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Netflix Dark Season 3 Episode 5 Recap: Life and Death

A boy and a girl stare at each other
Jonas and Martha a perfect match in any world

"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 3.5 Life and Death

It's raining in 2020. A figure in a raincoat drags a body wrapped in plastic to a freshly dug hole. We pull back to see Claudia Tiedemann covering the body with dirt and marking the grave with a cross. Her task finished, Claudia's face crumples as she grieves at the graveside of Regina. Until this moment, she busied herself with the task of efficiently crafting this burial site.

A voice says, "Why do we die? Could we escape it if we knew when to expect it? Is the time of our departure predetermined? Our dying part of an endless clockwork? We all have one truth in common. We are born. And we die. No matter what path we take in between."

A wooden cross with the name Regina on it
In world 1, Claudia has to quickly bury Regina

A split screen contrasts the realities happening in two worlds. The worlds are different but the same. The ramshackle grave marker in world 1 contrasts with the carefully constructed one in world 2. In world 1, Elisabeth and Peter survive the apocalypse in the RV. In world 2, they live in comfort. But either way, Elisabeth feels adrift from her family. In world 1, Katharina sits in Mikkel's old bedroom and holds the photo of Mikkel and Ines. In world 2, Katharina looks numbly at her family photo. Ulrich's image has been torn out – a visual reminder that her family is torn in two.

Cue title credits

2053, World 1. Decayed bodies hang from the trees. Adam speaks to Charlotte: "Your path will always lead you here. To Elisabeth. To me. Time plays a cruel game. Have you made your decision? One more day, and we can untie this knot once and for all."

Adam wants Charlotte to do her part of the work. The thing only she can do. Charlotte looks uncertain. She turns the finger back at him: "Will you see it through?"

Adam affirms that Eva will never achieve her goal, and that world doesn't deserve to be saved either. We don't know what either of them means at this moment, but I enjoy that Charlotte flips the script and puts Adam on the hot seat. But rather than answer her question, Adam points the finger at Eva.

We warp to world 2, 2020. Jonas sleeps in the bed in Martha's room. A hand with red fingernail polish reaches for his shoulder. Jonas turns around to see a vision of Martha 1 in the white dress. She looks serene. He wakes up, gasping for air. An all-too-real Martha 2 lies beside him in a gray top. This is no nightmare or vision. She's real.

Jonas used to have nightmares about his father/Mikkel/Martha lying in bed besides him. These scenes always had a sense of foreboding. Now, Jonas seems uneasy to find a real person. Instead of enjoying this connection, he feels uneasy to be with someone else other than "his Martha." Does he feel guilty for enjoying this comfort of real touch?

He gets out of bed and begins to get dressed. Martha sees the distance in his eyes and follows suit. It's time for the awkward morning after conversation. The connection from last night feels like a dream in the daylight. Both of them make eye contact but quickly look away, betraying the awkwardness they feel. Maybe they would like to say more, but it's not possible. Jonas remains focused on saving his world and his Martha. Martha 2 senses this and is too stubborn to confront him about it. Before they leave the room, Jonas picks up the yellow raincoat. After a moment of hesitation, he hands it to Martha 2 – an uneasy offering. He tells her they need to get to the power plant.

They come downstairs. Katharina 2 demands to know where Martha has been. The family has been looking for her. Martha has tears in her eyes. She can see the worry on her mother's face but chooses not to offer excuses or words of comfort. Of course, Katharina is incensed at the presence of this strange boy in her house. She has never seen Jonas before. Martha gives her a hug, not knowing if this is the last time she will see her mother. Martha says, "Everything will be okay." Katharina returns the hug, noticing Martha's tears. Without saying another word, Martha leaves and Jonas quickly follows. We warp to world 1.

A man and woman hold hands over a table
Ulrich asks Katharina to forgive him
The sweet, worried Katharina is replaced by the warrior Katharina of world 1, 1987. She has the fire in her eyes. She sits with older Ulrich and tells him to wait by the entrance. She will come to him tonight at 10 pm. If anyone notices, he should tell them he couldn't sleep. Katharina glances quickly at her mother. Helene gets off at work at 5 pm. Katharina plans to steal her keycard and break Ulrich out of the psychiatric facility. Ulrich covers her hands with his. She promises that the two of them will bring Mikkel home and touches his cheek. These estranged lovers share an interlude of forgiveness and grace for each other. Ulrich's face registers regret for his past sins. He apologizes to Katharina, feeling unworthy of her loyalty. It's a heartbreaking moment.

