Netflix Dark Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: Deja-vu

Three men in a dark room watch a fire
[L-R] Claude Heinrich, Jakob Diehl, and Hans Diehl as THE UNKNOWN

"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.

Last season ended with the Apocalypse, triggered by Clausen's insistence that the nuclear pool room be opened. After Adam shoots Martha, an alternative Martha shows up and tells Jonas that she's from another world. Stranger Jonas rescues Bartosz, Franziska, and Magnus by traveling them out of 2020. Claudia, Regina, teen Noah, and young Elizabeth escape death by hunkering down in the bunker. The cast of Dark scatter into either oblivion or through the portals of time.

Season 3 occurs in two worlds. So our recaps need to specify not just when, but in what world. For the time being, we will specify what world by either world 1, which is the world we have been in, or world 2, which is the new world that alt-Martha is from.

Episode 3.1 Deja-vu

The episode opens with a quote by Arthur Schopenhauer: "Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills." In other words, he has choice over everything but what he desires. This quote seems to posit that desire is uncontrollable.

A female voice says, "If we knew how things would end, where our journey would take us, would we still make the same decisions? Or would we choose a different path? Could we even escape our fate, or would what is deep within us lead us to the same end, like an invisible hand? Does it matter which path we choose if we end up facing ourselves again and again?"

During the voiceover, we see pictures of the families in Winden. Next, a man holding a gas lantern enters the Sic Mundus lair. The room is in shambles, pages all over the floor. He looks at the Fall of the Damned painting. Was the room this way before the man entered, or did he ransack the place himself? He picks a paper off the desk. It looks like the plans for the suitcase time machine.

Two other people enter the room, wearing blue shirts – a young boy and an older man. All three have a distinctive scar on their lip. The first man throws his lantern against the painting, setting the room ablaze. The other two throw their lanterns, as well. Cut to the title credits.

We then cut to a few minutes before season 2 ended, right when the apocalypse begins. The black blob covers the Winden power plant. At the Kahnwald house, Alt-Martha takes the golden sphere out of her pocket and powers it up. She tells Jonas that the question isn't what time, but from what world. The two of them disappear from world 1, 2020.

A boy and girl smile at each other
[L-R] Mortiz Jahn as MAGNUS, Gina Stiebitz as FRANZISKA
Jonas and alt-Martha appear in a cave. Jonas looks around, freaked out. He's scared and wants to know how they got "here." He accuses alt-Martha of not being Martha, which is technically true. She tells him that today is the day it all began, the day we first met. Jonas doesn't know what to think of this statement, and neither do we. She then says, "You and me, your world and my world, form a knot that is inextricably intertwined." Jonas wants answers. Alt-Martha instead powers up her golden sphere, promising Jonas she will make it right, echoing the promise that Jonas made to OG Martha. What can all this mean?

World 2, November 4, 2019, at the Kahnwald house, Martha wakes up, as if from a nightmare. She sits up abruptly. This Martha has short bangs, like alt-Martha, but longer hair, like the OG Martha. We will call her world 2 Martha. Cleverly, world 2 is a mirror image of world 1. So Martha's bed is pushed up against the right wall of the room, as compared to when Jonas wakes up in world 1, his bed is pushed against the left wall. So as we meet the people of world 2, we see a world reflected on the vertical axis. Oddly enough, Martha wakes up in the Kahnwald house, so is Martha a Kahnwald? What can we make of this? We will learn soon enough, but in world 2, things are the same, yet different.

Downstairs, Mikkel sits at the table, wearing a flannel shirt and a trapper hat. He's holding a device of some kind, and Martha teases him that too much screen time makes it hard to sleep at night. Martha enters the kitchen and sniffs the milk. In the background, we hear Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time." At the kitchen counter, we see Katharina 2 with a sensible therapy bob and glasses. Apparently, Mikkel has been having nightmares. The electricity flickers. Katharina 2 wonders if Magnus has risen yet.

Magnus is making love to Franziska in his room, similar to Ulrich and Hannah. In this world, Magnus likes RAT and has longer black hair and tattoos. He's more of a metalhead than a stoner in world 2. Franziska escapes out of his window. In world 2, Franziska is deaf instead of Elisabeth.

Katharina offers Martha a ride since it's supposed to rain, but Martha declines since she will need to stay late for play rehearsal. Katharina reminds Martha that tomorrow "she's at her dad's place." So in world 2, Ulrich and Katharina are no longer together. Martha seems annoyed at the mention of going to her dad's place. Katharina looks at the family photo. Ulrich has been ripped out of the frame.

Meanwhile across town, Ulrich enters the bedroom of the Nielsen house. He walks over to his bed, where Hannah sleeps. She awakens and asks where he's been. He claims the line for baked goods was long. Oh, Ulrich. She asks him to stay longer, but he declines. When she stands up, we see her giant pregnant belly. Apparently, Hannah 2 is pregnant with Ulrich's baby. She says, "I love you," and he says she's beautiful. So wild stuff, in world 2 Ulrich has chosen Hannah as his partner.

