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Twin Peaks: Part 12 (2017)
Slow in a not so good way
This was the first episode where I found myself getting bored. Twin Peaks the Return has always been slow, but this was slow not in an atmospheric or a bizarre or in an intriguing way but in a tedious way. I'm still giving it a decent rating, because I trust that Lynch is building up to something, but seriously hope the next episode isn't like this. Don't mind slowness, but not unnecessary slowness like there was here.
Twin Peaks: Part 7 (2017)
A man sweeping the floor
There's a fair amount of plot progression in this episode, but a lot of it is characters slowly finding out things we already know - like that the Cooper in prison probably isn't the real Cooper. That means that the story at points feels like it moves a bit too slowly, as we already know the answers to some of the questions they're investigating. There are still some interesting discoveries, like the pages that reveal communication with Laura Palmer and tie into FWWM. Andy's investigation also brings back an atmosphere similar to the old Twin Peaks.
Diane is one of the most entertaining parts of the episode, just because her endless meanness is not what we would have expected from the Diane Cooper was talking to 25 years ago. I guess the Diane we see now reflects the darker, less friendly change of tone that has happened in this season.
Compared to some of the other episodes, this level is less relentless with the weirdness, although there is a floor sweeping scene that lasts a couple of minutes. With scenes like this, it's hard to know if Lynch is playing with the audience or what.
Perhaps the best Ukrainian-language film ever made
Out of each of Ilyenko's first three feature films, The White Bird Marked with Black is the most accessible. It finds a middle ground between A Spring for the Thirsty's stark minimalism and Eve of Ivan Kupalo's surreal maximalism. This middle ground shows an Ilyenko who got his craziest experiments out of the way, brilliant though they were, and is more interested now in producing a more conventional narrative. Perhaps Soviet censorship also had to do with the more conventional narrative; the previous films were big enough risks that resulted in censorship so it'd be understandable to want a bit of a break. The worldview of the film is less at odds with the Soviet line, although this may reflect Ilyenko's thinking rather than Soviet pressure: sometimes to survive, a people has to adapt, however painful the adaptation may be.
Although it has a more conventionally told narrative than Ilyenko's other films, it's not an easy film per se and watching it benefits from at least a bit of rough knowledge of the time period it's set in. Showing the effects of war on the peasant population, it focusses on a group of brothers and a few other characters, showing how their reactions to the constant territorial change differs. In one amusing scene, the father explains why he has so many different clocks: one for the time zone of each of the countries that take over the territory, so that he doesn't have to keep changing the time when a different empire takes over.
Although The White Bird Marked With Black is not directed in such an unconventional way as his previous two films are, Ilyenko maintains his good eye for colour. The composition of most of the shots is simply stunning. Even the indoor scenes are beautifully presented. Camera movement also makes some scenes very fluid. The camera is positioned on the end of fast-moving rafts and during dance scenes it gracefully spins around the dancers, mimicking their movements.
This is a complex film, and beneath the surface there is a wealth of themes, exploring the preservation national identity, futile resistance and adaptation. It's rich in meaning. The overall intention behind this film is more nuanced than Ilyenko's previous work. Just as Ilyenko no doubt had to make difficult choices to get it passed by censors, a people must sometimes make difficult choices in order to survive.
So much more going on beneath the surface
A fantastic premiere. It manages to introduce and develop its characters and plot to such a great extent, which is an impressive feat for a 40-minute premiere featuring several deep characters.
The very first scene is one that you remember for a long time even after the series' end. It ensures that, from the first moment, you know this isn't an ordinary crime procedural. The intense, dischordant music starts at once and our first sight of the protagonist is of him experiencing his perfect empathy. The weirdness of blood travelling in reverse, Will walking backwards from the house, making all the police around him go away in his mind, seeing the house as it was before the murder, and killing the victims in his mind. It immediately lets you know: this is not your standard network fare.
Will's unique mind is a fascinating focus here, and how various characters use it. It's wrong to say that Jack doesn't care about Will's state of mind, but he definitely sees things in a more utilitarian way than Alana Bloom. If Will's fragile state of mind is put at risk in catching the killer before he kills anyone else, then so be it. Hannibal's relationship with Will is the most fascinating part. On the surface, the most obvious reason why Hannibal is eager to become Will's psychiatrist is so he can manipulate him away from any evidence pointing towards him. But of course it goes far deeper than that. He is interested in Will's empathy, as put simply it means he can see things the way Hannibal does. Will's empathy is also a source of humour at times, when he almost acts like he *is* the killer, even getting passionate about the fact that the killer wants his victims to suffer as little as possible.
Atmosphere is set perfectly. The scene in which Will realises that Abigail is still in her room is incredibly creepy, from the realisation that she is there to the sight of her body to the moment of brutal intensity when he imagines strangling her. Will's surreal visions are also effective.