Meanwhile, a voice on the radio announces that five high-ranking employees have been given long prison sentences one year after the events of Chernobyl. We are at the store of older H.G. Tannhaus – clocks everywhere. German nuclear power plants have been performing increased safety inspections. Teen Charlotte enters the store. She leans on his work station and casually asks Tannhaus if he's ever thought it was possible to turn back time. This is a delightful bit of character consistency. Charlotte has never been one for small talk. And all of her abrupt talks with Peter seem to make more sense now. She treats everyone like this – not just her husband.

He laughs and admits that he has. She persists. She really wants an answer. He decides to let her in on his inner thoughts, realizing she's old enough. He has wanted to travel, but he realizes his place isn't in the past or the future. It's here with Charlotte. He retrieves and opens a small wooden box. He hands her a photo of a young couple with a baby. Charlotte assumes they might be her parents. Instead, Tannhaus admits that this is his son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. They all died in a car crash. That same night, he heard noises in the shop. Two women came to him and brought a baby. That baby was Charlotte. He lost everything that night and was given everything in return.

Charlotte listens intently as Tannhaus describes the accident. A truck forced his son's car into the river. Only the bodies of the two adults were found. The baby was never located. The only thing Charlotte had with her was a pocket watch that reads "For Charlotte." He gives her the watch.

Charlotte is devastated. She has been hoping one day that Tannhaus would tell her the identity of her parents. Instead, she learns that she was unceremoniously dumped by two unknown women. There is no hope for an answer. She runs out of the store.

A woman sits on a chair in an office
Charlotte questions Aleksander
We warp to world 2, 2020. Adult Charlotte visits Aleksander in his office. She stares at the folded up shopping bag sitting on his desk. She's here to talk about "the boy in the bunker" – meaning Mads. She inquires about his well-being. He's been running the meeting about the plant shutting down in one year. He never thought it would come to this.

Charlotte asks when he came to Winden and when he started working at the power plant. Aleksander realizes he's being questioned. He tells her the fall of 1986. She next wants to know about the shift schedules – both the ones now and the ones back then. Do they keep archives? She wants to see the shift schedules for the entire year of 1986.

Back in world 1, 2020, Claudia walks into the post-apocalypse police station. It's raining. She hears something and picks up a metal bar, ready to fight if needed. There is another Claudia. The same age, impeccably dressed, hair styled. They commence in an epic stare down.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth and Peter come out of Benni's trailer. Elisabeth looks downcast. They walk to the barricades near the power plant. Peter checks in with the guards. Elisabeth holds the pocket watch. She tells Peter that she doesn't want to go with him today. She wants Peter to accept that everyone is dead. If they were alive, they would come looking for them. She turns and walks away. Peter starts to follow her but changes his mind.

Two women who look the same stare at each other
The council of Claudias is in session
Back at the police station, the Claudia showdown continues. Claudia 2 says that she's here to guide Claudia 1 to the light. There are two groups trying to control time – light and shadow. We have heard all of this before, but now Claudia 2 spins her version of it. She asks Claudia 1 to join Eva's side. She can't trust Jonas. He belongs to the shadow. Claudia 1 tells Claudia 2 that Jonas is dead. Remember that after they separated, this Claudia never saw Jonas again. He got distracted by the Martha situation and never came to the bunker.

Claudia 2 seems very smug. She tells Claudia 1 that Jonas is very much alive. He wants to destroy both worlds and destroy the knot. He doesn't know that this is what he will want in the future. Eva wants to save both worlds. Claudia 1 struggles to keep up. She remembers Jonas wanting to change things. Claudia 2 tells her that he believes that because she (older Claudia) told him that. It's a positive feedback loop.

