The story picks up six months after the events of the Season 1 finale, with teenage Jonas (Louis Hofmann) still stuck in post-apocalyptic Winden in 2053, while his older self – played by Andreas Pietschmann – is back in 2020. After living in the desolate ruins of his hometown, Jonas has become a more interesting character in Season 2. He’s also far more proactive this time around, trading in his wide-eyed naivete from last season for a more formidable attitude, especially when he has to stand up against the militaristic leadership that’s taken over in the future.
Dark’s complicated, yet intriguing time-travel element continues to expand in Season 2, skipping from 2020 to 2053 to 1954 to 1921 – it’s enough to make even Doc Brown say, “Great Scott, Marty!” And while it may seem like creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese are trying to prove how clever they are, it doesn’t feel like narrative hubris that’s driving the plot – they’re just damn good storytellers. By episode 4 (this reviewer’s favorite), titled “The Travelers,” the story really starts to click with a few lightbulb moments that might make you feel like you just earned a new college degree. Similar to Mobius Entertainment’s puzzle-filled space-exploration sim, Outer Wilds, Dark doesn’t hold your hand or take your intelligence for granted. But it does reward patience.
On the villain front, Mark Waschke’s Noah is as menacing as ever. There’s a lot of philosophy-speak this season about good and evil, with some characters referring to Noah and the people he works for as evil or even the devil. Instead of presenting the show’s morality in straight black and white terms, the writers smartly imbue Noah with some much-needed nuance. Without going into too much detail, we’ll just say that his character’s progression is one of the more gripping plotlines in Season 2.
Back in 2020 Winden, the local police appoint a special task force to help find the missing kids, led by Sylvester Groth’s Clausen. Dark has never been known for its comedy, but Clausen’s subtle “what the f***k is wrong with this town” reactions throughout the season are priceless. He asks all the questions we as viewers have about the town – why does no one ever leave? Groth is the perfect fit for the role, portraying Clausen with a memorable “I’m not buying any of your bulls**t” attitude. Everybody lies in Winden, so it’s nice to finally have a character who at least appears to be honest.
Season 2 gives more of its ensemble time to shine as well. The Winden high school squad – Magnus, Martha, Franziska, and Bartosz – are more integral to the overall story this time around. Instead of just waiting for something interesting to happen, the squad decides to take matters into their own hands, setting up some compelling plotlines for the latter half of the season. It’s a big cast, but the creators do a solid job giving everyone their time to shine. Of the bunch, Moritz Jahn’s Magnus and Gina Stiebitz’s Franziska have really matured as young actors, each of them getting some dynamic scenes to showcase their respective talents.
The creators have one more season to get through before their ambitious tale comes to an end. So far, it’s been a fun ride time traveling through Winden’s chaotic history that’s all connected… Somehow?