Dark: The Paradise (Das Paradies)
June 28, 2020 2:55 PM - Season 3, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Claudia reveals to Adam how everything is connected--and how he can destroy the knot. (Series Finale)

*In the Kahnwald house, Michael seals his suicide note, ties the noose, and jumps from the stool, young Jonas wakes from his nightmare.

*Old Claudia tells Adam his mistake, that destroying Martha and her Origin child doesn't break the knot because the problem isn't his world versus Eva's, the true origin is a third world -- E.G. Tannhaus's device split the world in three, that to end the cycle they have to prevent the invention of travel through space and time in the Origin World altogether. Claudia says she wishes she could have spared him all this but every step had to be taken exactly as before, up until this moment, even though everything Adam and Eva have done before has upheld the knot for eternity in both worlds.

*Eva introduces scarface young Martha to the Origin Trio, who embrace her. Middle-age Martha brings her the Jonas-killing outfit and gun, and she murders him again to save her child.

*At Regina's post-apocalypse grave-marker, Tronte tells Claudia that he always thought Regina was his daughter. Claudia says she used to wish that too, but it's better that Regina isn't part of the knot since it means she will live. Claudia sends Tronte to go back to kill Regina, so that earlier-Claudia can do everything she needs to to prevent it. Back at the bunker, Claudia changes into her Eva-Claudia clothes and hairstyle, continuing to play both sides.

*We see a split-screen of Adam-world & Eva-world Ulrich exiting the cave after following old Helge into the passage. While Adam-world Ulrich exited into 1953 where he attacked little-Helge, Eva-world Ulrich went the other way to 1986 and attacked adult-Helge and dragged him into the bunker, whereupon Old Helge killed Ulrich.

*Old Claudia tells Adam that during the apocalypse time stops momentarily, that Eva has been using that moment to send her younger self on different paths to sustain the loop, that Claudia used it to send herself to here, and that Adam must use it to get young Jonas and other-Martha to the Origin World to destroy the knot.

*Adam returns to the Kahnwald house right after when he murdered his Martha, and uses the gold orb-device to bring himself and Jonas back to the cave on apocalypse-day in Eva-world. They exit and see Ulrich follow Old Helge into the cave. Adam tells Jonas he must get to other-Martha before Magnus & Franziska. Jonas runs through the woods and reaches Bartosz and Martha just as older Magnus & Franziska stop them, and Jonas gets his orb started and tackles Martha and dematerializes with her. They re-materialize outside the power plant, and Jonas tells her they're at June 21, 1986, the day their two worlds were created, that today Tannhaus will open the passage for the first time and they must stop it.

*Adam sets fire to Eva's Adam & Eve portraits, goes to her god-particle room and turns the blob to black-sphere.

*Outside the cave, Jonas says that there's someone they must save, that neither of their worlds should exist but that his and Martha's inability to let go of what they want is to blame.

*Adam approaches Eva with a gun. Eva says she knows he will kill her, that she remembers being younger and seeing him kill her, that it's what will finally turn younger-her against him, but he reveals that the gun isn't loaded, and Eva is confused at events not happening the same as she remembers.

*Jonas and Martha go through the Sic Mundus door and wait. When Tannhaus activates his machine, the passage opens, and Jonas and Martha find themselves alone in a starfieldy space. They both see each other as children looking back at them from doorways, though their parents see no one and close the doors. Jonas and Martha back away and bump into each other; Jonas activates the gold orb-device and they walk forward into the Origin World.

*1974 Tannhaus's son, Marek, is arguing with him in the shop, and stomps off to drive home early despite it being a rainy night. Marek's wife assures Tannhaus that he'll cool off, and carries the baby out after him. In the car, Marek gripes about his dad, but does settle down, and gives his wife a kiss, then almost crashes the car when Jonas and Martha appear in the road, but he stops safely. Marek gets out and yells at them for nearly getting him killed, and Jonas tells Marek the bridge is closed. When Marek look to get back in the car and keep driving anyway, Jonas say "What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean" (a Tannhaus saying) and Martha says his father loves him, and would do anything for him. Unsettled, Marek tells his wife she was right about it being better if they leave tomorrow, and turns back to Winden. Back at the shop, Marek and his father reconcile.

