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1899 review: This is a mind-blowing mystery/horror from the creators of Dark that continues the legacy of genre-defining outings such as Lost and Inception.

Since that disappointing conclusion to Lost over ten years ago, people have been wondering if any other show would come close to the way it redefined TV on a smaller scale. Westworld and Dark were almost there in their respective ways. The new heir of the throne looks to be 1899, Netflix’s multi-hyphenate multi-genre show. This historical, mysterious-horror is damn twisty and puzzling all at once with enough intrigue and suspense involved. It may not have the novelty factor of Lost or Inception but it is a beast worth watching these eight episodes in one sitting. Also read: Westworld season 2 review: Jonathan Nolan deserves Christopher Nolan-level love

In 1899 things mostly took place onboard SS Kerberos sailing from Europe to America being set during this titular year. There are stereotypes about different countries among passengers ranging from Danish proletarians through French snobbery even up to Geisha girl. Moreover, there are also a German captain and an English female doctor amongst them both. Each person here runs away from something which they left behind at home like everyone else on board. Halfway through the trip they receive distress signals from Prometheus that has been missing for four months since its voyage began. When they discover that apart from one little boy who was found abandoned on the ship, weirdness starts occurring leading to deaths.

The series uses common elements such as creepy music tunes in background scenes, Tim Burton-like colour scheme, and mysterious characters with completely different personalities among them like night and day. Added diversity comes by way of nationalities changing language every second scene; English suddenly becomes Danish then Cantonese or German thus disorientating viewers initially though subtitles now seem easier because of Vovid-19 pandemic too. The show also needs to be applauded for how organically it has ensured a diverse cast without any of it looking forced.

What reminded me of Lost almost immediately was the way this show slowly unravels the back stories of its characters and reveals their dark secrets. Eventually it turns out that they all have been brought here by some reason, so maybe some are interrelated with others. The writers have managed to bring out this ‘all is not as it seems’ feeling quite well.

Undoubtedly, some stories are better than others. You find out your favourites really soon in the first episode or two. Emily Beecham plays the protagonist who acts like an audience’s eyes witnessing everything that happens in this deviant vessel during one scene after another with many mysteries, and physic-impossible happenings inside. However, I think that the tension does start to annoy you after sometime seeing as how much those writers hype things up. The music becomes scarier; the tone grows darker while the atmosphere gets tenser but still nothing comes fast and everything builds gradually.

To be honest, none of these actors really stand out. There is no single performance which could be referred to on its own merits there. But collectively, they create a sense of claustrophobia in viewers’ minds very effectively. It’s a team effort albeit one requiring some polish for next season (and yes there must be one following that cliffhanger ending).

It is very hard to say anything about 1899; this story does not reveal itself easily. It is unlikely that the surprises or twists will be as unpredictable as in Lost and Inception because we have become more used to them, and unfortunately we are disillusioned by their types of films. They still hit you out of nowhere though. However, amidst a world where internet sleuths with fan theories can figure out shows and their undercurrents within hours, 1899 manages to feel different. This is its greatest triumph.

Series: 1899

Creators: Jantje Friese, Baran bo Odar

Actors: Emily Beecham, Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeu, Jose Pimaentao, Isabella Wei, Yann Gael, Mathilde Olivier, Jonas Bloquet, Maciej Musial & Clara Rosager

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