This is a spoiler-free review of 1899

The creators of Netflix‘s hit German series Dark (2017-2020), Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, are back with a new mind bending mystery series. The ingredients that made Dark such a successful series are clearly apparent in 1899 (such as the music, cinematography, and writing) but the two series should not be compared when it comes to the storylines as they differ quite a bit.

The series follows the cruise ship the Kerberos travelling from Europe to New York with passengers hailing from various countries in the year 1899. As we are introduced to the characters on board, who are all clearly running away from (or towards) something, we learn that a similar ship, the Prometheus, has been missing for the past 4 months. Since the passengers and crew are from several different countries, the show is in multiple languages including English, German, Spanish, French, Danish, Polish, Portuguese, and Cantonese. This adds a really interesting element to the series and is something we don’t often see.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Watch with subtitles

One of the neat things about Netflix is the various languages available to have films and series dubbed in. Many people prefer this option when watching a series not in their main language as opposed to turning subtitles on. This is all fine except when it comes to 1899. Because there are multiple languages throughout, watching it dubbed would remove some important context from the scenes and cause confusion. As Netflix recently explained, “There are 19 different language options for 1899, but if you select “English [Original],” the show will provide captions for the German, Danish, Spanish, Polish, Cantonese, and French speaking characters.”

For example, there are some scenes between characters who speak different languages, and are trying to communicate to each other in their own languages even if the others don’t understand. If watching with the dub option, it would just appear they are speaking to each other in the same language. There are also other scenes where characters don’t understand what is being said by others in another language and ask for translation which would just seem odd if dubbed.

Puzzling stoyline(s)

As the ship makes its way to the United States, they receive a distress signal along with coordinates from another ship and the captain thinks it might be the missing Prometheus. He decides to turn the Kerberos around and head towards the location of the signal, explaining to the passengers and crew that there could be survivors on the Prometheus in need of help. This upsets many of the passengers and crew who don’t want to see their trip delayed.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

When they arrive at the location of the coordinates, the Prometheus is clearly in sight on the open sea- dark and abandoned. Things quickly turn creepy when the boat is found to be completely empty and not a person (or body) in sight. As was shown in the trailer, they do manage to find one person on the Prometheus: a little boy locked in a cabinet. He doesn’t respond to any of their questions of who he is, where everyone is, or what happened to the other passengers. He is holding some kind of ceramic pyramid without explanation, and this only adds to the mysteriousness of the ship and the situation they’re now in. Strange, deadly, and unexplainable things begin to happen on the Kerberos creating further division between first class passengers, lower class passengers, and the crew. No spoilers here, but you won’t be able to guess what is happening throughout the episodes.

Ensemble cast

1899‘s ensemble cast is strong and many of the actors might be familiar to viewers, particularly from other Netflix projects. German actor Andreas Pietschmann, who starred as “The Stranger” in Dark, plays captain Eyk Larsen of the Kerberos. Fans of the hit Netflix Danish series The Rain will recognize Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen and Clara Rosager who play brother and sister Krester and Tove, and are lower-class passengers. Their parents, Iben and Anker, are played by Danish actors Maria Erwolter (The Ritual) and Alexandre Willaume who recently starred in Netflix’s mystery thriller series Equinox.

Emily Beecham as Maura Franklin in 1899. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Miguel Bernardeau, who starred in the first 4 seasons of Netflix’s Spanish teen drama series Elite, plays a wealthy man named Ángel who is travelling first class with his brother Ramino, a priest, played by José Pimentão (Al Berto). English actress Emily Beecham (The Pursuit of Love) plays first class passenger Maura Franklin, a medical doctor who is among the first practising female doctors in the UK at the time. We are also introduced to French newlyweds Lucien and Clémence, played by Mathilde Ollivier (Overlord) and Jonas Bloquet (The Nun), who are far from a happy couple.

(L-R) José Pimentão as Ramino and Miguel Bernardeau as Ángel in 1899. Photo courtesy of Netflix

One of the standouts in 1899 is young Welsh actor Fflyn Edwards who plays the mysterious little boy (who we later find out is named Elliot) found on the Prometheus. He rarely has dialogue, yet expresses so much which at times comes off as eerie and at the same time, sweet. Fflyn stands on his own in a series dominated by adults, and portraying an array of emotions with one’s eyes and facial expressions is no easy task.

Fflyn Edwards as The Boy/Elliot in 1899. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Solo passenger Virginia, played by Rosalie Craig who is known for her performances in musical theatre, is curiously accompanied by teenager Ling Yi (often dressed as a geisha) and her mother Yuk Je. Ling is played by Hong Kong dancer Isabella Wei who makes her on screen debut in 1899, and Yuk Je is played by Gabby Wong (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

We also get to know some of the crew including coal boy Olek played by Polish actor Maciej Musial, First Mate Sebastian (Tino Mewes), the captain’s right-hand man Franz (Isaak Dentler) and a stowaway named Jérôme (Yann Gael).

Isabelle Wei as Ling Yi in 1899. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Another mysterious stranger shows up as soon as they discover the Prometheus. Welsh actor and musician Aneurin Barnard, who starred in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, plays a mystifying man named Daniel who appears literally out of the water and climbs on board the Kerberos pretending to be a passenger. It is quickly revealed he may know what exactly is going on and may even be part of whatever it is.

Aneurin Barnard as Daniel in 1899. Photo courtesy of Netflix

We could see more seasons

If you’re not a fan of cliffhangers and unanswered questions, you will probably be annoyed by the season finale which leaves us with even more questions and confusion. Things do get (somewhat) revealed by episode 8, but there’s still so many layers we are left to deal with. This isn’t a bad thing. This happens in a lot of series, and we saw this in Dark as well. The door is definitely wide open for a second season which has not been confirmed yet, but creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar recently told IndieWire that they already have three seasons worked out for 1899. It will be interesting to see what they have planned for the remaining seasons which I am confident we will see.

1899 is streaming on Netflix.


Helen Roumeliotis is the Editor-in-Chief at Popternative and currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University. She enjoys writing and learning about how pop culture can be used as tools for education. You can follow her on Instagram @helenroum.

Keep up-to-date with us on all of our channels and social media accounts:

Apple Podcasts: