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

Bootstrap Paradoxes

Here we are at what doesn’t work.

What doesn’t work, then? The knot.

The knot and many (all) of its facets. A good number of those are necessary parts of the plot that go deliberately unexplained. Maybe because they would be too forced and not flow well in the story, creating a too gigantic and extraneous info dump. But there’s also the feel that things were simply hand waves because the thing face-planted against its own lack of coherence. You dig deep enough and find unsolvable problems, so to avoid them, you keep digging, but horizontally. Trying to fool everyone else. Practicing distraction.

For example: who creates the golden ball, the meta-traveling device that Eva uses and eventually ends in Claudia’s hands? Who tells Eva about the loophole, or how does she find out?

The knot itself, is a gigantic bootstrap paradox. Eva’s world (that we called “Beta”) is a world without a Jonas. She invades Adam’s world (“Alpha”) to bring Jonas to Beta, create the “origin” (her son), and through the origin manipulate events in both worlds so that Alpha and Beta would be fused together in a Moebius strip, a time knot that goes across both worlds before completing one cycle (the symbol of infinite “8”).

But how can Eva know of a Jonas in a alternate world, if Jonas doesn’t exist in hers?

Things get too complicate to follow in a really large chain of circular cause and effect like the overall knot, and then think about concepts, so instead of tracking details I’ll try to take out the most simple of bootstrap paradox, and analyze it for what it is.

The simplest version I’m aware of, back in Alpha world and when we didn’t know a Beta existed, is Claudia use of her portable time travel machine to go back in time, and bury the time machine so that her younger self will be able to use it.

This is, very obviously, a bootstrap paradox, and of a very bad kind.

Question: Who gave Claudia the time machine?
Answer: Herself, she took it from the future and brought it back in the past.

The same happens to the construction itself, because Tannhauser in Alpha doesn’t create any time machine on his own. He’s handed the book he’ll write in the future, so he can read it and write it, and he’s also handed the project of the time machine, so he can study it. He’s even handed a broken one, so he can study both the real machine and the plans. Everything he does depends on the same stuff being brought back from the future.

Now lets go through another story to make things simple:

One day, at dawn, Jonas suddenly wakes up in his room. He heard some weird noises coming from downstairs. So he goes to see what’s going on, and finds a big rhino standing in the middle of his dining room. Eventually, after moments of bewilderment, someone will call the fire department and they’ll be able to take that hapless rhino out of the room and into a nearby zoo. No one will ever be able to explain how that rhino ended up in Jonas’ house, though. Especially because the rhino is big, and the door too small. In fact, the firefighters had to take down half a wall to transport the rhino outside: a mystery.

For us, though, as external “readers”, the story has indeed an explanation: Claudia was feeling like playing pranks. A few years later she goes at night into the zoo, where the rhino is kept. Then she uses her portable time machine to travel back in time, and into Jonas’ house, bringing the inculpable rhino with her…

This simple story is functionally IDENTICAL to the paradoxes that Dark creates. The problem is that they come into existence without a real motivation.

Continuing from above:
Question: How was it possible for the rhino to appear in Jonas’ house?
Answer: It was brought there by Claudia, who found it at the zoo, in the future.
Question: But then why the rhino was at the zoo?
Answer: The firefighters brought it there, after they freed it from Jonas’ house.

This is the fucking causal loop. The past has its origin in the future, that has its origin in the past.

Does it make any sense? No. Then why people watching Dark largely accept it? Because you’re hit by a storm of details, as obfuscation. You don’t see clearly the moving parts, so it sort of seems to make sense, being complex enough to give the illusion of coherence. When you strip it bare, it’s obvious, but when you dress it up and put on it a nice bow, it’s …okay.

But that’s of course not enough for me. Why doesn’t it work? Why a circular causal loop isn’t acceptable?

Its function is fine. In general we’re used to a chain of cause and effect, that’s our reality. Within the context of Dark this chain of cause-effect isn’t broken, it simply loops around, but it’s functionally correct and identical in the linear perception of time. If we use a longer loop, we have a series of events, each one caused by another before. We only find out, as a sort of deja-vu, that we continue to return to the same event if the causal chain loops. In reality, where the causal chain doesn’t loop, we still have events linked one to the other, we can backtrack the chain, and continue back and forward to infinity. In the loop, the infinity is in the motion, but from the linear point of view it functions in the exact same way.

This gives us the idea of an hypothetical object that can function. The feel of a weird object, but not an impossible one. That’s why at least some of us accept it, even if it’s a paradox. It seems weird, but not absurdly so.

Now let’s examine what doesn’t work.

As I was saying, the problem isn’t “function”, but “being.” Ontology. The nature of existence. Not a problem of how the object operates, but WHY and HOW it is there. Who, or what, put it there. It CAN be there, because its functioning is fine. But why is it specifically there?

What was hidden in the story I wrote above is its IMPLIED CONSEQUENCE. Until we have bootstrap paradoxes made of common objects like a pocket clock or a necklace, that seems all fine. But what about a fucking rhino?

What I mean is that the moment we accept the existence of “bootstrapped objects” (or people) we accept the magical appearance of ARBITRARY objects. All around us things and people can suddenly appear without cause. Because their nature of being simply requires them being recalled from the future.


Again, they function. It is fine. The question is: why this and not something else? Why Elisabeth and Charlotte, but not Georgina and Ivana? Who decides who appears and who doesn’t?

In the real world it’s A instead of B because of causality itself, but the bootstrap paradox splits function and existence. It creates objects that can function, but why, specifically, are they there? Why this and not that? why not millions of objects, small and large, all appearing without origin?