*Martha asks Jonas if he thinks it worked, and he tells her about seeing little Martha through the closet, and she remembers it too. They start to dematerialize together, and Jonas says again "We're a perfect match, never believe anything else." They clasp hands and both disappear. Throughout time, others in the knot dematerialize - Adam and Eva, 1880s Jonas, Apocalypse Claudia, middle-age Martha.

*In the fixed world, there's a dinner party in the Kahnwald house, now occupied by Regina. There's a photo of her with Claudia and an older man (her father? Claudia's husband?)
*Hannah & Wöller (both arms and no eyepatch now) are a couple. Katharina, Peter, and Bennie are there too. Peter says Wöller's eye looks good, that he never did tell them how he hurt it. He starts to tell them the story but then the lights go out. When the power comes back on, Hannah seems disturbed - she tells them it's deja vu, that last night she had a dream like this, where there was a bang and the lights went out and then the world ended, but that it felt good and right that it had, that there was no today or tomorrow just infinite darkness. We see that Hannah is pregnant, and when asked about baby names says that she thinks Jonas is a beautiful name.
posted by oh yeah! (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I thought that was a very thematically satisfying ending, even though there were plenty of loose threads I wanted to get resolved. I was glad to see Benni get a seat at the table in the last scene (maybe she and Peter are a couple in the fixed universe?), and I thought not explaining about Wöller's eye again was hilarious. Before the end I was about 70% convinced that the appearance of Jonas and Marta was going to cause the car accident in the first place, sending the whole thing into yet another loop, and I'm glad that wasn't the ending they went for.

Thanks for posting these recaps, oh yeah!
posted by whir at 9:18 PM on June 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


The guy in the picture at the end with Claudia and Regina was Bernd Doppler, Regina’s real father. It’s foreshadowed in a couple episodes (most recently when he hits on her teenage self in s3). Which I guess makes Helge her half brother!
posted by cali at 1:58 AM on June 29, 2020


Wait, I realized this morning as I woke up that it must be old Egon with Regina & Claudia in the photo, to show he had been saved from a knot-related death in the fixed universe too. (And I think I was misspelling Bernd's name in some of the recaps, will have to go back through and see if I need some mod fixes.) Bernd was in a wheelchair by the time Claudia was an adult, so he wouldn't be standing up in the photo unless his disability was some bad-Winden-verse thing.

Whir, I had the same thought about Bennie & Peter, and wish they'd made it explicit rather than it being a question of whether Peter was at the party with Bennie or Katharina, since Bennie could just be there because of being Wöller's sibling, but at least they're not exiled to the RV of sex work in the fixed universe. And I also worried that Jonas & Martha were going to have caused the wreck in the first place, but I guess the show knew most people would, since they'd thrown so many paradoxes at us already.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:02 AM on June 29, 2020


I kind of want a census of "fixed" Winden just to know what the ramifications were. Does the Nielsen family even exist? With no Origin to be Tronte's father, perhaps no Agnes and no Hanno/Noah... It might be an interesting exercise to go through the very interconnected family tree and figure out who could possibly still be around just after erasing the Origin, but it seems like the town is populating itself with some of those names anyway, just with different parentage (Charlotte Tannhaus, Jonas Wöller).
posted by LionIndex at 4:38 AM on June 29, 2020


do they ever explain who the heck the oil-covered martha was that martha saw when running away from the noise in the cave?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:55 AM on June 30, 2020


do they ever explain who the heck the oil-covered martha was that martha saw when running away from the noise in the cave?

I don't think so. Jonas had nightmare visions of oil-covered Michael back in season 1, so, maybe it was just meant as another 'they're a perfect match' similarity? Oh, Martha's vision was in a white dress -- was it the shift from when Adam destroyed her and her Origin fetus with the god-particle sphere? Maybe dying Martha was reaching out to her past consciousness somehow, like the way she and Jonas saw their child-selves through the closets in the passage?
posted by oh yeah! at 4:39 AM on June 30, 2020


I'm not sure how conscious Helge would be of this, but when he says "tick, tock" he actually is describing the infinite loop that Winden is in pretty well: the "tick" is the Universe A loop, where Jonas hides under the house to survive the apocalypse. The "tock" is the Universe B loop, where Marta B steps in to save Jonas and bring him back to Universe B. Each one creates the other (right? I'm sure this is the case but I'm having trouble remembering the exact mechanism), until Jonas manages to break the cycle by exiting to the original universe.
posted by whir at 4:24 PM on June 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


Drinking game for this show needs to include every time a single tear goes down someone's cheek, so this episode can really send people to the hospital.

I'm glad I never again have to see someone walk into that room to receive some cryptic monologue from Adam or Eva.

I really didn't like this show but I respect its commitment to trying to make sense of its own nonsense.
posted by fleacircus at 7:15 PM on July 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


I was becoming increasingly bored and frustrated by the time loop's deterioration into complete absurdity, so I found it satisfying that the show acknowledged that it was a convoluted mess in which everyone was related, miserable and trapped in a deterministic hell, and that undoing the whole thing restored the "real" universe.

I think that some of the revelations towards the end (e.g. Ulrich and Helge's similar but not identical encounter in the B universe; Jonas' inability to shoot himself) suggested that the two worlds and the time loop were a malevolent entity with a purpose, which sought to perpetuate itself (which I thought foreshadowed the "cancer" metaphor and the conclusion). I also interpreted some of the unresolved parentage issues (who was Peter's mother? Who was Regina's father?) as in-universe plot holes resulting from the dysfunctional and artificial nature of the two universes.

I liked that two characters who had relatively small roles during the series turned out to be protagonists in a world where the giant time-travelling all-you-zombies family never existed.
posted by confluency at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


OK, after reading a lot of explanation threads on Reddit I saw that fandom consensus was that Regina's father was Bernd Doppler. This was alluded to in that creepy 50s scene with him and Claudia, and apparently the connection is visible somewhere in the on-screen family trees. I had a closer look at the family photo shown at the start of the real world dinner party, and that's definitely him. He's standing, so presumably whatever condition confined him to a wheelchair in the time loop universes was, like Regina's cancer, due to the existence of the power plant (which doesn't get built here).
posted by confluency at 4:28 AM on July 5, 2020


Well I loved it, even if parts of it did get repetitive - there were just a few too many lines that got repeated a few too many times in different ironic contexts. But it ended the way I had basically decided it had to end, with the death-via-erasing-from-existence of most of the cast, so I was satisfied.

Plenty of unanswered questions of course, but most of them I can live with. (Like, how did the intricate steps of each universe/time loop get established in the first place? Did it take them a while to stabilize? Or did they somehow blorp into existence fully formed?) (And also, I guess the mysterious saga of Boris Niewald wasn't the pivotal key to everything that I thought it was gonna be right up until this episode?)
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:40 PM on July 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


I mean I guess on reflection, Boris/Aleksandar was ultimately quite instrumental in both apocalypses. In universe B he offers to open the barrels and in universe A, Clausen - who came to town looking for Aleksander - opens them. But in both universes, it's his handling of the cover-up that ultimately leads to their being opened. And of course, Bartoz is heavily involved in both timelines and Bartoz is his son.

But since that's all true, I'd have assumed that his path in life, like everyone else's path, was manipulated by Adam and/or Eve. I was really expecting a flashback to that effect and I'm surprised we never got one.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2020


My assumption was that in the origin universe the relationship between Regina and Katharina was very different (Ulrich and all the the Nielsens not existing at all) and so the fateful meeting with Boris cum Alexsander didn't happen. What became of Boris in that universe? I'm a bit curious, but it doesn't seem that significant.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with the ending. For a show this complicated and slow to reveal itself, it seems pretty clear (and made especially so by showbiz_liz's excellent comment explaining the significance of "a glitch in the matrix") that they knew where they were going all along, and you don't need to fully grasp the nuances of the timelines and character actions to appreciate that the worlds were fundamentally broken. I really liked the way time travel and causality was handled.

Ever since season 1 of this show, I've described it to people as a relatively equal mix of Twin Peaks (what insidiousness lies beneath the happy veneer of small towns), Stranger Things (lots of nostalgia and kids are the primary characters in exploring bizarre phenomena) and Donnie Darko (creepy time travel and acceptance of death). With this final resolution, I'd say that's even more true for me.

The last thing I'll say is that I have never seen a show with such phenomenal casting. Nearly every character is shown at 2 different ages, and often at 3 or 4 and every single time it is just dead on to the point where I could often know who a character in a new time setting was just from seeing their face. They even managed to pull this off with adult Jonas in a way that doesn't give away his identity too early, but still feels true. This owes a lot to the consistent performances and makeup as well, but sill I am amazed.
posted by Cogito at 12:45 PM on July 12, 2020 [3 favorites]


For me it seemed as though Claudia was the third antagonist, after Adam and Eve. The “knot” was always represented as a trefoil, consistently from the beginning of the series (they added the trefoil to the emerald tablet that Noah has tattooed on his back and that also pops up in a couple of other places. The trefoil is also on the Sic Mundus / Erit Lux door, and of course we constantly see it on the famous notebook). The trefoil looks a lot like the moebius strip infinity sign with an extra loop - you can in fact make a moebius trefoil with three surfaces instead of two (see eg here) which would allow three separate versions of every event in the entire loop, to return you to the start of the knot - and we saw a few “third versions” of repeated event in S3, like Adam rescuing Jonas after [other Adam] had shot Martha; or Adam not shooting Eve when she expected it. It would also help to explain the Origin family setting fire to Eve’s lair to mimic Adam doing the same and resulting in burned paintings in future loops. The ending (with the sinister lightning and “I like the name Jonas”) seemed to mesh with the earlier statement in the final episode that things can happen put of order and so on, but they still happen and still lead to the same point. And Claudia had her own motives to run her own loop - the survival of Regina.

A third loop also feels more satisfying to me (not saying I would want to watch another series though...) because there are simply soooooo many plot holes. Why did they fry all the kids eyeballs?? I don’t think they have all the answers, or even the majority - I think they’re leaving it to obsessive fans to do stuff like the above, and I don’t intend to start drawing family trees - but this is headcannon that helps me with all of the questions that I was hoping they’d deign to answer this series, hahaha.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:52 PM on July 14, 2020


Why did they fry all the kids eyeballs??

That was just from the initial unsuccessful iterations of the bunker time-machine chair (and, I mean, for the story necessity of Mads' face not being immediately recognizable to Ulrich when the body turned up in 2019), it didn't get to fully-functional non-face-frying until the end of S1 when little Helge got sent back safely through the rift and Jonas got sent forward.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:22 PM on July 14, 2020


Sorry, to be more specific, why the bunker time machine chair? There were about 12 other ways to travel through time, most of which were known and available to Hanno / Noah, including a tunnel directly underneath the bunker.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:54 PM on July 14, 2020


Which, thinking about it, he dug in the first place
posted by chappell, ambrose at 7:26 PM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


Maybe he was trying to come up with a more accurate/controllable form of time travel? It seems like only the breifcase and the ball could go to a specific time. All others were random. Also, those machines needed the black matter in order to work, so maybe he was testing with something different?
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:23 AM on July 15, 2020


After the first iteration, he knows how to make a time machine, but he still has to do all the unsuccessful prototypes because that's how it worked last time. Like playing a videogame for the hundredth time - you have to trigger the landmine at the doorstep even though it's a bad idea, because that's how you get to go through the door.
posted by Mogur at 4:45 AM on July 15, 2020


After the first iteration, he knows how to make a time machine, but he still has to do all the unsuccessful prototypes because that's how it worked last time.

But why does he need one? There’s one just below his feet, that the younger him (subjective time) built several decades ago (objective time). He knows about it.

Maybe he was trying to come up with a more accurate/controllable form of time travel?

It’s interesting to speculate! But that’s all it can be: speculation. Whereas I sort of would have liked them to take a stab at explaining the central mystery of S1. I feel like they just kept asking questions in S3 and in that respect it reminded me of Twin Peaks S3, where Lynch had no interest in going back and resolving anything and wanted to keep telling stories. Or Primer, where the plot becomes so intentionally complex that the point is to roll with it, not to attempt to follow the exponentially increasing “twists”. But in Dark’s case I feel like this was a bit of a cop-out, a failure of nerve. The unspoken contract with the audience was a little different and they did in fact keep on trying to go back and explain what was going on, just without much success. I don’t believe they had such a clear idea themselves. And that’s especially obvious with the mechanics of how and when time travel works within the show.

I’m still very fond of Dark, it was gripping and thought provoking (I finished all of it! Unusual for me!) and there are a million great things to say about it - I don’t want to come across as someone with a broadly negative opinion. But I don’t think they managed to resolve much and the Thanos-style ending in which everyone disintegrates because their existence is a paradox felt pretty corny and also pretty nonsensical - the fact that things can happen different ways in each loop means almost by definition that paradoxes shouldn’t result in the disappearance of the results, and it never had done so previously.

Anyway, I’m sticking to my headcannon - the Origin family weren’t the real origin, Claudia’s third loop was the real “origin” in terms of being the missing piece to complete the knot. All the loose ends and plot holes and contradictions and needlessly roasted children can go in there.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:28 AM on July 15, 2020 [2 favorites]


It's still just speculation, but my headcanon take on Noah's time machine is that he was trying to do an end-run around Adam and Sic Mundus, since Adam told Noah that he'd eventually betray him. I'd guess he was trying to find a way to keep his family of Elizabeth and Charlotte together somehow.

There was some speculation last season about who the person Noah kills while building the tunnels is, with a lot of people thinking it might be Bartosz - I'd have to go back and watch that part to see if that person lines up age-wise (i.e. a person in 1921 who'd been a teenager in 1888), but then, also, Noah would be killing his own father.

The other odd thing to me is Adam being so scarred up, with other characters explaining it as frequent time travel doing a number on you, but Claudia's jumping around all over the place and her appearance doesn't seem to be affected. Based on the one scene this season, maybe Adam's appearance is actually the result of frequent electrocutions while working on the Tesla coil time machine he started building in 1888. In reality, that character might just be the one role they couldn't find an adequate doppelganger for, so they had to heavily disguise his appearance.
posted by LionIndex at 9:41 AM on July 17, 2020


I think they could have found an older actor who looked like young & middle-aged Jonas if they’d really wanted to — but the Adam-is-Jonas reveal was one of the big plot twists of S2, so, they couldn’t have the resemblance be too apparent from the get-go. And, yeah, I think we’re meant to understand that the Tesla coil construction process is to blame for his scarring.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:30 PM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


The person Adam kills in S2:E1 is almost certainly Bartosz. He's uncredited in that episode so far as I can tell, but a search of Roman Knižka (who played old Bartosz in S3) seems to confirm it.

It makes sense given Bartosz's longstanding conflict with Jonas/Adam.
posted by Cogito at 4:09 PM on July 17, 2020


Except Noah does the killing, not Adam/Jonas.
posted by LionIndex at 7:06 AM on July 18, 2020


He does it because Adam told him to, right?
posted by Cogito at 9:57 AM on July 19, 2020


One thing I didn't understand was how Claudia figured out there was a parallel world where Regina wouldn't get sick. Was it because Regina's cancer was caused by the nuclear plant?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:40 PM on August 6, 2020


Oh, I just realized that Peter is at Regina's party because she's his aunt in this universe. Is that right? She'd be Helge's sister?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2020


I think that's true, but I also wonder if the dinner party consisted of all the named characters in the show that aren't elderly and would actually exist in the "repaired" universe.
posted by LionIndex at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2020


I've always been interested in their interstitial lives, and at least most of them have been explained now, albeit sadly instead of happily in most cases. Jonas we certainly know -- wasted youth in faked experiments, wasted adulthood in failed experiments -- and we know it for most of the side characters. But I'm still unclear how or when Martha spent her middle or later thirds, or how Claudia spent her last third, or what the infinity child did for all of his non-rampaging years. I kind of like the idea that Claudia just spent 30 full years traversing time and deducing from first principles the existence and history of the third world as well as the entire physics of time travel, multiple worlds, and time machine construction and miniaturization. What a badass. Though I still don't know precisely what she did in between finally nudging old Jonas out of his loop to fork young Jonas again and thereby end the loop, and her final death, given that her nudge worked the "first" time and she dissolved along with everyone else in the "synchronized internal timelines" framework of this show.

