1899 series review: A mysterious, macabre marvel for Netflix


1899 may have a few mysterious issues, but this mind-warping Netflix series is intriguing enough to pull you through it all.

Netflix can be very hit-and-miss with its shows, but you can’t deny that they give you variation, and it also gave us one of the greatest mind-bending series of the past few years, Dark.

Now, those who brought you Dark gave now created a new series: 1899, a mystery thriller set on a migrant ship in – you guessed it – 1899. Everyone there already has a mysterious past, but things take a turn for the stranger when the Prometheus, a ship that had disappeared months ago, suddenly starts sending the migrant ship coordinates.

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Now, not everything is as it seems with this series, and that includes both the good and the bad. So without further ado, let’s get into it. We’ll do our best to avoid spoilers, but just in case, here’s your warning now…

There’s a lot of mysterious boat members

The set-up for this series is very intriguing, at least for so long. We open every episode with a glimpse of a central character’s past before a mysterious voice awakes them, which allows us to learn about the vast number of boat members in this series. There’s a doctor on the run from a mental asylum, a religious family with a pregnant daughter, a geisha and her mother, and rich unhappy couple, some stowaways, and multiple crew members, just to name a few.

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You can argue that does come to the show’s detriment; there are so many characters that you can only come to care about a few of them, but the show at least manages to set its many characters apart from one another, which in turn explains why they’re on this boat in the first place. 1899 is also able to create and maintain dynamics that could easily come from this situation. There’s language barriers, riots in the face of danger, and alliances in the face of certain death.

This is helped by the fact that the majority of people are giving a good performance, with Clara Rosager, who plays Tove, as the arguable standout. Sometimes the exposition can be given a little clunkily by some actors, but that seems more the fault of the script, and the tone of the show overall. Everyone speaks in strained whispers or panicked yells, due to the heavy pain they all carry with them.

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It’s also hard to gather whether the young boy character (Fflyn Edwards) is meant to be as scary as he comes across, but scary is this show’s forte.

1899 knows how to make a scene scary

While this series has dropped all at once, and the mystery may provoke you to binge, we would recommend you take it piece by piece, as everything is either miserable, malevolent, or mind-bending.

This is emphasised by the show’s production. The series is cloaked in darkness and cold, with little respite from its harshness – there’s one comedy scene set in the engine room, which is funny but feels wildly out of place.

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The camera work is able to get across the swooping visuals of the waves, as well as the cramped panic when people are running through the ship’s corridors. There are some incredible visuals in the series, though the trailer has kind of spoiled most of them.

Sound design and lighting help create some spooky and down-right unnerving scenes. While we won’t spoil it, just know that when you hear alarms on the ship, and then a clock ticking, get ready.

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Though there are still some issues with the production. Sometimes it’s so dark you can barely see anything, and the sound of people talking is so quiet it’s hard to grasp what they’re saying, which is frustrating when the music that ends each episode is so loud. The music itself, which comes from the later 20th century, is jarring, even if you understand the reasons for the choice. The opening credits are also pretty basic, but the song is good.

Is the reveal good or bad? We won’t spoil it…

Now, we obviously won’t reveal what the central mystery of the show is, but we have to talk about it in some form.

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A main problem of the mystery is that, if you’ve seen enough shows like this, you’ll easily be able to guess what the twist is going to be. It has been done before, just recently in fact, and to make it more cliché, the villains behind this turn of events lack concrete character or motivation, making for a robotic experience.

However, we will give it credit for how far it goes to shock you on the very last scene of the series, which you’ll either love or hate, as it opens many doors while closing some others.

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And it’s not always about the destination, it’s about the journey. While the show is long, it manages to keep you on your toes with multiple mysteries and reveals, namely involving the pasts of each character. That is what mainly drives the plot, and keeps this series from feeling redundant. The show also makes sure to throw in curve balls, with Episode 6 being a very intriguing installment.

We don’t have all the answers by the end, and some answers can feel convoluted, but all that means there is plenty to be potentially revealed in the future.

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1899 series review score: 4/5

While it has some issues holding it back, and it may not be for everyone, this series is an intriguing dive into a dark world of misery.

It’s been done before, but so has everything, and it’s more important that something is done well. And despite all the ways this story could have failed – too many characters, jarring reveals – 1899 perseveres, like a ship through a storm.

And since there are many questions left behind, and many characters untapped, Season 2 could be on the way. And we’d definitely not say no to that.

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1899 is currently available to stream on Netflix.

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