"Secrets" is the first episode of Dark. It was written by Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, and directed by Baran bo Odar. It premiered on December 1, 2017 along with the other episodes in the first season.
In 2019, a local boy's disappearance stokes fear in the residents of Winden, a small German town with a strange and tragic history.
In a cellar containing rifles, hand grenades and a gas mask, there is a wall with photographs of people in different time periods, connected by strings. An unseen man narrates, explaining that time is not linear, but connected in a never-ending circle and the distinction between past, present and future is nothing but an illusion.
June 29, 2019 Edit
Michael Kahnwald, in his attic, closes an envelope and places it on a bench. He proceeds to stand upon a stool and hangs himself from the roof beam. The envelope reads "Do not open before November 4, 10:13 P.M."
November 4, 2019 Edit
Jonas Kahnwald wakes up from a nightmare and takes his medication. The electricity has gone out and Jonas calls for his mother Hannah, who is upstairs having sex with Ulrich Nielsen. Ulrich asks if she will be coming to the meeting tonight, but she is not sure as his wife Katharina will be there. Hannah says she loves him, but he does not reciprocate and leaves through the window. He jogs home through the woods and passes a sign pointing to the Winden Caves. A noise is heard from the ominous cave and later, a hooded person appears in the cave opening.
Biking to see his therapist for a walk in the woods, Jonas notices a missing persons poster for Erik Obendorf as he stops at an intersection in front of the nuclear power plant. His therapist, Peter Doppler, says he read the notes from Jonas' therapy sessions the past two months and he has been doing good. Jonas reveals that he still sees his father and has an emotional outburst over the lingering question of why Michael would kill himself without leaving an explanation.
Ines Kahnwald opens a box with Michael's suicide letter and considers it, before turning on the radio where there is a report about the Winden Nuclear Power Plant, which is to be taken off the grid in 2020. She later listens to a voicemail from Hannah, who informs her that the power has gone out and calls her sick because she hasn't contacted them in three months. Ines considers the suicide letter again and watches the clock.
At the Nielsen home, Katharina is serving breakfast while trying to manage her children; Mikkel won't change out of his magician's outfit, Magnus can't find his hoodie and Martha won't eat because she's on hunger strike. Ulrich says he took so long because there was a line at the bakery due to it being the first day of school. Mikkel shows him a magic trick where he makes a figure move from under one cup to the other and Ulrich asks how he did it. Mikkel explains, "the question is not how, the question is when."
In the school yard, Jonas receives looks from the other kids and some even call him a freak, but his friend Bartosz Tiedemann arrives and defends him. He has told everyone that Jonas was in France for a two-month school exchange. Behind the school, Magnus lights up a joint. Franziska Doppler arrives, takes a drag and calls his weed bad. The students assemble in the gym where Katharina, who is principal, encourages students to talk about Erik's disappearance. Martha sits down in between Jonas and Bartosz and Jonas is disappointed to find that she and Bartosz are now a couple.
At the police station, Charlotte Doppler is yelled at and spit on by Jürgen and Ulla Obendorf, who are angry at the police's lacking efforts in the search for Erik, who has now been missing for thirteen days. Ulrich defuses the situation and suggests that Erik has run away, promises to find their son and sends them home. Later, Ulrich explains that he is certain that Erik ran away because nothing ever happens in Winden, but Charlotte reminds him that this wasn't always the case. Ulrich insists that this has nothing to do with his brother. Charlotte suggests he should pay his mother a visit, as she has called the emergency number again.
At the Forest Hotel Winden, which has no guests due to Erik's disappearance, Regina Tiedemann stands in the lobby looking dismayed. A banker calls with bad news about funding, and Regina snaps at him, calling him a bully and an asshole.
While Franziska holds a presentation on black holes in class, Bartosz wonders if Erik's drugs might still be stashed in the caves and suggests to Jonas that they go there. Bartosz says they will smoke half of it and sell the rest. They meet Martha and Magnus and reveal their plan to them. Martha says the "nuclear power mafia" might be hiding things there, but Jonas agrees to come.
Ulrich visits his mother Jana, who complains that he hasn't been there for a long time. She tells him she saw something in the forest again; a dark figure with a large head and shows him a Raider chocolate wrapper that she found there. She reminds Ulrich that his brother Mads loved those and compares the disappearance of Erik to the disappearance of Mads 33 years ago, saying that everything is repeating itself. In the Winden Rest Home, Helge Doppler seems anxious and restless as he repeats the phrase "It's going to happen again."
Hannah is parked outside the nuclear power plant when Ulrich calls her to ask if she's coming to the meeting, but Hannah is not sure as everyone will be there gawking at her. At home, Katharina finds a woman's hair on Ulrich's hoodie. Inside the power plant, Hannah gives Aleksander Tiedemann a massage. She says his scar is cramped because it's about to rain and scars can sense that, and he says the closure of the plant might be getting to him more than he thought.