Some friends talk in the hallway at school
[L-R] Sammy Scheuritzel as KILIAN, Lisa Vicari as MARTHA, Paul Lux as BARTOSZ, Moritz Jahn as MAGNUS

Martha 2 wears the iconic yellow raincoat and rides her bike to school. She looks lost, like Jonas did at the beginning of season 1, but what weighs on her heart? Signs on telephone poles reveal that Erik Obendorf is missing.

Jonas walks out of the caves in world 2. He looks around to see two armchairs instead of just one. No yellow raincoat for Jonas in world 2. He's gray as death. Martha enters the schoolyard, with the building on her right. As she enters school, Magnus teases her about being late. The school is abuzz with kids in costume. I thought it might be actors in the school play, but I see grim reapers, as well as the twins from The Shining.

They are joined by Bartosz 2, who dons an unfortunate mullet. Then Martha finds her boyfriend Kilian in the crowd. In world 1, Kilian acts alongside Martha in the school play. They kiss jubilantly. Magnus and Bartosz look uncomfortable. Bartosz asks if there's any updates on Erik. Of course, there's not. A voice on the intercom requests everyone to come to an assembly.

A girl in a yellow raincoat rides her bike
Lisa Vicari as MARTHA
Elsewhere, Helge repeats that "It will happen again." He's holding a one pfennig coin. In world 2, Helge's ears look fine, but his left eye is scarred over. Peter stands in the doorway, watching his father with concern. Charlotte 2 comes in, looking much more fashionable than in world 1. She has makeup and has ditched the bob for a longer, flowy hairstyle. Peter asks Charlotte 2 how her doctor appointment was, and she reports this was just a regular check-up.

Jonas stands in front of the Kahnwald house. He enters, finding the home looking both familiar and unfamiliar. He notices the photo of the Nielsens on the wall. He walks upstairs to find his mirror image bedroom. Pictures on the wall show a trio of Bartosz, Martha, and Kilian. There's no Jonas.

At the Winden police station, Ulrich gives a report about the missing Erik. In world 2, Woller has both eyes but lacks a left arm. Ulrich asks if the group has ideas. Charlotte mentions they still haven't seen the shift schedule at the power plant. Ulrich encourages her to follow that lead, and Woller will look at tire treads.

Back at the Nielsen house, Hannah vacuums the floor. She notices Ulrich's hoodie and finds a blonde hair. Seems oddly familiar, yes? She smells the hoodie for good measure.

A girl looks over her shoulder
Lisa Vicari as MARTHA
Jonas enters the schoolyard of world 2. Bartosz gives a report on black holes and wormholes. Apparently in world 2, Bartosz is a scientific genius. Martha draws infinity symbols. In walks Jonas, repeating the stalker-ish behavior of Magnus in a way. He's not even trying to hide his neck scar or dirty appearance. The teacher mistakes Jonas for a new student. Jonas takes a seat in the back of the class. His hands shake. Martha turns to look at him, somehow Jonas has a gravitational pull for her.

At the Winden power plant, Charlotte puts in her request to review the shift schedules. Erik was last seen on Forest Road. She claims this could help her match tire treads. Aleksander 2 seems unimpressed by this request. He wants a court order. Charlotte demurs, preferring to couch this as a request and not an order. He agrees to work on it. She asks about his well-being. Is Regina perhaps dead in this world? She wonders if Erik could have wandered onto the ground. Aleksander 2 counters that the entrances have been sealed.

Hannah enters the high school. A bored voice announces afternoon activities are canceled due to the parent meeting. As she walks down the hall, she passes Katharina. Katharina tries to get by, but Hannah intercedes her. She came to see Katharina and promises she won't get in the way of Ulrich having a relationship with his kids. She then asks if Ulrich went to see Katharina. Ah, here we get to it. She's wondering about that blonde hair. Katharina appears amused, as if she can read Hannah's mind.

The bell rings to announce that class is dismissed. All the students depart except Jonas and Martha. Jonas approaches Martha and asks why he's here. He assumes this Martha is perhaps the Martha he met before. But if Martha knows him, she's a great actress. Jonas' appearance unsettles her, but she has never seen him in person. Kilian interrupts the conversation, wondering what this dude wants with his girlfriend. Martha leaves without another word, but she leaves her copy of Ariadne behind by mistake. Jonas goes to pick it up, but he notices his hands are filthy and wipes them off. Jonas then asks the teacher what today's date is. Once he learns it's November 4, 2019, he rushes off.

Jonas look at his mom
[L-R] Maja Schone as HANNAH, Louis Hofmann as JONAS
On his way out of the school, he meets Hannah and calls her "Mama." She shows care and concern for him but doesn't try to continue the conversation when he doesn't answer. Jonas is shook.

