Dark is Netflix’s current cult hit, a German fantasy and science-fiction story of time travel and fate. The third and final season has arrived, just in time for conspiracy theories fans to drive themselves around the bend looking for clues
But before you dive into Season 3, there are two previous seasons to tackle. So what happened in Dark Seasons 1 and 2? There’s a lot to unpack.
First of all, it’s important to recap who all is involved here: Dark‘s mythos consists of “The Four Families.” They are the Kahnwalds, the Nielsens, the Dopplers, and the Tiedemanns. The Kahnwald family begins with grandmother Ines, a former nurse, whose father Daniel was the old chief of police in Winden. Her son Michael married his childhood sweetheart Hannah. Their son Jonas is the show’s main protagonist.
The Nielsens include father Ulrich, mother Katharina, and their three children: Magnus, Martha, and Mikkel. Ulrich is a detective; Katharina is the local high school principal. Ulrich’s parents, Tronte and Jana, had a second son, Mads, who disappeared in 1986.
The Dopplers are introduced first with Peter, Jonas’ psychologist. Charlotte, Peter’s wife, is the chief of police, and they have two daughters, Franziska and Elisabeth. Charlotte was adopted as a child and raised by the local clockmaker, H.G. Tannhaus. Peter’s parents, Bernd and Greta, were the ones who founded the power plant, and his father, Helge, works there.
The Tiedemanns only have Bartosz as a son. The family name comes from mother Regina. Bartosz’s father, Aleksander, changed his name from Boris and took his wife’s last name. Regina’s mother, Claudia, lived with her father, Egon, taking care of him after her mother, Doris, passed away.
Whew. Still with me? Great. Now, let’s unweave the twisty timeline so you know exactly what’s going on when Season 3 picks back up at the beginning.
Nov. 4, 2019
Dark Season 1, Episode 1 begins on Nov. 4, 2019, when Jonas returns to school following a stay in hospital after his father’s suicide. He learns his BFF Bartosz is dating Martha during the assembly to discuss the recent disappearance of a fellow student, Erik Obendorf.
That night, Jonas joins up with Bartosz, Martha, Martha’s brothers, Magnus and Mikkel, and Franziska to explore the local caves near the town’s nuclear power plant. When things suddenly go sideways, Jonas sees a vision, and Mikkel disappears.
Mikkel & Michael
This is where the world starts going wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. Mikkel doesn’t just disappear; he’s transported back through time to 1986. With no way to get home and no one believing him, he winds up living out his life there. One of the hospital nurses adopts him; he meets a girl named Hannah. They fall in love and marry. Together they have a son, Jonas.
Mikkel, Martha’s little brother, is Jonas’s father, Michael, who dies by suicide just before his younger self disappears.
This is important, because Jonas and Martha hooked up just before Jonas’ father died, and despite her dating Bartosz, it’s clear they’re in love. But they’re also nephew and aunt.
The Jonas Paradox
Jonas starts looking for answers when he receives his father’s suicide note, explaining he is Mikkel. Jonas enters the cave, which is attached to the power plant and finds the time portal machine created by Tannhaus. He, too, is transported to 1986.
But he can’t rescue Mikkel; otherwise, he will not be born. A time traveler named Noah joins with Helge to kidnap Jonas, to keep the timeline from being altered.
Jonas winds up being rescued… by himself, just 20 years older. Adult Jonas is trying to destroy the machine’s portal but unwittingly opens it further, knocking Teen Jonas through time to 2052.
Mads & Ulrich
When Mikkel went through the cave portal, it also transported back a different body, that of Mads. When the adult Ulrich finds the dead body of his long-missing brother, untouched by time, he too begins to explore the cave. Eventually, he winds up transported to 1953, where he gets arrested and put in an asylum.
In 2052, Jonas learns the world ended on June 27, 2020. In trying to get to the power plant, the source of the world ending, he is captured and nearly hung by Franziska’s younger sister Elisabeth, now middle-aged. He escapes, rescued by Silja, Elisabeth’s second-in-command, but not before getting a wicked scar around his neck.
Adam & Sic Mundus
Silja helps Jonas get to the power plant and access the “God particle” responsible for the explosion. But it transports Jonas, this time to 1921.
This is before the cave portal existed. Jonas panics, thinking he is lost in time, until a wizened figure who calls himself Adam arrives. Adam runs Sic Mundus, a group of time travelers that includes Noah. He shows Jonas the secret of time travel and sends him home to 2019, back to the night before his father died, to stop him.
But Adam also has a wicked scar around his neck. It turns out, he is really Jonas, his appearance marred by so much time travel.
The Elisabeth Paradox
Meanwhile, Noah meets Franziska’s sister Elisabeth, and the two fall in love. They have a daughter, named after her mother, Charlotte.
It’s not clear how or why, but, at some point, Noah transports Charlotte back to the 1980s. Charlotte is adopted and grows up, becoming Chief of Police in Winden, tracking the missing children, and marrying Peter.
Elisabeth is her own grandmother, which seems like it will be very important.
Katharina & Hannah
Katharina, having lost son and husband, does some exploring of her own. What she finds is that Ulrich was having an affair with Hannah, Jonas’ widowed mother. Apparently, Hannah has always been infatuated with Ulrich, trying to break him and Katrina up in 1986 when they were teens.
Hannah also starts looking for Ulrich, and she finds the portal and winds up in 1954. She finds Ulrich in an asylum and, realizing what a fool she’s been, leaves him there to rot. Hannah then goes out to start a new life in the ’50s.
The Death Paradox
Adam’s plan backfires. Mikkel has no thoughts of suicide before Jonas’ arrival. Instead, he is inspired by Jonas’ story to end his life. Before Jonas can re-talk him out of it, Claudia, who seems to be working with Noah and Helge to keep time on track, appears. She convinces Jonas the timeline must remain if he has any hope of changing the future.
But is Claudia telling the truth? In 1987, Egon realizes she’s been time traveling, and calls her “The White Devil” just before she kills him.
But Claudia insists she met herself from the future, and she’s now committed to stopping Sic Mundus. She tells Jonas he and Martha must work together to stop the world from ending.
The apocalypse is set off across three time periods: 2020, 1921, and 2052. The “God particle” is activated in both 1921 and 2052, causing a portal to open in 2020 and dark matter to form.
Charlotte, who is in the power plant in 2020, looks up and sees her daughter/mother Elisabeth through the portal in the ruined power plant in 2052. They reach out, touch, and disappear. The world explodes.
The Martha Paradox
Jonas goes to find Martha. But when he does, Adam steps out from the shadows and shoots her dead. As Jonas grieves over her body, Martha walks in.
But, it’s a different Martha — shorter hair, bangs, different clothes. When Jonas asks when she’s from, she tells him not to ask when, but “from which world?”
It seems Martha and Jonas will be working together, not just across decades, but across the universe. Fans should hope they’re still in time.
Dark Season 3 hits Netflix on June 27.