Jonas bikes to the forest where he finds Martha alone, as the others are late. She begins talking about what happened between them last summer, saying she wrote Jonas many texts which she never sent while he was away and wants to explain about Bartosz, but Jonas says it's okay. Martha experiences déjà vu and Jonas jokes that it's a glitch in the matrix. Bartosz and Magnus, having brought Mikkel, arrive and they all head to the caves.
At the meeting, Hannah came after all and is greeted by Katharina, who asks how she is doing. However, she receives a text from Ulrich, quickly leaves the meeting and goes outside to meet him. Charlotte reveals that they have no new findings in the case and Katharina wants to talk about which security measures they can take. Regina protests, saying they shouldn't blow it out of proportion or they'll have the press in town, which Katharina realizes doesn't fit her plans for the hotel. Regina says she should focus on her own problems, to which Katharina responds that she has no idea what she's talking about. Helge, who has run away from the rest home, suddenly interrupts the meeting and repeats his warning: "It's going to happen again." Charlotte, his daughter-in-law, takes him outside.
On their way to the cave, the kids wonder what might have happened to Erik; Mikkel says kids in his class are saying someone kidnapped him and locked him in a basement. They speak about good and evil people and Mikkel worries that Erik might be dead, but Martha is scared and wants to change the subject. Meanwhile, Ines is waiting for the clock to turn 10:13 and opens the suicide letter the minute it does. She is visibly distraught by its contents and cries as she puts it back in the box.
The kids arrive at the cave to find that Franziska has beaten them to it and taken the bag of drugs. She offers to sell them, but Bartosz shoves her to the ground and takes the bag. Suddenly, a loud sound reverberates from the cave, they hear someone walking in the forest and their flashlights start to flicker. Frightened, they all run. Jonas and Mikkel are last, but Jonas falls in the forest and loses Mikkel. He has a vision of his father, covered in a black, liquid substance, saying his name. When he catches up with the others out of the woods, it is raining heavily and Mikkel is gone. As Helge steps out of the school and sees the rain, he says "It's too late." The parents at the meeting receive phone calls and drive to their children, where the police have arrived at the scene. Ulrich runs into the woods shouting for Mikkel and hears a sound from the caves.
The following day, the police are investigating by the caves, but have nothing. Charlotte receives a call from her husband Peter, who asks if Mikkel has been found. He is on the verge of tears and tries to tell her something, but Charlotte is interrupted and has to go. Peter recites the Serenity Prayer to himself. A child is found in the forest and Ulrich runs to the scene. However, it is not Mikkel, but a boy with charred eyes and ears and a walkman beside him.
In a room decorated like a child's room, music videos from the 1980s are playing on an old TV while Erik Obendorf lies on a bed, covering his ears. In the center of the room is some kind of chair with a machine on top of it. Later, Erik is tied to the chair with leather straps by the hooded person that was earlier seen in the cave. He places a coin attached to a red string around Erik's neck before closing the machine over his eyes.
- Louis Hofmann as Jonas Kahnwald
- Maja Schöne as Hannah Kahnwald
- Oliver Masucci as Ulrich Nielsen
- Stephan Kampwirth as Peter Doppler
- Angela Winkler as Ines Kahnwald
- Jördis Triebel as Katharina Nielsen
- Daan Lennard Liebrenz as Mikkel Nielsen
- Lisa Vicari as Martha Nielsen
- Moritz Jahn as Magnus Nielsen
- Paul Lux as Bartosz Tiedemann
- Karoline Eichorn as Charlotte Doppler
- Gina Alice Stiebitz as Franziska Doppler
- Deborah Kaufmann as Regina Tiedemann
- Tatja Seibt as Jana Nielsen
- Hermann Beyer as Helge Doppler
- Peter Benedict as Aleksander Tiedemann
- Sebastian Rudolph as Michael Kahnwald
- Leopold Hornung Torben Wöller
- Mieke Schymura as Police Officer Jankowski
- Tom Jahn as Jürgen Obendorf
- Jennipher Antoni as Ulla Obendorf
- Nils Brunkhorst as Teacher
- Paul Radom as Erik Obendorf
"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive
Music video playing on TV in the room where Erik Obendorf is held.
"Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann" by Nena
Music video playing on TV in the room where Erik Obendorf is held.
Cultural references Edit
- Raider (chocolate): Jana found a Raider chocolate bar wrapper in the forest and claims Mads loved these. Raider was the name of Twix prior to 1991 in Europe.
- The Matrix: When Martha experiences déjà vu, Jonas jokes that if the world was a simulation, it would be a glitch in the matrix. The Matrix is a science fiction film franchise in which the titular matrix is a simulated virtual reality construct of the world.
- Hansel and Gretel: When Mikkel says Erik might be kidnapped and locked in a basement, he asks why someone would do such a thing. Bartosz says it's like the witch in Hansel and Gretel; when she gets hungry, she has something to eat. Hansel and Gretel is a German fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm.
Themes and motifs Edit
- The narrator in the intro says that time is not linear and everything is connected in a never-ending circle. (Time) (Philosophy)
- A clock is heard ticking in the background as Michael hangs himself. (Time) (Clocks)
- Michael leaves behind a suicide letter which can't be opened before November 4 at 10:13 PM, the time when his younger self (Mikkel) disappears. (Secrets) (Time) (Determinism)
- Ulrich is having an affair with Hannah. (Secrets) (Lies)
- Ulrich says the apocalypse is upon them as there was a long line at the bakery because of the first day of school beginning. (Apocalypse)
- One of the cups in Mikkel's trick is yellow, and so is the figure he moves. (Colors)
- When Ulrich asks how Mikkel did his trick, Mikkel responds: “The question is not how, the question is when.” (Time)
- Franziska holds a presentation on black holes. (Science) (Time travel)
- In Jana's gray kitchen, there are yellow lemons on the table and a yellow coffee can on the counter. (Colors)
- Jana compared Erik's disappearance to Mads's disappearance 33 years ago, in 1986, and says everything is repeating itself. (Historic recurrence)
- Helge Doppler repeats the phrase “It's going to happen again” to himself. (Historic recurrence)
- At the nuclear power plant, the workers' hardhats are yellow, and so is Aleksander's massage bench. (Colors)
- Hannah says scars can see into the future, so to speak, as they harden when it's about to rain. (Scars) (Rain) (Time)
- Martha experiences déjà vu (a feeling that this event has happened before) in the forest. Jonas says if the world is a simulation, déjà vu is a glitch in the matrix and Martha says it could be a message from the other side. (Historic recurrence)
- Martha says even though their parents tell them everyone is nice, there are people out there who are anything but nice. Jonas says his father told him good and evil are a question of perspective. (Good and evil)
- Ines waits for the clock to turn 10:13 PM so she can open the suicide letter (Time) (Clocks)
- After the events in the cave, it begins to rain heavily. (Rain)
- As Helge steps out into the rain, he says “it's too late.” (Rain) (Determinism)
- Peter has to tell Charlotte something. (Secrets)
- Peter recites the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Religion) (Determinism)
- The boy found in the forest has a red walkman with a yellow cassette tape. (Colors)
- A coin on a red string is placed around Erik's neck before the machine is started. (Coins) (Red string) (Colors)
- The wallpaper in the room in which Erik is held is decorated with foxes and in the Doppler family photo, Elisabeth is wearing a fox beanie. (Foxes)
Noteworthy details Edit
- The medication Jonas takes is Amitriptylin forte, a tricyclic antidepressant.
- Hannah has ripped Ines out of the family photo.
- Michael/Hannah and Ines have different versions of the family photo. In Michael/Hannah's photo, the family is smiling and looking cheerful, while in Ines' photo, their expressions are stern and serious.
- There are 21 keys to the rooms in the Winden Forest Hotel. The only key used is to room #8.
- Two things are mentioned as happening 33 years ago: Mads Nielsen disappeared and Aleksander Tiedemann came to Winden.
- Photo wall: Who created the wall of photographs in the cellar and who is the narrator?
- Michael's suicide: Why did Michael Kahnwald hang himself?
- Michael's suicide letter: What did Michael's suicide letter say and why could it not be opened before November 4? Why does Ines have it?
- Erik's disappearance: How did Erik Obendorf disappear?
- Hooded person: Who is the hooded person appearing in the Winden caves and holding Erik captive?
- Mads' disappearance: What happened to Ulrich's brother Mads?
- Big-headed figure: What was the figure with a big head which Jana saw in the forest?
- Raider: Where did the Raider wrapper Jana found in the forest come from?
- Helge's prediction: What is Helge referring to when he says “It's going to happen again.”
- The room: What room is Erik in, why is an ‘80s music video playing on the TV and what is the chair/machine in the center of the room?
- The machine: What is the chair/machine in the center of the room, which Erik is tied to with metal around his head?
- The cave: What were the noises from the caves and who did the kids hear in the forest?
- Flickering lights: Why did their flashlights start to flicker?
- Jonas' visions: Why does Jonas have visions of his father and why is he covered in a black substance?
- Mikkel's disappearance: How did Mikkel disappear?
- Peter's secret: Why did Peter seem so distraught and what did he want to tell Charlotte?
- Boy with charred eyes: Who was the boy found in the forest? Why were his eyes charred and why did he have a walkman?
- Coins: Why was a coin attached to a red string placed around Erik's neck?