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 at different ages, 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 21, 2019Edit
Michael Kahnwald, in his attic art studio, closes an envelope and places it on a bench next to a photo of his family. 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, 2019Edit
Jonas Kahnwald (Michael's 16 year old son) wakes up from a nightmare, panting, and takes his medication. He heads to the kitchen to find the electricity has gone out, and 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. He does not reciprocate, however, and leaves through the window. He jogs home through the woods and passes a sign pointing to the Winden Caves. An ominous noise is heard from the cave and later, a hooded person emerges in the cave opening.
Jonas on his bike notices a missing persons poster for Erik Obendorf as he stops at an intersection in front of the nuclear power plant. He walks through the woods with his therapist, Peter Doppler, who asks him how he found his 2 months away in therapy. He says he has read the notes from there, which say he did well. Jonas reveals that he still sees his father and then has an angry outburst over the lingering question of why Michael would kill himself without leaving an explanation.
Ines Kahnwald opens a box with Michael's 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 again and she should say if she wants them out of her house. She calls her sick because she hasn't contacted them in three months. Ines considers the suicide note again and looks at the clock: 4 hours to go.
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 arrives, saying 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. When Ulrich asks how he did it, Mikkel replies, "the question is not how, the question is when."
Jonas has returned to school after 2 months in therapy and receives looks from the other kids and some even call him a freak, but his good 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 when Franziska Doppler arrives. He asks whether she shouldn't be hanging out with the nerds. She hits back, asking whether the principal's son should be smoking a joint on school grounds. She takes a drag and calls his weed bad.
The students assemble in the gym where Katharina, the principal, encourages students to talk about Erik's disappearance. Martha enters, looking anxious. Jonas is pleased to see her again but is horrified when she sits down and embraces Bartosz, who tells him that while he was away they became a couple. Martha sheepishly turns to Jonas, who appears quite hurt.
At the police station, Charlotte Doppler is yelled at and spat on by Jürgen and Ulla Obendorf, who are angry at the police's lackluster results in the search for Erik, who has now been missing for thirteen days. Ulrich defuses the situation and suggests that Erik may have run away, as he has done before. He promises to find their son and sends them home. Later, Ulrich explains that he is certain that Erik ran away because nothing like that 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.
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 nursing home, Helge Doppler seems anxious and restless as he repeats the phrase "It's going to happen again."
At the Winden Forest Hotel, which has no guests due to Erik's disappearance, Regina Tiedemann stands at the empty front desk, looking dismayed. A banker calls with bad news about her inability to repay her loan, and Regina snaps at him, calling him a bully and an asshole.
While Franziska gives a presentation on black holes in class, Bartosz wonders to Jonas whether Erik's drugs might still be stashed in the caves, and suggests that they go there. Bartosz proposes they 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 they all agree to go that night.
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. He invites her to join him next week at a seminar in Frankfurt. 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 knotted up because it's about to rain and scars can sense that. He says the pending closure of the plant might be getting to him more than he thought, after being in Winden for almost 33 years. He tells her how sorry he is about Michael.
Jonas bikes to the forest where he finds Martha alone, as the others are late. She wants to explain about Bartosz, but Jonas says it's okay. She tells him he wrote him many texts which she never sent because they seemed wrong. Martha then tells him she is experiencing déjà vu, as though everything has happened before. Jonas jokes that it's "'a glitch in the Matrix". Bartosz and Magnus interrupt them and Mikkel has also come, as no one else could look after him with the parents having a meeting. They all head to the caves.
At the meeting, Hannah came after all and bumps into Katharina, who hugs her warmly and asks how she is doing. Shortly after, she receives a text from Ulrich, and leaves the meeting to go and meet him. They kiss passionately.
Charlotte reveals that they have no new findings in the case. Katharina wants to talk about what security measures they can take. Regina protests, saying Winden has a very low crime rate and there are no murderers there, they shouldn't blow it out of proportion or they'll have the press in town—which Katharina realizes doesn't fit the plans for Regina's 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 nursing 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 and might never be found, but Martha is spooked and wants to change the subject.
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 think they can hear someone in the forest as their flashlights start to flicker. Frightened, most of them run away but Mikkel hesitates. With all the others having run away, it is left to Jonas to take Mikkel by the hand. They run together but Jonas falls and loses Mikkel. While trying to look for Mikkel he hears someone calling his name and has a vision of his father, covered in a black liquid substance. This scares him and he runs away. The others come out of the woods, it is raining heavily. Jonas emerges but Mikkel is not with him. Magnus yells at Jonas "'where is Mikkel?" He has no explanation. Bartosz looks at him as though it is his fault (though they had run away without any concern for Mikkel).
Meanwhile, Ines, having waited for the clock to turn 10:13 as instructed, 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.
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. All go to their parents except Jonas, who does not move. Hannah goes to him and hugs him but he barely responds. 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. But then a child's body is found in the forest and Ulrich runs to the scene. He inspects it but announces that it is not Mikkel. It has charred eyes and ears and a Walkman beside him.
In a room decorated like a nursery, with bright cartoon wallpaper and stuffed animals, 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 a hooded person. He places a coin attached to a red lanyard around Erik's neck before closing the machine over his eyes.
- Jonas: I still see him.
Peter: In your dreams? Why do you think you see him?
Jonas: As my therapist, shouldn't you be telling me?
- Katharina: Ulrich! Why did it take so long?
Ulrich: First day of school. A huge line at the bakery.
Katharina: The Apocalypse is upon us.
- Jana: This business with that missing Erik—like your brother, back then. Everything's repeating itself. Everything is just like it was 33 years ago.
