Features TV

Dark: Unravelling the Threads of Season Three

The third and final season of Dark is by far the show’s most complicated. Not that the show loses quality in terms of its writing and storytelling, but does require more than one sit through to understand what is going on. Fortunately, we are here to try and make sense of the series’ final journey through time and space.

At the end of the second season, the apocalypse kicked off, destroying Winden. This was orchestrated by Adam (Dietrich Hollinderbäumer), leader of Sic Mundus, the shady secret society who want to destroy the timeline. Adam is the 80-year old self of protagonist Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hoffman). Adam murdered Jonas’ crush Martha Nielsen (Lisa Vicari), to make sure he becomes, well, him. Just when all hope seems lost, a second Martha appears, reveals she is from a parallel world, transporting Jonas and herself away. Other characters escaped the apocalypse by hiding in the Doppler bunker, or by travelling through time.

A Whole New World

The third season begins with Jonas and Martha appearing in the parallel world. In typical Dark fashion, Martha bails on Jonas without giving an explanation for what is happening. Jonas wanders the second world, discovering, to his shock, that he does not exist in this reality, as Mikkel Nielsen (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) never went back in time and became his father Michael. He locates a pre-time travelling Martha, who lives in his house, even wearing his signature yellow raincoat. Martha is dating a new character, Kilian Obendorf (Sammy Scheuritzel), older brother to the missing Erik Obendorf. The two later break up when Martha’s father Ulrich (Oliver Masucci) suspects the Obendorfs may behind the child disappearances.

In this reality, Ulrich divorced Katharina (Jördis Triebel) for Jonas’ mother Hannah (Maja Schöne), but is having an affair with Charlotte Doppler (Karoline Eichhorn). Magnus Nielsen (Moritz Jahn) is still dating Franziska (Gina Alice Stiebitz), though she is now deaf, whilst her sister Elisabeth (Carlotta von Falkenhayn) can now speak. Saddest of all, Regina Tiedemann (Deborah Kaufmann) has already died of cancer in this timeline. Her husband Aleksandr (Peter Benedict) even comes clean to his son Bartosz (Paul Lux) about his crimes and true identity.

Perhaps the funniest thing is the mystery behind Torben Wöller (Leopold Hornung), the cop who refuses to explain how he lost his eye. In the second world, he has lost an arm instead.

Erit Lux

Jonas and Martha are drawn together, going into the caves to travel through time. They emerge in the future, finding Winden has become a desert wasteland. An older Martha (Nina Kronjäger) greets them, explaining how the world ended. Martha takes this as well as you can expect. They are introduced to an 80-year old Martha, going by the name of Eva (Barbara Nüsse). Eva is the counterpart to Adam, leading a secret society, Erit Lux, claiming that she wishes to destroy the time loop as well. The Marthas claim the apocalypse can be stopped by preventing the God Particle barrels from being opened.

Jonas and Martha return to the present day, finding solace in one another, and finally sleep together. The couple set out to prevent the apocalypse, which is to occur on November 7th, 2019, rather than in 2020. Whilst attempting to infiltrate the power plant, Martha is scratched on the face – which Eva has as a scar. Jonas realises they are being manipulated. When they confront Eva, a slightly older, scarred Martha (still played by Lisa Vicari) walks in and shoots Jonas dead!

But, how can Jonas be dead when his older selves are still alive? And what prompts Martha to shoot her own boyfriend? Here’s where things start to get wild!

The Unknown

Martha – the one who slept with Jonas – attempts to stop the apocalypse with help from Bartosz. An older Magnus (Wolfram Koch) and Franziska (Carina Wiese) from Jonas’ world appear, recruiting Martha into Sic Mundus to work with Adam. Martha agrees to work with Adam, if he tells her what the origin of the time loop is. This is the Martha who then saves Jonas in 2020, dumping him in her world in 2019.

Martha later travels to 2053 in Jonas’ world, where Sic Mundus has set up shop. She asks Adam what the source is of the knot binding the two worlds. Adam then drops the biggest clanger of all: the origin is Jonas and Martha’s son. This character is merely called the Unknown, since Eva apparently couldn’t be bothered to give him a name.

The Unknown is made up of a trio of his child, adult, and elderly selves (Claude Heinrich, Jakob Diehl, and Hans Diehl). They are very creepy, acting as time travelling assassins to ensure that the time loop continues. We will later learn that the Unknown married Agnes Nielsen (Antje Traue), making him father to Tronte Nielsen, Martha’s grandfather. Yep, that means Jonas and Martha are their own great-great-grandparents! This family tree!

Multiple Timelines, Multiple Realities

Eva and the members of Erit Lux don’t wish to destroy the timeline, but instead preserve it, even if it means repeating events infinitely. Adam and Eva are the opposing, driving forces behind just about everything that happens in Dark.

But, how can Adam exist if Jonas is dead? Well, the younger Martha who saved Jonas, and the one who shot him, are from different loops of the timeline. Eva explains when the apocalypse happens, time stands still for a fraction of a second. This creates a loophole that allows multiple realities to crossover with each other. The two teenage Marthas are from different cycles. Jonas’ future selves, Adam and the Stranger (Andreas Pietschmann), are from another reality, where Jonas survived the apocalypse in his basement.

Adam sacrifices the first Martha and their unborn son to destroy the timeline. Eva abuses the loophole to recruit the second Martha, ultimately pushing her into murdering Jonas. This Martha will then evolve into Eva. This loophole manipulation allows Eva to prevent the timeline from being destroyed. Thus, it makes Adam’s sacrifice of the first Martha to be null and void.

Survivors of the Apocalypse

With Adam and Eva busy trying to destroy each other, where does that leave our true heroine Claudia Tiedemann (Julika Jenkins)? She survived the apocalypse in the bunker with her daughter Regina. Unfortunately, Regina still suffers from cancer, but is put out of her misery by Tronte Nielsen (Walter Kreye) via smothering. We later learn that Old Claudia (Lisa Kreuzer) asked Tronte to do this, to motivate her younger self into finding an alternate way to save Regina. Worst of all, Tronte was convinced that he was Regina’s father, but Claudia confirms that he isn’t.

Claudia meets her second world counterpart, a member of Erit Lux, and becomes an ally to Eva. However, upon learning of Eva’s plans to continue the time loop, Claudia murders her alternate self, posing as her, going through the timeline to find a way to break the knot.

Elisabeth and Peter Doppler (Stephan Kampwirth) survived in the bunker, along with a young Noah (Max Schimmelpfennig). He is destined to marry Elisabeth and father Charlotte, who is paradoxically Elisabeth’s mother. Peter is sadly murdered by a vagrant, leaving a traumatised Elisabeth to partner up with Noah. The duo dig out the Winden caves, uncovering the buried Sic Mundus door. Charlotte herself is stuck in the far future with an adult Elisabeth.

Katharina, Martha’s mother, travelled back in time to 1987 to rescue Mikkel. She learns the elderly Ulrich (Winfried Glatzeder) is in a mental hospital, where her abusive mother Helene happens to work. Katharina plans to bust Ulrich out. Katharina ambushes her mother to steal her keycard, only to beaten to death with a rock by Helene, dumping Katharina’s body in the Winden lake.

It’s A Family Affair

Just after she saved Jonas, Martha travels to 1888, finding the Stranger, Bartosz, Magnus, and Franziska trying to build a time machine. They were transported there when the Stranger used a portable time machine, which no longer works. Martha informs them about the second world. She offers the Stranger a capsule to activate the God Particle. This turns out to be a lie, so she can escape to Adam. This act of betrayal drives Jonas into becoming Adam.

Two years later, Bartosz has lost faith in Jonas. He meets Silja (Lea van Acken), Elisabeth’s scarred lieutenant from the future. She is a member of Sic Mundus, sent back in time to play out her role. She and Bartosz fall in love, marry, and give birth to Noah (really named Hanno) and Agnes, though Silja dies giving birth to her daughter.

Silja came into Adam’s control when she and her mother Hannah appeared in the 1920s. Last season, Hannah stole the Stranger’s time machine, travelling back to the 1950s, where she had an affair with Claudia’s father Egon Tiedemann (Sebastian Hülk). Yeah, that means Jonas, Silja, and Claudia are technically half-siblings. Upon learning Hannah was sent by Eva, Adam murders his own mother, and sends his half-sister Silja to the future to live in misery. Some big brother you are, Jonas.

An adult Bartosz and a young Noah dig out the Winden caves to build the door. As seen in the second season’s opening episode, Noah then murders Bartosz after he becomes disillusioned with Adam’s plans.

In the post-apocalyptic future, Jonas, Claudia, and the older Noah (Mark Waschke) spent thirty years trying to get the God Particle to work. Noah suspects Claudia has been sabotaging their efforts to slow down the timeline. Charlotte and Elisabeth abduct baby Charlotte, delivering her to H.G. Tannhaus (Christian Steyer and Arnd Klawitter) to continue their own little cycle. This sets Noah down his own path of darkness to find his daughter.

A Third Option

Back to Adam, his attempt to end the time loop by killing Martha ends in failure. Old Claudia arrives, revealing everyone was wrong about the origin. Neither world should exist, but their creation stems from a third world – the Origin World. In the original reality, H.G. Tannhaus’ son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter died in a car crash. In grief, he built a time machine to go back to prevent their deaths. However, upon activation, the machine caused the Origin World to be destroyed, spawning Jonas and Martha’s world, as well as the time loop. Claudia came to the conclusion that not everyone in the loop stems from the same family tree, such as Regina.

The only way to change things is for Jonas and Martha to unite, travel to the third world, and avert the car crash. The knot can be untied.

Adam travels back to 2020, rescuing Jonas, and takes him to Martha’s world on the day the apocalypse is due to happen. Jonas is instructed to grab Martha before she can be recruited by the older Magnus and Franziska. Placing an activated time travel orb in his pocket, Jonas tackles Martha, and they are transported to 1986 in Jonas’ world. Having just witnessed each other’s deaths, the two are shocked to see each other, but agree to save Tannhaus’ family. Adam confronts Eva, who expects him to kill her. Instead, he tosses aside his ammo, making amends with Eva.

Going into the caves, the duo discover a passage through time where the three worlds meet during the apocalypse. In 1971, in the Origin World, Tannhaus’ son Marek (Merlin Rose), has an argument with his father, before leaving with his wife Sonja (Svenja Jung), and their baby Charlotte (who Charlotte Doppler is named after). Jonas and Martha materialise in front of their car, convincing them to return home, claiming the bridge ahead is closed due to the rain. Marek and Sonja return to Tannhaus, making amends, altering the future.

With their mission successful, Jonas and Martha begin to fade away, since the origin of their existence has been erased. Beforehand, Jonas tells Martha that they are a perfect match, and they vanish holding hands. As such, both worlds and everyone in them are erased.

A World Without Winden

The final scene of Dark is a somewhat happier setting. Regina, Hannah, Katharina, Peter, Wöller, and his transgendered sister Benni (Anton Rubtsov) are having a dinner party on a stormy night. This world seems a lot more benevolent to those who weren’t a part of the family tree. Regina never had cancer, Peter, who is gay, is in a relationship with Benni, and Hannah is with Wöller, expecting a baby.

Due to the nature of the erased family tree, it means, rather regrettably, that most of the cast were never born. This includes Jonas, Martha, Magnus, Franziska, Elisabeth, Charlotte, Mikkel, Ulrich, Mads, Tronte, Agnes, Noah, Silja, and the Unknown. Regina appears to have never met Aleksandr in this timeline, so that rules Bartosz out. The fates of Helge Doppler and Egon Tiedemann are left up in the air, though their own lives may have been more pleasant in the Origin World.

The biggest surprise is that Regina’s father turns out to be Bernd Doppler (Michael Mendl), Peter’s father. The age difference between Bernd and Claudia is questionable, but it turns out they were happy together.

We’re about to learn how Wöller injured his eye, only for a blackout to occur. Hannah has a brief moment of déjà vu upon seeing a familiar yellow raincoat, recalling a dream where Winden was destroyed. As the power returns, Hannah makes the foreboding comment that she might name her new baby “Jonas”. Perhaps that means at least one character will reappear in this origin world?

What are your thoughts on Dark? Was it a great series, or hard to follow? What other time travel stories are you fond of? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed!

About the author

Mark Russell