1899: Season 1 – TV Review

TL;DR – A dark and compelling tale full of mystery and ‘wait… what?!?!’ moments.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this series.

Warning – Contains scenes that may cause distress.

The Kerberos

1899 Review

One of the shows recommended to me is Dark, and I have always meant to give it a look, but finding time to watch three seasons has been elusive. However, when I heard that the creators of Dark had a new series that hit all the same feels, well, it was time to give it a watch. Also, for some reason, Netflix defaults to the English dub of this series. Please, before you watch, make sure you change the language from English – Dubbed to English – Original.

So to set the scene, it is 1899, and in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is the Kerberos, a large steamship taking passengers to New York City. The ship itself is light on with passengers because the Kerberos’ sister ship Prometheus disappeared on the same route a month ago with no trace. One night as all the first class passengers are eating their dinner, a young boy Krester (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen), bursts into the dining hall saying they need help because his pregnant sister Tove (Clara Rosager) is going into shock. No one will help but Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham), who rushes to assist, even though the dreams of her being locked up and tortured in a psychiatric institution bare heavily upon her. Captain Eyk Larsen (Andreas Pietschmann) is annoyed that Maura broke the rules, but that is all put aside when the ship has a sudden communication from the Prometheus, which might not be at the bottom of the ocean as most people thought. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. 

All of first class gets told the ship is turning around.
1899 embraces the multitudes of languages that would exist on a boat like this and is better for it. Image Credit: Netflix

When I have talked to people about 1899, there seems to be a bit of a shift depending on whether you had previously watched Dark and whether you liked where 1899’s mystery eventually ended up. I understand that it is very close to Dark tonally, so if you have already watched Dark, it lessened some of 1899’s impact. For me, who was missing that familiarity, I was engrossed from start to finish, watching well into the dark of the night to see where the show went next. From the show’s beginning, the filmmakers go out of their way to make it clear that all is not right on the ship. Indeed, can you trust the ship to be what you believe it to be? From here, they build in a particular direction that I called pretty early, but I didn’t mind because that ending was 100%  my jam. While for others, I can understand why they wanted the story to stay more contained to the ship.

Part of that is because they did a phenomenal job bringing the world of the 1899s to life and what it would have been like to be on one of those big steamships at the time. It is a world of clear class stratifications, of overlapping languages, and where there is not a great safety net if things go wrong. The fact that a plethora of languages are spoken throughout the show is both accurate to the time and also a strength in the narrative storytelling. The fact that not everybody can understand each other creates authentic problems and opportunities. You can have Ángel (Miguel Bernardeau) boasting in the middle of the dining room, confident that he can’t be caught. You have Ling Yi (Isabella Wei) clearly out of place in a kimono because she speaks Cantonese. The Polish Olek (Maciej Musiał) knows some German so that he can talk with some people on the ship but not others. You can even have a fake Portuguese priest in Ramiro (José Pimentão) talk about faith with a Danish paster Anker (Alexandre Willaume), who lost his faith and maybe never had it at all. Neither of them understands what the other is saying, bar perhaps the odd word here or there, but they can still have a profound conversation together. The fact that they made sure to cast actors that are proficient in all the languages was probably a technical headache during production, but the show is better for it.

Ling Yi (Isabella Wei) stands in front of a mysterious fog.
1899’s mystery will capture or bore you, I was the first but you might be the latter. Image Credit: Netflix

Another strength of the show is the production, with every facet coming together to bring the world to life. I never once questioned the location and the period the series was set in because the production team took attention to detail to a new level. Every costume felt right to both the time and the character, even when those two sides might lead to a contradiction. There are some points where you will go, ‘oh, they filmed that on a green screen’. However, this is one of the better uses of the Volume I have seen so far, and I think a lot of people would be surprised just how much that technology is in here, and they didn’t notice. Also, I liked all the little hints that the ship is not all what it seems to be is incorporated into the framework in this almost atompunk style. This is the perfect juxtaposition for a steam age setting, hinting that something more is afoot.

Where I think people will get captured by the show or disengage with it comes from the use of mystery. There is not just one mystery but several that build upon each other like a rising crescendo. What happened to the Prometheus? Who is Daniel Solace (Aneurin Barnard), and how does he know more about this world? Why are the passengers starting to die? Where is the ship? Who is The Boy (Fflyn Edwards), and why won’t he speak? Why does the company want the crew to sink the ship? Why are there portals to memories under everyone’s beds? What’s up with that beetle? Why triangles? Is that a pyramid? Wait, why is everyone trying to commit suicide? The big difference for people will be if they think the ending is a good resolution for all those mysteries, I will say yes, but I think that will be a very personal thing.

Anker (Alexandre Willaume) leads the Danish passangers in a prayer.
1899 also explores important themes like faith, class, gender, and more. Image Credit: Netflix

In the end, do we recommend 1899’s first season? Yes, yes, we do, but with some caveats. While I think it started running out of steam by the end, it ended in a good place for me, but I am not sure that is how everyone else will see it. Add to that some lingering questions that will probably remain lingering and a very gloomy feel, and I am not sure it will be for everyone, but it was perfectly placed to suck me into its world and mystery.                   

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen 1899 yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review
House of the Dragon on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of 1899
Directed by
– Baran bo Odar
Written by – Jantje Friese, Dario Madrona López Gallego, Emma Ko, Jerome Bucchan-Nelson, Juliana Lima Dehne & Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Created by – Jantje Friese & Baran bo Odar
Production/Distribution Companies – Dark Ways & Netflix
Starring – Emily Beecham, Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeau, José Pimentão, Isabella Wei, Gabby Wong, Yann Gael, Mathilde Ollivier, Jonas Bloquet, Rosalie Craig, Maciej Musiał, Clara Rosager, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Maria Erwolter, Alexandre Willaume, Tino Mewes, Isaak Dentler, Fflyn Edwards & Anton Lesser with Vida Sjørslev, Alexander Owen, Ben Ashenden, Richard Hope, Joshua Jaco Seelenbinder, Niklas Maienschein, Jónas Alfreð Birkisson, Heidi Toini, Cloé Heinrich, Alexandra Gottschlich, Kaja Chan & Martin Greis
Episodes CoveredThe Ship, The Boy, The Fog, The Fight, The Calling, The Pyramid, The Storm & The Key

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