Tick tock goes the clock as time counts down to the end of the world. For the characters in Dark Season 3, there is only 505 minutes runtime to fix what is wrong. Coincidently, 505 minutes is eight hours and 25 minutes, which, when added together, is 33. The yearly cycles of time travel on Dark have always been 33- pretty trippy, right? Kind of like they planned it that way. Considering the release date is also the apocalypse date, I’d say it was all designed.
Germany’s answer to Lost with a much better finale is beautiful, thoughtful, and deeply resonant. Like the reverberations that echo across time, Dark should affect how sci-fi can and should be written. The final season is everything it should have been. We know everything that matters about the haunting Netflix series. What we know is a drop, what we don’t is an ocean. Here’s at least part of that ocean you need to know about Dark Season 3.
Dark Season 3 was always about threes.
If only we asked questions about what we knew instead of what we didn’t know, we might have figured out the whole Triquetra of it all. A Triquetra or the Trinity Knot is a three-sided looping knot. The Trinity in Christianity is marking the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In Dark, the trinity consists of Eva/Martha’s world, Adam/Jonas’ world, and the origin world where H.G. Tannhaus first turned on his time machine in hopes of resurrecting Charlotte. It was always about thirds. Duality didn’t matter only triality. It isn’t an ouroboros that dictated things but a Triquetra. By turning on the machine Tannhaus made two other worlds each with people traveling backward and forwards through their worlds.
We know from Eve/Martha, humans live three lives. The first life ends with the end of naivete. The second ends with the loss of innocence, and the third ends with actual death. Martha and Jonas had been living in their second life all these years. Both of them were distrustful(loss of naivete) but hadn’t realized how wrong they were. Once they realized they were the cause of all the never-ending pain(loss of innocence), they were able to stop Tannhaus, save his family, and finally cease to exist(death).
There was never dark or light, just life and death, and the messy gray in between.
For most of the third season and portions of the second, we were led to believe Martha and Jonas were locked in a battle. One was dark/evil, and the other was light/good. That distinction changed rapidly from one episode to the next, depending on who we were following and who did the voiceover. What became very clear, however, is neither was entirely good or bad. They were simultaneously right and wrong. It was the genius behind Dark.
Many allusions are made distinguishing the “good guys” from the “bad guys”. Eve/Martha has paintings of Adam and Eve on her wall, and her family tree placed on the floor in white looks like angel wings when Martha kills Jonas. Adam, on the other hand, looks like a demon and has The Fall Of The Damned by Peter Paul Rubens on his wall. Similar to paintings by Pieter Bruegel, they depict the damned writhing in pain before falling into the abyss. Adam believed that was the only way out. He was half right. Adam thought he deserved to be punished, and Martha thought she was there to maintain the punishment.
There weren’t any real villains, just tragic characters on a painfully disastrous trajectory. When Martha and Jonas realized they were the problem, not the solution, and Claudia convinced them of their faulty thinking, they embraced the gray and saved the town. They had no way of knowing if they would live or die. The beauty of that sacrifice positively affected the entire town. Peter was able to be open about his love for Bernadette, Hannah seems happier with Torben than we have ever seen her, and Regina didn’t die.
Parental love and immortality act as Ariadne’s labyrinth.
Mythical Ariadne and her endless labyrinth are not a place, but a time and a desire that causes the people of Winden, to make horrible decisions. Her name was on posters in the kid’s rooms, a play at the high school, and hinted at with red string left like Greek breadcrumbs to be followed. Her labyrinth was the setting for the famous story of the Minotaur and Theseus, who Ariadne fell in love with. With her help, he was able to kill the Minotaur and escape her maze. In some versions of the story, they elope happily, but in others, they are split apart by Dionysus. Regardless, love was the transcendent element needed to defeat the Minotaur and escape.
In Dark, the entire town is in a maze of three people’s making. Tannhaus started the whole mess. He did it out of grief and pain for the loss of everyone he ever loved. It’s understandable, and he is a profoundly sympathetic character whose hubris created two worlds that are the destruction of his own. Making a bad situation worse was Jonas and Martha, who both believed they solely could save their collective worlds, not realizing there was a third Prime world. Jonas came to believe through death was salvation. Martha thought there was no escape, just endurance, and thus always chose life. Tannhaus wanted to travel back in time to prevent the accident that took his family.
Who is Jonas and Martha’s child?
Their child, who was not the origin that started everything but the tree from which it all grew, is never named. He is the boy, young man, and the old man who travel together and kill off several people in several timelines with a garrot. All three have a scar on their upper lips. They are tortured souls who never should have lived. In some timeline somewhere, they grow up and begin working with adult Martha who doesn’t appear to have cared for them in the way a parent should.
Adam and Eve aren’t the beginning.
In this case, knowledge is a good thing. In the Old Testament story, Adam and Eve are the first humans God creates, and he leaves them in Eden. When they get seduced by the serpent and eat an apple from the tree of knowledge, they have to leave paradise. Dark’s Adam and Eve, Martha and Jonas, were only able to set things right when they learned that working against each other and ignoring Tannhaus had been the problem all along. When they worked together to stop Tannhaus, they eliminated the two separate worlds leaving just the origin world. Adam was always trying to get to paradise when the only way there was with Martha not against her.
We know who took Charlotte.
Claudia did everything to save Regina, including repeatedly kidnapping Charlotte from Elizabeth and Noah and taking her to Tannhaus in the past. She was as much a part of the problem as Adam and Eve because she was blindly making choices based on her love for Regina. Once she figured everything out, she forfeited Regina in her world so she could live a real life in the origin world. Charlotte never exists except for Tannhaus’s biological granddaughter.
Jonas is scarred because of too much time travel and his black soul.
A throwaway line tells us Jonas has physically changed because time travel took a toll on him. No other explanation was given. He may be traveling more than others, although there is no proof of that. More likely, the darkness in his heart is what scarred his outward appearance. Similar to Roger Chillingworth in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, he was so corrupted by his mission and the things he had to do time, and again he physically was affected.
What does Schrödinger’s cat have to do with anything?
A brief physics and philosophy lesson midway through explains that the cat in question is both alive and dead as long as the box isn’t opened. As long as Martha and Jonas have hope they might continue to exist. These two loves who have been separated by time, place, and themselves more times than we can count just needed to give into faith. In Martha’s letter, which Jonas recites in the closing moments, she tells Jonas they are perfect for each other and never doubt it. They are perfect because they complete each other. They are truly the other’s better half. The final scene leaves open the possibility that Martha and Jonas may find their way back to one another. The romantic in me wants the cat to live.
Who still exists at the end?
From the final scene, we know Hannah, Regina, Peter, Torben, Bernadette, and Katharina are alive. Regina and Hannah don’t have any bad blood because Ulrich never existed. Hannah feels some deja vu and knows instinctively something is missing, but she is pregnant and considers naming her baby, Jonas. He may live again in another form. Jana should exist somewhere just not married to Tronte and never the mother to Mads and Ulrich. H. G. Tannhaus and his son, daughter-in-love, and grandchild live. Helge, Greta, and Bernd assumably would live as well. Doris and Egon exist, and Claudia does as well. It works like this; anyone connected to Jonas and Martha no longer exists. Anyone who can say a family member is two or more things to them has blinked out of existence.
In the end, it didn’t really matter who’s mom was also their grandfather, how many times Hannah blackmailed her own son, or whose sister was also their aunt, but closing the loop so it would never happen at all. Martha and Jonas can’t exist along with a ton of other characters. It’s sad and poetic at the same time. Together Jonas and Martha save Tannhaus’ son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter.
In the final moments, these star-crossed lovers turn back into the luminous dust they are made of. Life begins again as it should, and these two live on in the stars. More happy endings than sad for our tragic town and even a possibility that some version of our heroes will be born anew. As gorgeous as Dark Season 3 was, I am left with one nagging question. What happened to Torben Wöller’s eye? At least we can hang up that yellow rain jacket now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.