Hannibal's desires with key role are a key factor in some of the plot twists. We have Will denying he is anything alike Hannibal but Hannibal saying they are very much alike. A similarity is definitely reflected in the final shot: they both care deeply about Abigail. Hannibal already intervening in ways that don't have a simple explanation. Killing the girl in such a savage way and leaving her body in plain sight was his first true assessment of Will. How would he react? But I guess it was also an attempt to influence Will, to use his perfect empathy to show him the attractiveness of killing. To show him how killing can be elevated to be a form of art. His phone call to Garret Jacob Hobbs is an even more complex intervention. Did it have something to do with where he wanted Abigail? Or Will? Or both? He definitely wanted Will in the line of fire, to experience violence firsthand. That much is obvious by how he lays back and lets Will walk into the danger. The climactic scene is intense and almost hyper realistic, Hugh Dancy wonderfully acting Will's shock.
This premiere incredibly manages to both have a fantastic "killer-of-the-episode" as well as convincingly introduce Hannibal as the main antagonist of the series. Both he and Garrett Jacob Hobbs are fascinating characters explored to much depth.
Twin Peaks: Part 6 (2017)
Funny, cute, tender, shocking
Often with Lynch you just have to kind of go with it and this is definitely one of those episodes. It loiters even more than usual between silly and shocking, funny and sad.
This is the first episode where a score plays more of a role instead of just silence, such as in the first scene where a disoriented Dale Cooper is found by police and delivered home. It's sweet afterwards when he sits down by Sonny Jim, offering him a crisp and playing with the bedroom light. It's interesting that when he seems most human, most connected with the world around him, is when he's with a child. And then, Cooper starts working on the case files... and only David Lynch (helped along by the atmospheric score) could create such a mesmirising scene out of this.
Meanwhile a drug trafficking scene seems almost normal, although Red's unpredictability makes it pretty intense. But then he flips a coin, and it somehow manages to land in Richard Horne's mouth as well as in Red's hand.
I think the thing that makes this episode what it is is the part following Carl Rodd. It's so separate from the rest of the story that it could easily have been a short film, yet in the space of a few minutes it put me through several strong emotions. At first, it's confusion as to why Lynch has seemingly randomly decided to focus on Carl Rodd, Mickey and Bill and then cut away to the cafe and to Richard Horne madly driving his truck. Then, in a beautiful scene you see Carl Rodd finding beauty around him, in nature and in a mother playing with her child. And then, all the things introduced in these few scenes come together. When it cuts to Horne again you can start to see how it's going to end up, a slow motion car crash with all the pieces painstakingly laid out: the speeding driver and the boy crossing the road. In a few seconds, it went from beautiful to gut-wrenching. It ends up strangely tender, with Carl Rodd being the only person to go and comfort the mother. This whole part was so out of the blue coming halfway through the episode, and it felt so real, with the emotion heightened by the score. Everything in it is purposeful and neatly set up and I think it exemplifies Lynch's ability to introduce several seemingly unrelated threads and bring them together perfectly. It's why I have faith that everything we see in this season has purpose, even if it isn't always immediately apparent.
As well as the emotional, there is also the bewildering. The Spike's killings seem to come out of nowhere thematically, and it's hard to see exactly how he ties into the main plot for now, although I expect it'll be something to do with Dougie Jones/Dale Cooper.
Twin Peaks: Part 5 (2017)
Gripping, despite its slow pace
Part 5 continues the slow trickle of a pace, without giving a mere sign of the direction the story is headed. The part introducing us to Lorraine and taking the story to a strange device in Argentina is pretty indecipherable for me, but even that is fascinating just for that reason.
Cooper's doppelganger is in prison, and it's a brilliantly executed scene in which he looks in a mirror while flashing back to the time he looked in the mirror 25 years ago. BOB is still there.
The most powerful parts of the episode involve Cooper resuming Dougie's life. I think the most entertaining thing about this all is the way, despite the fact he's clearly having problems, people are either too busy or preoccupied with themselves, or seek to use him. Cooper experiencing the modern world almost for the first time again also allows us to see the workplace with fresh eyes. Cooper's experiences also lead to quirky and memorable moments, whether it's the awkward way he stands in a lift or the way the smell of coffee awakens him from his stupor. And that he almost says "damn good coffee", but not quite.
We get a check-in at the Double R Diner and while the story of a girl being lent money by her mum which she wastes with her drug-addicted boyfriend is a surprisingly typical thing to see in Twin Peaks, but there's something about the way it's executed, with the long close-up of Becky's face, that still makes it a memorable scene. Plus, Becky's going through dark, dangerous pleasures is almost like Laura Palmer repeating itself again.
We finally learn what Jacoby was saving those golden shovels for. I love this scene. It starts out as a typical satire of the libertarian conspiracy theorist nutcase radio hosts but turns into a... golden shovel advert. There's something very charming about that.
Ambavi Suramis tsikhitsa (1985)
Magical Georgian tale
It's hard to say which one is more visually impressive, this or Colour of Pomegranates. Like Colour, every frame of Suram Fortress is a work of art. It's hard to even find words to convey the mastery of what Parajanov does, but one of the many things that some of his unmoving shots incorporate is movement. Specifically: graceful, flowing movement. The movement of blade of grass as a man pours a bucket of eggs. The movement of blue ribbons like flowing water. The movement of sheep in the background as two dancers leap in the foreground.
The other thing, like in his two previous films, that he uses wonderfully is colour. Humans, animals and objects are used for the visual aspect they add to the scene and are placed in ways that are pleasing to the eye. All this is done in ways that display elements of Georgian culture. There is dancing, there are flamboyant clothes.
The clearer narrative (although still not that clear!) of this film compared to Colour leads to a genuinely quite stirring final act in which the prince chooses to sacrifice himself so the fortress can be built and the invaders stopped. It draws on the importance of belonging to a 'people', a group wider than yourself, but doing so by individual choice, as opposed to the lack of choice in being a serf.
Parajanov gives screen time to the Muslim invaders that are the enemies of the Christians as well as to the culture of the native Christians. There is no strong moral condemnation, just an equal fascination with their culture. What makes the world culturally rich is the breathtaking variety of cultures, each with its own customs and traditions that are precious. This is why there is much more focus on the Muslims' culture than on presenting them as enemies, especially when all civilisations have done evil at one time or another. Indeed, it is Osman's masters in Christian Georgia that display the most evil acts we see in the film. One of the most visually stunning but harrowing scenes is him dragging his mother's body.
This film, like the one before, has an almost mystic quality that makes it feel like more than just history and culture. Then again, that speaks to how otherworldly Eastern Orthodox Christian culture can seem to those used to Western Christianity.
Twin Peaks: Part 4 (2017)
...Brings Back Some Memories
I didn't warm to this one as much as I did to the previous episodes, but there is still a great amount of enticing scenes. Cooper re-experiencing the world continues to be a delight. The casino scene is excellent, though not as much as the casino scene in Part 3. The reaction of Dougie's wife before and after she sees the money is priceless.
The other main event of note is Gordon Cole meeting Cooper's doppelganger - or who he thinks is Cooper - in prison. It's hard to see why the doppelganger suddenly has trouble interacting with humans, but his difficulty is strikingly similar to the difficulty of Cooper's.
This episode's bizarreness comes not from supernatural imagery but from the characters. The return of Wally, a character we hadn't even heard of until now, is the most obvious example. But like a lot of Lynch's weirdness, the weirdness works because it's playing off something; it's not just random. There's probably loads that could be analysed about this scene but the main reason it works is in the way that it satirises the over-philosophising of bikers in movies, and parents' pride.
The season's first use of Laura Palmer's theme is around the middle of this episode. While it thematically makes sense, it feels more like a play on nostalgia, rather than nostalgia itself. Bobby tears up, but, and maybw this was just me, I felt strangely cold. I had gotten so used to silence that the inclusion of the music threw me off-guard. The inclusion of the track doesn't instantly make the scene like the traditional atmospheric scenes that used the track in the old Twin Peaks. That's party because there's less of a narrative leading up to it. If anything, it makes it feel like it's be impossible to truly capture that atmosphere again. Things have changed. The world is bigger. The characters are more spread out; it's not such a close-knit community anymore.
Twin Peaks: Part 3 (2017)
The pure heroin vision of David Lynch? You bet
This is a difficult episode to review. At its best, it's not only even better than the previous two parts but better than anything that has come out of Twin Peaks so far. But it's pretty iffy when it comes to the effects. I know I'll get a lot of diehard fans reading this and saying that's the point, so I stress that throughout Twin Peaks David Lynch is usually great at striking the right balance where the effects look unreal enough to add to the surreality but not so much that they detract from the experience. Here, some of the effects were so bad that, instead of adding to the surreality, they broke the immersion. It's not a game changer, it doesn't ruin the episode or anything - but the campness of some of the effects could have been held back a little. The space stuff I didn't have a problem with; it was more the effects that came about halfway through the episode that easily looked like they had been quickly added on by a computer. Again, I stress, I'm not criticising Lynch for using these kinds of effects in most of his work and I'm not moronic enough to think they aren't purposefully cheap-looking. I just thought he got the balance a bit wrong here. I also wasn't a fan of the chocolate bunny scene. It felt like a poor imitation of the camp charm Twin Peaks usually nails in these sorts of scenes. These two things for me drag this episode down even though otherwise it's superior.
I don't want to talk about my complaints anymore though because this episode is otherwise fantastic. Hopefully this is the one where the detractors who complained The Return was too indiscernible switched off and stopped complaining as they realised it wasn't made with them in mind. Despite being the most out there, this episode also had the clearest and most self-contained plot, mostly concerning Cooper's attempt to escape the Lodge and his doppelganger's attempt to avoid going inside it. This allowed it to focus on surreal moment after surreal moment, and despite my complaints earlier, most of them worked.
From the first moment, where Cooper lands on a building overlooking an infinite sea, the fascination builds. Encountering an eyeless woman who speaks in coughs is par for the course by now but the strange way time flows in this scene adds another dimension. It's probably a bad guess but I'd wager this has something to do with the way people speak in the Red Room. Maybe Cooper is experiencing time the same way they do here?
Cooper's return to our world is reliably bizarre. The build-up to it is really nice interspersing Cooper with his doppelganger losing control of himself as the pull of the Red Room draws him. It's kind of unsettling how it now appears the Lodge is everywhere, and there's nothing he can do to stop it pulling him in.
