Netflix Dark Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: Double Lives

Jonas goes to explore the Winden Caves, aided by his new map. 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 1.4 Double Lives

The episode begins with voiceover narration about black holes being the hellmouths of the universe: "They act as vacuums in which people disappear. But where do they go? What lies behind a black hole? Along with things, do space and time also vanish there?  Or would space and time be tied together and be part of an endless cycle? What if everything that came from the past were influenced by the future?"

This type of narration happens throughout the show. Could it be excerpts from A Journey Through Time by H.G. Tannhaus? 

Random images cycle through: the blue wallpaper room, pinecone figurines sit on the desk, an artistic rendering of the Emerald Tablet on a wall, followed by the same design tattooed on someone's back, the pinecone statues again in another time frame, a boy with burned and blackened eyes, and a triquetra symbol with words Sic Mundus Creatus Est (And thus, the world began). Cut to the opening credits ...

Aside: one could write an entire essay on the Emerald Tablet. Suffice it to say that the Emerald Tablet is linked to the 7 Hermetic principles, an occult system of philosophical wisdom. These principles definitely come up in the show, so it's worth doing research if you want to suck the milk out of the Dark cow. 

A back tattoo of the Emerald Tablet. This image will be frequently seen. Photo: Netflix.

After spending all last episode in 1986, the screen opens to a hallway in a house. We are back in 2019, and Franziska walks into the hall calling for her sister Elisabeth about a missing tube of red lipstick. We then see Peter and Charlotte coming out of separate bedrooms to check in for the morning activities. Peter is going to visit Helge in the nursing home, while Charlotte plans to drive Elisabeth to school. Franziska confronts Elisabeth about the lipstick, and the two have a sisterly quarrel about personal property. We learn that Elisabeth is deaf and speaks in sign language; that doesn't stop her from arguing sassily with her sister and parents like any child. For her part, Elisabeth is annoyed that Charlotte insists on driving her to school, saying, "Is it because of Mikkel?"

Note: There's a unique piece of artwork in the hallway that grabbed my attention. It looks like two triangles on a scale. There are three discernible faces, plus a sunflower. They are all contained in one body on a set of legs. Likewise, I'm taken by Franziska's sweater with a black bird emblazoned on the front. 

Back at the Kahnwald house, Jonas examines the maps of Winden caves and sets out to explore. As he comes down the stairs, Hannah sits at the kitchen smoking and looking sadly at her blank cellphone, probably waiting for Ulrich to text. She perks up when she sees Jonas and suggests he skip school that day to do something nice with her. Jonas looks uncomfortable and sets off for "school" -- in actuality he plans to use the new maps to explore the caves. 

Peter goes to visit Helge at the home and Helge has some new phrases he says on repeat now. "Tick-tock" and "I have to tell him it has to stop." Helge stops the obsessive talking when he notices how sad Peter looks. "Don't be sad," he tells his son. It was sweet to see Helge react to his son. This seemed to snap him out of his obsession for a moment. 

Charlotte and Elisabeth drive towards E's school, and Charlotte makes an unexpected stop. She leaves the car running as she walks across the street to a box marked "Wildlife observation." She removes a camera from the box and takes the data disk out of the camera. Getting back into the car, Elisabeth signs, "Did you just steal something?" Her mother explains that she confiscated it and that there's a difference. Elisabeth doesn't miss anything, does she? Once they get to school, Charlotte emphasizes that she will pick her up, but Elisabeth seems distracted by one of the boys. It turns out Elisabeth has a boyfriend named Yasin. Charlotte is taken aback, but she doesn't get too nosy. The two share a sweet moment, during which E pulls Charlotte down to eye level and touches their foreheads together. You can tell they have a very close relationship. The way Elisabeth kisses her mother on the forehead seems more like what a parent would do to a child.

Elisabeth Doppler says goodbye to Charlotte in their special way. Photo: Netflix. 

Jonas arrives at the entrance to the caves, now roped off for the investigation. Hidden behind the trees is the stranger who came to the hotel. As Jonas walks inside, the stranger looks at his watch, marking the time. 

Back at Winden High, Franziska takes notes in a class. The teacher is discussing themes, symbolism, and imagery from the works of Goethe. In walks Magnus, who isn't in the class, but he's there to harass Franziska. Well, his plan to intimidate her seems to falter when Franziska receives a mysterious call and gets up to leave class, saying she has to use the bathroom. Do teens ever think of any other excuse? Magnus quickly exits, as well. Her trip to the bathroom ends up being a trip into the woods. Near the railroad tracks sits a mysterious metal box. Franziska opens the box and takes out a large envelope of money. Magnus watches the whole interaction from a distance. Clearly he still suspects her of some selfish plot connected to Mikkel. Why else would she be at the caves?

The camera now cuts to Charlotte back at the forensic lab, where the same medical examiner who looked at the dead boy cuts open one of the birds Charlotte picked up from the other night. They both notice the bird has white spots that aren't normally part of that species. Charlotte confesses she saw birds like this 33 years ago. The forensic specialist is wearing the teal blue color. 

As Charlotte walks through the halls of the station, she is intervened by Woller (an employee with an eyepatch) that seems panicked. The station has been receiving a lot of calls from people upset about the dead body found, and he's not sure what to tell them since that's supposed to be a secret. Charlotte also learns Ulrich hasn't come into work yet, which has left Woller to deal with tasks he normally doesn't do. The red soil still doesn't match anything found near the body, and the DNA doesn't match any cases. Charlotte suggests he go back further to include any cases from up to 15 years ago. 

We cut to the Nielsen residence. Katharina waits for Ulrich to awake and tells him that Charlotte called to say she hasn't gotten the search warrant yet. It's now been 36 hours and no sign of Mikkel. It's clear she wants him to do something. 

Jonas searches the caves and reaches a dead end. For some reason, the map was wrong? He can't figure it out. 

Back at the station Charlotte pull out the data disk she confiscated from the wildlife observation box and begins to watch the footage, noticing that the time of Mikkel's disappearance was recorded as between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. She identifies a vehicle driving past at the right time and takes a screenshot of the license plate. Woller interrupts her, and she quickly hides the piece of paper with the license. It turns out the car belongs to Peter. 

We cut to where Peter walks to his car, opens the door, and seems to freeze. On the floor mat inside the vehicle, we see red dirt. Peter quickly picks up the mat and dumps it out on the ground. The evidence seems pretty compelling that Peter knows something. But does it involve Mikkel or the dead boy? Peter's phone rings and it's Charlotte, asking him why he called the night Mikkel disappeared. Peter makes up an excuse and looks guilty. Charlotte has the evidence proving otherwise.

We next see Charlotte pulling up in a parking lot near a parked RV. The RV has several sets of flashing lights, as if there's a sale or a party going on. It turns out the RV is owned by a transgender sex worker named Bernadette (Benni). Charlotte shows her badge and asks if Peter Doppler was a client and if he visited her on Monday night (the night of Mikkel's disappearance). Benni teases Charlotte a little, but after seeing her distress, assures her that Peter hasn't visited in a year. The normally professional Charlotte has trouble controlling her emotions, but thanks Benni and leaves. Charlotte makes this trip because she wonders why Peter would lie about his whereabouts.

In a series of quick cuts, we see that Ulrich stands outside the power plant fence with a determined look, Jonas' cave exploration hits a dead end, and Helge begins chanting, "The beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning." All of this heightens the tension of the moment. Franziska arrives back at school and enters a the school locker room. Magnus arrives, still following her, and watches as Franziska performs a rhythm gymnastics routine in a blue leotard. The two of them have such an interesting relationship and lots of chemistry every time they are on screen together.  

After coming to the dead end in the cave, Jonas quits the exploration, not sure how to continue. He returns to his bike in the woods, only to find a red cord tied around the handlebars. 

Franziska knows she's being followed. An iconic shot. Photo: Netflix. 

Charlotte visits a cabin in the woods, that turns out to belong to Helge, her father-in-law. She stoops down and scoops up some very familiar looking red dirt. She then receives a phone call from the medical examiner, sharing the final results from the bird autopsy. The bird's eardrums were shattered, just like the dead boy's, and the bird died crashing into the ground, probably because it lost its bearings. The white spots are a mutation caused by the Chernobyl incident. After looking inside the cabin, Charlotte notices a metal hatch on the grounds. Inside, she finds a downstairs room that looks like a bunker. She also receives a phone call from someone that elicits a remark, "He did what?" 

All of this has caused Charlotte to get distracted and forget to pick Elisabeth up from school. Back at the school, Elisabeth and Yasin are having an interesting conversation about male and female snails. Yasin's mom comes to pick him up, which leaves Elisabeth by herself. Although she's offered a ride home, she feel confident that Charlotte will be there soon. 

Franziska comes back into the changing room and finds her bag open. Magnus has taken the money and confronts her about her reasons for having it. The two fight about whether it's Magnus' business. Finally, Franziska shouts that she wants to leave Winden to get away from her parents, who now won't talk about what's really going on between them. She's upset, and Magnus takes the opportunity to kiss her. The end up making out (or more?) on the locker room bench. Well, finally they at least are admitting that they like each other. This is the first time Franziska's been anything but bitchy. Well, she's still pretty cranky, but this time she seems vulnerable and like someone who could be hurt. 

