Lost in Winden: Dark (2017 – 2020)

I don’t like being a snob about pop culture. I don’t like pooh-poohing films or TV series, books, comics or video games, that others seem to love. I generally try to find things to appreciate in most media I consume, and if others like them but I don’t, I try to put that down to personal taste. Sometimes, however, I look at what others say about a piece of pop culture and I simply don’t get it. I cannot reconcile what they say about it with the thing itself. It’s almost as if they watched, read or played something entirely different from me.

Dark isn’t entirely like this for me. There are things I genuinely appreciated in the German mystery series. I recognise some of my own reactions in those of others, but the longer Dark went on, the less I felt I could appreciate the things it was good at or ignore what I thought was decidedly less good. Undoubtedly, the makers of Dark are skilled stylists and the series excels at mood and atmosphere, especially in its first season – but then I read articles that call Dark smart, by people who pat themselves on the shoulder for enjoying such a smart, smart series, and my eyes roll in their sockets so much that all I see is blotchy, shapeless darkness.

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Dark Town, Gloomy Times

It’s just about possible that this year’s best supernatural TV series comes from Germany. It’s called Dark, it’s available on Netflix since December 1st, so it probably won’t be on any best of lists for this year. It should be. Dark borrows from some of the most favorite horror TV series of the last two or three years; it takes what it can use from the recent Twin Peaks, Les Revenants, True Detective, Stranger Things and others, and distils those borrowed spare parts for long enough to turn into its very own material. There are two things that make it worth your while: it tones down the supernatural element and focuses on its characters enough so it doesn’t have to rely on its McGuffin too much, and it creates its own atmosphere so well that it’s easy to forgive it a few shortcomings. It’s a slow series, ten episodes of about one hour, but some scenes are almost bristling with intensity. Continue reading