Season 1, Episode 3: “Past and Present”
Directed by Baran bo Odar
Written by Jantje Friese & Marc O. Seng
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Lies” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Double Lives” – click here
Back in 1986, Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz) is totally lost. His house is not his house anymore. It’s where his father lived, and his father Ulrich (Judger Bökelmann) is 33 years younger. When Mikkel stumbles inside to find Jana (Anne Lebinsky), she is distraught. Because this is exactly when young Mads went missing all those years ago.
Charlotte Doppler (Stephanie Amarell) finds a dead bird in the road while riding her bike. Is it just a normal dead bird, or is it like the dead birds we’ve seen 33 years in the future/the present?
We start to see the various family connections that we’ve seen in the present timeline. Such as the Tiedemann family. And then Mikkel wanders up into the school, where people did he “drop acid” because he’s just… out of it. Like you would be, right?
The nuclear power plant has a new boss, Claudia Tiedemann (Julika Jenkins). Pretty awesome for late ’80s Germany. We’re privy to lots of interesting bits of information, such as that Helge Doppler (Peter Schneider) clearly had a thing for her. There’s some sort of relationship going on between Claudia and Tronte Nielsen (Felix Kramer). Her father Egon (Christian Pätzold) is the local police chief. He’s busy out in a field where a ton of sheep have turned up dead, their corpses scattered everywhere.
Back at the station, he gets a visit from little Mikkel. The kid’s looking for his dad, and y’know, that sounds insane when he tells the old man his dad is Ulrich. Makes no sense. It’s a proper confusing situation. Poor kid is freaked out to further realise it’s ’86. But now the cop is left believing that Ulrich is the one who hurt Mikkel, as the boy’s bleeding, beat up. Not good. Freakier still for the kid, whose own uncle is missing in ’86. A true mind trip.
Ines Kahnwald (Anne Ratte-Polle), a nurse, is sent to see Mikkel, to try and help him. Simultaneously, Egon drops over to the Nielsen house, where heavy metal’s blaring through the speakers, and Ulrich is playing video games. He tells the boy not to play any games, assuming he sent the kid to the station, thinking that he’s acting out because of Mads’ disappearance.
“There are things that are worth knowing, and things worth not knowing, because you can‘t change them anyway.”
Seems to be problems on the books as Claudia takes over. She brings them to Bernd Doppler (Michael Mendl). He laments Chernobyl. Not because of the physical, real damage to citizens, but more so because of the figurative damage to nuclear power. I can only imagine what sort of skeletons the company has in its massive closet. Could be truly ugly, and I’m sure it is, indeed.
Mikkel is deemed fine by a doctor, mostly; at least physically. Mentally, he’s devastated. A boy from 2019 suddenly transported back to 1986. He reveals that he comes “from the future” to Ines, though she doesn’t believe him immediately. Sure that he’s just influenced by the comic books he was given to read.
Later, Bernd takes Claudia down to a hole in the earth, past a fence and a gate. She has a flashlight, taking a rope down there to check it out for herself. She goes on down into a cave, where there are stacks and stacks of nuclear waste in barrels, tucked away beneath the earth.
That night, Egon searches in the fields. Something hits me from nowhere. His flashlight flickers. He’s bombarded with dead birds, falling from the sky everywhere. So he rushes back to his vehicle to avoid being knocked unconscious. They keep falling and falling and falling.
Beautiful sequence shows us many of the characters side by side with their older self in 2019, from Tronte to Regina and others. We also see the gift that Helge gave Claudia is a copy of none other than A Journey Through Time by H.G. Tannhaus. Quite interesting.
Then it’s back to the future – get it? – or, the present, I guess. Ulrich (Oliver Masucci) is searching for his boy Mikkel, going back to that cave. Exactly where, in the past, Mikkel is headed, falling further into the dark. His father, in 2019, pries at the door in the cave leading into the nuclear power plant. And as he beats away at it, Mikkel hears noises in 1986. He calls out “Help!” to his father, his voice echoing.
They can hear one another. Can it really be?
Yet still, they can’t find each other. Separated by time and space. And that machine we saw the stranger with before in his room, it’s the one H.G. Tannhaus (Christian steyer) himself is working on in 1986. Oh, my, god.
Jesus, this series has me hooked in tight. Wonderfully dark, strange things going on, all around. The writing’s enticing, it’s sci-fi, it’s drama, it’s powerful, epic. Rolled into a nice, sweet ball.
“Double Lives” is next. Will we see more ’86 right away, or is it all the way back to 2019 for a whole episode? We’ll see.