Charlotte calls Peter panicked because she can't pick up Elisabeth, due to all of her investigating. Peter agrees to pick her up, and Charlotte questions if he's kept his promise to her from a year ago. It must be something to do with Benni. If he wasn't with Benni, was he with someone else? Peter hangs up without answering the question. 

Back at her school, Elisabeth decides to start walking home, realizing no one is coming to pick her up. We also learn that the little booger actually had the missing lipstick after all! Elisabeth splashes in the rain puddles as she walks home, and she comes across a Raider candy wrapper. 

Helge is also going on a walk, escaping the nursing home again. He continues to repeat that he must tell "him" it has to stop. After finding the mysterious hatch near his cabin, Helge is looking more and more like he's involved somehow. 

Peter finally arrives at the school for the deaf and panics when he realizes Elisabeth is gone. Charlotte arrives at the power plant to pick up Ulrich, who was discovered breaking into the plant without a warrant. He's released to Charlotte's custody and starts yelling about the unfairness of it all. He demands to be let out of the car, and Charlotte complies. Immediately after, Peter calls and reveals that Elisabeth is missing. 

Back at his house, Jonas examines the map some more, and Charlotte searches the woods, finding Elisabeth's knitted animal hat. She goes home sad, believing the worst.

Yasin finds this odd figurine made of sticks and nuts in the woods. Photo: Netflix.

During the montage "Keep the Streets Empty For Me" by Fever Ray plays. We see Franziska arriving home and learning her sister is missing, Jonas lying down to think, and Katharina vacuuming the floor. Ulrich arrives home and goes upstairs. Helge arrives at the cabin where police lights flash. 

No fear, Elisabeth walks into the house. After the initial excitement wears off of her coming home, Charlotte goes into full on worried Mom mode. "Where were you?" Elisabeth tells her she met someone named Noah and that he gave her a gold pocket watch that used to belong to Charlotte. Charlotte looks at the watch with a perplexed expression. Inside the watch is an engraving that reads: For Charlotte. 

As we come to a close, the voice-over narration says that we are all looking for Ariadne's thread, a beacon that will guide us to the next step, but that there is one predetermined path to fate. The stranger goes into Jonas' room while he's sleeping (creepy) and adds something to the map. Is it another clue? 

The next day Yasin walks alone through the woods. He's mad and insists that he can go to school by himself. A small figurine made of nuts and sticks stands in the road. Yasin bends to pick it up and stands to find a man who says, "Noah sent me." 

Cue ending. 

Burning questions:
  • What will happen to Yasin? Is he going to end up another dead boy?
  • What is causing all of these eardrums to burst?
  • Who is Noah and how does he know Charlotte?
  • How are Helge and Peter connected to the red dirt?
  • What does Helge know about the hatch on his property?
  • Who is the Him that Helge thinks he must stop? 
  • Why does Franziska have all the money?
  • Why is the stranger watching Jonas and adjusting the map?
This episode cast a lot of suspicion on the many characters. Helge, Peter, the stranger, Franziska, and Noah, all seem to be involved in shady dealings. At the same time, no real progress was made on the case. Overall, our characters seem to, like Jonas, be hitting a lot of dead ends. Ulrich really wants to examine the power plant, Helge wants to stop someone from doing something but can't because he's trapped in an elderly body, Jonas doesn't find what he wanted in the caves. Charlotte did find the bunker, but it too, is just a room at the moment. Meanwhile, we know Mikkel is still alone. 

Sic Mundus Creatus Est  


maxolga said…
Dear Lindsey,

Max and Olga here, again ;)
Remember the corpse found in episode 1?
In another episode they state that the kid is wearing apparel that reminds them to clothes in vogue in the 1980s.
However, we think that this conclusion from the police may be a bit far-fetched.
Why? because 1980s clothing are in fashion again. With the rise of vintage shopping and the alt-right and the success of shows such as Stranger Things and IT, people have developed a newfound affection for the retro kitsch of the 1980s. Therefore, we find that Dark may be purposefully putting the audience on the wrong foot, wherein they imply that time-travel may be going on, while in fact they are just providing a smart commentary on pop culture's current obsession with the 'funky' decade.

Have a fab Feb,

Max and Olga
Lindsey said…
That's true but when this show was made, Stranger Things had not come out yet. Plus this is Germany, not the USA. I also think his sweatshirt had a slogan that was big in post-atomic Germany so it's not just the style but the propaganda on his shirt.
Rayfab73 said…
Interesting point, Olga and Max. I wonder... (I am only on episode 5, S1)