"Secrets" is the first episode of Season 1 of Dark. It premiered on December 1, 2017.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

In 2019, a local boy's disappearance stokes fear in the residents of Winden, a small German town with a strange and tragic history.

Plot[edit | edit source]

"The distinction between, past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion..."
―Albert Einstein[[src]]

In a cellar containing rifles, hand grenades, and a gas mask, photographs of people at different ages are connected by strings on a wall. An unseen man narrates, explaining that time is not linear but is connected in a never-ending circle and that the distinction between past, present, and future is nothing but an illusion.

On June 21, 2019, Michael Kahnwald, commits suicide by hanging himself in his attic art studio. He leaves behind a Suicide Letter encased in an envelope that reads "Do not open before November 4, 10:13 P.M.", which was later furtively retrieved by his mother Ines Kahnwald. Over the next seven months, Michael's sixteen-year-old son Jonas goes for a two-month therapy schedule while Michael's widow Hannah, who has a strained relationship with Ines for her absence, continues an affair with Winden Police Officer Ulrich Nielsen.

After waking up from another nightmare on November 4, 2019, Jonas heads to the kitchen to find the electricity has gone out, and calls for his mother—who is upstairs secretly having sex with Ulrich. Ulrich asks if she will be coming to the town 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 cloaked person emerges in the cave opening.

Jonas rides his bike notices a missing persons poster for Erik Obendorf as he stops at the main intersection in front of the Winden Nuclear Power Plant. During his session with his therapist, Peter Doppler, Jonas has an angry outburst over the lingering question of why Michael would kill himself without leaving an explanation. Afterwards, he returns to Winden Comprehensive School and is treated like an outcast until his good friend Bartosz Tiedemann arrives and defends him. He had bluffed everyone that Jonas was in France for a two-month school exchange.

At the Nielsen home, Katharina is serving breakfast while trying to manage her children: magician fanatic Mikkel won't change out of his magician's outfit, rebellious stoner Magnus can't find his hoodie and Jonas' love interest 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 pawn 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."

At the Winden Police Station, Chief Charlotte Doppler is yelled at and spat on by Jürgen and Ulla Obendorf, who are criticizing the police's lackluster results in the search for Erik, who has now been missing for thirteen days. Ulrich, arriving in time, 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 of his brother Mads' disappearance, to which Ulrich insists otherwise. Charlotte suggests he should pay his mother a visit, as she has called the emergency number again.

At the high school, students and teachers assemble in the gym where Katharina, the principal, encourages them to talk about Erik's disappearance. An anxious Martha enters and reveals that she started dating Bartosz, much to the dismay of Jonas. Martha sheepishly greets the discomforted Jonas. Later in science class, as a bright student and stoner Franziska Doppler gives a presentation on black holes, Bartosz wonders to Jonas whether Erik's drugs might still be stashed in the caves, and suggests that they collect them. They include Magnus and Martha in their plan, even though the latter was sceptical about the conspiracy of the Nuclear Power Plant's business near the hollows.

At the Waldhotel Winden, 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. Meanwhile, Ulrich visits his mother Jana, who explains she saw something in the forest again; the cloaked figure that emerged from the caves and shows him a 1980s Raider chocolate wrapper that she found there. Jana compared the case with Erik with Mads' disappearance 33 years ago, expressing that everything is repeating itself.

Inside the power plant, after flirting with Ulrich on a phone call, Hannah gives Director Aleksander Tiedemann a massage. She comments that his scars are 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. Meanwhile, at the Nielsen home, Katharina finds Hannah's brown strand of hair on Ulrich's hoodie. She smells it and notices a different perfume.

Jonas bikes to the forest where he finds Martha alone, as the others are late. She wants to explain about her relationship with Bartosz, but Jonas states that it's okay. She adds that she 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.

During the town meeting at the school hall, 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 that they shouldn't blow it out of proportion or they'll have the press in town. Katharina and Regina's debate continues until the mentally ill Helge Doppler, 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 the way to the caves, the kids briefly conversed speculations on Erik's whereabouts until Martha was uncomfortable with the idea of his death. When they arrived, Franziska has beaten them to the entrance and obtained the stash. When offering to sell them, Bartosz shoves her and snatches the bag. Suddenly, there was a roar from the caves and lights started flickering, frightening the gang away. Jonas runs through the forest with Mikkel until he trips and loses the boy. Jonas is then scared off by a hallucination of Michael, and the gang lost Mikkel. Meanwhile, Ines finally reads the suicide letter, and its contents devastates her.

On the following day, Mikkel is labelled as a missing child. 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 cloaked figure. He places a coin attached to a red lanyard around Erik's neck before closing the machine over his eyes.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Quotes[edit | edit source]

"We trust that time is linear. That it proceeds eternally, uniformly. Into infinity. But the distinction between past, present and future is nothing but an illusion. Yesterday, today, tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected."
"Ulrich, I love you."
"You're beautiful"
Hannah Kahnwald and Ulrich Nielsen[src]
"I still see him."
"In your dreams? Why do you think you see him?"
"As my therapist, shouldn't you be telling me?"
"Are you taking your meds?"
"I think he's trying to tell me something. Or maybe I just want him to tell me something."
"What do you think it might be?"
"What do I think it might be? Why? Why he left? Why like that? Why he fucking hanged himself? And why he didn't leave a word? Nothing to explain this fucking crap!"
Jonas Kahnwald and Peter Doppler[src]
"Ulrich! Why did it take so long?"
"First day of school. A huge line at the bakery. The Apocalypse is upon us."
Katharina and Ulrich Nielsen[src]
"Amazing! How did you do that?"
"Dad, the question isn't how, the question is when."
Ulrich and Mikkel Nielsen[src]
"Why are you so certain Erik ran away?"
"This is Winden. Nothing ever happens here."
"But that hasn't always been the case."
"This has nothing to do with my brother. Not a thing."
"Oh your mother called the emergency number again this morning. Maybe you should pay her a visit."
"Do you ever wonder where you took a wrong turn? Where your life becomes the exact opposite of what you always wanted it to be?"
Charlotte Doppler and Ulrich Nielsen[src]
"A black hole forms when the centre of a star collapses into itself after a supernova explosion. Even new neutron matter cannot prevent the collapse."
Franziska Doppler to her class[src]
"This business with that missing Erik—like your brother, back then. Everything's repeating itself. Everything is just like it was 33 years ago."
Jana to Ulrich Nielsen[src]
"It's going to happen again."
Helge Doppler[src]
"In a year, everything here is meant to come to an end. Nearly 33 years ago to the day when I came to Winden. I never thought it would end like this. But there's a time for everything."
"Yes. There's a time for everything."
Aleksander Tiedemann and Hannah Kahnwald[src]
"I think I'm having déjà vu. The light, the forest. As if all of this has happened before."
"A glitch in the matrix."
"If the world is a simulation, déjà vu is a glitch in the matrix."
"Or a message from the other side."
Martha Nielsen and Jonas Kahnwald[src]
"The important thing is that we stick together. That we stick together."
"The most important thing is not to blow this out of proportion, or we'll have the press in town in a few days."
"We know that doesn't quite fit in with your plans, Regina."
"If you mean my hotel, this isn't about that at all."
"No? What is it about then?"
"It's about our town."
"Wrong. This is about a missing child."
"Who probably just ran away. You just heard it yourself. Maybe you should just worry about your own problems."
Katharina Nielsen and Regina Tiedemann[src]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

Mysteries[edit | edit source]

  • 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.?
  • How did Erik Obendorf disappear?
  • Who is the hooded person appearing in the Winden Caves and holding Erik captive?
  • What happened to Ulrich Nielsen's brother Mads?
  • What was the figure with a big head which Jana Nielsen saw in the forest?
  • Where did the Raider wrapper Jana found in the forest come from?
  • What is Helge Doppler referring to when he says “It's going to happen again”?
  • Why does Helge have a crushed left ear?
  • What room is Erik in, why is an ‘80s music video playing on the TV and what is the chair/machine in the centre of the room?
  • Why does Aleksander Tiedemann have a scar on his back?
  • What were the noises from the caves and who did the kids hear in the forest?
  • Why did their flashlights start to flicker?
  • How did Mikkel Nielsen disappear?
  • Why did Peter Doppler seem so distraught and what did he want to tell Charlotte Doppler?
  • 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?

Themes and Motifs[edit | edit source]

Time[edit | edit source]

  • The dates featured in this episode are:
    • June 21, 2019
    • November 4, 2019
    • November 5, 2019
  • 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.
  • Plans to erect the Winden Nuclear Power Plant is dated back to 1953, but construction was first authorised in 1960 after the Atomic Energy Act was passed. It would be closed in 2020.
  • Jonas Kahnwald has been in secret therapy for 2 months.
  • When Ulrich asks how Mikkel did his trick, Mikkel responds: “The question is not how, the question is when.”
  • Erik has been missing for 13 days, meaning that he disappeared in October 22, 2019.
  • Hannah Kahnwald says scars can see into the future, so to speak, as they harden when it's about to rain.
  • Michael's suicide letter is not meant to be opened until 10:13 PM, the time of Mikkel's disappearance.