The other thing to say about interstitial time is that the show did in fact do what I feared. An entire show covering over a century of German history, and that 33-year wavelength managed to completely skip Nazism over 30+ hours of narrative. There's a political reading there, of course, but it's also interesting how the (presumed) generation of the shows writers, most of whom I would guess were born in the late 70s like the parents in the show, also fall out of sync with the German atrocities, with their parents born in the 50s, their parents parents mainly children during WWII, and even their great great grandparents likely to have missed or been very young (like Egon) in WWI. On the one hand, the original sin in this show is trying to erase the past; on the other hand, those who are free of that past (Jonas, Martha) have the power to erase it -- created by it, though not really to blame for it. We are the blameless wavelength of generations, the writers seem to imply, and we will solve your problem of history by erasing it.
posted by chortly at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2020 [4 favorites]


But I'm still unclear how or when Martha spent her middle or later thirds, or how Claudia spent her last third, or what the infinity child did for all of his non-rampaging years.

With Martha, as with Jonas, I think there's an implication that the loops we saw in the show didn't appear out of nowhere the moment the first loop began. I imagine there was a period of massive chaos that "settled out" into the basic pattern we see for most of the series, with minor variations. SO probably in the initial loops Martha was running around doing all kinds of shit, but now, because Martha is working to maintain the status quo and seems to have more information than Jonas, she doesn't need to spend time trying to "solve" it. So whatever else she was doing with her time, a lot of it was simply waiting.

Now, the infinity child thing I completely agree with you on. That character could have stood to be more of a character imo. As it is, you wonder why young Martha doesn't look at them and think "fuck this."

The other thing to say about interstitial time is that the show did in fact do what I feared. An entire show covering over a century of German history, and that 33-year wavelength managed to completely skip Nazism over 30+ hours of narrative.

Yes, and I suspect it's not solely that the show creators just didn't want the unpleasantness. The bigger problem is that, if you show anyone at all on this show travelling to WWII, it immediately raises the very valid question of why none of these people are interested in doing something about the atrocities.

If you accept the theory that the initial loops varied quite a bit, it's entirely possible that someone did try this and it made things worse or simply had no effect (like Noah firing that gun). That would be interesting territory to delve into, but I think it would also take like a full season to do it any kind of justice.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:58 AM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


it immediately raises the very valid question of why none of these people are interested in doing something about the atrocities.

Well, I'm afraid that in some sense, the writers do see themselves doing something about them: they are unchangeable in their particulars, like all history, but it can at least be erased wholecloth, if only through the power of fiction (just as Jonas and Martha are, essentially, fictional creations by Tannhaus in his efforts to undo the past).

But I'm not sure I see much evidence for the "initial chaos" interpretation. The one consistent picture of time travel this show mainly sticks to is that there is essentially one timeline, or perhaps three timelines with a single moment of potential splitting on that day in 1986. I think that all the timelines are how they ever were, created wholecloth at the moment of Tannhaus's experiment, erased wholecloth at the "moment" when Jonas and Martha intervene.

That was certainly the way it worked in the more perfect single-season version of this show anyway, when it was just a single nuclear accident that created the trefoil time portal in the single location beneath the plant. I'd like to see the "director's cut" version of that show, in the alternate history when Netflix announced the cancellation with enough lead time for them to deploy the ending I'm sure they had ready. In some ways, that was the more psychologically gripping version of the story, when each parent's sins were created by their or their children's sins in the past and everyone was just doing their best to make things better (which of course makes it worse) instead of the later character-flattening motivation of reproducing the loops. All those moments of teen and parental sorrow were almost entirely abandoned in the later seasons, fun as they were. But perhaps this is all to say that in the end I side with a version of time not quite represented here: that the past is the past, which we neither can change nor need to work to reproduce, and the best they should have done was all decamp to 2053 (A) and start moving forward from there.

