(Part One of this limited edition, hopefully once-in-a-lifetime series can be found here.)
Like any entertainment medium, television can be hit or miss, and even classic, beloved programs from days gone by may not hold up to today’s standards of production, acting, and narrative. On the other hand, there are a lot of mediocre-to-terrible TV shows out there, and more get churned out every day.
Dark is a German science fiction show that’s quite, well, dark. In it, a boy goes missing in the German town of Winden, and his disappearance near a series of caves on the town’s outskirts seems very similar to a child disappearance over twenty years prior. Winden is home to a gigantic nuclear power plant, as well as a series of characters that range from the troubled to the bizarre. Horribly burned bodies show up. Birds die. Mysteries are plumbed. And then things get very, very strange. It’s a slow moving program that keeps its cards very close to the vest, so close that most of the plot elements aren’t resolved by the final episode; in fact, even more mysteries are presented at the end. This is terribly unfair to the viewer, who after ten episodes of patient watching deserves at least some closure. Instead, the show demands that you watch the next season, whenever it’s produced, and perhaps the writers might tell you what exactly is going on. Or they might not. For that reason I don’t know that I can recommend this show, unless you have a lot of time to kill.
On the heels of Dark, and because I kind of enjoyed Harlan Coben’s Safe, I gave Coben’s other Netflix miniseries a try: The Five. This one also involves a missing child, and while the police, family, and friends deal with the aftermath twenty years later, it turns out that the missing kid’s DNA finds itself in a recent crime scene. There’s a good bit of family angst throughout, and it’s a little hard to appreciate all the characters, as some are much more likable and present than the others. There’s the bad boy who now runs a weird sort of dance hall/homeless shelter, the cop with a dad suffering from dementia, the missing kid’s older brother who still suffers guilt and shame, and the love interest whose subplot involving pill addiction went nowhere and kind of wasted everyone’s time. I did like the end, which wrapped things up poignantly and neatly, but overall it wasn’t as gripping or tragic as Safe. Skip unless you’re stuck in a hospital bed like I was.
Are you into Danish TV? Who isn’t? Either way, you might want to try out the sci-fi dystopia show The Rain. It follows a familiar sort of disease-caused end of the world scenario with a twist: anyone caught in the rain dies of a horrible illness within a minute or two. The young son and daughter of the scientist who may or may not be responsible for the disease hole up in a fallout shelter-like underground facility until the food and air run out, and must venture to the surface to survive, find other fallout shelters, and look for their scientist dad. A grim sort of show, rather formulaic, with few surprises. None of the characters were terribly likable or relatable. It ends exactly the way you would expect, unfortunately. Think of it like The Walking Dead, except everyone’s a teenager and there aren’t any zombies. If you watch it you might like it. If you don’t you probably won’t regret missing it, even on your deathbed.
If I seem ambivalent about these three programs, it’s because I am. However, they did capture my attention during a somewhat difficult time, so I’ll always remember them. Until I forget all about them.