Jonas opened the passage in 2020. Older Jonas (Stranger Jonas) shut it prior to that in 2019. It was opened for the first time in the summer of 1986. Each time, cesium residue was left behind. The dark matter. In each cycle, at all three moments, cesium is brought into the tunnel before it has fully decayed. It expands exponentially. It must continue to exist for eternity. Everything in the loop must continue to happen until Claudia can figure out how to really change things. Now Claudia begins to believe her because the science lines up.

We warp back to world 2. Martha 2 and Jonas stand outside the power plant fence. Jonas uses bolt cutters to cut through the links. Martha asks what's in the barrels. Jonas doesn't know, but he knows something happened in the summer of 1986. The substance in the barrels made time travel possible. The truck with the barrels is arriving tonight. They will wait for it to be delivered.

A brunette girl with a cut on her right cheeck
Martha 2 cuts her right cheek on the fence
Martha crawls through the links and cuts her right cheek on a piece of metal. This moment makes Jonas stop in his tracks. He stares at her like a ghost. He realizes that alt-Martha had a scratch on her cheek, too, on the left side. Right then and there, he decides to abort the plan to follow Eva's instructions. She told him he could change things, but it looks like everything is happening the same. So far following orders has only made the thing he wanted to stop happen again.

Martha 2 gets mad. She doesn't know about Jonas' world, but this is her world. Maybe they can stop the apocalypse here at least. Jonas argues that this might be what Eva wants. Martha feels pain, realizing that Jonas' thoughts lie only with saving his world and his Martha. He's just with her to use her for this plan. You have to feel bad for Martha 2. This is her first rodeo, but Jonas is becoming a veteran. "They're all lying!" he says. He's tired of being used, too. He will go to Eva now to hear the truth. But what makes him think they will tell him the truth now?

Martha 2 can't help herself. She decides to follow Jonas, even though her instincts tell her to stay at the power plant.

We warp back to world 1, 1986. Teen Charlotte sits at the bus stop with an egg robin blue hat and gray coat. It's not clear if she planned to go somewhere or if she just wanted a quiet place to think. The bus pulls up and a young man steps off. He politely asks Charlotte how long it will take him to walk to Winden. She recommends he bail. Winden is a black hole. Once you're in, you can never leave. It's now that I notice there's a lovely vending machine for cigarettes on the bus stop.

Peter comes to sit next to her. He kindly asks if she's okay. Charlotte says that it's complicated. Peter admits that everything is complicated. She asks why he came to town. He mentions that his mother died, and he has come to live with his father. He just learned who his father is when his mother died. These two have a similar back story. Both seem to feel lost. Charlotte tries him out. Does he think you can bring people back from the dead? Peter asks how that would work. He doesn't shy away from the question or act like she's weird. Charlotte responds that you have to get to the person before they die. The boy's name is Peter.

We warp to world 2. Elisabeth sits on the couch. Charlotte comes home and wonders why Elisabeth isn't in school. She didn't go today. Peter comes out to see what's going on. Charlotte is home early. She tells him that she went to see Aleksander. It turns out that Helge was working at the plant the night that Mads disappeared. His shift ended at 6 pm. Mads disappeared at 6:21 pm. Peter is incensed that Charlotte is still on this path. And she's saying this right in front of their daughter. Helge was with them the whole evening. Charlotte persists in speaking about the topic.

Peter reminds Charlotte that Elisabeth is not deaf. Charlotte says that Ulrich is right; these events are all connected. Peter turns from frustrated to emotionally dead when she brings up Ulrich. Charlotte leaves to go back to the office.

We warp back to world 1. Rainy day at the RV continues. Elisabeth arrives and finds a strange man inside, searching for food. He tells her not to be scared, but when she tries to flee, he bashes her head against the door, giving her a deep cut above her eyebrow. She wakes to find him heating up a can of food on the stove. Her hands are tied behind her back. He tries to make conversation but, of course, she can't understand him.

He sits down on the bed next to her to eat. It's been awhile since he enjoyed a hot meal. She backs away from him, hoping he will eat and leave. Instead, he reaches to touch her. She reacts but says nothing. It's a terrible scene to watch. He then starts to pull at her clothes. Elisabeth is helpless to protect herself since she's tied up, and she can't even scream. He gets on top of her and begins to sexually assault her. Peter finally arrives home.

He goes full on dad mode, doing whatever he can to protect his daughter. The two fight, but Peter isn't a strong man. This stranger outweighs him in every way. Elisabeth sees a knife and begins to untie herself. By this time the stranger is on top of Peter. He bludgeons his head with a can of food. Elisabeth removes the ropes binding her and bravely attacks the stranger with a knife. She's no shrinking violet. Elisabeth has him in a chokehold, but the stranger throws her off.

A teen girl with blood on her face
Elisabeth survives an assault and witnessing the death of her father
He goes back to Peter, pushing him up against the wall. Poor Peter. Gravity is working against him. The stranger has the advantage and pushes the knife into Peter's throat. But Elisabeth is ready. She pummels him in the nose with a fire extinguisher and bashes him in the head with it, over and over again. She then finds her father – dead. She sinks to the ground, shivering. She's now an orphan. A warlord is born. 

We cut to 2053. Older Elisabeth watches the unstable god particle. Adam stands nearby. Older Franziska, Charlotte, and Elisabeth are all together – the family reunited. They embrace, three in one. Adam tells Franziska to let go. Franziska pulls herself together and flips a lever. Elisabeth and Charlotte enter the now stable god particle in hazmat suits.

We cut back to the Claudias in 2020. Impeccable Claudia tells raggety Claudia that Adam can never be allowed to untie the knot. She hands her the Sic Mundus journal. Claudia will lead Jonas, Noah, and Elisabeth. The two of them will make sure everything is preserved. Impeccable Claudia now takes a golden sphere out of her pocket, the same as alt-Martha had. They will see each other again. Just follow the directions in the journal. Raggety Claudia is shaken.

A girl in a yellow raincoat walks away from a teen boy
Martha 2 walks off
Martha 2 and Jonas walk towards the caves. Martha asks Jonas what if there can be only one world. The two stand across from each other. Martha on the left – Jonas on the right. The camera begins to move clockwise around the pair. Now Jonas is on the left, mirrored from before. Martha recognizes that Jonas decided long ago what he would choose. Jonas tries to defend himself, "I didn't want any of this. You have to believe me."  

Martha doesn't believe he didn't want any of this. What about last night? Jonas says, "This is wrong. I'm wrong here." She kisses him passionately, and he returns the kiss with equal vigor. Martha's kiss is an invite for Jonas to reconsider. He could stay here. The two of them can be together in this world. She moves back; the spell is broken. And she moves away first this time.

A woman holds a knife out
Katharina tries to rob her mother to get the hospital keycard

We warp to world 1. It's 1987. Helene walks home from work, wearing a pink coat. She's wearing the St. Christopher pendant. She notices Katharina following her home. Not a scaredy cat, she demands to know what Katharina wants. Katharina tries to threaten her with a knife, demanding the keycard. However this is not the Katharina we have seen before. She looks terrified. Helene can see this. Anyone with the predator instincts of an abuser can see when someone attacks with conviction. Katharina did not look this way when she attacked Regina or Hannah.

Helene feels like she knows Katharina from somewhere. The two of them begin to scuffle, Katharina reaching for her bag. Helene manages to bend Katharina's wrist back. On instinct, she calls her Mama. Helen steps back, horrified. She runs away from Katharina. Katharina trips and loses her knife. She still catches up to Helene. The two fight, and Katharina hits her in the head with a rock.

She rummages in her mom's bag for the keycard, but she makes a fatal flaw, turning her back on her mom and dropping her weapon. Helene uses the moment to get to her feet and attacks Katharina from behind. "I'm not your mother. You come from hell. The devil sent you. You're not real. I got rid of you." She believes Katharina is the ghost of her aborted daughter.

A woman holds a rock over her head
Helene kills Katharina
She attacks Katharina with a rock. In the tussle, Katharina pulls the St. Christopher pendant off her mother's neck. The patron saint of travelers. The thing that sustained her mother through a dark time. This scene between Katharina and her mother is one of the most disturbing moment of the show, and to be honest, this entire episode is pretty traumatic.

