Dark Season 1 Explained: Who, what, where, why and when

Jonas in bunker looking through time portal

The German series Dark can be hard to follow, with the many families all with their complex relationships spanning over 66 years. Add to this time travel, mysterious figures and kidnapped children and the confusion can be complete. So let’s make some sense out of all this. 

There are four main families we follow through time in the little town called Winden. We follow them in three different time periods.

You can read the full review of the first season of Dark here.

Table of contents

  • Families in 2019
  • What happened in 2019
  • Relationships in 2019
  • Families in 1986
  • What happened in 1986
  • The Stranger and H.G. Tannhaus
  • Helge is the kidnapper
  • Relationships in 1986
  • Families in 1953
  • What happened in 1953
  • The point where everything comes together


The families in 2019

Nielsen family

  • Father: Ulrich (police officer)
  • Mother: Katharina (head of the school)
  • Daughter Martha (teenager)
  • Son: Magnus (teenager)
  • Son: Mikkel (kid)
  • Ulrich’s father: Tronte (retired journalist)
  • Ulrich’s mother: Jana

Kahnwald family

  • Father: Michael (artist)
  • Mother: Hannah (masseuse)
  • Son: Jonas (teenager)
  • Michael’s mother: Ines (retired nurse)

Doppler family

  • Father: Peter (psychiatrist)
  • Mother: Charlotte (chief of police)
  • Daughter: Franziska (teenager)
  • Daughter: Elli (Elisabeth) (kid)
  • Peter’s father: Helge (retired security guard of the nuclear power plant, but now has dementia)

Tiedemann family

  • Father: Aleksander (CEO of the nuclear power plant)
  • Mother: Regina (owner Waldhotel Winden)
  • Son: Bartosz (teenager)
  • Regina’s mother: Claudia (former CEO of the nuclear power plant

The mysterious Noah (priest). He is the only one who looks exactly the same in 2019, 1986 and 1953, like he doesn’t age, or time travels…

What happened in 2019

The story begins with the suicide of Michael on June 21 2019. He writes a letter to Ines which she must open on November 4 2019 at 22:13. Jonas goes in therapy to recover from this trauma and returns to school in November. When he returns a boy named Erik Obendorf is now missing for 13 days. We see him held captive in a strange bedroom straight out of the eighties and is put on a mysterious looking chair. 

When Mikkel goes missing on November 4 nearby the caves of Winden, the town gets really worried. Especially when another young boy Yasrin, Elli’s friend goes missing as well. Ellie encounters a strange man in the woods, called Noah and he gives her a watch to give to her mother with the inscription: for Charlotte. 

Then the body of a child is found in the wounds. But they can’t identify him. But later it proves to be the body of Mads, the younger brother of Ulrich who went missing in 1986, but he seems to have not aged at all. 

In his fathers workroom Jonas finds maps of the caves of Winden and starts his own investigation. 

Meanwhile Charlotte thinks Peter has something to do with the disappearances, and searches a cabin in the woods that belongs to Helge. She finds a strange bunker. But Peter isn’t the only one who doesn’t have an alibi, Tronte doesn’t have one either. 

Ulrich suspects Helge whom he follows into the caves at night.

Jonas gets a visit from a Stranger, who gives him clues about the caves and the maps and gives him a letter. The letter that Michael wrote to Ines. The Stranger also gives him a curious looking lamp and a geigerteller. 

The Stranger hires a room at the Waldhotel and we see a large tattoo on his back. He also has a strange device, a book written by H.G. Tannhaus and research of the missing boys.

Jonas investigates the caves and goes through a secret passage and finds a secret door with Sic Mundus Creatus Est written on it and the Triquetra symbol. When he opens this door, birds fall from the sky, and all the lights in whole of Winden start to flicker. 

Bartosz gets a visit from Noah who makes him an offer. But he also gets a visit from his grandmother Claudia who tells him some important things. 

Relationships in 2019

  • Ulrich has an affair with Hannah.
  • Peter and Charlotte have separate bedrooms. Peter turns out to be gay, but kept it a secret and is struggling with his identity. 
  • Bartosz has a relationship with Martha, but Jonas and Martha feel attracted to each other. 
  • Katharina finds out that Ulrich and Hannah are having an affair and threatens her.
  • Hannah blackmails Aleksander to destroy Ulrich.


Families in 1986

Nielsen family

  • Father: Tronte (journalist)
  • Mother: Jana
  • Son: Ulrich (teenager)
  • Son: Mads (kid)

Kanhwald family

  • Ines (nurse)
  • Adopted son: Michael (kid)

Doppler family

  • Helge (security guard at the nuclear power plant)
  • Helge’s father: Bernd Doppler (retired CEO of the nuclear power plant)

Tiedemann family

  • Mother: Claudia (CEO of the nuclear power plant)
  • Daughter: Regina (teenager)
  • Claudia’s father: Egon (chief of police)


  • Charlotte
  • Hannah

What happened in 1986

Claudia takes over as CEO from Bernd Doppler. In a secluded part of the caves she discovers toxic waste barrels and a red door. But strangely she also finds her dog Gretchen who went missing in 1953, but she is very much alive and kicking. Also a couple of months earlier a big explosion took place in the caves, but was kept secret. 

This year Mads goes missing. Regina was the last person to see him alive that day. Because Mads walked her home that day, after she was bullied by Ulrich and Katharina and was tied to a tree.

Egon Tiedemann is investigating Mads’ disappearance. He arrests Ulrich when he is being accused of raping Katharina. It was a jealous Hannah who came up with this lie. 

