In 2017, baran bo odar and Jantje Friese presented to the world one of the most complex and praised series of Netflix – the science fiction drama ‘dark’, a celebration of all the classic stories of the genre that is essentially about conspiracy theories of time and the existence of paths that connect the past, present and future. Five years later, the duo returns to the scene mainstream with the long-awaited release of ‘1899’a production that starts from a similar principle and that, despite the apparent errors, is an instigating construction led by a strong cast and a shocking turnaround that rows against everything we expected.
With few promotional materials, the debut season is set in the late 19th century and revolves around a group of passengers aboard the Kerberos, all heading to New York to start a new life. Among the many people aiming to conquer what they always wanted, we have Maura Henriette (Emily Beecham), one of the first female doctors in the UK whose specialization in neurology takes her to cross the ocean and try to discover what happened to her brother, who mysteriously disappeared on another ship called Prometheus🇧🇷 Captain Eyk Larsen (Andreas Piestchmann), whose traumas lead him to make inappropriate decisions in favor of the passengers’ crew; Angel (Miguel Bernardeau), a wealthy young Spaniard who travels with Ramiro (Jose Pepper), both hiding a secret that could destroy their reputation; Ling Yi (Isabella Wei), a mysterious woman from China who poses as a member of the Japanese bourgeoisie to reach the Americas; and several others.
Despite the personal problems they face right in the opening episode, things get even more complicated when they cross paths with the Prometheus and Eyk, accompanied by a task force formed by Maura, Franz (Isaac Dentler), Jérôme (Yann Gael) and more, resolves to investigate what happened – only to discover that each member of the crew simply disappeared and left nothing behind. That is, with the exception of one boy (Flynn Edwards) which is rescued and taken back to the Kerberos🇧🇷 It is from there that bizarre events begin to happen, from an unfathomable fog that prevents them from continuing their journey to a quiet disease that decimates one by one until no one is left alive.
Considering that this is an incursion by Odar and Friese, the explanations would not appear as a magic pass, but would be part of a deep anthropological analysis supported by themes such as class struggle, psychological traumas and a need for self-destructive independence. The main key to the plot is Maura, who feels an aphiguric connection with the boy and with a man named Daniel (Aneurin Barnard), who boarded the ship and metamorphosed as one of the passengers believing that no one would notice his ominous presence crossing the corridors. But Maura steals the spotlight as she becomes increasingly involved in a kind of conspiracy that leads her to realize that her father, Henry (Anton Lesser), is responsible for that inescapable prison on the high seas.
The eight chapters are outlined as a way to highlight the protagonists in a multilingual ceremony that permeates the various cultures spread across the planet; however, the apparent obstacle that stands between the characters is soon swept under the rug: they are all in the same boat (no pun intended) and share an experience out of a nightmare, from which they cannot escape, no matter how much try. The ocean liner’s majestic configuration is diminished to a claustrophobic labyrinth that takes them from nowhere to nowhere, as if they were imprisoned in a sadistic study of a vengeful and loveless creator. It’s no surprise that this understanding is the spark that explodes a powder keg of resentment and puts everyone at imminent risk.
Friese and Odar don’t just throw themselves headlong into a terrifying adventure sci-fi, as well as trying to balance drama, action and romance in an epic that celebrates freedom and life. However, it is necessary to comment on the technical and artistic slips that spread throughout the episodes – such as the dubious choice of soundtrack and some disposable sequences that only exist to fill in any holes in the script and give a false sense of continuous rhythm. Despite the misconceptions, the result is quite positive and prepares us for a second season that should bring some answers (even more so with a finale that confuses us more than it provides explanations).
‘1899’ it may not be a perfect series, but it delivers on its promise and is fully aware of how to lead viewers on one of the most insane incursions of the year. The main element that it enjoys is the cast, which delivers impeccable performances, and a cultivation of anguish that leaves us on the verge of a panic attack – and that makes us create different theories about what the future awaits.