From the creators of the German series DARK, 1899 is another mind-bending drama, though it leans into its LOST-type elements so heavily it comes dangerously close to jumping the shark. Overall, I liked it, and I’m curious to see more, but given how awesome DARK was, my expectations were a bit high.
DARK simultaneously frustrated the hell out of me and blew my mind. The German series about the time travel bootstrap paradox frequently annoyed me as the actors constantly showed up out of nowhere to make long philosophical-sounding speeches and otherwise scowl deeply at each other. I stuck it out, and by the end, when the beautiful whole was on display, I was pretty amazed. The show’s creators had meticulously built a corrupt world complete with family trees and a time loop that had only one way of ending. Looking at it as a whole, it was like seeing the inside of an old watch ticking.
So when 1899 came along, what appeared to be a period drama about a passenger ship that comes across a sister ghost ship certainly intrigued me. We’re given a fairly large cast of characters, focusing mostly on Maura, a doctor, and the ship’s captain. All of them, we find out, fled some trauma to take this trip to America. When they explore the ghost ship, things get crazy, and Maura learns her world may not be what it seems.
Overall, I liked it a lot. None of the characters stood out as particularly strong for me, but they’re all sympathetic enough, and there’s enough weirdness happening that every time you think you’re onto what the writers are planning, things get even weirder. I’m curious where it’s going to go next and excited again about seeing the whole when it’s complete, exactly how big this thing is going to get from creatives who think very big. That being said, the cast feels a bit too big, there are a lot of LOST-type tropes, and there are some annoying TV tropes like a guy shows up saying I have all the answers and a major character who’s been looking for all the answers freaks out and locks him up instead of hearing him out. And the nonstop scowling is back.
So I recommend this one. It’s not perfect, but I respect DARK’s creators enough to know they have some big things planned, and I’m looking forward to seeing how deep the iceberg goes.