Get ‘Lost’ In Netflix’s ‘Dark’
If you found yourself in 'Lost', you’ll see the light in 'Dark'.
WandaVision held captive our collective attention while the audience insisted on creating connections and thinking up theories that weren’t really there. Game of Thrones naturally invited rampant speculation as the biggest television series on the planet that was also deeply rooted in mythology and mystery. Both attracted and grew their sizable fanbases by the intense engagement and internet sleuthing that they generated. On that front, both owe a deep debt of gratitude to Lost.
Though the intrinsically unclear nature of Lost eventually became its undoing, the show’s early prominence was directly tied to the conversation it inspired, the online fan communities it brought together, and the rabid theorization that resulted. It was the first TV child of the internet age, tapping into our newfound online connection and platforms to turn an ambitious broadcast drama into a full-fledged phenomenon. For perhaps the first time in the small screen’s history, audiences were no longer passive bystanders. Ongoing puzzles for viewers to solve brought them directly into the mix and complex character interactions served as the foundation of Lost’s success. If those are the elements you found attractive and endeared you to the island, then Netflix’s German-language science fiction series Dark is a worthy successor to the mantle.
In Dark, when two children go missing in a small German town, its sinful past is exposed along with the double lives and fractured relationships that exist among four families as they search for the kids. Like Lost, the mystery-drama series is an intricate spun web of curious characters, all of whom have a connection to the town’s troubled history—whether they know it or not (much like our bewildered island inhabitants). Dark is, first and foremost, a time-traveling mystery with deep pockets of unanswered questions driving the narrative across different points in time.
Does your head hurt yet? Dark is not for the faint of heart nor the inactive viewer. It requires yet also rewards a deep commitment from its audience, which is why it’s so perfectly suited to the most serious of nerdy TV lovers. It’s homework in your favorite subject, it’s practice for your favorite sport.
Dark forces the viewer to track multiple characters and families across various moments in time and space while inviting audiences to theorize about identities of unknown characters and the root of its supernatural fixations. It is a show that doesn’t just invite close attention—it demands it. But unlike Lost, Dark never lets its complicated and convoluted plot careen out of control.
Creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar develop a tightly woven tale of intricacy that stays well within the parameters of an endgame. It always knows what it’s building toward and where it’s going. Practically every question the audience raises over its three-season run is answered, nearly every mystery is solved. Where Lost bled pure entropy as its seasons carried on, Dark feels like controlled chaos—a masterclass in narrative structure.
There is a drawback to this manner of specific and explicit plot construction, of course. Lost’s reach may have exceeded its grasp from a storytelling standpoint, but the show managed to conclude on well-earned emotional beats for its artfully created characters. Dark is certainly no slouch in this department with leads Jonas (Louis Hofmann) and Marta (Lisa Vicari) carrying the emotional weight. Both become avatars for the show’s thematic focus on family and love. Yet there isn’t the same level of organic growth we may see from Jack, Kate, or Locke in Lost. There isn’t an opportunity for a Benjamin Linus, originally envisioned as a minor character, to emerge.
By the third season, both Jonas and Marta have reached their ceilings as characters and are more so used as functionaries of the plot, which is adhering to a strict plan and hurtling toward a pre-determined endpoint. Along the way, supporting characters that begin with immense promise also begin to fade into the background. The benefit of Lost’s shoot-from-the-hip style was its ability to continue texturing in its heroes and villains as it went.
Yet Dark remains a wonderful journey throughout time and space that challenges the form and function of small screen science-fiction. It is an immaculately realized vision that manages to meld heart-breaking plotlines, theoretical physics, and a gloomy atmospheric aesthetic that separates it from genre compatriots. It’s trippy, frustrating, fascinating, supremely intelligent, and often head-scratchingly confusing. Yet it is never unsure of what it wants to be, it is never off-crouse despite the deliberate disorientation.
If you found yourself in Lost, you’ll see the light in Dark.