Why your next Netflix box set binge should be German thriller Dark

Lead character Jonas in Netflix new show Dark. Picture: Julia Terjung/Netflix

Lead character Jonas in Netflix new show Dark. Picture: Julia Terjung/Netflix - Credit: Netflix

If you loved Stranger Things Charlotte Smith-Jarvis says you have to to watch German time-hopping thriller, Dark.

If, like me, you’ve been in post-Stranger Things mourning, having greedily absorbed series two in practically one sitting, emerging from the living room afterwards all scraggy haired and bleary-eyed, let me introduce you to the next big thing in box set binging – Dark.

You might feel like you can’t move on from Hawkins, the Upside Down and the 80s, but consider German production Dark as rehab.

Forget your re-runs of Home Alone, Elf and Miracle on 34th Street this Christmas and instead fall, like I did, down the rabbit hole into the mythical town of Wilden.

There are multiple influences at work in Baron Bo Odar and Jantje Friese’s modernday anti-fairytale. I’d say it’s part Lost, part Stranger Things, with a dusting of Stephen King’s 11.22.63 thrown in for good measure.

The most boldly obvious homage though is to the Brothers Grimm. The foreboding woods, the maleficent cave, its mouth seemingly snatching children from thin air, and the striking contrast of protagonist Jonas, in a yellow Parker visiting a hut in the middle of the woods, all speak of Little Red Riding Hood. Bo Odar himself said the setting was imperative to the storytelling and tone of Dark, the looming, impossibly tall trees giving the illusion of “jail bars”.

To describe the story of Dark would be akin to trying to unravel and simultaneously rewrap a ball of string. It is a Russian doll. A multi-faceted puzzle that will stimulate every neuron in your brain and may have you (as it did me – sadly), drawing little timelines and family trees all the way through to try and work out the connections between the characters, whose stories span between three time frames – 1953, 1986 and 2019.

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In a nutshell, Dark revolves around four secret-ridden families – the Kahnwalds, Nielsens, Dopplers and Tiedermanns.

The series opens with the death of Michael Kahnwald, who inexplicably decides to do away with himself.

As the ripples of his death continue to cripple his family’s thin emotional tripwire, flame-haired teen Erik goes missing. And the ink is barely dry on his missing posters before stony-faced cop Ulrich Nielsen’s youngest child Mikkel vanishes in the woods in a deluge of rain.

Ulrich, still reeling from the disappearance of his brother Mads in 1986, becomes obsessed with a mania that only a grieving parent can feel as he makes it his purpose to find the truth of Mikkel’s disappearance – no matter how grisly or unbelievable that journey becomes.

Meanwhile, clues about Wilden’s otherworldly happenings fall into the lap of Jonas. And what he uncovers will change the path of his life forever, shattering any illusions he has of space, time and the people around him.

There are too many twists and turns to mention, and I’m still trying to work most of them out, so you’ll just have to watch the series yourself to see the webs of deceit play out.

This is brilliant, brilliant stuff. And, like Stranger Things, the art and wardrobe departments have worked absolute magic to faithfully recreate the various time periods.

The soundtrack is spellbinding.

And, unlike Lost, the plot doesn’t feel contrived (we never did find out why the polar bears were on the island did we?), and I certainly didn’t feel cheated at the end of Dark like I did after Lost (which I wasted six years of my life watching).

While we’re on the subject of binge-watching, add Aussie drama Glitch to your list too.

I watched this preternatural series pretty well in one sitting last year and was left reeling by the cliffhanger, and even more so by the rumours that there wouldn’t be a season two. But Netflix have come up with the goodies, and I’ll be spending the pre-Christmas weekend devouring the next instalment of the show, which spins a yarn around a small Australian backwater, and a group of graveyard inhabitants from different periods who come back to life. No, they’re not zombies. It’s fab.