Katharina thinks Regina told this lie and wants revenge. But when she attacks Regina, a mysterious boy shows up with a gun and rescues Regina. This turns out to be Aleksander. He’s hurt and on the run. He gets a job at the nuclear power plant to open the red door. He buries his other passports with the names Boris Niewald and Aleksander Kohler, but Hannah sees him doing it.

We also see what happened to Mikkel after he got lost in the caves. He turned up in the year 1986, through a special door. He gets shelter in the hospital and Ines takes him in and raises him as her own son. Mikkel becomes Michael. So Mikkel sees his parents when they were young, but of course they don’t recognize him.

But Jonas finds his way through the caves to the year 1986 as well and sees Mikkel. He then realizes that Mikkel is his father, he wants to take him home to 2019, but the Stranger prevents him, warning him that if he does so, Jonas will cease to exist.

The Stranger and H.G. Tannhaus

The Stranger visits a watchmaker and future writer of the book Time Travel. He brings him the device and asks him to repair it, whilst it has the initials H.G. on it. But Tannhaus does not recognize it. 

They discuss the properties of time and what this has to do with the caves of Winden. Every 33 years all the planets are in alignment. This is the 33 year cycle. They discuss the Einstein-Rosen-Bridge, a passage between a black hole (the entrance) and a white hole (the exit) which connects time and space. Time travel. There’s no dualism but a wormhole connects three things (the Triquetra), the present, the past and the future. They all effect each other. But what is cause and what is effect? What came first?

Helge is the kidnapper

Helge is ordered by Noah to kidnap the children. Noah has a notebook with the Triquetra symbol and names and dates. He tells Helge he wants to change destiny and wants to be in control of destiny himself. In order to so he needs a time machine. He puts one together in Helge’s bunker and the kidnapped children are his test subjects. 

But the 2019 Helge shows up in 1986 to warn his younger self for the lies Noah tells him. He knows what’s coming but on his way to prevent this he gets hit by a car, younger Helge’s car. Younger Helge from 1986 gets hurt but the old Helge from 2019 dies. This accident is the reason that 1986 Peter returns to Winden. 

Relationships in 1986

  • Hannah has a crush on Ulrich.
  • Helge has a crush on Claudia.
  • Egons’ wife has left him.
  • Martha is Jonas’ aunt and Magnus is his uncle. Ulrich and Katharina are the grandparents of Jonas. 
  • So Hannah has in 2019 an affair with the father of her husband. 


Families in 1953

Nielsen Family

  • Mother: Agnes
  • Son: Tronte (kid)

Doppler family

  • Father: Bernd (founder nuclear power plant)
  • Mother: Greta
  • Son: Helge (kid)

Tiedemann family

  • Father: Egon (police officer)
  • Mother: Doris
  • Daughter: Claudia (kid)
  • Dog: Gretchen

What happened in 1953

At the place where the nuclear power plant is going to be built, the dead bodies of two children are found. Those of Erik and Yasrin.

Tronte has just moved to Winden with his mother Agnes, and lives in with the Tiedemann family. Agnes says her husband was a priest, but not a good man and that she’s glad he’s dead. Tronte has cigarette burn marks on his arm. 

The Doppler family lives in the mansion that later in the present will be the Waldhotel. Young Helge is being tutored by Claudia. Noah is the priest and Greta tells him she sometimes wishes that something bad would happen to Helge, because he’s not Bernd’s child.

Helge is the cause that Gretchen disappears in the caves. 

When Ulrich followed Helge into the caves back in 2019, Helge went to 1986, but Ulrich ends up in 1953. He goes to H.G. Tannhaus’s shop and hears about the two dead boys. He encounters young Helge and tries to kill him, thinking this would prevent Helge to kidnap the children as an adult in the future. He puts him in the bunker, but Helge is not dead. Ulrich gets arrested by Egon. 

Old Claudia from 2019 visits Tannhaus as well and gives him the blueprints of the device. 

The point where everything comes together

We have to go back (to the future) to 2019 to the night of 4 to 5 November, when Mikkel disappeared. That night Peter was struggling with his sexuality in the bunker, when a tear appeared in the wall, and a boy falls through. It’s Mads. He then calls Tronte and old Claudia shows up as well. She gives him the notebook with the Triquetra symbol. 

On November 12 2019 Jonas visits Ines and asks her if she knew Mikkel came from the future, and she gives him the letter Michael wrote to her. The one Jonas had burnt in the past. 

In 1986 we see the Stranger visiting Tannhaus, who now has made the device. The Stranger puts in a cilinder with the isotoop Cesium, Cs-137, to create a black hole, in order to destroy the wormhole, and to make a stop to all of this. Tannhaus was able to make the device due to the blueprints he got from Claudia in 1953 and the cell phone Ulrich left behind in his jacket. 

Noah tells Helge to kidnap Jonas, in the year 1986, to where Jonas has traveled. Jonas then wakes up in the bunker and behind the locked door he sees the Stranger who refuses to rescue him, because everything what will happen next is crucial for the future. The bunker functions as a time machine, because it lies directly underneath the caves. The Stranger leaves Jonas in the bunker and goes to the passage to destroy the caves. A black hole appears in the sky above the nuclear power plant. A wormhole appears in the bunker and Jonas sees Helge (in 1953) on the other side. When they touch, Helge ends up in 1986 and Jonas in the future. It looks like he has ended up in an apocalyptic future.

Meanwhile in 2019 Bartosz is in a car with Noah, who tells him that the Stranger, Jonas from the future, just now in fact has created the wormhole instead of destroying it. The effect is visible in 1986 and in 2019 and maybe in all other years of the 33 year cycle. It’s a paradox, because he creates something that already existed because he creates it now. 

Read more about Dark:

Support BHG: