>> Part 1: illusion of sufficiency (Dark explained away)
Part 2: what does work (Deus Ex Machina)
Part 3: what doesn’t work (bootstrap paradox)

Spoilers unbounded. (spoilers may also touch other stuff, like Donnie Darko, Watchmen, Arrival…)

This is going to be hard to write, especially because I already know I’m going to be dissatisfied, since I like completeness when I write about this stuff. It’s going to be impossible to be complete here. There are too many angles, and the most interesting ones, like the general philosophical concepts that go beyond Dark itself, are giant sidetracks that would take way too much time to analyze.

I’ll start by saying that Dark is complex even if I try to summarize my personal reaction. I “casually” followed the first two seasons, but I prepared for the third, so that I had a much clearer picture about the family trees and tangle of plot. The first two seasons were still mostly straightforward to follow in their main story beats, but many nuances and minor characters got over my head. This time I did my homework. I had low expectations about the show finding an elegant conclusion, and for the most part it was WORSE than I expected. The solution itself was something I guessed right away from the beginning of this season, and simply because it’s identical to Donnie Darko (the yanking out of the problem: the moment they show Eva-Adam, and their symmetrical goals, you realize they both have to go). Nothing else, when it comes to concepts and ideas, was introduced (aside one thing, but that is very poor). The last episode itself, the one that usually needs to make an impact or at least try for a plot twist, went precisely as expected, and was very dull to watch. Probably the episode I liked the least among all three seasons.

So, the whole thing is a giant failure: it didn’t succeed to provide a logical explanation (for its plot, its concept), but at the same time it’s also not garbage. The show is a really good TV show overall. It’s well executed. And some of its ideas, like the circular structure of the family tree, and how it falls apart in the end, are really, really good. Claudia’s journey, even if for the most part not shown, is really good.

…But, despite some excellent ideas and great execution, Dark pivots entirely around a central concept, and this central concept is fatally flawed. It completely collapses on itself. It’s not just a plot hole one can decide to ignore… It’s the whole framework, the whole structure that sustains Dark as a concept. And it’s a train wreck.

This adds another dimension: for most viewers the finale and overall explanation is going to work. From what I expect, and what I’ve seen, most people embrace the logic behind that finale, and many of them even think it’s a great one, even a PERFECT one. Saying that Dark succeeded where Lost failed (excuse me: DARK and LOST, because ambition is better represented by caps lock). I can see why. Dark gives the illusion of complexity, of deep philosophy for someone who never read actual philosophy, science for someone who doesn’t know how science works.

Dark is “sufficiently” complex to satisfy. Made for an impressionable audience, but in the end no more than pure illusion of depth and meaningfulness. A well made fraud. LOST, despite its many flaws, contains a lot more earnest values, and for me stays on a wholly different level than Dark (and not really comparable as productions, anyway).

A bit like its own conclusion, Dark has that fatal flaw that, when you pull that one string, it unravels everything. And nothing remains.

… but it’s still a great show. One whose concepts, quality of philosophy and science is really bad. But we’ve also seen what happens. The fatal flaw of Dark is also the one shared with Arrival and Watchmen, and these two, even more than Dark receive critical acclaim. (while Arrival is indefensible, Watchmen has a lot more than that concept, so Watchmen’s quality and reputation don’t depend on its concept of time travel)

Since I want to keep this post at a mostly sane length, I’m going to write about only three aspects, but they will touch every most important point.

The good stuff:
Circular family tree, and its unraveling
Claudia, as a logical and functioning Deus Ex Machina

The bad stuff:
Bootstrap Paradoxes galore

The good things outnumber the bad things two to one, if I went in detail to list everything, the good things would hugely outnumber the bad things. So is this good? Nope, because as I said, all the good things “hang” from the single bad one. Everything falls off after that central point fails.

What’s more important to understand is that the writers of Dark didn’t just fail to provide a good “solution” for the Bootstrap Paradox, that then I might have judged as too weak or unsatisfying. They instead decided that the Bootstrap Paradox DOESN’T NEED A SOLUTION. The paradox “just exists.”

One might think: okay, it’s science fiction, time travel doesn’t exist either. This is just a fictional concept where both time travel and Bootstrap Paradoxes exist, at the very foundation of that fictional make-believe. You either accept it for what it is, or you entirely reject, and argue endlessly about, science fiction in general…

The real problem is instead a different one. Once you set up those rules so that the Bootstrap Paradox exists, and doesn’t need a logical explanation, using those same rules in its premise (ironically) everything else ALSO unravels. It’s not simply to accept/refuse the paradox, but that if you accept the paradox also everything outside of it ceases to exist. It’s a black hole, a thing that self-destroys.

So again, it’s not just about accepting its existence, but the fact that its existence causes the collapse of everything around it. Ironically, again, as a perfect metaphor of Dark: an impossible thing that leads to its own ERASURE.

But while on the fictional level the erasure happens in the story, and the finale we see. The Bootstrap Paradox instead erases Dark at its meta-level. As a product that tries to be coherent, and fails. It erases it outside the fiction because it doesn’t work. A thing that wants to exist, but it doesn’t because it’s a giant misunderstanding, clumsy philosophy and even worse “science.”

Dark is an impossible story. One that shouldn’t exist, as long we care for logic and coherence. A story killed by its own ambition. A recursive loop of NIHILISM, where what is created destroys the possibility of its existence. A BOOTSTRAP PARADOX.

(and yet, we know what paradoxical objects really are: the product of misunderstanding. Nothing so fascinating.)

This was my overall “take” about the show in general and its concepts. Now I’ll go more in detail about the three points listed above.

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  1. […] Part 1: illusion of sufficiency (Dark explained away) Part 2: what does work (Deus Ex Machina) Part 3: what doesn’t work (bootstrap paradox) […]

  2. […] Part 1: illusion of sufficiency (Dark explained away) Part 2: what does work (Deus Ex Machina) Part 3: what doesn’t work (bootstrap paradox) […]

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