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‘Dark’ on Netflix Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: “The Origin”

Hannah Kahnwald is pregnant. In two different worlds, actually.

In the alternate universe we’ve been visiting off and on throughout Dark Season 3, she’s carrying the child of Ulrich Nielsen, her cheating lover-turned-husband. In the “real” world, her situation is even more complicated. Having traveled back in time to rescue Ulrich from prison, then condemning him to it after realizing he cares more about his family than her, she has struck up an illicit relationship with police officer Egon Tiedemann. In that time and place, he’s her unborn baby’s father.

But the pregnancy ends the relationship almost instantly, the moment he has the temerity to ask if the baby is hers. She cuts things off with him—just as his wife Doris will do hours later, after an encounter with the mysterious trio of cleft-lip people, the leader of whom hints to her that her husband is cheating on her. (Not that Doris hasn’t cheated herself: She’s still in love with the missing time traveler Agnes Nielsen, Ulrich’s grandmother.)

Be that as it may. Hannah heads to one Mrs. Obendorff—ancestor of one of the missing children of Winden—for an abortion. While she waits, she meets a very young Helene Albers, mother of her rival for Ulrich’s affections, Katharina. Their brief encounter seems to change her mind regarding the abortion: She leaves the St. Christopher medal Egon gave her for Helene to find, then walks away, apparently intent on having her baby anyway.

But Hannah’s fetus is merely an appetizer for the main course.

DARK 304 KISS

After being told by her older self that only she and Jonas, a stranger from another reality, can save her world and everyone in it, the alternate version of Martha has sex with him, in the room where each of them live in their respective worlds. When her later self (the one with shorter hair) demands that her apparent boss Adam tell her the origin of the knot that binds the people of Winden across two worlds and multiple timelines, his answer is devastating: It’s growing inside her then and now.

By that point in this episode (“The Origin”), it’s not hard to guess who her baby will be: It’s the man with the cleft lip, who along with his younger and older selves has been doing everything he can to ensure that Winden’s nuclear power plant will be built and, eventually, generate the god-particle waste that will bring about the end of the world.

DARK 304 THE THREE CLEFT LIP DUDES

It goes without saying on this show that a lot more stuff happens. (“Everything happens so much,” as @Horse_ebooks once said.) In the 1950s, Claudia Tiedemann, Ines Kahnwald, and the future Jana Nielsen pore over a girlie magazine and compare notes on the male anatomy—something Claudia claims to be familiar with thanks to her houseguest turned semi-adopted sibling Tronte Nielsen, whom she winds up seducing in blunt-force teenage fashion. In the future, the adult version of alt-Martha tells her younger self and Jonas that Eva (her older self) lied when she claimed both worlds could be saved from the apocalypse—only alt-Martha’s world still has a chance, and only if Jonas commits to saving it. But the adult alt-Martha is in cahoots with the ruthless time traveler Noah, so who knows what to think of her claims?

Elsewhere (elsewhen?), the cleft-lip trio force the mayor of Winden to sign the building permit so that Bernd Doppler—father of poor Helge Doppler and wife of the cold and inscrutable Greta Doppler—can build his nuclear power plant. Their adult ringleader, when tipping off Doris Tiedemann to her husband’s infidelity (while also calling her out on her own), says words that will echo through their little family: “The ways of the heart cannot be explained. It does what it wants.”

DARK 304 SCARY TRIO AGAIN

And in the future (I think?), Agnes Nielsen hugs the mysterious, unnamed girl from the future who greeted Jonas when he first time traveled to the post-apocalypse, then prepares to enter the god-particle blob for a time-travel jaunt. The girl’s identity remains a mystery, though Hannah’s bun in the oven seems like a pretty solid candidate.

Through it all, I remained completely in thrall to Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar’s storytelling. Why wouldn’t I be? All the twisty time-travel/spacetime-continuum shit is backed up by careful character work and excellent acting. I love Sebastian Hülk’s work as the 1950s Egon Tiedemann, the way he puts his hands to his head when he learns of Hannah’s pregnancy as if to keep it from exploding. I love the white-hot chemistry between Louis Hofman and Lisa Vicari as Jonas and Martha, the kind of connection that makes you believe these two crazy kids would keep on kissing and fucking even if the world were about to end. I love the almost eerie coldness of Cordelia Wege as Greta Doppler, and the intimidating intensity of Jakob Diehl as the man with the cleft lip.

It really is a minor miracle that a show this dense and this loaded with science fictional plot devices works as a character-based drama. And vice versa, I suppose. I’m glad I get to bear witness.

DARK 304 CLEFT LIP GUY STARING AT ADAM AND EVE, LAST SHOT OF THE EPISODE

Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.

Watch Dark Season 3 Episode 4 (“The Origin”) on Netflix

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