I love Dark. Without hesitation it’s the best representation of time travel I have ever seen, and one of the best sci-fi series ever. It closes every single loop and thread with focus. It is a LOT to digest the first time through, especially since it’s in German, but it also sets a seriously high bar for any future series.
1899 is a new series from the same writer/producer group from Dark, and takes a similar mystery-box approach to storytelling. The general plot is about a group of strangers on a steamliner heading from Europe to New York, each trying to escape some event. A main point is that a sister ship in the line was lost at sea 4 months ago, and quickly in the first episode that ship is found.
The characters are varied, with multiple layers, and multiple languages. I think Netflix made a mistake in the “default” run for this series as dubs are an absolutely horrible way to listen to this series. I’ll offend a few people here, but if you need dubs to understand what’s going on, this series is absolutely not for you. It’s a really important part that the characters don’t all speak the same language, and that gap is a plot point. I will say that one of the challenges here is that there’s a lack of empathy with the main character and that there’s a tad more exposition here than I would normally enjoy.
Where Dark had an absolutely astounding soundtrack, 1899 suffers from remakes of classic rock songs that really focus on the anachronistic aspects of the show. It’s sufficiently eerie during the main parts of the story, it’s the bookends that aren’t as good. Heck, I still listen to the Dark soundtrack because it’s so effective at getting the paranoia across. In this series it feels distracting.4
The plot itself is complex, without getting into large spoilers. There’s a gradual slow reveal of bits that just feel off, and that builds in pace over time. It takes a while to tell what is real and what is imagined in any psychological themed series, and 1899 doesn’t break that particular mold much. With only 8 episodes, the mystery box is opened by the end of episode 5. The last 3 episodes are almost horror sci-fi in peeling away the layers of this box.
I enjoyed the first season, even with high expectations set by Dark. I’m still amazed that series like this are even greenlit in the first place. Happy that we can get content that requires the viewer’s attention!
What’s really tough here is that 1899 compares poorly to Andor in terms of writing/production, which is horrible timing in the streaming wars. If you take the step back and look solely at what Netflix is able to support in terms of series, 1899 comes out way above the rest. Resident Evil, Archive 81, Locke and Key, Warrior Nun, even Sandman compare poorly to what’s presented here. I am hopeful we get a 2nd and 3rd season to close out 1899. Though with Netflix, it feels like a throw of the dice.