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The Ending Of Dark Season 1 Explained

The Netflix hit series "Dark" is a German-language science fiction drama centered around a young boy named Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann) living in the fictional town of Winden. Coming back to school after dealing with the mental health fallout of his father's death by suicide not long ago, Jonas joins his friends, Bartosz Tiedemann (Paul Lux), Magnus Nielsen (Moritz Jahn), and Martha Nielsen (Lisa Vicari) for an adventure out in the woods at night. Martha and Magnus are forced to bring their little brother Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) along with them, which ends up being a choice that changes the lives of everyone in town forever. 

The first season of "Dark" came out on the streaming platform in 2017, introducing everyone to the increasingly confusing yet extremely intriguing story of Winden and a time travel wormhole that is born there, connecting various time periods in 33-year cycles. After Mikkel and another boy go missing, the following investigation by his father, police investigator Ulrich Nielsen (Oliver Masucci), his work partner, Charlotte Doppler (Karoline Eichhorn), and young Jonas unearth a time travel conspiracy that spans almost a century of time and connects everyone together in strange ways. 

The German sci-fi series is known for its complicated timeline and system of relationships, so to help out any viewers who can't seem to make sense of every major thing that happens at the end of the first season, here's the ending of "Dark" Season 1 — explained.

Time travel and the three time periods: 1953, 1986, and 2019

One thing that always gets mentioned when people talk about "Dark" is the amazing job they did with casting, and it's true. With a storyline that follows characters over the course of their long lifetime at different ages, the casting has to be spot on so that viewers can keep track of who's who. This is necessary because the story of "Dark" Season 1 takes place in 2019, 1986, and 1953, and if you can believe it, Seasons 2 and 3 add even more time periods. 

Starting off in 2019, the investigation into the missing kids leads both Ulrich and Jonas to a series of caves in the woods where a doorway takes them to either 1986 or 1953. Jonas receives some help from an unknown man in town known as "The Stranger" (Andreas Pietschmann), while Ulrich bulldozes his way to the past looking for his son. Meanwhile, a man named Noah (Mark Waschke) reveals that there's a battle going on for control over time, and he's been manipulating Helge, played by Tom Philipp, Peter Schneider, and Hermann Beyer over the years, since he was a boy in 1953 to follow his orders in his drive to build his own time machine, even if it means sacrificing young boys as test subjects. In 2019, Helge is around 75 with serious memory issues and extreme scarring around his face and ear from an incident in his youth.

With one goal in mind, to get Mikkel back, Ulrich doesn't plan too much out, which ends badly for him. Realizing how involved 1986's Helge is in the kidnappings, Ulrich is determined to stop them from happening by killing young Helge. But instead of stopping the cycle, Ulrich just keeps it going, committing the crime that gives Helge his scar and drives him to Noah in the first place. To say the least, the plot's confusing, but just remember that everything's connected and history repeats itself. 

Dark Season 1 ends with many major revelations

The ending of "Dark" Season 1 comes with a lot of intense revelations for the main characters. Focusing on Jonas, he definitely gets the biggest shock when he finds out that the Stranger is actually him from the future, and that Mikkel, his friend's younger brother who goes missing and ends up in 1986, is actually Jonas's father. Mikkel is adopted and changes his name to Michael Kahnwald, later meeting Jonas's mother, falling in love, and having Jonas. This news really tears Jonas apart, as he sees himself as the reason for all the messed up things going on around him. On top of that, this revelation means that the girl Jonas is in love with, Martha, is actually his aunt. Ouch. 

As for Ulrich, his actions against Helge lead him to end up in prison in 1953, where he appears to stay until he reaches old age. At the same time, two equally intelligent women, Charlotte in 2019 and Claudia Tiedemann (Julika Jenkins) in 1986, start piecing together what's really going on. Charlotte realizes that Ulrich is in 1953 but doesn't know how, while Claudia starts researching the science behind time travel on her own. The finale also introduces an older Claudia (Lisa Kreuzer) in 2019 when she visits her grandson, Bartosz, who has been told by his parents that Claudia is dead. His grandmother approaches him because she knows that Noah is seeking Bartosz's help, and Claudia and Noah seem to be on opposite sides of the battle to control time. 

Jonas takes a trip to the future

The final moments of "Dark" Season 1 show Jonas, who has just been kidnapped by Noah and middle-aged Helge, in a bunker that looks like a weirdly decorated kids room. This is where he finally talks face to face with his older self, who tells him that everything must happen as it did before in order for him to stop the cycle. After that, older Jonas goes off to the caves with a time machine that's supposed to destroy the wormhole (Hint: it doesn't work). At the moment when older Jonas activates the machine and in turn creates the wormhole in the first place, Jonas in the bunker sees a portal open up before him, revealing the 1953 bunker where young, injured Helge is recovering after being attacked by Ulrich. The two reach out to each other and touch, sending both Jonas and Helge to different time periods. 

While young Helge ends up where Jonas was in 1986, Jonas is launched into the future, but not to 2019. Instead, he arrives in the bunker of 2052, which holds a stash of weapons and other tools, as well a map on the wall that reveals many of the interconnected relationships of everyone in Winden. Looking for help, Jonas leaves the bunker to find the world around him in ruins. As he walks, a tank with people wearing masks and holding weapons arrives and approaches him, with a young woman (Lea van Acken) telling him, "Welcome to the future," before knocking him out with the butt of her gun. What a great first impression. Viewers don't get too much of a look at what the world of 2052 looks like, but it's safe to say that it's not pretty, and more like a wasteland than a town. So what will happen next for Jonas and the town of Winden?