Unless I've got the wrong end of the stick I take it the assassination attempt (hilariously unwittingly dodged by Cooper) was supposed to get Cooper to go back to the Lodge so his doppelganger could stay in the world outside the Lodge. Cooper experiencing the world for the first time in 25 years leads to some offbeat funny moments, my favourite being the awkwardly long take of him working out how to get through revolving doors.
The scene that by far stands out the most is the casino scene. It's given enough time to truly breathe, turning something that would be just a couple of minutes in any other series into a much longer scene. In doing so it allows the slow buildup to make it that much more impactful. The way Cooper's calls for help are ignored and the casino shamelessly serves him like any another customer feels like a satire of the way casinos exploit addicts and people in need of help. The way the whole scene plays out is pure Lynch genius.
I love the fact that Lynch intersperses all this weirdness with a few minutes of Jacoby spraypainting his shovels. There's something fascinating about the contraption he invented in order to spraypaint these shovels. And I don't know why, but there's something engrossing about focussing on something so mundane.
Twin Peaks: Part 2 (2017)
Surprising deaths, weird happenings and tearful reintroductions
Wow, only the second episode and we're already treated to extensive weirdness at the Lodge. The One-armed Man returns as does Laura Palmer (with the creepy line 'sometimes my arms bend back'). There are some incredibly strange moments here. Well, the whole thing is strange but even among that there are moments that stand out. Laura is whisked away. The red curtains disappear, revealing a pale horse resembling the one that appeared in FWWM. That's before we even get to the arm, which is now a tree that resembles a neuron. The big wow moment of the episode is when, in an incredibly surreal moment Cooper escapes the Red Room, flying through space to land in the glass box from the premiere episode. He floats while the cameras watch him, and the box inexplicably changes in size randomly. An epic connector to events of the previous episode that reveals the glass box was seemingly built in order to somehow communicate with the world of the Black Lodge.
Outside the Lodge, the focus is on how Cooper's doppelganger is getting on, and it does shed a bit more light on the story. It is also a tad less weird than the Black Lodge happenings, although it has some strange moments like Cooper's doppelganger massaging Jack's cheeks. The scene leading to Darya's death is protracted, ramping up the tension slowly like the glass box did in the premiere episode. Seems Real Cooper wants to get his doppelganger back into the Lodge so he can get out, but the doppelganger knows a way to thwart this plan. We also now know there are people in the physical world who want him dead.
Not all the stuff here works as well as the Red Room bizarreness. The introduction of two new characters in Vegas probably should have been saved for another episode where something interesting would actually arise from their introduction. David Lynch sees The Return as one long film, but that doesn't change the fact that it's in episode format.
Before the episode ends we get reacquainted with Shelly and James in a tearful scene. For those who say the new season is too cold... undoubtedly it has less warmth than the original, although I'd argue that's no bad thing. But there are still scenes like this, absolutely magical.
Twin Peaks: Part 1 (2017)
This return of Twin Peaks could easily put a lot of people off. It's not the same Twin Peaks as the old one. It's more obtuse, weirder and a significant portion of it isn't set at Twin Peaks. And it doesn't have much in the way of a soundtrack, at least so far. Yet there is something of the spirit of Twin Peaks in it. This is Lynch when not held back by network TV. Part 1 introduces a whole lot of new characters, locations and questions, questions which knowing Lynch will only be partly answered by the end or not answered at all. And that's fine. This is something that you have to let wash over you, and when you do, there's a lot of wonder to be found.
Lynch has a way of making even mundane things intriguing. We're introduced to a guy in New York City whose job is watching a box. The slow way Lynch shows his routine could have been boring, but it's actually kind of absorbing. There's something about the dialogue and interactions between this worker and the girl who likes him that is just 'off' enough to be reminiscent of the awkward dialogue you'd find in the original Twin Peaks. But slowly, tension builds, culminating in a rather strangely shot sex scene and a pretty intense, horrific moment that reminds us you never know what to expect with Lynch.
Lynch's way of making common conversations bizarre is at its best with the lady who phones the police because of a bad smell coming from a hotel room. This plot in itself is another one set away from Twin Peaks, so I wonder how it'll be connected. The crime scene is very gory and further than I'd expected to see in this R-rated vision of Twin Peaks. The arrest of Macklay and his questioning are beautifully strange. His wife seems more concerned about how it will affect dinner with some guests than whether he might end up in jail, and Macklay seems confused about what he did. His confusion during the questioning is well acted and his realisation that he has some time unaccounted for. It seems he didn't remember what he had done until that moment, after which he was hiding something. So what made him kill Ruth Davenport and then forget about it? Something that has to do with Twin Peaks, I'll bet.
We get some weirdness in the Twin Peaks area too, where someone who looks like Cooper but clearly isn't gets up to some very strange business. I don't even know how to describe this scene because I don't know what's going on in it, but it involves him staring at some... strange people. Not that's he's not strange himself.
There's plenty else to like too, including the return of memorable characters from Twin Peaks, notably Ben Horn, Adam, Lucy and the Log Lady (with another mysterious message, of course). From this first episode it's already obvious that this season is even weirder, even more experimental, and possibly even more frustrating than the first two. And I'm down with that.
Dark: Endings and Beginnings (2019)
I understood what was going on, until this episode...
This episode is so full to the brim with revelations, shocking moments and utter confusion that even some scenes that you'd usually see as the 'big moment' of any other TV show's season finale are buried under wealth of other crazy stuff going on. And that's meant as a compliment. The reveal that someone is her own daughter's daughter, a pretty crazy reveal, is, amazingly, not even one of the episode's biggest moments.
To start with, Jonas is trying to break the cycle of time again, but it's not going to work. Jonas says that a small thing can be altered. But we know at this point that you can't change the course of time. Either Dark is going against its own philosophy, or Jonas is wrong. If he's wrong, he could be lying or genuinely still deluded enough to think it's possible to change events.
I think it's really true that he still doesn't fully grasp that history can't be changed, because Stranger Jonas is still trying to save Martha from the apocalypse even though it's a worthless endeavour. And in a wonderful exchange with Young Noah, we see that Jonas doesn't grasp, or doesn't want to believe, that he will definitely become Adam. As for the letter Noah gives Jonas, that holds the hope that Martha will live... it could be forged, or it could be the Martha from the parallel universe who signed it.
Noah's death is a pretty unexpected moment, but the question of what was in those pages is a tantalizing one that goes unanswered. Martha's death is a real shock though. The moment that changes everything, though, is the arrival of Martha from a parallel universe. God knows where that will lead us.
The climax of the episode is so intense it's unreal. It involves the coming together of so many amazing plotlines, all with a foreboding, atmospheric song.
Dark: The White Devil (2019)
Just incredible. Every plotline needs to a major moment here.
Claudia's tragic arc hurts the most. It's a brutal turning point in her life, the moment when she decides to make the hardest sacrifice. The way it all comes together is magic. I was anticipating Egon's inevitable death, and by this point I realised Claudia was going to cause it in some way, but I didn't think that she was going to do it on purpose. The moment when Egon says he's going to investigate the power plant, that's when you know what's going to happen. It's brutal.
The other brutal moment is Hannah's callous decision to leave Ulrich. The first time that Ulrich really needs her. The first time she can feel wanted and deny that want. Of course, it makes perfect sense for her character, but it just adds even more tragedy to Ulrich's already unfortunate end.
And Jonas leading Claudia to wherever she needs to be is yet another bootstrap paradox among many in this season. She told him to teach her earlier self what she needs to do.
Dark: An Endless Cycle (2019)
The most focussed episode of the season. Every scene has meaning in this exploration of Jonas's quest to stop his father committing suicide, as well as catching up on when so many of the characters in June 2019 were unaware of what was going to happen. It's a masterclass in the slow building of tension. Seeing them when they're so happy and innocent just drives home the cruel inevitability of everything that happens to them. Simple things like Younger Martha and Jonas smiling at each other is heartbreaking.
One of the unforgettable moments is Older Jonas turning up at the beach just after the younger one leaves, to tell Martha they're a perfect match. It's amazing how this ties all the way back to what Martha said in Season 1, about what Jonas said by the beach.
Of course, the huge moment comes about halfway through. It's something we could have seen coming by now, but a gut punch all the same. It was kind of obvious Adam was tricking Jonas in some way by sending him to stop his father killing himself, because we know the course of time can't be changed. But I had no idea that Claudia would want to prevent him killing himself too. If she's fighting Adam, wouldn't she want Jonas to die? And when Claudia says she's seen the world without Jonas... does that mean there are parallel worlds?
Dark: Lost and Found (2019)
Lost and Found
This is kind of a middling episode in Dark. Still damn good, but taking its time a little more than I would like. Much screen time is spent with characters who are discovering time travel: their reactions, not believing it at first but succumbing when it becomes undeniable. This process is wearying to see yet again after seeing it in other characters already this season. It's a necessary part of the plot, but takes too long to get to the point in my opinion.
Claudia's storyline continues to be a delight, the future again influencing the past when she decides to spend more time with her father, knowing his death date. In her interactions with him she has problems showing her full emotions, it's sad.
Ulrich's development in this episode is excellent, and incredibly sad at points. The scene where Mikkel recognises him as his father is so tender. Yet when he is ripped away from his son by the police, Mikkel's reaction shows he feels sorry for him, but his place is now here in 1986. Heartbreaking to see this is how Ulrich's story ends.
As for Noah's claim to Charlotte that he is going against Adam... I know I shouldn't believe it, but I kind of do. After all, we saw his reaction to seeing the pages in the book that were hidden from him. And I don't see why he would benefit from lying to Charlotte about his intentions when she hasn't even seen him for ages until now.
The plan Adam has for Jonas, to stop the beginning by stopping his dad taking his own life, frankly doesn't make sense. We have already seen his father's death and everything that led to, and the show's philosophy is that everything that happens is pre-determined, it can't be changed. So either Dark has a huge spanner to throw in the works, or Adam is lying.
Dark: The Travelers (2019)
Just... Wow. I haven't been so gob-smacked by a twist in a long, long time. It genuinely made my jaw drop for half a minute. Absolutely shocking, and it changes everything. The way it's revealed, with Adam showing his neck, shows Dark knows how to handle these moment with gravitas.
Apart from THAT ending, there's plenty of other excellent plot development. I love the scene in which Jonas arrives in 1921: the way it's shot and the creepy soundtrack.
It seems like all the characters are moving towards big moments now. More and more people are finding out about the things that are going on in Winden. Claudia finding out about her past the way she does and I loved the way she taps the touch screen really hard because that's totally how people who aren't familiar with touch screens try to operate them.
Another highlight is Katerina's reaction to being told that time travel is responsible for what's been going on. She just laughs, doesn't believe it. It's a totally natural reaction that reminds you just how crazy Dark's story is. Dark takes its plot very seriously, intricately weaving all the connections, but a moment like this is a hilarious moment of self-awareness at just how brilliantly barmy the plot actually is. I also found it really emotional when Katerina goes to her school, finds Mikkel in the records, and tears up looking at his photo. It's a beautiful, human scene.
Overall, an amazing masterwork. Beautiful cinematography and an amazing, atmospheric final scene that I didn't see coming.
Dark: Alpha and Omega (2017)
Incredible episode that poses many questions
The second half of Season 1 got really good but this episode takes the cake, raising tension to the highest level from the start and not letting go until the end.
Right off the bat it opens with a fantastic scene when we see how Mads actually arrived in 2019. Through a portal, not a cave. And then, in a double whammy of a shocker, we see Claudia arrive. The whole scene makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and it's only the first scene of the episode. And for a show that hasn't always been the best in its characterisation, the portrayal of Mads' father grieving over the body while not understanding what's going on is brilliant.
Some great lines too from Jonas at just how strange the effects of time travel can be. I mean, it's messed up and funny at the same time.
There are so many weird twists. Ulrich's arrest in 1953 ironically is what leads Charlotte Doppler to discover that he went into the past, through his mug shot! A phone from the future is what allows Taunhaus to activate the time device. And Old Helge tries to stop his past self, even sacrificing his life in an attempt to kill him. But of course, the show's solution to the grandfather paradox is at play here, and Old Helge's attempt was doomed from the start: if he had killed his earlier self, he would never grow up to make killing himself possible. We get philosophical too, with Taunhaus discussing whether all the decisions we make are just a result of causal links that started with the Big Bang. When you consider the story of this episode, even all of Dark, in that light, you only get more from it.
And then there is Jonas's capture, which leads to him becoming the next victim of Noah's time machine. Whether or not you predicted the reveal that the Stranger is Jonas, it's amazingly executed with him being unable to let his past self out as he wouldn't become what he is now. And if that wasn't enough then there is Noah's reveal that in attempting to destroy the wormhole Older Jonas in fact creates it as well. Did Claudia lie to him about that? I don't believe Noah's claim that he is in the light and she is in the shadow but I oddly do believe him that Claudia lied to Jonas about the true effects of destroying the wormhole. And when Noah calls his opponents 'truly inhumane'... he is evil, but it does make you wonder whether there is a grain of truth in what he says about Claudia's side.
The detonation of the device for closing the wormhole leads to one of the most effective scenes of the whole season, a well-shot, well-scored collage of most of the characters as we ponder what the effects will be. But in case this episode hadn't given enough twists and turns, we see the wormhole transport both Young Helge and Young Jonas 33 years into the future. Meaning the detonation is responsible for Helge meeting Noah in the first place! Just when you thought this show couldn't get more incredible. Oh, and Jonas is in 2052. There's that too.
In short, as long as you don't expect this episode to answer all of your questions, it's an incredible ride that doesn't let up at any point.Some questions answered, others posed...
Every time you think you know what's happening, Dark becomes more confusing
This episode is full of unexpected moments.
First of all, there's Helge's return to his time. Noah's time machine has been refined and actually works now, covering the whole body instead of just the head. Helge isn't alright when he returns though, he's clearly been affected by Ulrich's 'killing' him or travelling through time. Noah's presence here is creepy, Helge only speaking when he gives him a Bible to read from.
In a big twist, we see that Agnes Nielsen is involved in time travel as well. Turns out Noah is her brother! And Claudia is using her to give something to her younger self. Not only that, but she knows of her affair with her mother. And Agnes's betrayal of Claudia is even more confusing, revealing she was once part of Sic Mundus and wants to be again. Claudia's death is shocking too, I didn't think it was going to happen.
The really complicated stuff comes from the bootstrap paradox surrounding Taunhaus. There's his book, which he didn't write because it made its way to him before he could. More confusing is the time machine. There was already some weird stuff going on last episode with Old Claudia burying it in 1953 so Middle-aged Claudia could find it. Even more complex now is that Taunhaus can only explain to Claudia how the machine works because her older self showed him. It's helpful at this moment to connect it to Taunhaus's interactions with Stranger Jonas. He only understood how to finish building the device in 1986 because Jonas came back with the same device, now broken, from yet another point in time, as well as the phone and cesium to activate it. I feel like there are still bits missing in the history of the machine, or I'm not putting the pieces together correctly, as I don't understand the whole of its history.
Dark: Dark Matter (2019)
Slow but satisfying setup
The pace slows down a little for the second episode, and I can't say that's a complaint. There are so many moving pieces that it's good to be viewer-friendly before launching into an incredibly complex web of connections, as the season inevitably will.