Which I guess is also one plausible version of future history for those who are now young: do what we can now, but gird ourselves for the likely future where we finally inherit power from the destructive generations a couple decades from now, along with the post-apocalyptic environmental wreck they will have bequeathed us, and do our best to move forward from there without trying to erase the sins of the past.
posted by chortly at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2020


But I'm not sure I see much evidence for the "initial chaos" interpretation. The one consistent picture of time travel this show mainly sticks to is that there is essentially one timeline, or perhaps three timelines with a single moment of potential splitting on that day in 1986. I think that all the timelines are how they ever were, created wholecloth at the moment of Tannhaus's experiment, erased wholecloth at the "moment" when Jonas and Martha intervene.

I think either interpretation is possible actually! But the reason I lean toward this theory is because so many of these people are explicitly doing things with a view to maintaining the timeline, and it ultimately unravels when someone manages to prevent those maintenance efforts. If the loop were stable and unshifting, why would they be doing those things? It makes less sense to me that time would whole-cloth create these people and events, because that would seem to imply some kind of extra-human intelligence at work, and I'm not convinced that's supposed to exist in this show.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2020


I think we see a few examples where they try to change the timeline and fail -- most obviously with Jonas and the gun, but in fact most of Jonas's efforts prior to being banished to 2053 are to make changes, as are of course Ulrich's, Katherina's, and all the rest in season 1. While Eva, Adam, etc all seem to be under the impression that they need to actively work to preserve the timeline, Claudia seems to be the only one with a clear understanding of everything, and her view is that it is completely unchangeable except at that moment in 1986 -- though admittedly she also seems to take various actions to preserve the timeline herself instead of just letting it sort itself out.

None of that changes the basic objection about how the heck it came into being with such ouroboric stability or why no one can change it, etc, but that's the core problem with all time-travel narratives. I think the chaos->stability picture is consistent with the "physics" of the show, since we certainly could have lots and lots of "previous" timelines dissolving in the way it all does at the end before stabilizing on that (single) loopy history -- and if anything, that makes more logical sense -- but that doesn't seem to be the way Claudia sees it. It's also not how traditional SF time-travel narratives work: there, the loop is almost always closed since, in a hard-SF sense, the evolving/dissolving timeline doesn't make logical sense, whereas a closed, self-causing time loop is at least logically coherent. That doesn't change the fact that the more complex the loops (like this one) the less sense it makes to imagine how (in some atemporal sense) it got there, but that's in part why SF has generally moved away from straight time travel narratives to the alternate-worlds viewpoint.

At the meta level though, the chaos->stability picture most certainly describes the writers' process as they seek to craft a coherent timeline, just as Claudia's string-board and the bunker in general resembles a TV writers room, and just as the increasingly baroque later seasons seek to erase the trauma of the first season and, I argued above, the show itself seeks to erase (or at least absolve the writers' generation of) the sins of German history. I could certainly imagine if there were to have been a fourth season that the writers might have continued to model their world on their own process and introduced the chaos->stability narrative to capture that aspect (just as the OA was doing before it was sadly cancelled). But in any case, all that's a meta explanation rather than a proper in-story SF explanation, which is almost always inevitably incoherent in time-travel stories.
posted by chortly at 12:01 PM on August 29, 2020


It very much seemed to me that while details could be changed, the results always rhymed and there was nothing that could be done about that except at the moment of the apocalypse, at least in the two divergent "worlds." Eva was insistent on maintaining events through the loops exactly as they happened because she wanted to keep the knot, while Adam and Claudia did so because they needed the firm ground on which to base their plans to blow it up.

Adam and Claudia had different reasons for wanting to destroy the knot, but they ultimately shared that goal. It just turned out that Adam was wrong about how to do it and (partially) what would happen if he succeeded.

Overall, I thought the series did a pretty good job of avoiding gaping plot holes. They were there, but they weren't glaringly obvious even upon a casual viewing. Thanks to the convoluted nature of the story it seemed like there were going to be huge issues at various points, but it all got wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way.

I felt like there was a bit of a missed opportunity for Jonas and Martha to live in the origin world, though, since they had in a sense broken free from the confines of the loop worlds. The loop worlds and everything in them had to vanish given the premise, but that particular version of J&M were able to exist in origin world before the split, so it wouldn't have been inconsistent for them to survive.
posted by wierdo at 2:04 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


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