Netflix Dark Season 1 Episode 3 Recap: Past and Present

Mikkel sees an unfamiliar car in front of his house. What year is this? Photo: Netflix.

"Dark" is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 1.3 Past and Present

After the big reveal that Mikkel is now in 1986, we open with a commercial for Raider candy bars coming onto the television. This fun callback alludes to the fact that Jana reminded Ulrich how much Mads loved the candy bars and that she found an old wrapper in the woods near the place Erik was last found in 2019. It's a quick way to remind us that we are now in 1986. Sweet, confused Mikkel stands at the front door of the Nielsen house, which has been left open. Mikkel enters the house and begins walking through the various rooms, decorated very differently from how it looked the last time he saw it. He comes to the living room, in which a woman lies on the couch. He calls "Mama," and we see the person on the couch is a young woman wearing a sky blue bathrobe. She rises, calling "Mads?" Clearly, this is the 1986 version of Jana Nielsen, who has been desperately waiting for her son Mads to come home. Instead, she is greeted by a boy that is the same age and looks an awful lot like Mads. She grabs him, pulling hard on his arm, and he gets scared and runs away. 

Getting a good look at Mikkel now, we see his face is covered with wounds, and he also has burn marks that looks similar to the stranger's face. 

We cut to a hospital and watch a smartly dressed nurse, all in white, walking down the hall. Another nurse asks her to cover the night shift because she "has to take Benni to soccer." The first woman has no one waiting at home for her. The nurse's name tag reads "Ines Kahnwald." Ah, so this is the woman we saw reading the suicide note left by Michael Kahnwald. 

We move then to a girl riding a bike through town. The girl stops and notices a dead bird on the ground, similar looking to the dead birds we saw in the 2019 timeline. She picks it up and puts it in the leather satchel on the back of the bike. A little later in the episode, we find out this serious girl, who has a talent for drawing, is a young version of Charlotte Doppler. The parallel to her studying the birds now and then is a very cool detail. And it makes sense that this studious young girl with an eye for detail grew up to become a police detective.

A man listens to the news, and we learn the date is November 5, 1986. We learn the police have no leads about Mads Nielsen's disappearance. The man's name is Egon Tiedemann. He's the grandfather of Regina Tiedemann we met in 2019, and he happens to be the head of police in Winden. He receives a call and leaves at the request of the caller. 

We then see Claudia Tiedemann taking a teenaged Regina to school and berating her about her clothes and hair. Claudia applies bright red lipstick. She's proud of her new role as head of the Winden power plant. She wants Regina to straighten up and make an effort to look presentable. On the radio, the song playing is "Shout" by Tears for Fears. Regina's hair does look a little ratty, and she clearly has no plans to listen to anything her mother has to say. 

Young Hannah in the halls of Winden High Photo: Netflix.

Mikkel ends up at the same high school from the 2019 timeline, perhaps hoping to find his mother, since she is the school principal, as far as he knows. He's still not understanding it's 1986. The clothing worn by the students is perfect and really sets the tone. Puffer jackets, pegged jeans, and even the bicycle shown are all period appropriate. Mikkel's contemporary hairstyle stands out against these 1980 mods and, unless Karate Kid made it big in Germany, his skeleton costume looks more appropriate for Halloween than an average November school day. Poster on the school announce that Mads is missing, a disturbing alternative version of the posters we saw of Erik. 

Inside the school, the teenage Katharina gives a girl a cassette tape and gleefully says that the song on the tape is about man who kidnaps a girl and takes her to the forest to kill her because of her red lipstick. Fun fact: The song described is "Jeanny" by Falco, which apparently was banned for a time because it seemed to glorify rape. Another girl we learn is young Hannah tries to join the conversation by saying she likes Nino D'Angelo better than Falco. Mikkel approaches them to say he's looking for his Mom. The girls just laugh at him a little, and Katharina remembers seeing him at Ulrich's house. The kid playing Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) should get an award. He's so cute and sad here. And . . . it turns out his mom is a bully. 

At the power plant Claudia arrives for her first day as the boss, wearing a lipstick-red shirt. She is greeted at the gate by an overly friendly man, who turns out to be Helge Doppler (the man who was saying something will happen again). He congratulates her for her new role and gives her a gift, which she awkwardly accepts and moves past him to the plant. Helge goes back to the task at hand, which turns out to be cleaning off words painted on the asphalt that read "NO FUTURE" 

Helge scrubs graffiti off the ground near the power plant. Photo: Netflix.

Egon Tiedemann is talking to a farmer named Hermann Albers (Katharina's father) who filed a damage report after he found 33 of his sheep dead that morning, seemingly without any cause. Egon asks several question and the farmer ends up quoting a scripture from Mark 13:33. "Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." The farmer reports that a new priest has come to town who seems like a good man. Lots of 33 references here. 