- Raider Chocolate Bar: Jana found a Raider chocolate bar wrapper in the forest and claims Mads loved these. Raider was known outside Germany and Austria as Twix, and renamed as such in 1991.
- 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, and the experience of déjà vu is caused by a bug.
- 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 MotifsEdit
- The narrator in the intro says that time is not linear and everything is connected in a never-ending circle.
- A clock is heard ticking in the background as Michael hangs himself.
- When Ulrich asks how Mikkel did his trick, Mikkel responds: “The question is not how, the question is when.”
- Hannah says scars can see into the future, so to speak, as they harden when it's about to rain.
- Franziska gives a presentation on black holes.
- Michael Kahnwald leaves behind a suicide note with instructions not to open it before November 4, at 10:13 PM, the same time that Mikkel disappears.
- As Helge steps out into the rain, he says “it's too late.”
- 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.”
- Michael Kahnwald's suicide note was not to be opened before November 4, at 10:13 PM. Jonas cannot understand how his father killed himself without explanation or note but his grandmother Ines Kahnwald has taken it without telling him (perhaps because it was not to be opened until November and she did not trust Jonas to do this).
- Hannah is having an affair with Ulrich Nielsen, who explains his lateness with a line at the bakery due to it being the first day of school.
- Bartosz does not tell anyone the real reason for Jonas being away from school
- Mikkel won't reveal how he does his magic
- Magnus hides and smokes weed at school
- Jonas is horrified to discover that while he was away, his love interest Martha is now with his best friend Bartosz. She appears quite embarrassed about this. Jonas tries to claim it doesn't matter.
- Erik has hidden his drugs in the caves
- Peter is keeping something from Charlotte
- Ulrich is having an affair with Hannah. When asked what took him so long he lies that there was a long line at the bakery when he was seeing Hannah. Katharina seems unaware of this and she and Hannah seem to have a warm relationship.
- Jonas wears a yellow raincoat
- One of the cups in Mikkel's truck is yellow, and so is the figure he moves for his magic trick.
- In Jana's gray kitchen, there are yellow lemons on the table and a yellow coffee can on the counter.
- At the nuclear power plant, the workers' hardhats are yellow, and so is Aleksander's massage bench.
- The boy found in the forest has a red Walkman with a yellow cassette tape.
- A coin on a red string is placed around Erik's neck before the machine is started.
- Jana compared Erik's disappearance to Mads's disappearance 33 years ago, in 1986, and says everything is repeating itself.
- Helge Doppler repeats the phrase “It's going to happen again” to himself.
- 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.
- The wallpaper in the room in which Erik is held is decorated with foxes
- In the Doppler family photo, Elisabeth is wearing a fox beanie.
- The medication Jonas takes is Amitriptylin forte, a tricyclic antidepressant.
- Hannah has ripped her mother in law Ines out of the family photo. She and Jonas are living in her house. The power constantly goes off and food in the fridge spoils. Ines has not seen them in 3 months.
- 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.
- Martha asks her mother if Mikkel is adopted.
- A meeting is held at the school to discuss Erik's disappearance and the usual babysitter is sick, so Magnus has to take care of Mikkel and brings him to the caves.
- Mikkel and Jonas seem happy to see each other, and have an "Ultimate fist bump". By contrast, Magnus and Bartosz hit the back of his head and say "what's this idiot doing here?" The other kids run from the caves without any concern for Mikkel. Jonas takes Mikkel by the hand.
- Bartosz also shoves Franziska to take the drugs she found first. He takes what he wants, including Martha while Jonas his friend is away having therapy.
- Mikkel says kids in his class are saying someone kidnapped Erik and locked him in a basement. which was essentially what did happen. He also talks about never being found (as happened to them both).
- Tensions appear to exist between Regina and Katharina
- Jonas seems despondent following Mikkel's disappearance after losing him and his depression appears to have worsened.
- Who created the wall of photographs in the cellar and who is the narrator?
- Why did Michael Kahnwald hang himself?
- What did Michael's suicide letter say and why could it not be opened before November 4, 10:13 P.M.? Why does Ines have it?
- How did Erik Obendorf disappear?
- Who is the hooded person appearing in the Winden caves and holding Erik captive?
- What happened to Ulrich's brother Mads?
- What was the figure with a big head which Jana saw in the forest?
- Where did the Raider wrapper Jana found in the forest come from?
- What is Helge referring to when he says “It's going to happen again”?
- 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?
- What were the noises from the caves and who did the kids hear in the forest?
- Why did their flashlights start to flicker?
- Why does Jonas have visions of his father and why is he covered in a black substance? This distracts him from looking for Mikkel.
- How did Mikkel disappear?
- Why did Peter seem so distraught and what did he want to tell Charlotte?
- Who was the boy found in the forest? Why were his eyes charred and why did he have a Walkman?
- Why was a coin attached to a red string placed around Erik's neck?
- 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 as 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
- "Rücklauf" by Marathonmann
The Nielsen family is introduced
- "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.
- "4 Pieces: Number 3, Courante" by Roomful of Teeth
Ines reads the letter
- "Nightfall" by Mimi Page
Montage as Ines puts away the letter, the police head into the forest, and the parents meet their children at the railroad bridge.
- Key #8 is missing behind Regina the first time we see her at the hotel desk in "Secrets." The Stranger appears in the next episode ("Lies"), and is given room #8. She is wearing the same blouse in "Sic Mundus Creatus Est" when Ulrichcomes asking about Mads' disappearance, Tronte's affair with Claudia, Regina being tied up in the forest, and who reported that Ulrich raped Katharina to Egon. Seemingly both scenes were filmed together, likely the more difficult scene first and key #8 not put back.
- → See 56 images from Secrets at Images from Secrets.