Entertainment

Everything You Need to Remember About Netflix's 'Dark' Before Diving into Season 3

A simple guide to a not very simple show.

dark season 3 netflix
Netflix

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the first two seasons of the Netflix series Dark. Proceed with caution. You can also read our spoiler-filled Season 3 finale recap and explainer.

Dark, Netflix's German time-traveling odyssey and critically acclaimed mind-melter, is back for its third and final season on June 27. Beloved for its intricate era-spanning world and eerie brand of suspense, Dark -- co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese -- has established itself as one of the streaming service's most beloved sci-fi hits since debuting in 2017. Over two seasons, it has avoided being entangled in its own ridiculously complex narrative and exceeded expectations by delivering a show that defies the laws of nature while deconstructing our most human tendencies.

With each season, the show has pushed its way deeper down the rabbit hole, and Season 3 follows suit by going full throttle with even more mind-blowing developments. In preparation for the final season of Dark, here's a quick refresher of things that have likely slipped your memory since Season 2 landed last summer.

Time travel is much more advanced now

Time travel is arguably the most crucial narrative element of Dark, and like its characters, it has significantly developed since being introduced in Season 1. The show has gone to extreme lengths to explain such an inexplicable concept, so the notion of time-traveling is one of its milder twists. With that out of the way, Dark has established integral themes, such as the beginning and the ending coexisting as one and the town's mysterious 33-year cycle. However, Season 2 reveals that the characters are, in fact, able to travel through time outside of the 33-year cycle, which will have big implications for Season 3.

Winden's family tree has gotten… loopy

One of the hardest realizations to accept in Dark is that most of what you see happening has already happened and is going to happen again, showing how deeply time travel is embedded in the fictional town of Winden. Season 1 revealed that the existence of residents -- like Jonas, who is essentially romantically involved with his aunt since his dad is actually love interest Martha's long-missing brother Mikkel all grown up -- are the byproduct of time travel, and since many characters are in the dark (no pun intended) about what's really happening across time periods, unwitting incest is high-key a thing in Winden. Season 2 really fleshed out that concept by revealing that Charlotte's parents are Noah and her daughter Elisabeth, meaning that Elisabeth ultimately unknowingly has a baby with her grandfather. There are still holes in the various family trees, so expect similar reveals in the new episodes.

Also, Winden is perpetually screwed

The small German town faces utter destruction, over and over and over again. We see the apocalypse destroy most of Winden during the finale of Season 2, but it won’t be the last time that 2020 event unfolds. A few members of the interconnected cast of characters realize this and have resorted to time travel to fix the infinite loop of the apocalypse. The catch: not everyone is interested in stopping it.

dark season 3
Netflix

Opposing forces compete to control the timeline

That's where Sic Mundus and Claudia Tiedemann come in. Both factions claim to be the light in this effort to end the loop while demonizing the other's motives. For a while, Noah, who has been kidnapping children to test out his time machine, appears to be the leader of Sic Mundus, but Adam -- who claims to be a much older and disfigured version of Jonas -- is revealed as its true leader in Season 2. Adam seeks to destroy the loop while preserving the apocalypse, but the significantly older version of Claudia works towards breaking the loop and preventing the apocalypse. In a race to achieve their competing desires, they have both been endlessly manipulating everyone around them across several time periods.

The apocalypse sends everyone in different directions

Moments before the apocalypse in 2020, the residents of Winden are scrambling as some characters search for safety and some attempt to solve the mysteries of Winden, so the core cast quickly becomes drastically separated. The older Jonas (a.k.a. The Stranger) rallies with Bartosz, Magnus, and Franziska to escape using Claudia's time-traveling apparatus. In the Dopplers' bunker, Elisabeth, Peter, and a young Noah seek refuge from the apocalypse alongside Regina and a middle-aged Claudia. The door within the Winden Caves that was closed in Season 1 begins to reopen and Katharina enters them to find her lost son and husband. The god particle starts to activate at the nuclear power plant and creates a wormhole, which Charlotte touches after seeing an older version of Elisabeth staring at her through it. Lastly, Martha reunites with Jonas at his home.

Martha saves Jonas moments after Adam kills her

Before the god particle officially sends its lethal shockwave through Winden, Adam arrives at Jonas's home and fatally shoots Martha in front of him, all so the young Jonas will continue on the path where he becomes Adam. In a split-second decision, Jonas opts to mourn Martha's death instead of chasing after Adam, and while doing so, in the finale's biggest cliffhanger, a new Martha from a different world arrives to save Jonas at the last minute. Using a device that has yet to be seen on the show, the two escape as the apocalypse wreaks havoc on Winden. But where did they go?

It’s a lot to take in, so don’t feel ashamed if your head is already spinning. Just take a deep breath and prepare to have your mind blown as you embark on this epic final arc. The first two seasons of Dark were unimaginable, and it's about to get even more twisted when Netflix releases Season 3 on Saturday, June 27.

Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

The question is not where Thrillist contributor Joshua Robinson is based, but when.