Time Travel[edit | edit source]

Determinism[edit | edit source]

  • Jonas's trauma is the result of his father's suicide.
  • Michael Kahnwald leaves behind a suicide note with instructions not to open it before November 4, at 10:13 PM, motivating Ines to follow the deadline.
  • Helge was disturbed at the fact that Mikkel was going to disappear.
  • Jonas's visions prevented him from finding Mikkel.
  • Mikkel's disappearance sets the depression of the 2019 Nielsen family.
  • 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.”
  • Aleksander says that there is a time for everything, meaning that things are destined to begin and end in a certain way.

Colors[edit | edit source]

  • Jonas wears a yellow raincoat.
  • One of the cups in Mikkel's trick is yellow, and so is the figure he moves for his magic trick.
  • Erik wears a red jacket.
  • In Jana's (who's wearing blue} gray kitchen, there are yellow lemons on the table and a yellow coffee can on the counter.
  • The wallpaper in Waldhotel Winden is red.
  • 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 cord is placed around Erik's neck before the machine is started.

Historic Recurrences[edit | edit source]

  • 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 Nielsen 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.

Religion and Mythology[edit | edit source]

  • Ines Kahnwald wears a cross pendant.
  • 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.”

Foxes[edit | edit source]

  • The wallpaper in the room in which Erik is held is decorated with foxes.
  • In the Doppler family photo, the young girl (Elisabeth Doppler) is wearing a fox beanie.

Observations[edit | edit source]

  • This episode marks the first appearance of every character mentioned in the cast.
  • This episode marks the only appearance of Ulla Obendorf.
  • The medication Jonas takes is Amitriptyline forte, a tricyclic antidepressant.
  • Jonas shows some facial expressions during the morning breakfast which imply that he's aware of his mom's affair with Ulrich.
  • Ulrich seems to have complex feelings towards both Hannah and Katharina. He's having an affair with the former but doesn't reciprocate when she says that she loves him.
  • There are two thin forest roads that fit bicycles: one made from concrete, and one makeshift version with only dirt.
  • 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.
  • At the Kahnwald home, the family photo members are smiling, but in Ines' version, they all appear to be mature.
  • There are 21 keys to the rooms in the Winden Forest Hotel. The only key used is to room #8.
  • Erik appears to be trapped in a basement.
  • Two things are mentioned as happening 33 years ago: Mads Nielsen disappeared and Aleksander Tiedemann came to Winden.
  • A meeting is held at the school to discuss Erik's disappearance and the usual babysitter is sick, so Magnus Nielsen has to take care of Mikkel and brings him to the caves.
  • Martha is rather paranoid, since she believes in conspiracies about the "nuclear power mafia". She also happens to be sensitive, judging by her reactions to theories about Erik's disappearance and Jonas referencing his deceased father.
  • Ulrich wasn't visiting his mother that often.
  • 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.
  • Jonas gets vibes from seeing the power plant, foreshadowing how the plant is related to the main situation.
  • Bartosz Tiedemann 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 Tiedemann and Katharina Nielsen.
  • Jonas seems despondent following Mikkel's disappearance after losing him and his depression appears to have worsened.
  • The dead boy that Charlotte and Ulrich found wears clothing from the 1980s.

Cultural References[edit | edit source]

  • 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.   

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

  • "Goodbye" by Apparat
    The opening song.
  • "Partita: III. Courante" by Roomfull of Teeth
    Ines looking at the letter in the morning.
  • "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.
  • "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.
  • "Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann" by Nena
    Music video playing on TV in the room where Erik Obendorf is held.

Goofs[edit | edit source]

  • 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 Ulrich comes 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.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

→ See 60 images from Secrets at Images from Secrets.

Navigation[edit | edit source]

Dark Episodes
Season 1 "Secrets" · "Lies" · "Past and Present" · "Double Lives" · "Truths" · "Sic Mundus Creatus Est" · "Crossroads" · "As You Sow, so You Shall Reap" · "Everything Is Now" · "Alpha and Omega"
Season 2 "Beginnings and Endings" · "Dark Matter" · "Ghosts" · "The Travelers" · "Lost and Found" · "An Endless Cycle" · "The White Devil" · "Endings and Beginnings"
Season 3 "Deja-vu" · "The Survivors" · "Adam and Eva" · "The Origin" · "Life and Death" · "Light and Shadow" · "Between the Time" · "The Paradise"

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.