Netflix’s newest mystery thriller 1899 is one of their best original series of the year, and it’s one you won’t want to miss out on. From the creators of Dark, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, the period drama tells the story of passengers traveling from Europe to America on a steamship called the Kerberos. We meet a fantastic ensemble cast of characters from all different locations, with the series featuring multiple languages.
Each character has their own motivations for immigrating to America, and those start to come out as the series progresses. Meanwhile, another ship called the Prometheus that’s been missing for four months suddenly appears, leaving the captain in a difficult place.
Co-creator Odar had previously teased that we can expect the unexpected with 1899, previously telling Deadline: “Knowing that we did Dark, everyone can be assured that this is going to be something weird and wild and crazy.” So, let’s break down each episode in this twisty series!
1899 episode 1 recap: “The Ship”
1899 opens up with our central character, Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham). We get a few visuals and narration of the poem “The Brain—is wider than the Sky” by Emily Dickinson, as we see a pyramid sitting out in the middle of a dark landscape and Maura being held in a hospital. She’s worried about her brother, frantically asking where he is. Of course, we don’t know these characters yet or their significance, but we’ll find out later on. A voice tells her to wake up and she comes to while on the boat Kerberos in Room 1011.
As we get familiar with Maura, we see that she has dark red bruises on her wrists, as if she’d been tied up, and she has a mysterious letter that seems very important to her. It’s addressed to someone named Henry, and it includes a newspaper clipping of the missing ship. She tells herself “I am not crazy,” a mantra that will be repeated throughout the series.
The first episode does a good job of introducing us to the many characters and the problem at hand. The passengers seem hopeful while traveling to America but the fact that the Prometheus ship has been missing for months hangs over their heads.
After we establish Maura as an important character, we then meet a slew of others, including a Polish worker named Olek (Maciej Musiał) who shovels coal down in the bunker, newly married French couple Lucien (Jonas Bloquet) and Clémence (Mathilde Ollivier), a priest named Ramiro (José Pimentão) and his brother Ángel (Miguel Bernardeau), as well as a Geisha named Ling Yi (Isabella Wei) who suspiciously speaks in Cantonese and the woman accompanying her, Yuk Je (Gabby Wong).
While the passengers are spending time in the dining hall, a Danish man named Krester (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) who’s staying in a lower-class cabin bursts in and asks for a doctor. As we had just learned, Maura is actually a doctor, something that was uncommon for a woman at the time. But before anyone can respond, Krester is taken away by two crew members who bring him back to his family. Maura runs after him to see what she can do.
Krester’s sister Tove (Clara Rosage) is pregnant and in a lot of pain, which Maura believes she can help. Though Tove’s mother Iben (Maria Erwolter) doesn’t want a stranger interfering, Maura is able to turn the baby around in Tove’s stomach and she quickly alleviates the pain.
A young girl named Ada thanks Maura for her assistance and it’s revealed that Maura is unable to have children. She continues to deal with visions from her past and runs up the deck, looking visibly sick. There, she meets the ship’s captain, Eyk Larsen (Andreas Pietschmann), who’s concerned for her. But before they can get to know each other, Eyk is called by some of his crew members who have gotten a signal from what they think might be the Prometheus.
In the control room, Eyk learns they’ve been getting the same message for the last 20 minutes, simply the same coordinates over and over. They’re not certain it’s from the lost ship, but they have to look into it just in case. Eyk makes the decision to turn the ship around, something the passengers are not going to be happy with.
We get to know more about the characters’ relationships in episode 1 as we learn that Lucien and Clémence’s marriage is far from perfect while Ángel and Ramiro also argue a lot. We also meet Jérôme (Yann Gael), a French stowaway who befriends Olek. It’s clear from pretty early on that the passengers are desperate to get to America and by no means want to go back to where they came from, which is proven when they learn the ship is being turned around.
Looking for answers, Maura seeks out Eyk but not before she pulls out that letter again addressed to Henry. On the back of the envelope, the words read: “What is lost will be found.” When she finds Eyk, he’s looking at a framed photo of his family, and after she asks he tells her what he knows. He isn’t certain the signal is coming from the Prometheus, and while he says it’s unlikely anyone on the ship survived, he says it could be possible. Eyk questions why Maura has such an interest in the missing ship, but she doesn’t explain. In private, he pulls out a letter he received addressed to him, the same as the one Maura received.
The crew eventually alerts the captain that they see a ship ahead, and though some of the members suggest contacting the ship company before doing anything, Eyk is set on going to check it out. He enlists Olek and Jérôme to come with him, and Maura volunteers as well. Someone suggests Ramiro should go with them in case they need a priest, and he hesitantly agrees. Though they don’t know what they’re going to find on the Prometheus, it’s obvious that something is wrong. There are no lights on the ship and the wind is moving very slowly. “The sea knows when death is nearby,” one of the sailors says.
On the Prometheus, the group is surprised to find no one on board as they walk around through each room. Eyk starts to hear eerie laughter and finds a piece of ribbon with a floral print, something that is somehow important to him. We’ll find out more about this later on. In another scene he discovers that the ship’s telegraph had been destroyed, leaving him questioning how someone had sent the signal. Over in the dining hall, the group hears a banging noise coming from one of the cabinets, only to find a small boy trapped in there when they open it.
When the boy comes out, he gives Maura a black pyramid, similar to the one we see at the beginning of the episode, except hand-held.
Before the final scene of the premiere, we also get a couple of key moments from some of the passengers on the Kerberos. Krester and Ángel meet and strike up a flirtationship, while it’s confirmed Ling Yi is not who she says she is. She and Yuk Je argue in their room and one of them mentions that they only have to pretend for a little while longer. Pretending will prove to be a common theme with the characters on this show.
Before the credits roll, we see that a figure has boarded the Kerberos, and we don’t know where he came from. Wearing all black and soaking wet, he walks to Room 1011 and releases a shiny green beetle we’d seen on the Prometheus under the door. He then goes to Room 1013 and walks in, revealing himself to be a new character. This, as we’ll find out, is a man named Daniel (Aneurin Barnard).
Written by Natalie Zamora