As the dark descends, Helene fills Katharina's backpack with rocks and drags her body to the lake. Katharina's dead hand loosens, leaving the St. Christopher pendant behind. Katharina is the lady in the lake – the person who the teens talk about on their perfect summer day.

At the Kahnwald house, a taxi pulls up, letting Mikkel and Ines out. Mikkel stares at the house, especially at the window of his bedroom. He senses something is different. We are lead to believe that he feels the connection of his mother's presence. Ever vigilant of her son's mood, Ines offers to make him hot chocolate – her drug of choice. Mikkel notices the broken window pane where Katharina broke in.

A woman stares wild-eyed. she has blood on her face
Helene comes home after killing Katharina 
Meanwhile across town, teen Katharina sits at the kitchen table doing her homework. Helene comes in and begins pounding a bottle of vodka. Katharina asks if she's okay. She notices the blood on Helene's clothes. Helene begins to vigorously wash her hands. Katharina gets up to comfort her mother (Her shirt reads LIEBE, which means love).

Helene looks grateful for a moment for the concern but defaults to cruelly, attacking Katharina for a hickey she finds on her neck. She begins to beat Katharina, calling her a slut. Worst of all, she says, "I should have gotten rid of you, too." Katharina raises her arms to protect herself, but she can't protect herself from her mother's disgust.

We now have our montage. The track is "In the Woods Somewhere" by Hozier.

We see the St. Christopher pendant on the beach. Ulrich waits for a Katharina that will never come. Charlotte in world 2 look at Ulrich's empty office. HG Tannhaus looks at the photo of him and Charlotte. She comes home, saying nothing. Teen Peter arrives at Helge's cabin. Meanwhile in 2020, Peter is dead in the RV. In world 2, Peter sits near a sleeping Elisabeth. In world 1, Elisabeth sits in the caves. Teen Noah finds her. Claudia reads the journal she gave herself.

Three people face each other in a triangle formation
Martha 2 and Jonas wait as EVA approaches
We warp back to world 2, Eva's world and Eva's lair. Jonas and Martha 2 arrive at Erit Lux. The family tree visible. Martha wonders where they are. They look at the painting of Adam and Eva. Older Eva arrives. This is Martha's first chance to see her final future self. Eva says, "And so it begins again." Jonas accuses her of lying. He wonders if it's true they can only save one world. And he wants to go home now. Eva has a scratch on her left cheek.

Eva tells him flat out that there is no return for him. She says, "A human being lives three lives. The first one ends with the loss of naivete. The second with the loss of innocence. And the third with the loss of life itself. Yours ends here and now."

In walks Stranger Martha. Eva says that Jonas has accomplished what he came to do. Martha 2 protests that they have accomplished nothing. In walks alt-Martha. She has both a small gash on her right cheek and a big gap on her left cheek, indicating she is what will turn into Eva. Martha 2 says, "Who are you?" Alt Martha looks defiant and feral. She apologizes. Then shoots Jonas. It's so abrupt.

A girl hovers over a boy lying on his back
Jonas is dead. The family tree are his angel wings. 
Martha 2 sobs and tries to stop the bleeding. It's a perfect mirror to when Jonas saw Martha shot. He lays his hand on her cheek as he dies. Alt Martha walks out without another word. Jonas places the St. Christopher pendant in her hands. Martha 2 promises to make it right.

With the attack on Elisabeth, Peter's death, the violence between Helene and Katharina, and the shocking death of our Jonas all on the table, Life and Death is the most brutal episode of the entire series. It ends with what seems like no hope. With only four episodes to go, here's hoping for some sort of hope for Jonas and the Winden folk.

Lingering questions:

  • How are all of these Marthas related? There are four iterations of Martha.
  • Stranger Jonas doesn't remember visiting Eva's world. How do we read that when Jonas in this world dies. How can there be a Stranger Jonas if Jonas dies? Just like Martha. There must be an alternate Jonas.
  • How do the double Claudias play into this?

Sic Mundus Creatus Est


Tim said…
Yikes. A more accurate episode title would be "Life and Death, (but mostly Death)".

Thanks again for the thorough recap, it got me through some confusing plot points. Well, they're all confusing, but some require more guidance than others.
Lindsey said…
It was quite grim.