The Netflix series ‘Dark’ builds an evocative vision of the ordinary lives of individuals who seem so different, yet are intertwined by the hand of fate to move along a predestined path. This show is based on a deterministic theory which explains the very reason things happen the way they do – as if humans are tiny fragments of a puzzle that are eventually bound to fall into their rightful place. It also raises questions about the idea of existentialism, and comments on the impermanence of human nature, as fate is treated like a ball of thread that weaves together the stories of countless individuals.
There are several scenes where one person interacts with different versions of themselves – their past or future self – a mode of introspection that often has them questioning their choices. It is a reflection of the path that each character has undertaken, a path that is irreversible and has influenced not only their present but ultimately their future. One aspect of the series is highlighted by Julian Rotter’s social learning theory which talked about two sets of persons – externals and internals. While ‘internals’ believe that they shape their own destinies, ‘externals’ believe that their actions are largely a result of forces outside their control. ‘Dark’ explores the latter in all its meaningful coincidences and entangled knots.
The connection between our past, present, and future seems inexplicably real given how one event causes the other in circular causality. The reason behind this is understood with the ‘Bootstrap Paradox’. This is a theoretical idea that any given object or piece of information gets trapped in an unending loop when sent back in time. In this scenario, there is no evidence to suggest where the information or object came from and it is believed to be self-created. For example, if Einstein’s future self told him about his theory of relativity, Einstein would have discovered it. However, if his future self hadn’t done that, no such discovery would have been made. Therefore, there is an infinite causal loop where one event causes another. In ‘Dark’ several objects and persons travel through time and are wholly responsible for the ultimate fate of their characters. Every step they take in the past, present, or future counts.
The Einstein- Rosen bridge (commonly referred to as a wormhole) theory is used to substantiate the concept of time travel in ‘Dark’. This suggests that two disparate points in time can be interlinked, allowing travel from one to another. It is much like a split in time or what is described as a ‘glitch in the matrix’, that which diminishes the boundaries between two worlds. On a similar note, this concept is connected with the idea of déjà vu, French for something ‘already seen’. There are multiple moments in the series where one action parallels another in a different world, or one person triggers feelings of familiarity long before they are known – a phenomenon we have probably all experienced at some point. Such fundamental concepts make ‘Dark’ all the more riveting and intricate in its storytelling. It makes one wonder what would become of our world if we knew all those things which seem so familiar yet uncanny. Would we change our choices if we only knew their consequence? How would it shape the world of those around us?
It seems like a lot of questions remain unanswered for a reason.