Claudia meeting Claudia. Wow, that's an amazing moment to watch. The dialogue and construction of this scene is spot-on, with Claudia realising the old woman really is her because of Gretchen her dog. Then Older Claudia tells her exactly what she will see when she looks through the window. And we also find out that Old Claudia's priorities seem to be to keep Regina alive.
Jonas's adventures in 2052 are real eerie and entertaining. They make me want to find out more about it. What are these factions that are fighting?
Mikkel meets Noah again in another eerie scene beside the cave. Noah dissuades him from going in. The most obvious reason he does this is because we know Noah has an interest in keeping the track of time the same (although I don't see why he needs to do this given that the course of time can't be 'changed'). Another reason he keeps Mikkel on course is linked to the Big Reveal at the end of Episode 4: without Mikkel, Adam would never have been born.
We also find out what became of Ulrich. He never escaped. I couldn't quite believe it, even though I'd been sort of expecting it but hoping it wouldn't be the case. It's heartbreaking seeing that he has been stranded in the past, kept in captivity for crimes he didn't commit. Killing Helge was a ruthless act, sure, but I can empathise with him here. If you (thought you) knew someone would grow up to become a child killer would you kill him? A disturbing conclusion of Dark's philosophy is that if free will is an illusion, that determinism is true, then that child was always going to grow up to be that killer. What is the morality of killing one to save more? Of course, this isn't the full reality of Ulrich's situation. We know Helge didn't take Mikkel. And if determinism is true, killing Helge would be impossible, as it turned out to be.
One thing I didn't like about the climax was the unnecessary use of split-screen. It's been used to good effect in Season 1 to helpfully show who characters would grow up to be, but here it just seemed like a gimmick. Seeing how Claudia got hold of the time travel device is a real mindscrew though. Is this another bootstrap paradox?
Dark: Everything Is Now (2017)
Now the plot has got going, Dark just keeps delivering. 'Everything is Now' is absolutely full of discoveries, developments and twists, making the web of plotlines ever more fascinating.
Noah's presence, as always, is very creepy. Here, we see him working as an actual priest. During Greta's confession, what he says is at least a little revealing about what his true intentions might be: "God sent me to you". And his words to her about God's will clearly say something about time, too: "We don't meet the people we meet by accident. We touch the lives of others and are touched ourselves, and thus God's hands guide us to our true destiny." We also find out a bit more about Noah's aim, but only a bit. How does the time machine he is trying to build, with Helge's help, differ from the wormhole that already exists? And what does he intend to use it for? And then, in a third creepy Noah scene, we find out that Bartosz is one of his minions. It seems everyone in this town has something to hide!
The aftermath of Helge's murder is truly the thing I was waiting for in this episode. How would the writers resolve the grandfather paradox that had been created? The solution? Helge is alive. It's simple yet genius. It doesn't matter that Ulrich killed him, that he wasn't breathing, that he was clearly dead. Helge can't die because he is alive in the future. It's the only possible solution to the grandfather paradox: it's a paradox, so it can't happen in the first place. No matter what, the laws governing reality will stop it from happening. The fact that Dark showed what happens when someone tries to create such a paradox (even unintentionally, as Ulrich did) is important. Most time travel shows and films never really have consistent rules that allow for a cohesive rulebook for how time travel operates in their world. For a show like Dark, which takes time travel so seriously, it's vital that it sets the rules that govern time travel in its universe - and it has.
Claudia gets a surprising amount to do in this episode too. She becomes aware there's something mysterious going on with the power plant in 1986. And there's also her losing her dog in 1953 and finding it 33 years later. But a real surprise is that she is in fact a time traveller. And that she is responsible for H.G. Taunhaus's forays into time travel. How exactly she managed to come up with the blueprints is unknown thus far. It would be interesting if she only came across the blueprints because Taunhaus invented the machine, because that would create another paradox...
As people's lives connect with each other in more and more ways, new ideas come to mind. Is one reason why Egon hates Young Ulrich so much because he reminds him of the older Ulrich he met when he was younger? And is the reason for Helge taking the courses of action that does to do with what Ulrich said to him before "killing" him? Quite possibly. Meanwhile, for Jonas, the complication that Martha is his aunt is just perfect for illustrating the weirdness of time travel. At least, unlike Game of Thrones, he doesn't choose to date her regardless.
Overall, this episode is as close to a masterpiece as Dark gets in its first season. 9.5/10
Intense, complicated and atmospheric
Dark just continues to get better. What started off as an interesting take on time travel has morphed into a tense, unpredictable ride.
The big moment the episode builds up to is set up perfectly. The episode begins with Helge in 1953, although we don't necessarily know who he is at this point. We know he's important though, as the episode centres around him. At the same time, we see Ulrich make his way to the past and meet some of his relatives. All this build-up is intercut with the Stranger and Taunhaus discussing the nature of time. Their discussion mostly serves to establish some of the central themes of Dark: time loops, and determinism vs free will. The actual scientific accuracy of 'chicken and egg' reference is obviously not important, rather it is used to explain the concept of time loops. And that theme is highly relevant to the main event of the episode. All this creates a sense of foreboding as we know something big is going to happen.
