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‘1899’ - a magnificent maritime mystery

Courtesy of IMDb

By Jesse Burchill

Staff Writer

The German-produced series “1899” was released on Netflix in November 2022. Coming from the creators of the show “Dark,” “1899” features a multinational cast of characters traveling across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the steamship Kerberus to begin new lives in the United States.

However, when Kerberos’s vanished sister ship Prometheus is found abandoned and adrift, a complex mystery unfolds as everyone tries to figure out what happened aboard the Prometheus and how one unusual little boy is connected to it.

On the surface, “1899” appears to be yet another historical drama, with the twist of being set aboard a steamship rather than in a manor, train, or castle.

However, as it progresses, the show proves itself to be far more than what it appears to be on the surface, and gets everyone guessing about the truth of the Prometheus’s abandonment, and eventually the truth of the setting around the characters.

Starting out as a straightforward historical drama/mystery, “1899” soon delves into the genres of horror and even science fiction by its end, featuring some greatly disturbing elements and mind-twisting reveals.

Despite the differences between all these genres, the core mystery of the show manages to keep the story threads interesting, and succeeds in making the tonal and content shifts smooth and uncluttered; you will effectively unravel the show’s mystery alongside the passengers themselves.

Speaking of the passengers, the main cast of the show may prove to be its most compelling component. Multiple cultures and languages are represented in “1899.” There are two characters from China, three characters from France, two from England, two from Portugal, a crew from Germany, and an entire family and religious group from the Netherlands.

Their histories are fascinating, and each gets a moment in the spotlight as the show progresses. The details of why each character came to the Kerberos are fascinating, while their personalities and true relationships with each other reel the audience in even more as the show’s central mystery progresses.

Additionally, pretty much everyone is speaking a different language from each other, but this does not hinder the show. Each character manages to understand the others well for the most part, and the fact of how this is possible in a setting over 100 years in the past provides a potent addition to the show’s mystery.

To me, the most disappointing part of “1899” was not a part of the show itself, but rather external circumstances regarding the show’s future. Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, the creators of “1899,” had planned a second and third season for the show, hoping to expand on the questions and answers given by the first. Furthermore, the show had received primarily positive reviews and had reached number two on Netflix’s list of most-watched television shows only three days after its release.

Unfortunately, in January 2023, it was announced that “1899” would be canceled, and that it would be ending after its first and only season. This was disheartening to a great deal of viewers, including myself - the show had set up an engrossing mystery and an interesting conflict, and it is truly a shame to see it all be left hanging with no resolution expected to come.

Overall, “1899” was a very unique series, one that deserved to be explored in further detail. Its blending of genres and its fascinating characters will lure in the audience and threaten to never let them go.

A-: Complex, coherent, engrossing



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