When Claudia enters work, her assistant tells her that Tronte Nielsen from the newspaper is waiting for her. She also hands her some reports that Claudia requested. Claudia seems concerned by the report but continues into the lobby where Tronte Nielsen is waiting (Ulrich's dad). We learn that he and Claudia are having an affair from their whispered conversation. He wants to see her tonight, but Claudia says "maybe". Tronte is perhaps trying to avoid his sad wife and the fact that his son is missing by taking refuge in a booty call. 

Mikkel has now arrived at the police station, hoping to find his father. Instead he finds Egon Tiedemann who seems to think Ulrich is trying to play a joke on him, since Mikkel tells him that his father's name is Ulrich. Egon calls the hospital to come and get Mikkel. He notices Mikkel's condition and suspects Ulrich of hurting Mikkel. It's clear Egon is one of these types of people that hates teenagers for some reason, so any excuse to harass Ulrich is welcome. 

Mikkel sits at Egon's desk and -- no big deal -- solves a Rubik's cube. Typical Mikkel. He dials his phone number and gets a "wrong number" message. On the desk, he finds a missing person report for Mads Nielsen, the 1986 photo of Ulrich and Mads, and several newspaper clippings. Mikkel also pockets a lighter. Finally a representative from the hospital arrives, and you guessed it, it's Ines that comes in the station to collect Mikkel. Her kind manner seems to soothe Mikkel. 

Egon has now arrived at the home of Tronte and Jana Nielsen to confront Ulrich. He comes in the door, which has been left open, and confronts Ulrich, who is listening to loud music in his room. Quick viewers might notice the NO FUTURE slogan on the wall, which matches the message Helge was cleaning up at the power plant. Fun fact: No Future was a line from the Sex Pistols' song "God Save the Queen" and was a slogan adopted by the punk rock movement. A record album on display is Fist of Hebron "Tabula Smaragdina" -- the emerald tablet. 

Oh one more fun fact, we see that Ulrich's room contains a nice collection of figurines that recall the ones Jana leaves at the grave of Mads Nielsen in the 2019 timeline. It would make sense that perhaps Ulrich and Mads shared a room since that was the style back in the 80s. Egon confronts Ulrich about the boy he sent to the police station, and obviously Ulrich knows nothing. The song Ulrich is listening to is "Pleasure to Kill" by Kreator. Egon quotes: "My only aim is to take many lives, the more, the better I feel." Yep, Egon has a vendetta against Ulrich, and Ulrich, likewise, seems to really despise Egon, mocking him for the alcohol on his breath. The two might have come to blows, only they are interrupted by Jana, who wants to know if Egon has an update about Mads. Egon also notices an animal hoof on the shelf and thinks of the dead sheep. One mystery solved: the reason the door was left open is that Jana keeps hoping Mads will come home. 

Back at the hospital, Mikkel is having a checkup by a doctor. He doesn't want to give his name (probably afraid to say Mikkel Nielsen again) since no one listens to him. The doctor says he looks fine and asks Ines to patch him up. As she's doing that, she keeps talking to him, and he seems to respond to her kindness. She gives him a comic book and he tells her, "I'm from the future." She clearly doesn't know what to think but notices the comic book she handed him is called Future Man. 

Inside the big office of the Winden power plant sits Bernd Doppler, the current owner, who is passing the torch to Claudia. Claudia enters and gets on his case that the figures reported don't match the ones in her hands. He quickly dresses her down by talking about Chernobyl and how that tragedy has made everyone fearful about nuclear energy. By taking on the role at the power plant, she is now responsible for the whole town since most families have at least one family member that works there. He is letting her know that if she wants to be successful, she must conceal certain things to keep the power plant operating. Claudia then tells him that she must know everything, and he agrees to show her. 

Claudia's outfit here is perfect with her red blazer with shoulder pads, black billowy dress pants, and black pumps. I love the costumes. 

Nurse Ines tries to find out more about the injured Mikkel. Photo: Netflix.

Egon watches as a man performs an autopsy on a sheep. The man diagnoses the cause of death as cardiac arrest. Egon asks if a person could cause this reaction, and the man says no. Egon then asks if any animals were missing a hoof (he's thinking of Ulrich and also thinks Ulrich is a Satanist), and again the man says no. Lastly -- and this is the creepy part -- the forensic investigator reports that the sheep's eardrums were raptured, recalling the corpse of the dead boy's body found previously. The autopsy director then cheerfully mention Egon should come to the party since his wife will be making Yugoslavian meatballs. 

Back at the power plant, Claudia and Bernd arrive at a fenced area. Bernd says, "What we know is a drop -- what we don't know, an ocean." Claudia goes on alone and enters an underground cave. After climbing down a rope, she moves through the cavern until she finds a wall of bright yellow barrels, marked with the radiation symbol. 

At the Tiedemann house, Regina arrives home from school to find the house empty. After listening to the answering machine, she realizes she's on her own for dinner. She pulls up her sleeves, and we can see scars from cutting herself visible. 

Egon drives to where the dead sheep were found and spots something on the ground. It's a dead bird. Then it begins raining dead birds. The lights flicker in different parts of the town, recalling the events of 2019. Charlotte puts a dead bird in the freezer. Mikkel runs from the hospital to the caves. At another part of town, teenage Ulrich sits at the bus stop and Hannah rides up on her bike. The two of them chat, and she asks if he could have one thing different what would it be? He says, "A world without Winden." 

During our musical interlude, we then see parallel shots of characters from 1986 and 2019. Ines, looking at the wooden box and looking into the room to find Mikkel missing, Tronte, Jana lying in bed sadly in both time periods, Charlotte looking at her birds, and Ulrich looking at his empty brother's bed in 1986 and his empty son's bed in 2019. Regina applies red lipstick. Song: "Familiar by Agnes Obel." Claudia also opens the package Helge gave her and finds a copy of the book A Journey Through Time by H.G. Tannhaus -- another connection.

The song "Familiar" by Agnes Obel is such a haunting tune with so many tie-ins to the plot. Agnes said, "That is a song about a secret. I wanted to make some songs about secrets. And also, how great they can be, because I believe secrets can make things feel special – I know that for myself from when I make songs. But they can also be bad. This song is about a secret love. The secret grows, and it’s so hard for the person who is in love with this other person, or the person having the affair."

Ulrich drives to the caves, arriving at the same time as Mikkel, but in two different time periods. Ulrich tries to pry open the sealed door, while Mikkel cries for help after hurting his leg. The two of them can hear one another in two different time periods, 33 years apart. The longing in both of their faces and voices is tender and heartbreaking. They both leave the caves alone.

In the last scene, we see the man on the back of Journey Through Time working on a machine that looks very much like the one the stranger kept in the suitcase. He was also the man on the television set in the creepy blue room. 

Burning questions:
Why does Egon seems to have it out for young Ulrich? Is it just normal adult disdain for teens or something more?
What's the significance of A Journey Through Time by H.G. Tannhaus? 
Why did the sheep's eardrums rupture?
Why do birds keep falling from the sky? 
Is there a way Mikkel and Ulrich can reach each other?
Will Mikkel get up the courage to tell Ines the truth? 
What is Claudia going to find in the caves?

Final thoughts: This episode had a very sad tone overall. Although it was very cool seeing the 1980s version of all the characters, at the same time, I hurt for Mikkel and the fact that he's all alone. He has nowhere he can go at the moment. He seems so vulnerable. It's also clear that there are many secrets happening at the power plant that were in place long before Aleksander arrived. 

The story is getting more complicated and, as we being operating in two different time periods, the lives of the four families intertwine in ways that give their 2019 relationships more weight. 

Sic Mundus Creatus Est


driver49 said…
I have come to Dark very late - after watching 1899. Your recaps are very helpful getting the storyline(s) straight. Thanks for making the series that much more enjoyable.
Joe T. said…
Ha, me too. Just started watching today. I like reading recaps to see details I may have missed or maybe explanations for something confusing.
JOOLZ said…
Really helpful, the show is so confusing! Thanks
Unknown said…
About this sentence copied from the excellent recap above: "Getting a good look at Mads now, we see his face is covered with wounds, and he also has burn marks that looks similar to the stranger's face." Isn't that supposed to be "Getting a good look at Mikkel now,...."?
Lindsey said…
Thank you correct. ARGH, I'm glad you guys are reading so carefully.
Anonymous said…
thank you for the recap!
We'll let you know if we have more questions. It's really nice to be able to ask questions about this complicated show without getting spoiled :)
Greetingz from The Netherlands,
Max and Olga
Lindsey said…
Max and Olga, I’m so glad you are reading and took the time to comment. It means a lot when someone takes the time to comment.
Rayfab73 said…
Thank you for your reviews! I am watching Dark (here in NZ) - late to the party. I am really enjoying the show. It is awesome to read your recaps that remind of the details I DO notice and informing me of those I didn't. (It almost makes me want to rewatch an episode to squeeze out every detail, before moving on to the next! - but my curiosity is stronger: to know what happens next!
With all of the different characters (and their doubling due to the two time periods), I have found your reviews so helpful to keep track of how everything we know so far fits together.
Which country are you writing from ? (I am very interested in culture and travel...)
Thanks, again!
Lindsey said…
Rayfab, I'm writing inside the good olde USA
Anonymous said…
Phenomenal recap!