Sure enough, it does. Ulrich's murder of young Helge is stunning in the way that it does the thing time travel films seldom dare to do: it dives headfirst into the grandfather paradox. If Ulrich kills Helge, then he will never be alive in 2019 in order for Ulrich to suspect him and kill him. What makes this moment so shocking is not just that it is the brutal murder of a child; it is that this is uncharted territory with seemingly no possible solution. How will the writers get out of this one?
Dark: Crossroads (2017)
How is Helge involved in all of this?
In the first truly excellent episode of Dark, we find out a lot here. Ulrich gets close to the truth, although for the wrong reason, as we know Helge didn't actually take Mikkel. It's neat how the notes Egon took 33 years ago prove fundamental to the choices Ulrich makes in the future, which lead him to the past.
Janos interacting with the past for the first time brings up plenty of interesting scenes. Simply seeing him meet characters that will be integral to his future is fascinating. We see our first glimpse of the grandfather paradox and Dark's solution to it; if Janos were to take Mikkel back to the future he'd erase his own existence, but then he wouldn't exist in order to take Mikkel back to the future. This order of events is impossible, so the logic Dark uses to get round them is just that: these events would be impossible, so they can't happen. In this case, the Stranger (future Jonas) comes back to stop Jonas from doing making them happen. It might seem a bit of a cheat, but it's the most logical solution to the paradox: the paradox can't actually happen in the first place. No matter what, something will always stop it from happening. If it wasn't future Jonas, it wouldn't have been something or someone else.
We get plenty of teases at the larger mysteries throughout, mainly about Noah. At the end we see apparently younger Noah in 1953. The first sign of a third time period.
Dark: Sic Mundus Creatus Est (2017)
It's the most impressive episode yet, not necessarily in how much it develops the plot, as there isn't a huge amount of unexpected things happening. But it is impressive in how it builds tension and hints at what is to come.
First, the play. That whole scene is chilling the way other events are interspersed with Martha's performance. But the play clearly also means something integral to the show. It's hard to work out at this point exactly what all of the symbolism means. Perhaps the Theseus and Minotaur myth is somehow represented by the characters in this show? At least it seems obvious what the minotaur's maze represents: time. After all, what Dark has been trying to impress on us is the idea that time is not linear, and a maze perfectly represents that idea. What's at the centre of the maze though? Interestingly enough, the other current great sci-fi mystery series, Westworld, also used a maze to explain its own central concept.
Ariadne's thread is clearly symbolised by the thread that is there for Jonas to make his way to 1986. But the point of Ariadne's thread is to stop Theseus getting lost and backtracking. Jonas does backtrack, he goes back to the future in the next episode. So what *does* the thread suggest about the nature of time in that case?
Some of the plot points in this episode sag a bit. We worked out Mads was from the past several episodes ago, so Ulrich working it out doesn't have that oomph. And it was obvious that Jonas would travel into the past at some point too, however well executed the scene is. I kind of wish his story had been moving a little faster, because he hasn't actually done that much until this episode. Jonas meeting his mother though... that is creepily weird.
A well set up reveal
Well. Whether you predicted it or not, the twist that Mikkel or Michael is a stroke of genius. It's the first real moment that tells you what sort of show Dark is. That said, the way it's executed is a tad heavy-handed for my taste. It didn't need to go into split-screen and repeatedly bash us over the head with the names Mikkel and Michael next to each other. But there's no denying it's a superbly handled twist. And the whole lead-up to the reveal id excellent as well. Hannah meeting Mikkel for the first time is a big clue.
Noah's introduction is well handled too. He's a creepy guy, who comes across as villainous before we even see him do anything villainous. His mere presence is something that heightens the tension. And it turns out he's been influencing events already. Unlike what I previously thought, Noah is not the Stranger. But that poses the question, who is the Stranger?
As for the rest of the episode, it veers between intriguing mystery and overserious soap. The soapy parts aren't awful, and are made interesting by the fact that we see them from two different times. But the characters involved in the soapy elements aren't deep enough to justify the amount of time that is devoted them. Dark's plot is multi-layered, but character's personalities are not so much, at least not at the moment. Sure, Jonas was hiding his treatment for PTSD. But the characterisation isn't good enough for me to care about that so deeply. It's almost like the characters are treated as puzzles in themselves by the writers, rather than as people.
Dark: Double Lives (2017)
Not enough development
This episode somewhat continues spinning the plates the series was already spinning. A lot of the mystery stuff is a repetition of mysteries we got in previous episodes, without us learning anything significant that would pose new questions. Jonas's cave investigation, Helge's utterings (only this time he also mentions Noah) and the discovery that the birds had ruptured eardrums are all not surprising at this point, nor do we learn anything from them we wouldn't have known or expected before. So the progression of the central mysteries is really too slow.
Charlotte's daughter gets some focus this episode, and it's a nice little entertaining subplot. It subverts expectations in her not getting abducted or killed, but the end result is only her getting a watch that looks like it belongs to Charlotte. Interesting, don't get me wrong, and I'm sure it'll be important somehow. But the characters haven't developed much by the end as a result, with the girl's parents first becoming distressed at her disappearance but then going back to normal when she comes home. The ending is intriguing though, with Yasin coming across someone sent by Noah.