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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Please Watch Netflix’s ‘1899’ So We Can Talk About It

My pitch to you is simple: It's a show about a mysterious ship.

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I am a big fan of deleting tweets that get little to no engagement. I say that because, looking at my tweets today, you would not know how many times in the past week I have shouted into the void, “Is anyone else watching 1899???” I tweeted and deleted the question at least thrice, but I’m not ready to give up. Is anyone watching this damn show? If not, will you please, so we can talk about it??

The premise is simple and perfect: “Mysterious ship.” If I were a Netflix exec and you came to me with that two-word pitch, I would immediately slide you a blank check across my desk. Mysterious ship! What more could you want? If the answer is “more information,” I will give you just enough to whet your appetite without spoiling anything, because the twists in this show are so twisty that master of suspense Stephen King himself is watching it.

It starts off like an Agatha Christie adaptation: We’re introduced to a series of European migrants making the journey across the Atlantic on a luxury steamship for various secretive reasons. We get a little bit of Titanic-style upstairs/downstairs friction. Don’t let these stories distract you. (If I have one criticism of 1899, it is that the first episode does too much character building. I’m just here for the spooky ship.) The crew gets a message suggesting they’re receiving word from the Prometheus, another vessel that’s been missing for four months. The troubled, rugged captain (played by Andreas Pietschmann) decides to deviate from the course to rescue any survivors. When they arrive, the Prometheus appears fully deserted, so the captain and Maura (Emily Beecham), the main character, hop into a little rowboat to go investigate. Once they set foot on the Prometheus, shit starts to go down.

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There are eight episodes, which are by and large very well paced. (There are only two minor plot points that I think should have been revealed at different times—DM me when you’ve finished and we’ll discuss them.) In case you’re not sold yet, this show also boasts: multiple handsome men; Strong Female Characters (™); unexpected needle drops; secret passages; and meditations on memory and reality that manage not to feel too hacky. There are no jump scares—this is mostly a sci-fi thriller—but there are a few moments that are intentionally troubling (this is a show created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, the duo that brought us Dark).

Another thing I love about 1899 is that it cast actors native to where their characters are supposed to be from. When you as a viewer hear (and read, in subtitles) French, German, Polish, Cantonese, or Danish, it’s being spoken by someone who naturally speaks that language. It’s a smart element of authenticity, but also means you’ve really got to pay attention to the show to keep up, unless you’re a freakish polyglot.

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I can’t say much else without spoiling something. Just please watch 1899 so we can all discuss it, and also to convey clearly to Netflix how much we (I, Nora) need more seasons of it. I did not watch The OA, but if there is one lesson I learned from its cancellation, it’s that sometimes major streaming companies need a little encouragement to continue shooting their weirdest, best shows. Please help me juice these numbers. I must know who [redacted] really is, whether [redacted] is real, and if [redacted] is in the same actual place as [redacted].