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Netflix axing its mind-bending web series 1899 is just mind-boggling

1899 is a multilingual sci-fi thriller created by the German duo of Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, who had earlier made Dark

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 04.01.23, 02:32 PM
A still from 1899

A still from 1899 Netflix

Dark on Netflix had blown my mind. Even at the end of Season 2 of the three-season German show, I was sure show creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar would never be able to satisfactorily unravel the mind-bending storylines. I was wrong.

So when 1899 — created by the same Friese-bo Odar duo — dropped on Netflix I cued it up for a watch immediately. And it didn’t disappoint. The multilingual sci-fi thriller, set aboard a steamship called Kerberos at the cusp of the 20th century (or was it?), is everything a Dark fan could have expected.


1899 is tense and atmospheric. It has sensational twists and turns. It is mysterious. It is, at times, terrifying. Its characters are flawed, humane and well sketched out (despite the deliberate sketchiness of their motivations and backgrounds). It addresses social issues like class dynamics, violence, gender discrimination and sexuality. It has solid performances from an excellent cast.

And it is utterly, frustratingly mind-boggling. To the extent that I still don’t know what is actually happening (oh, I have my theories, like every other 1899 viewer), just like the first season of Dark. And in 1899, people speak multiple languages! What I do know is that this mystery would have been epically explained by Season 3, which the show creators had planned. Imagine, therefore, the eagerness with which I had been waiting for news of Season 2. And it came yesterday morning with a whispered “wake up!” to a reality where we, like all the 1,500 passengers aboard the Kerberos, will never know what the heck is going on.

As confirmed by a social media post by bo Odar, Netflix has cancelled 1899 after its first season. The decision is as mind-bogglingly mysterious as the show itself. Why would Netflix cancel a show that was second on Netflix’s Weekly Top 10 list of most-watched English series just four days after release on November 17? Why would it cancel a show that got generally positive reviews (the frustration of even the most positive review is also understandable) from both critics and audiences? Is this a simulation? Will we actually wake up in a reality where Season 2 has already been greenlit?

I am even ready to accept — despite feeling a tad murderous — that it is a marketing gimmick, you know, terrorising the audience into believing this is real, when it is actually not. Because otherwise we will never find out the answers to the questions Season 1 left us with.

While who created the simulation of Kerberos was revealed (but can we believe we were told the truth?), why it was set in 1899 had no answers. The significance of the year becomes even more important after the finale reveal.

Where did the simulation virus come from? How does it affect the memories of the surviving passengers of Kerberos? Will they retain the memory of what happened on the ship in the next simulations?

What is the significance of the triangles which appear on trapdoors in the ship, the pyramids, the buttons of the objects used to manipulate the simulation? Given that the trifecta had a central significance in Dark, are the triangles just a coincidence or the hint of a tie in with the show?

We have learnt a fair bit about Maura (Emily Beecham), Daniel (Aneurin Barnard), Henry (Anton Lesser) and Elliot (Fflyn Edwards) but beyond their memories, we know nothing about the rest of the passengers. Are the memories real experiences they’ve had? Who are they in reality? Did they actually know each other or even belong to the countries they appeared to be from?

We were given one explanation about the existence of the simulation (we can’t yet be sure it’s true), and it was hinted that people volunteered to have their memories removed. But why would so many people sign up for an experiment like this?

Henry says he is also part of the loop but why does he seem to have control over the simulation? If he is watching all the simulations and influencing them, then why has he not been shut down? Is he then in cahoots with Maura’s brother Ciaran? Same with Daniel — how has he avoided detection? And if he has, why is there a simulated memory chute for him?

What is the end goal of Project Prometheus and why has Ciaran taken control of it? Are there other simulation projects like the Prometheus?

These are only some of the questions I can put forward without spoiling the show. There are so many more and so much potential for 1899 to become even better than Dark. Fans have taken to Twitter to save 1899 and are signing petitions, so we live in the hope that the creators will get the chance to solve the mysteries, even if it is difficult to do it in one season. Otherwise, Netflix will have added one more to the body count as the serial show murderer.

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