The consequence of this thesis, the possibility of this paradox, COLLAPSES REALITY. It’s a conceptual black hole that devours everything, because the nature of existence, ontology, becomes ARBITRARY. Ontology (existence) get unlinked from causality. So causality becomes wholly independent, creating objects out of nothing. Arbitrary object. WHO DECIDES (or determines) what does exist and what doesn’t?

“Hey, my name is Claudia. I kind of need a time machine, right now. Thank you. I’ll make sure to then send it back to my past to properly bootstrap its existence, don’t worry.”

This is, in a word… convenient.

And yet, because of the thousands of words I’ve written above, we know what a bootstrap paradox is. Perception. So we know WHY these impossible objects exist within Dark: they are written.

We know that in a fixed time loop change can happen only if it comes from OUTSIDE. External intervention. Bootstrapped objects can logically exist, as long SOMEONE EXTERNAL put them there. The hidden hand. The Deus Ex Machina.

Bootstrapped objects (and people) REQUIRE meta-travel, require external intervention. Something from outside, looking in. Something truly alien (foreign) to the internal dimension.

So ask yourself: who’s external and with the power of intervention, to Dark? The fucking writers of the show. (hello, it’s The OA)

A writer does exactly this. He creates characters and puts them “there.” Writing IS meta-traveling. A writer can conjure things into existence BECAUSE he’s external to the fictional dimension. External intervention.

Things are bootstrapped in Dark because they are… written. And because they are convenient in their appearance.

They can function fine, when they are there. But WHY are they there, in that specific form? For the plot. To tell a story. Because they are convenient.

This is what discloses its nature: this instance of bootstrap paradox isn’t science, it isn’t a philosophical concept, it’s instead a fictional device.

Who created Eva’s world, who told her about Jonas, why the giant family tree generated by the origin produces those specific characters but not others. The whole knot is functionally fine, but has no logical existence. No logical reason that isn’t that it’s being invented by a writer. Since we’ve seen it’s entirely “spurious” from the original world, and can be easily unraveled, it means that it doesn’t exist. IF it exists, and it has that specific shape, is just because that someone wrote it that way. A creation from nothing. Who’s responsible? The only hand in the room that thinks of being invisible: the writer!

And that’s of course not an acceptable solution. If they wanted to go to metafiction, they had to do explicitly, or use a character to produce bootstrap paradoxes because their actual origin was separated from a dimension that ceases to exist, like the finale. But the original “knot”, of Alpha and Beta, Eva’s motivations and the whole spurious family tree… so the largest construction in the show… has no foundation and is CANONICALLY flawed. They simply tell us bootstrap paradoxes are “real”, and being real make them not need rational explanation.

The origin of Adam’s world, Alpha, isn’t explained. The origin of Eva’s world isn’t explained. The origin of the knot, Alpha + Beta, even if it comes into existence all at once, isn’t explained. When they exist, fine. I can see how they function, and the way out. But how were they formed? Why they have the shape they have? Why Alpha and Beta and not a million of others, all arbitrary? Why those people, belonging to an impossible knot, why them and not someone else?

Jonas existence is fine. Mikkel travels back, marries Hannah. That works logically. Jonas doesn’t magically appear, at this level. But if you keep backtracking you see it’s the whole Ulrich family to be bootstrapped, eventually including Jonas. In the end all these things just magically appear, to give shape to a giant knot of characters and events, of Alpha fused with Beta, whose cumulative existence doesn’t make any sense. It’s just so complex that most people give up thinking about it and accept it as it is.

An illusory casual chain: you go back from one link, find another, go back again, find another… it all seems grounded just because the chain is so long you don’t immediately notice the point where it stops working. Most people won’t. Sleight of hand.

They fucked up, because they had an ambitious plan but didn’t have an equally clear vision to support it. The concept they aimed at was too high for their reach. They tried, they failed.

As I wrote in the first part, Dark still is an admirable construction, really well built, majestic even. But it’s like a tree canopy without a tree trunk below. Its central pillar isn’t simply flawed, it DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. Because they thought one was not necessary. That the tree canopy just sat there, suspended on air. Pretending “it just works.” The illusion of coherence.

The end.

After more than 8.000 words I think I’m done. I’ve left 30-40% of my notes out, there are countless other things. But still more than enough for me now. An important part that is left out is linking all these theories back to discuss again Watchmen, Arrival, and everything else (language theory, paradoxes of self-reference like Liar’s Paradox, Godel incompleteness and so on). But that also relies on notes that are months and even years old. It’s an impossibly large argument that I’ll leave for another time.

(I’m writing this after I’m done with the whole thing and now re-reading: the difference between my theory and most theories on the internet is that those theories establish that when a loophole is used two split realities are created. This for example means that the knot continues to exist, we just have two major alternate realities, one where Tannhauser’s son dies and generates the knot, one where he doesn’t and lead to the finale. But all that shit doesn’t simply vanish, it stays there in different quantum states, existing and not existing depending on who’s looking. Aside from the fact this is the product of childish interpretation of Schrodinger’s Cat, my theory instead says that when the loophole is used, the alternate dimension produced is THE ONLY ONE that exists. The reason why Beta doesn’t erase Alpha is because Eva actively knots them, so that this knot makes possible their existence as one thing, where one depends and sustains the other. Otherwise, one is created, the other goes away. That’s why, in the finale, when they create a new origin world, in my theory that world/dimension is the only one that is left in existence. Everything else is gone. Consequently, when in the origin world Tannhauser activates the machine, he erases his world and creates the knot. Then the knot is erased, and replaced by a new origin world. Every time a new world is created, the preceding one is gone. This is a more elegant solution for me, and it’s more coherent with the canon, since the canon implies Jonas and Martha are gone, not simply stuck into some separate, and silly, quantum dimension…)

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