888 clothes, carries a lantern as she goes to Adam. “Did you give it to him?” he asks her. “I always was too gullible.”

We return as Jonas and Martha exit the cave, but everything is unrecognizable: it’s sunny and desert-like, a soft blue sky and no trees in sight. A woman approaches them, a scarf covering most of her face. She slowly takes it off to reveal she’s adult Martha. “Welcome to the future,” she tells them as she removes the scarf.

Burning questions: Whose side is Eva on? Why did Helge confess to the murder of Mads? And will the others ever make it out of 1888?
More to come. Check back for the full recap later this week.

from refinery29
Binge Club: Netflix’s emDark Final Season Recap Binge Club: Netflix’s emDark Final Season Recap Reviewed by streakoggi on June 27, 2020 Rating: 5

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