Elsewhere in town, Charlotte enters the police station. She's interrupted by Ulrich, who pulls her into the same storeroom. There we discover that in world 2, Charlotte and Ulrich are having a fling. Charlotte thinks they need to end this affair, but Urich manages to shush her with the power of his kiss. However, Woller opens the door and almost catches them in the act. So, Ulrich can't seem to stay loyal to any woman. In world 1, he had an affair with Hannah. In world 2, he obviously left Katharina for Hannah, but even then, he has a dalliance with Charlotte. It's hard to imagine the stoic Charlotte giving in to Ulrich's advances, even though we know they have a good working relationship. She seems so practical.

Woller has found some information on the tire tracks. He shares his findings with them. Charlotte offers to cross-check his tire tread stuff with her shift schedule report. The two of them walk off, leaving Ulrich behind.

Martha and Kilian rehearse for the school play. Martha reads her lines: "From then on, I knew that nothing changes. That all things remain. The spinning wheel turns round and round, in a circle. One fate tied to the next, a thread, red like blood that connects all our deeds. One cannot unravel the knots, but they can be severed. He severed ours with the sharpest blade. And yet, something remains behind that cannot be severed – an invisible bond. On many a night, he tugs at it. And then I wake with a start, knowing that nothing ceases to be. That all remains"

These lines overlap with the monologues Martha read in world 1, speaking of an invisible bond. She wraps the red thread around her wrist. As she reads these lines, she notices that Jonas enters the auditorium.

Jonas overhears Kilian and Martha making plans to meet under the bridge at 9 pm. Jonas approaches Martha to speak to her again, but she wants him to leave her alone. Jonas grabs her arm and tries to get her to understand that he's here to help. That Mikkel is at risk. He begins to talk about Mikkel and Michael Kahnwald, name dropping Michael as the husband of Hannah Kahnwald. Now, Martha really wants nothing to do with him. She clearly feels no warmth towards Hannah.

A teen boy stands in front of a high school stage
Louis Hofmann as JONAS
Elsewhere, Magnus walks towards the bunker. The sound and direction lead us to believe that something ominous is happening, but Magnus is just here for another tryst with Franziska. Franziska wears a red plaid dress and a fitted coat. She looks happy to see him. I'm missing the surliness of Franziska in world 1. She's sweetly in love with Magnus in this world.

Magnus comes on strong and aggressive, but Franziska slows him down. She wants some of the control. She sits him down on the bench and begins to take some of her clothes off. She then kisses Magnus. They make love slowly and both say I love you. There's no "you're beautiful" in this relationship. However, I kind of miss the angsty world 1 chemistry. It makes you wonder if Franziska is less aware of her parent's unhappy marriage in world 2.

Elisabeth enters the family home. In this world, Elisabeth speaks and can hear. She's wearing a red hoodie and braids. Helge sits on the couch, mumbling, "It will happen again." Elisabeth calls for her parents, but no one else is home. Helge begins to ramble again. He suddenly grabs her arm and says, "The beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning."

Louis Hofmann as JONAS
Jonas enters the graveyard of the St. Christopher church. He's looking for the grave of his father. Peter is now the priest and wonders if he can help Jonas. We find Regina's grave, confirming that she's dead. There is no Michael Kahnwald buried here. Peter remarks that a Daniel Kahnwald died in 1964. Jonas speculates that he's there to make sure that "it doesn't happen." Peter feels like he's seen Jonas before.

On world 1, it's September 21, 1987. The three people, known collectively as The Unknown, walk towards the Doppler mansion. We know it's world 1 because of the warping effect that happens when we change worlds, but also, the fonts are facing the "regular" way. The youngest enters the home without knocking. Bernd Doppler calls a greeting. He wonders if this young boy is lost. The boy accuses Bernd of keeping the master key to the power plant. Bernd tries to take control and demand the boy leave, but the boy is unphased. He picks up an apple from the fruit bowl in the foyer. Bernd starts to call for the police, but the other two forms enter and stop Bernd from making that call. The middle Unknown says, "Nothing is in vain. No breath. No step. No word. No pain. An everlasting miracle of the One." He then proceeds to strangle Bernd using the wire, while the other two silently watch.

This is the same quote Noah used in world 1. Noah said this to middle-aged Helge to comfort him. The Unknown uses the same phrase as a threat to Bernd.

We then warp back into world 2. Alexander visits Jurgen Obendorf. He mentions that the police came today (Charlotte) and that Jurgen "knows what to do." He hands Jurgen a pile of money.

