Wib­bly wob­bly, crimey wimey

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Is it re­ally the Ger­man Stranger

Things? We watched the Net­flix show to say ja or nein.

re­leased OUT NOW! 2017 | sVOd Di­rec­tor Baran bo Odar Cast Oliver Ma­succi, Jördis Triebel, daan lennard liebrenz, Karo­line eich­horn, an­dreas Pi­etschmann, louis Hof­mann

You might want to put an ex­tra layer on or turn up the cen­tral heat­ing be­fore set­tling down to watch Dark. Not since Chris Carter’s Mil­len­nium has a tele­vi­sion show looked quite so pal­pa­bly damp and driz­zly. Set in a rain-lashed ru­ral Ger­man town, this Net­flix orig­i­nal series is be­ing pitched as “the new Stranger Things”. In truth, while there are stylis­tic sim­i­lar­i­ties, Dark owes far more to the likes of Don­nie Darko and clas­sic shows such as Lost and, nat­u­rally, Twin Peaks.

Kids are go­ing miss­ing in Win­den. Peo­ple be­gin to fear the worst, es­pe­cially when the body of an uniden­ti­fied child is dis­cov­ered. Some of the local young­sters head into the woods to find a stash of drugs, but while out there, Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) is ac­ci­den­tally trans­ported back in time to 1986. As he strug­gles to come to terms with what’s hap­pened to him, his friends and fam­ily back in 2019 try to put to­gether the pieces of a mys­tery stretch­ing back to the ’50s that in­volves the local nu­clear power plant, a mys­te­ri­ous clock­work box and a sin­is­ter priest...

While Dark tips its hat to the cur­rent nos­tal­gia boom in its ’80s se­quences – a ref­er­ence to The Break­fast Club here, an ap­po­site pop song there – it has big­ger fish to fry. The show’s more con­cerned with the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble pain of fam­i­lies los­ing a child than it is with Mikkel’s out-of-time ex­pe­ri­ences or the vague mur­der mys­tery at its cen­tre.

Oliver Ma­succi and Jördis Triebel are es­pe­cially good as the griev­ing par­ents, selling their des­per­a­tion with painful con­vic­tion. You do, how­ever, crave lighter mo­ments. A joke – just one! – or a ten­der char­ac­ter beat that doesn’t end in tragedy would be wel­come amid the mus­ings on the fu­til­ity of ex­is­tence, es­pe­cially given that the ac­tual plot is stan­dard genre fare dressed up in the fin­ery of prestige TV.

But what fin­ery! Very few shows look quite this gor­geous. With its shad­owy woods, un­der­ground bunkers and im­pos­ing tow­ers of the local power plant, it’s deeply im­mer­sive. Ev­ery shot is im­mac­u­lately framed, and split-screen is smartly used to con­nect the younger and older ver­sions of char­ac­ters across the canyons of time. Ben Frost’s elec­tronic score, too, is beau­ti­ful and un­usual, even if he does go a bit heavy on the In­cep­tion horn.

Al­though the fi­nale feels frus­trat­ing in its re­fusal to tie up loose ends and the in­tri­ca­cies of the puz­zle­box plot some­times feel like they need a di­a­gram to ex­plain them (Steven Mof­fat, we’ve found your new favourite show...), Dark ul­ti­mately im­presses. It’s tread­ing fa­mil­iar, muddy ground, but there’s heart as well as brains here. And the fi­nal shot will leave you crav­ing a sec­ond sea­son. Will Salmon

Net­flix orig­i­nally ap­proached the cre­ators about adapt­ing their 2014 hacker thriller Who Am I. They pitched Dark in­stead.

The boy scouts had left his lazy butt be­hind.

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