1899 Review: Another Exciting Puzzle Piece from the Creators of Dark


Science fiction has always been one of the most daring narrative genres. Its limitless character allows a narrator to take things as far as possible as long as they never lose sight of reality. Of course, reality can mean any number of things, and in '1899' Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese invent a confusing story of latent mysteries and the fluid nature of what 'real' means. The story takes place on a ship called Kerberos. It houses passengers from different parts of Europe, all of whom boarded the ship with one thought: they will never return. 

It's supposed to be a week-long trip that ends in New York. But halfway through, Kerberos crosses paths with Prometheus, the ship that disappeared four months ago. Its sudden reappearance intrigues the passengers and the search for answers leads them down a path they probably wish they had never taken.

The main mystery revolves around Maura played by Emily Beecham and the search for her brother, who may or may not have disappeared with Prometheus. There is also the captain of the tortured ship, Eyk (played by ' Dark ' student Andreas Pietschmann) who maintains a stable relationship with alcohol while suffering the loss of his family. Maura and Eyk become the key people of the mystery, reaching the depths necessary to discover the secrets of the ship. The rest of the passengers are trapped in a vicious cycle of hatred and violence where one death follows another in quick succession. Time is running out for all of them as they try to figure out what's really going on and how it might be connected to their past.

For those who haven't seen 'Dark', the German show that earned a reputation for being one of the most convoluted time travel stories, '1899' is an entertaining and captivating watch. It is a psychological thriller wrapped in the beautiful clothes of period drama coupled with the complicated concepts that give science fiction a good reputation. For 'Dark' fans, however, it's a complicated puzzle, with each dialogue a hint of an underlying secret. Each character is a piece on the chessboard and must be carefully monitored, so that he does not turn out to be the son of someone who is also his grandfather.

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While '1899' refrains from getting into the confusing nature of relationships, it shares the same thread as 'Dark'. Friese and bo Odar have woven both stories together with the same thread, from the aesthetics that portend doom to the haunting music that adds another layer of unease to an already claustrophobic environment. Still, there is a marked change in the way of telling stories and the scope of their concept.

For the most part, '1899' functions like a good old Agatha Christie mystery. A group of strangers, none of whom are innocent per se, confront each other in a confined space where everything and everyone is dangerous. To stay in line with this approach, murder also becomes part of the story, but things take a much more horrific turn for Kerberos passengers than for characters from Christie's world. When the first half of the season ends, the show begins to peel off and the rabbit hole is presented. Dive in and you could end up in the scariest place you've ever known: your mind.

'1899' does a splendid job of spreading the clues to viewers. The answer always seems to be in sight, but somehow, it gets farther away the closer you get to it. In the six episodes available for review, the show creates this brilliant puzzle that you can't wait to solve, crossing your fingers that it's worth scratching your head. Considering the magnificent ending that 'Dark' received, '1899' is expected to go down the same path.

'1899' has some big shoes to fill, inviting a set of expectations regarding the story and the level of its complexity. 'Dark' is hailed for being so incredibly murky with its plot that the blink of an eye could become the reason you fail to grasp a deeper mystery. This approach made it a big puzzle, with all the questions leading to an answer, but the show also suffered on the character's empathy front. The audience was so busy untangling the knots of his mystery that it became easy to lose sight of the characters and worry about them. '1899', fortunately, does not have the same affliction.

All the mystery and confusing plot lines are complemented by the diverse range of characters, each as compelling as the next. The actors do a wonderful job of presenting their fears and insecurities, peeking into their luggage while presenting the audience with fragments of their fractured memories. The different languages add to this sense of disconnection, but they also provide some very intimate moments to the characters. It's easy to invest in, if not all, most of them.

All these accolades don't mean the program is flawless. There are moments when '1899' shudders and some of its cracks emerge, threatening to tear apart the narrative it has constructed so meticulously. But all that is momentary. With each episode, the pace of the plot increases as some answers are provided and Pandora's question box opens in the process. There's an answer there somewhere. What matters is that you stay long enough to be revealed to you and '1899' will undoubtedly keep you in its clutches until everything lost is found.

1899 | Official Trailer | Netflix


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