Episode 1 of 1899 begin with a hysterical woman at a mental institution, struggling to remember who she is and wanting to know what’s happened to her brother. “Wake up.” A voice whispers, and with that our protagonist, Maura Franklin, does.
Maura is onboard a big boat bound for New York called the Kerberos, but there are news reports spreading about the Prometheus, a ship that’s been missing for four months now. Interestingly, Maura’s cabin happens to be numbered the same as the one she was pulled into in the psychiatric ward. On the counter is a letter from her brother, asking to meet in New York, explaining what she’s doing onboard the ship. She’s also a doctor too, having studied the brain for a while.
There’s quite a diverse group of characters onboard this vessel, ones from all walks of life and boasting different nationalities. There’s the snobbish Mrs Wilson who has a high opinion on everyone, a French newly wed couple – Lucien and Clemence – who clearly don’t love each other and even Cantonese immigrants in the form of Ling-Yi and her mother
Everyone onboard appears to be running away from something but just like that, everyone drinks from their cups at the exact same time. Suddenly, a man comes rushing in, with scars up the side of his face. He’s in need of a doctor, but he doesn’t get one, at least until Maura chases after and helps. One of the passengers is heavily pregnant and in a lot of pain as the baby has turned around. Maura manages to help save the day.
When she heads back up to the deck, she finds herself facing Captain Eyk Larsen, who points out that she shouldn’t be down in Third Class. Given Maura is a First Class passenger, she has no business there. However, they’re interrupted by a transmission coming in, as one of the officers – who looks startlingly like Adam Driver I may add – reveals that they’ve been getting messages for the last 20 minutes.
It’s a distress signal and appears to be coming from the Prometheus. The only thing sent are coordinates. But they appear to be at odds with where the ship should be, given it has drifted north, not south. The captain decides to investigate and encourages them to change course.
Maura shows up at Eyk’s chambers, questioning him about the Prometheus. He speaks plainly and admits he has coordinates but they’re not sure it’s from the boat or not. Given four months have passed, it seems unlikely that the crew have survived but you never know. Larsen suggests they could have survived if the crew rationed the food.
It’s clear Maura knows someone onboard but stays quiet, long enough for the Captain to admit he’s going to brief the ship later on and let them know what’s happening. Remember the letter Maura had? Well, Larsen has a letter too, scribbled on the back: “What was lost will be found.”
The passengers are not happy when they find out the ship has changed course, questioning the Captain’s methods and pointing out they all paid good money to get to New York in seven days without detours. Eyk has no words. Instead, he turns and walks away.
Meanwhile, Jerome and Olek end up working down in the bowels of the ship, shoveling coal into the fires to turn the boat round and make it to – they presume – the Prometheus. Above several decks though is Maura, who decides against dinner and ends up chatting to Larsen, who’s interested in her background with medicine. Maura bites back and points out that he too has a lot of secrets.
The pair are interrupted though when they notice a ship right ahead on the horizon. As they approach, they fire a red flare and it seems like the ship is abandoned. The officers – including the first mate – believes they should notify the Company first but the Captain has other ideas. He demands a lifeboat be lowered and decides to go and investigate. Those let behind can notify HQ.
In the 1st Class cabins, one of the men – who looks a lot like Jamie Bell – suggests they bring a priest along with them to the Prometheus. A priest like Father Ramiro. Eyk believes its a good idea and allows him to tag along, even though he can’t speak any English. Eyk Larsen believes he’ll be a great comfort to the crew though.
The tiny lifeboat is dwarfed by the size of the Prometheus, and as they make it up alongside the boat, each of them ascend to the main deck, one at a time. Someone must have sent the signal, but it appears the ship is completely deserted. In fact, once they head inside, the signal stops broadcasting.
Eyk Larsen finds a ribbon on the floor, arranged in a strange pattern. However, the weirdness doesn’t stop there. The telegraph machine has been completely destroyed… so how was a signal even sent? Well, a soaking wet figure could be the answer, as we see this man climbing out from the water and seemingly stalking the others on the Kerberos.
Back on the Prometheus, our group make it to the dining room but they find a strange cupboard barred shut with a pipe. Ominous banging seems to emanate from the other side, but when Maura opens it up, they find a small boy sitting behind. He silently heads out and stands with them. He happens to hold a black pyramid contraption, and he hands it to Maura.
Meanwhile, this strange man – who looks like an older version of the child on the Prometheus I may add, ends up dripping wet and uses a strange green bug to head under the door of Room 1013, (two doors down from Maura’s cabin) and open it up. As the man heads inside, the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
The first episode comes to a close and it looks set to take the best parts of Dark, Ghost Ship and Man of Medan, blending them all up together into this delightfully sinister and mysterious drama. The cast are all great in their roles and with some of the writing staff onboard from Dark, you can really feel the same sort of vibes emanating from their previous work to this.
1899 could well be a real mystery sensation this year if it can pull off its story and build on the foundations set here. There’s definitely lots to like and thankfully we don’t have to wait an entire week to find out what happens next. Onto the next!