1899 season 1 review – a multilingual masterpiece in the making

By Adam Lock
Published: November 11, 2022 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
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1899 is atmospheric, cinematic, and downright addictive. The creators of Dark are back with another cryptic puzzle to solve, one that you’ll find yourself mesmerized by, while the multilingual aspect feels innovative and unique.

We review the highly anticipated Netflix series 1899 season 1, which is spoiler-free, so enjoy!

Netflix’s original series Dark is one of those shows that I recommend to everyone, all of the time – if you haven’t watched it yet, by the way, I urge you to at least give it a try. It is a superb German-language science fiction saga that really has to be seen to be believed. Series creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese are back with an eagerly anticipated follow-up to that masterpiece, with another show that could quite easily match Dark for quality or even surpass it. What could have been perceived as a tricky sophomore effort looks set to be another highly addictive offering from the duo. However, Netflix has only supplied the first three installments for critics to ogle over thus far.

The Netflix series 1899 is set aboard the Kerberos, a large vessel heading from Europe to New York, in the year of our Lord 1899, with over a thousand souls on board. Amongst these many passengers is our mysterious protagonist Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham), a single lady trained in medicine who is traveling alone in search of her missing brother. The brother may have taken a trip on the Prometheus, a similarly built ship that has gone missing in open waters. The Kerberos comes across the Prometheus early on in its voyage, and a few plucky passengers step aboard the ghost ship to hunt for survivors. Their presence on this abandoned ship unlocks a whole host of mysteries and fresh horrors for the guests to endure.

The ship is authentically fitted with citizens from numerous nationalities and backgrounds, all speaking in their own mother tongue. We have the ship’s captain Eyk (Dark’s Andreas Pietschmann) and his shipmates representing Germany, Polish grafter Olek, French newlyweds Clemence and Lucien, Spanish siblings Angel and Ramiro, a Danish family on the lower decks, and of course, representation for the Brits. It’s a real multilingual affair, with two passengers even coming from as far flung as Asia. This mixing of languages and classes adds to the mystery in an entirely unique way, providing ample confusion for our guests. It feels wholly innovative, having two characters talking at one another in different languages, clearly lost in translation. With all the passengers seemingly hiding something, there are plenty of secrets, cover-ups, and masks for our suspicious cast of characters to hide behind. The filmmakers slowly eke out information on these individuals at a tantalizing pace.

If you are familiar with Dark and its many twists, then you are in for a treat with 1899, although even the most dedicated Dark aficionados may be shocked by the jaw-dropping cliffhangers each episode ends with. Your enjoyment of this series, on the whole, really depends on your tolerance for these ginormous twists and your ability to suspend disbelief. In that regard, 1899 is akin to shows like Lost or The Terror, which both include mysteries set aboard stranded ships. The mysteries only intensify as the series presses on, and some of the more obscure revelations may be make or break for certain viewers.

As with Dark this epic period piece is overflowing with cinematic imagery and atmospheric artistry. The sets and costume designs are exquisite, and the music is fittingly unnerving, coming from Dark composer Ben Frost. The writing is also admirably complex yet clearly well thought-out, somehow juggling multiple characters, in multiple languages, with ease. Each character has their own specific backstory and precise reasoning for being on that boat, which is subsequently explored in detail. To summarize, every department is working on a higher level, accumulating in this spellbinding eight-part series.

All in all, this cryptic puzzle box of a series has the potential to be a mega-hit for the streaming giants. The company gambled with Dark back in 2017, and they are now reaping the rewards, having reunited with the creators once again for 1899. They’ll be hoping to capitalize on that early success while exploiting the creator’s penchant for murky mysteries and enthralling entertainment on their second project together. Hopefully, the series can continue to build upon this early, promising momentum, unraveling more of its surprising secrets in due course. And if they can properly explain these bizarre plot points in a believable manner, then they are truly onto a winner.

What did you think of the Netflix series 1899 season 1? Comment below.

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