Viewer's Discretion: Make time to watch German series 'Dark,' Scandinavian 'Jordskott'

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'DARK' (NETFLIX)

Being called "Dark," you're not going to expect this German series to be a chipper pick-me-up, but the title possibly hints at something it is not. Dark implies darkness, which implies horror and monsters, and in some of the lazier tropes of today, that's what you would get. Not so with this meticulously crafted, complex examination of the darkness in humans and the monsters they become.

It's hard to describe what the show's plot is. It begins with missing children, which has garnered some comparisons to "Stranger Things," but the similarities are facile. "Stranger Things" often trades on nostalgia, whereas "Dark" views the past as a place where unknown secrets lurk, ones that have wounded the present. You can't have nostalgia for a time that you never really knew correctly.

It turns out that the missing children hearken to past events, and through the plot conceit of easy time travel, we are allowed to mix and match the cast through several eras, at different ages, and with varying relationships. This means you have to keep on your toes since one character can have more than one iteration in the plot, and the time travel becomes not only a device to move the action forward but a way to investigate themes of regret and the drive to correct mistakes.

If anything, "Dark" reminds me most of the American series "Lost," which also used time travel as a way to look at our relationships and our histories. In "Dark," as in "Lost," we are the victims of the previous generations' mistakes, but that doesn't make us helpless. Our own mistakes come when we try to commandeer the behavior of others rather than our emotions and reactions. In this way, "Dark" is perhaps a tale of empowerment, but one that warns of the price paid by taking action.

'JORDSKOTT' (SHUDDER)

The Scandinavian police procedural series has become a staple in 21st-century television, but "Jordskott" takes the genre far beyond what we have come to know.

Police detective Eva Thornblad (Moa Gammel) returns home following the death of her estranged father, an uneasy step into the past that includes the disappearance of her daughter Josefine seven years before. Eva is convinced Josefine was abducted, the police were convinced she was dead, and Eva hopes to do some investigating of her own on her return home.

But so much more than the expected ghosts await her, as she becomes involved in another missing child case, and in the ecological battle between protesters and her father's timber company, which is ravaging the forest and planning to take it a step further by mining the area.

This is another one of those spiritual grandchildren of "Twin Peaks," taking a swirl of personal drama and wrapping it all around concerns beyond the mortal realm. In this case, pulling heavily from concepts in Scandinavian folklore adds fascinating layers in the backdrop and eventually goes beyond this comparison.

In the second season, many of these lurking folkloric elements shift to become the focus, moving past the rural landscape and into the city. Many of the secrets that Eva uncovers through the course of the first season, including her connection to it, unfold as a web that infiltrates the lives of average people in Sweden.

"Jordskott" is a highly original supernatural show that enlists the creepy ambiance of the natural world and the foreboding rush of human emotion to tell its tale, rather than the kind of overdone window dressing that too many shows like it embrace.

John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me


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