Martha rides her bike to meet the others at the bridge. She's wearing the yellow raincoat. She walks under the bridge, balancing on the railroad tracks. Her steps falter, and she hears a twig snap. Perhaps Kilian tries to scare her? Jonas shows up again. She wonders what he wants and why he keeps following her. He tells her they do know each other in another time, which isn't exactly correct. Another world would be more accurate. Martha has no idea what to do with Jonas. She's already told him to get lost, but he keeps coming back. He steps towards her, begging her to remember the glitch in the matrix. At these words, Martha freezes.

Jonas continues that he thinks he knows why he's here – to stop it from happening. To change it. Magnus and the others then walk up. They are confused why Jonas is there. Jonas is confused as to why Mikkel isn't with them. That Mikkel's babysitter didn't show up. Magnus is totally confused because Mikkel is old enough to stay by himself. This is a clever bit of writing because Mikkel has aged 3 years since Dark season 1 started in 2017. They cleverly make Mikkel older in world 2. Jonas is encouraged once again to back off.

At the police station, Ulrich leaves for the parent meeting and offers to take Charlotte with him. She accepts his offer. The all-seeing Woller and Ulrich share a glance.

An older woman with a gray bob
Barbara Nusse as MARTHA/EVA
Hannah arrives home to an empty house, echoing the feeling of Doris Tiedemann who spent so many nights alone waiting for Egon to arrive. She looks at Ulrich's folded hoodie.

In the woods, Martha, Kilian, Magnus, Franziska, and Bartosz walk towards the caves. Kilian questions Martha about Jonas. Meanwhile Bartosz is just as friendzoned in this world. Bartosz claims that Nostradamus predicted the apocalypse was nigh in 2019. Magnus jokes that it's good that his girlfriend has a bunker then. It just dawned on me that Franziska is quite familiar with the bunker, whereas in world 1, we never see her in the bunker.

Martha keeps hearing noises in the woods. Jonas then arrives at his world 1 home, the Kahnwald house, which is now the Katharina Nielsen house. In either world, Mikkel/Michael ends up sleeping in the top room.

The walk towards the caves. In this world, they aren't here to find a stash of drugs. Magnus speaks of a cave monster, and all the experiments done back in the day. The cave monster reminds us of the myths of the Minotaur. They hear noises inside the cave – noises of the wormhole opening.

Their flashlights flicker, and they all run like roaches. Martha trips and falls. When she stands again, everyone is gone. She looks for one of her companions in the dark. Someone calls her name. She turns to see an image of world 1 Martha in the white dress, covered in black pitch.

Martha runs.

Our interlude music begins: Bad Kingdom - May and Robot Koch

At the high school, the lights flicker, too. Katharina is in the hallway, concerned. Hannah notices the lights in her bedroom. She puts her hands on her belly protectively. Ulrich and Charlotte make out, but they notice dead birds falling from the sky. Jurgen loads yellow barrels into a tractor trailer. Martha runs from the vision. Kilian finds her. Jonas finds Mikkel safely asleep in his bedroom. He feels confused at why he's there. The teens escape to the bunker.

A girl is next to a dead body
Lisa Vicari as MARTHA
At the bunker, a portal opens. Out drops the body of Mads Nielsen. We know because Martha finds his ID. The travelers send him with a nametag clearly marked.

Jonas walks outside, feeling lost. A figure emerges from the shadows. An older woman with gray hair and bangs. She has waited a long time to see him again. He has been through this before so Jonas doesn't shrink back. The woman tells him that in this world, Mikkel didn't travel back. That in this world, Jonas doesn't exist. She points out that Jonas wanted a world without him. Yet, here we are. This world isn't any better. "Everything will fall apart. In this world, just as it will in yours. Again and again. Because of you. And because of me." Jonas realizes the woman is Martha.

We warp into world 1. A grand gate announces you are entering Tannhaus. Perhaps the factory or the town is named for Tannhaus? Martha steps forward. It's thundering. The date is September 21, 1888. Martha enters a room where an elaborate machine sends out crackling signals. The operator is Stranger Jonas, wearing old-fashioned clothing. Martha speaks his name softly. Martha's cheek has a scratch under her left eye. Jonas startles to see her, quickly tearing up at the sight of his lost love.

He gathers her face in his hands, but Martha shies away from his touch. She's not Martha. Not his Martha. She is here to help him find the origin – the beginning of everything in both worlds.

Lingering questions:
  • Who is the Unknown? He is quite creepy.
  • Why does he want the master key to the power plant?
  • Why does world 2 Franziska seem so much more cheerful?
  • What does Charlotte see in gross old Ulrich?
  • Why doesn't Bartosz seem more bummed about his mom? And why did they make his hair so unfashionable?
  • What will Jonas do next? Will Martha ever see him as anything more than creepy gray clothing guy?
  • Where are is Stranger Jonas and his team in the process in 1888? I guess they have the suitcase but are out of cesium and don't have any more cellphones? 
  • Is Martha actually there to help Jonas? 

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