Netflix’s time-twisting, brain-melting, German sci-fi drama Dark returns for its third and final season on June 27, 2020 — which also happens to be the date of the apocalypse within the show, so that’s fun and cute and terrifying! You could watch this series multiple times and still never fully comprehend what’s going on, so we could all use a little refresher before diving into whatever timeline high jinks season three has in store.
If you recall, Dark tells the story of four extremely related families in the small, rural German town of Winden, where it’s said that no one ever really comes or goes. The series kicks off with the disappearance of a young boy named Mikkel in 2019, but the story jumps across time to 1921, 1953–1954, 1986–1987, and 2052–2053, where we meet the same characters over and over at different ages, some knowingly and some forced into a battle over time itself. Oh, and season two ended by adding multiple universes to the mix! There are twists and turns and some truly head-scratching revelations. So, yes, a comprehensive Who’s Who in Winden is needed. But beware, even something as simple as a character rundown may hurt your brain, because as Dark likes to remind us, everything is connected — including all of the characters on this show. Even when it seems impossible.
Jonas is the protagonist of our story, and we first meet him as a teenager who has just returned home after spending time in a mental-health facility following his father Michael’s suicide. Things get kicked up a notch when he’s out in the Winden woods with friends, and 11-year-old Mikkel goes missing. Soon, Jonas is anonymously sent a package full of strange items, including his father’s suicide note, which eventually leads him to discover time-traveling tunnels in the Winden caves. Jonas travels to 1986 only to discover that — yup, you guessed it — after Mikkel disappeared, he ended up stuck in 1986 and grew up to become Jonas’s dad, Michael Kahnwald (more on that below!). If you can believe, things only get stranger from there! You know who anonymously sent that package? Jonas’s older self, who has returned to 2019 to set things in motion so that he can become the man he is in the future … a man who wants to close the time-travel wormhole, but instead ends up creating it. Does your brain hurt yet? Cool! At the end of season two, Teen Jonas watches Martha die in front of him, only to be rescued by a Martha from a different universe (more on her later, too!) right before the apocalypse happens in Winden in 2020. At the same time, Adult Jonas is handed a letter seemingly from Martha instructing him to go find his friends Magnus, Franziska, and Bartosz and time travel them away from the apocalypse. But wait! Even more insanity plagues dear Jonas.
The creepy dude with the scarred face who’s pulling all the strings turns out to be … an even older version of Jonas! The leader of the Sic Mundus cult is hanging out in 1921 and making sure everything happens as it always has in this time loop so that his plans to destroy this world and free it from time can take place. Oh, and he murders Martha in front of Jonas. So, uh, he’s not a great guy?
Michael Kahnwald (a.k.a. Mikkel Nielsen)
When you start watching Dark, one thing that becomes immediately evident is that beginnings and endings don’t exist, time is just one big circle meant to melt your brain. However, Dark technically begins with Michael Kahnwald’s suicide in 2019. Again: Michael Kahnwald is actually Mikkel Nielsen, the 11-year-old who goes missing in 2019. Mikkel winds up stuck in 1986, gets adopted by Ines Kahnwald, and takes the name Michael Kahnwald. He marries Hannah and they have Jonas — who is then doing fist bumps with little Mikkel Nielsen, not knowing that the kid is the younger version of his father. It’s honestly one of the least confusing twists on this show.
Even more tragically, Adam winds up sending Teen Jonas back to the day before Michael’s death, telling him that if he can stop his father, he can stop everything that follows. Instead, Jonas going back and telling Michael/Mikkel everything is what sets off the whole chain of events: Michael/Mikkel realizes that if he doesn’t die, Jonas will never be born. As a father, he can’t bear to let that happen. Furthermore (because there can always be more tragedy in Dark), Michael/Mikkel tells Jonas that it was actually some version of Jonas who led him into the caves that night in the woods. Meaning Jonas caused both his father’s disappearance and his death. So now both your head and your heart hurt.
Let me tell you about This Woman. Jonas’s mother Hannah has always been obsessed with Ulrich Nielsen. When we meet her in 2019, she and Ulrich are in the midst of an affair, but once he dumps her, she makes plans. First, she blackmails Aleksander Tiedemann, king of the Winden power plant, into destroying Ulrich’s life. Before Aleksander has the chance, however, Future Jonas finds Hannah and teaches her all about time travel. Hannah uses the time machine to travel to 1953, when Ulrich is being held in a psychiatric facility after being convicted of murder. She goes to visit him, dangles his freedom right in front of his face, and then leaves him!!! Hannah’s story is basically Fatal Attraction 2: Time Travel Edition. We last see her in 1953 cozying up to Egon Tiedemann, and you know she’s going to stir up some supreme shit. It is her only way.
Ines is the nurse who cares for Mikkel Nielsen when he appears in 1986, adopts him, and renames him Michael. I’d like to describe her as “kind,” but when Mikkel says things like “I’m from the future,” her response is to sneak sleeping pills into his drink. Somehow she winds up in possession of Michael’s suicide note that has strict instructions not to open until November 4th at 10:13 p.m. — instructions which she follows. She’s ripped out of some fairly recent photos with Michael, Jonas, and Hannah, probably because Hannah is a dick. Still, it seems like Ines knows more than she’s letting on.
Daniel is Ines’s father and Winden’s chief of police in 1953. Basically all we know about him is that he has no idea what’s going on when two dead bodies appear at the nuclear power plant construction site, and he loves giving Egon Tiedemann advice on how to step out on his wife when he isn’t getting laid enough.
Helge is one of Dark’s most tragic figures. As a boy in 1953, his mother hates him, he’s bullied by other kids, and even his friend/tutor Claudia Tiedemann only seems to tolerate him. Then he crosses paths with Ulrich Nielsen, who has traveled back in time from 2019 to kill him, convinced that Adult Helge is the one who murdered all the missing boys in Winden. Since we’re in a “what happened, happened” situation in regards to changing the past, Helge survives the attack. Thanks to a tear in time in the bunker where Ulrich has hidden Helge, the boy then travels to 1986, where Noah saves him before using the time-travel chair to send him back to 1954. Noah eventually grooms Helge as his assistant: In 1986, Adult Helge is the one helping Noah kidnap Winden kids to use as time-travel guinea pigs. As an old man in 2019, Helge recognizes that the disappearances are happening again, and this time, he tries to stop his younger self by traveling back to 1986, warning him to not trust Noah, and then trying to kill his younger self in a car accident. Younger Helge survives, of course (what happened, happened!), but Old Helge dies. It’s all very twisty!
Greta is extremely cold toward her son Helge, and has some weird tension with Noah, the guy parading around 1953 Winden as a local priest. Greta is a mystery.
Helge’s father Bernd is another character who might be more involved in Dark shenanigans than he lets on. In 1953, he opens Winden’s nuclear power plant. In 1986, he passes the power plant over to Claudia Tiedemann and persuades her to keep quiet about the God Particle — which is basically a floating glob that allows time travel — because revealing that would mean also revealing an accident at the plant he’s been trying to keep hidden by way of all those Yellow Barrels of Secrets in the Winden caves.
He’s the local therapist, father of Franziska and Elisabeth and estranged from his wife, Charlotte, and for a while he was sleeping with Bernadette Wöller. After the body of Mads Nielsen — a boy who went missing in 1986 — appears in front of Peter in Helge’s bunker and Claudia introduces Peter and Tronte to time travel, he and Charlotte start investigating alongside Adult Jonas. When the apocalypse arrives, Peter is one of the few people safely situated in the bunker, so it’s fair to assume that Peter survives that event. Unlike the other Winden parents in 2019, we haven’t yet met Peter as a teenager. All we know is that he doesn’t arrive in Winden until 1987. Is Helge his biological father? Who is his mother? Why did he come to Winden at that time? Are we sitting on yet another bonkers time-travel-related reveal with Peter? There are so! Many! Peter! Questions!
Charlotte is Winden’s chief of police in 2019. She was raised by her “grandfather” H.G. Tannhaus. In 2019, she’s one of the first to realize that everything happening in Winden — missing kids, dead animals — has happened before. She knows she’s on to something when she finds a photo of her friend and detective Ulrich Nielsen in a newspaper article from 1953. But tugging at the time-travel string is a mistake for Charlotte: She discovers that she was actually born in the future and brought back to the past to live with Tannhaus. Her father, Noah, is that creepy time-traveling priest who’s involved with the missing Winden kids, and her mother is … her younger daughter Elisabeth. Your brain might be melted by now, but know that at the end of season two, thanks to a rip in time due to the God Particle, 2020 Charlotte comes face-to-face with her daughter/mother Elisabeth in 2053 and the two touch hands just as the apocalyptic explosion occurs.
Ah, Elisabeth. In 2019, she’s just a kid who’s upset that her friend Yasin is yet another of the missing Winden children. She runs into Adult Noah in the woods, and he gives her a watch engraved with “For Charlotte.” When the apocalypse comes, she’s safely in the bunker with her father Peter … and a Young Noah. We learn that in the future, Elisabeth and Noah have a daughter, Charlotte, who, again, is also Elisabeth’s mother. (No matter how many times I type that, it will never not hurt my brain.) Jonas runs into Elisabeth in 2052 post-apocalyptic Winden, where she’s in charge of a rebel group and yells things like “sic mundus creatus est.” She’s also tasked with keeping the God Particle a secret and almost kills Jonas over it.
Charlotte and Peter’s oldest daughter, Franziska is part of the Teen Time-Traveling Troupe (with Martha, Bartosz, and her hookup buddy Magnus), and she often rails against her parents for keeping secrets. At the end of season two, she, Magnus, and Bartosz are “saved” by Adult Jonas before the apocalypse arrives. We’ve also briefly seen Franziska as an older adult, doing Adam’s bidding alongside Magnus for Sic Mundus, way back in 1921.
Egon, husband of Doris and father of Claudia, is a Winden police officer in 1953. He’s investigating the sudden appearance of two dead boys at the nuclear power plant and Helge Doppler’s disappearance when Ulrich Nielsen arrives from 2019 and gets tossed in an asylum. Years later in 1986, when Mikkel shows up and starts saying things like “My dad is Ulrich Nielsen!” Egon finally starts to question what he had accepted as truth. He visits the man he arrested in 1953, who has been rotting away for 33 years, and realizes this is the same Ulrich Nielsen that Egon knows as a teenager in his present time. Egon has blown this time-travel thing way open and he wants to Do Something About It. When his daughter Claudia, now director of the nuclear power plant, realizes Egon has connected some shady time-travel stuff to the plant, they argue, Egon hits his head and she … well, she lets her dad die right in front of her.
We only see Doris, Claudia’s mother and Egon’s wife, in 1953. She’s secretly hooking up with her new tenant, Agnes Nielsen. Claudia ships it: When Old Claudia meets up with Agnes, she tells her that her mother could make Agnes very happy. Does anyone get a happy ending on Dark though?
When we meet a young Claudia in 1953, there’s no way to guess that she would become such an important player in the time-travel game, but by 1986, she’s ditched the braids for some true ’80s fashion, has become the director of the nuclear power plant, and has a meeting with her older self that really sends her for a loop (get it?). Jonas ends up teaching her a lot about time travel … which, Dark being Dark, he learned from Old Claudia. Fun and not confusing, right? We have yet to see how Claudia turned into Adam’s nemesis, but it probably starts to happen around the time she lets her dad die and then travels to 2020 to save her daughter Regina from the apocalypse. Old Claudia is moving a whole lot of chess pieces throughout the series, but is eventually killed by Noah.
Claudia’s daughter is ostracized as a teen in 1986. Then she meets the handsome, dangerous stranger Aleksander (more on him later), gives herself a hot girl makeover, and everything seems better. Just kidding, her mom disappears without a trace (she’s got time-traveling to do!) and we still don’t know who Regina’s father is, which is suspicious. Regina grows up to open a hotel in the old Doppler estate, marry Aleksander, and have a son, Bartosz. In 2019, she is diagnosed with cancer and by 2020 it’s extremely advanced. On the day of the apocalypse, 1987 Claudia waltzes in and takes Regina to the bunker, ensuring her survival.
Aleksander Tiedemann (a.k.a. Boris Niewald)
THIS GUY. When he shows up in Winden, he’s on the run from who knows what, has a bullet in his leg, and whips out a gun to scare off Katharina and Ulrich from harassing Regina. We learn that his real name is Boris Niewald, but he’s using the name from the other passport, Aleksander Köhler. He starts dating Regina and then working for Claudia — she needs someone to hide all those Barrels of Secrets, you see — and then by 2019, he’s the man in charge at the power plant. Things go downhill: The plant is closing and he needs to bury the barrels fast, Hannah Kahnwald blackmails him with the information about his real identity, and then a detective named Clausen shows up. Clausen reveals that he is the real Aleksander Köhler’s brother and someone sent him a letter telling him to come to Winden for answers. They both probably get blown up in the apocalypse, so who even knows what’s happening here!
Get this time-traveling dog the spinoff she deserves!
What becomes of the brokenhearted? Well, if they’re like Bartosz, who is pissed that his girlfriend Martha is actually in love with Jonas, they get involved with a shady dude named Noah who tells them that time travel is real and their grandmother and best friend are being real dicks about it. Everybody gets real mad at Bartosz for keeping time travel a secret from them, especially since he knew where Mikkel and Ulrich went, but in the end, he’s one of the people Adult Jonas saves with the time machine before the apocalypse.
Agnes shows up in Winden in 1953 with her son Tronte, after leaving her (unknown) husband and takes a room at the Tiedemann house, where she has an affair with Doris Tiedemann. But when Jonas travels back to 1921, we meet Agnes as a young girl living in Winden with her brother, Noah. So really, Agnes showing up in 1953 is a homecoming, no matter how mysterious. She’s been kicked out of Sic Mundus and seems to be working with Claudia … until she murders Noah as a way to get back into Sic Mundus. Is this part of Claudia’s plan to infiltrate Sic Mundus or is Agnes betraying Claudia?
Tronte arrives in Winden in 1953 with his mother Agnes, and moves into the Tiedemann house. He has cigar burns on his arms and, like his mother, stays vague about his father and why he and Agnes left. Tronte and Claudia hit it off immediately, by which I mean they start up a relationship that carries on well into their adulthood: In 1986, we learn that Claudia and Tronte — now married with two kids, Mads and Ulrich — have been having an affair. Claudia tries to put the kibosh on that situation, although it seems Tronte’s feelings haven’t changed even in 2019. When Claudia shows up in the bunker after Tronte and Peter find Mads’s body and introduces them to time travel, he never questions it.
We catch a glimpse of her in 1953 as a young girl who is friends with Ines Kahnwald, and then in 1986 she’s a mother destroyed by the disappearance of her son, Mads. Nothing much has changed in 2019. Is there more to Jana? There always seems to be more.
It’s hard to feel bad for Ulrich since he goes back in time and tries to murder a child, but it’s still hard to watch the detective, so unraveled by his son’s disappearance in 2019 that he follows a suspect back in time only to get stuck in 1953 and arrested for murder. His one shot at freedom is ripped away by Hannah, so he spends the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital. Decades later, he realizes his son Mikkel is actually in 1986 and tries to escape to the time-travel tunnels with him, but he fails, seemingly stuck in the past for good.
We haven’t actually met Mads in person, but his ghost looms large in the Dark story. Mads, son of Jana and Tronte Nielsen and brother of Ulrich, is taken by Sic Mundus in 1986. His body then appears in Helge Doppler’s bunker on November 4, 2019 — the same night Mikkel Nielsen goes missing.
Who knew the teen bully would grow up to be the school principal in 2019 and marry her high-school sweetheart Ulrich? Understandably, Katharina is a complete mess when both her youngest son and husband go missing within days of one another. After Charlotte, Peter, Hannah, and Adult Jonas fill her in on time travel, she calls out Hannah for sleeping with both her husband and her son, which is just the kind of time-travel soap-opera drama we need. After deciding she’s going to get her family back, she’s inside the time-travel tunnels when the apocalypse happens, so her fate is yet to be determined.
Can someone find this kid his hoodie??? Magnus, the eldest of the 2019 Nielsen brood, isn’t the most active of players in this game, but dang if he isn’t along for the ride. On June 27, 2020, he, his girlfriend Franziska, and their shady friend Bartosz, get whisked away in time by Adult Jonas. We’ve yet to see where Adult Jonas has taken them, but we do find Magnus assisting Adam with whatever the hell Sic Mundus is up to in 1921.
Martha, Martha, Martha. Everybody loves Martha. Okay, well, both Jonas and Bartosz love Martha, which causes some major teen drama only made more dramatic by all the time travel. Martha is in love with Jonas, which makes it super awkward when she learns that her younger brother Mikkel time-traveled to 1986 and grew up to be Jonas’s dad … making her Jonas’s aunt. Before the couple has time to fully unpack that, Adam shows up just as the apocalypse is about to happen and kills Martha in front of Jonas to teach him a lesson about pain or something. It’s terrible!
Alternate Universe Martha Nielsen
The great bangs! The cool time-traveling orb thing! This Martha looks like our Martha, but she is actually a Martha from a different universe (!!) who shows up minutes before the apocalypse as Jonas is weeping over the dead body of his girlfriend. She gets him the hell out of there, but we don’t know where they’re headed. Other Martha changes the entire game.
Mikkel Nielsen (a.k.a. Michael Kahnwald)
We already covered Mikkel/Michael’s tragic existence in the Kahnwald family tree, but it never gets old reminding people that Mikkel, our very own 2019 Houdini, gets dragged back in time by Jonas and then grows up to become Jonas’s father.
Wait, there’s more!
Like his sister Agnes, Noah is one of the most mysterious Dark characters, especially since he really racks up the time-travel frequent-flier miles. Here is what we know: By 1921, Young Noah is being mentored by the older version of himself and is active in Sic Mundus. By “active,” I mean murdering disloyal unidentified men (probably Old Bartosz, but that is unconfirmed) as they dig time-travel tunnels in caves. Young Noah eventually travels to 2020 Winden and ends up in the bunker that survives the apocalypse, where he meets Elisabeth Doppler, with whom he will eventually have a daughter, Charlotte. Noah also grows up to become Adam’s henchman, stealing kids to test out the time-travel chair. He kills Old Claudia and gets his hands on the final pages of the Journal That Contains All the Info About Time that she’s been hiding. After learning the truth about Claudia (and time), he confronts Adam and attempts to murder him, only to in turn be murdered by his own sister. It’s a wild ride!
This guy really gets in it, doesn’t he? H.G. Tannhaus is a clockmaker in Winden in 1953, but thanks to visits from multiple time travelers (Claudia, Jonas, Ulrich, and Noah), his entire life’s work is basically one big bootstrap paradox. (It’s a time-travel paradox in which an artifact is sent back from the future and therefore its origin cannot be determined and it exists without ever being created, you get it.) He’s the author of A Journey Through Time, the time-travel book all of our travelers are so hyped about, but he only writes it after he’s given a copy of it from the future. He also builds the time machine after seeing one from the future. Most importantly — as far as questions we need answered in the final season — at some point Charlotte Doppler is brought to Tannhaus and he raises her. Charlotte Doppler, perhaps the ultimate bootstrap paradox.
This detective rolls into town and takes the missing-people case over from Charlotte Doppler, but he isn’t telling the whole truth as to why he’s in Winden. After questioning Aleksander Tiedemann, he dramatically reveals that he’s the brother of the real Aleksander and he knows this Aleksander stole his brother’s identity and had something to do with his death. While investigating the power plant, Clausen is the one who orders the buried yellow barrels to be opened, ushering in the apocalypse. He might have died in that explosion, but I need some answers about who sent him that mysterious letter alerting him to Aleksander being in Winden.
In 2052, Silja is Elisabeth’s interpreter and right hand woman. When she decides to help Jonas with the God Particle hidden in the nuclear power plant, she’s distraught to learn that Elisabeth’s been lying to everyone about, well, everything. Oh, also, at the end of season one, it’s Silja who says “welcome to the future” before knocking Jonas unconscious, which, let’s be honest, is an awesome way to end a season of a show about time travel.