In Netflix's eminently bingeable Dark, four families struggle to comprehend the resounding effects of a multidimensional wormhole located below their town. It all begins with a missing kid: Erik, a local teenager, disappears. Then, the Dopplers, the Tiedemans, the Nielsens, and the Kahnwalds must all reckon with their involvement in the destruction caused by the wormhole. Winden, the town, is bananas — sheep are dying, children are missing, and other children are discovering that they've accidentally committed incest. (More than one character refers to the town as a "festering wound.")
At the center, though, is a priest named Noah. He's a stern-looking man, and he may or may not be the villain of the whole show. More importantly, he appears to know what's happening. Noah (played by Mark Waschke) is the key to unraveling the mysterious events that keep happening in the town of Winden, Germany. The dead sheep, the dead pigeons, the dead children (the kinder!), everything. And yet, he speaks in riddles and doesn't show up until episode 5. It would have been helpful to have him around since episode 1, but we're not complaining — this show is a sticky beast, but it's fun to decode.
Most importantly, Noah is the character who is kidnapping and killing children. The show slowly reveals him as the villain, although it never takes a moral stance on his actions. Noah is part priest and part genius. He wants to harness time travel such that he can "reorder" the course of events, from beginning to end, as he tells his trainee Helge Doppler (Peter Schneider).
Noah appears to begin his journey in 1953, when the wormhole/vortex/black hole opened up below the town of Winden. In episode 9, he exists in 1953 as a normal-ish priest. In that episode — which takes place largely in 1953 — Noah takes a confession from Helge Doppler's mother (Cordelia Wege), who admits that she never wanted Helge in the first place. (This might be why Noah eventually convinced Helge to assist his mission. An unwanted and unloved child is ripe for manipulation.)
"No pure human being exists," he tells her. It's supposed to be comforting, but Noah's diatribes tend to go the way of depressing. "We never fall any lower than into God's hands."
This is his sole appearance in 1953. Noah, unlike the other characters, never ages. The same actor portrays Noah in all three decades. This is ultimately what makes Noah seem like the wisest character. He doesn't have a younger (or older) version of himself running around, trying to mess with the loop. It's just him and his various mentees.
It seems important that in 1953, Noah is fairly regular. Yes, he's depressing, but he's not killing kids just yet. The year 1986 appears to be the year he became active. In 1986, he visits Mikkel (Daan Lennard) at the hospital, where Mikkel has landed after traveling from 2019. He appears to know what's happened to him — why, exactly, Mikkel traveled from 2019 all the way over to 1986. And, he informs Mikkel that he's a priest at St. Christopher's Church, which may or may not be a lie.
"God has a plan for every human being. Including you," he tells the boy. It's implied that Noah tells Mikkel what happened — hey, kid, you traveled through time! Welcome to 1986, you're about to fall in love with a woman who will eventually sleep with your father.
This year is also when Noah appears to do most of his work. At this point, Helge (just a boy in 1953) is an adult, and willing and able to help Noah. Helge kidnaps kids and brings them to a cabin in the woods, where he and Noah try out their time traveling machine on them. The machine is faulty, we learn later in the series. It's a "prototype," according to future Jonas (Andreas Pietschmann). The machine burns out the eyes and bursts the eardrums of its user, which is why the dead bodies that materialize throughout the series always have a blackened scar across the face.
So, why kill kids? It's all in the name of time travel, and all in the name of "resetting" the universe, which has run amok thanks to a wormhole that opened November 5, 1953. This is Noah's ark, he explains, and he's going to use it to deliver humanity from evil.
"It is the fate of pioneers to persistently pursue their aim," he tells a distraught Helge, who has recently decided he doesn't want to kill kids. He adds that God does not exist. "All of us who know the darkness long for the light, but there is no God," he says, refuting his 1953 claim (and 1986 claim) that God has a plan to save everyone.
In 2019, Noah shows up (still very young-looking, still vaguely hot, despite all the killing) and recruits Bartosz (Paul Lux) to help with his plans to reorder the universe. Because by 2019, poor Helge Doppler is no longer fit to kidnap kids. His speech to Bartosz is similar to that of what he told Helge in 1986. There's a lot of "be patient."
"We will free humanity from its immaturity," he tells Bartosz. The only difference is that in 2019, Noah has a foil. Claudia (Lisa Kreuzer), who was once the director of the nuclear plant, is also recruiting Bartosz. She is making her own time machine. She is also desperate to fix what's been broken. According to Noah, she is evil. He tells Bartosz that there are two groups of people trying to "harness" time travel. She is of the "other" group, and she is apparently more evil than Noah. In this speech, Noah heavily implies that there's something worse than killing kids. (Killing sheep maybe? That also happens in this show.) He and Bartosz might have some blood on their hands when they're done, but at least they're not of the shadows.
As the show comes to a close, it's still not clear if Noah is truly evil. Is he evil or is he knowledgeable? Is he an angel, trying to save Winden from its infinite loop, or is he the devil, wreaking havoc on the lives of the people at Winden? He insists that every choice he makes is such that events transpire exactly as they're supposed to. He knows this loop, and he can control it. But the fact remains he kidnapped Mikkel. He kidnapped Yasin. He took Erik.
The key to Noah is Helge, the priest's first henchman. Helge, in 2019, clambers out of dementia suddenly determined to stop Noah from everything he's done. Helge travels back to 1986 to speak to himself, warning younger Helge of the horrors to come. Younger Helge takes this advice only so far, given that he's an unwanted child with a battered ear (curse you, Ulrich) who is easily manipulated.
Noah is the master manipulator orchestrating the events of Dark. He has an elaborate tattoo on his back (which matches the door underneath the power plant). Because he never ages, it appears he's an emissary from a separate, third party. He doesn't belong in Winden, and, in fact, it appears he's just there to experiment upon the people in this poor town.
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