‘1899’ on Netflix: The Big Questions We Need to Answer in Season 2
I finally finished 1899 on Netflix, until its frustrating ending. I have questions. Lots of questions actually…
Warning: Spoilers for 1899 ahead.
The show begins as a seemingly simple period piece about a creepy steamship heading from London to New York in 1899. Each of the passengers, we soon learn, is lying about their past, leaking a secret, or impersonating someone else. ‘one he ‘not. Usually all of the above. That might have been story enough for some showrunners, but 1899 snags a sharp right turn into Lost and Westworld territory, and soon viewers are trying to untangle time travel. And dimensional pathways. And simulations. And consciousness transferred. This show might as well be Star Trek.
Friends ask me if they should buckle up and watch 1899. My answer is rather tasteless. Maybe? It’s good, but not as satisfying as I wanted. It has a lot to do with the many unanswered questions the show throws at viewers and then kind of…leaves it there.
Creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar told Deadline they’d like 1899 to be a multi-season show, if the ratings are good enough. So maybe some of these questions will be answered in an 1899 season 2, but until then they’ll be playing in my mind like the numbers from Lost, or the maze from Westworld, or the symbol from Game of Thrones, or …you get the picture.
Is Elliot alive in the real world?
Elliot, the mysterious boy found on the equally mysterious Prometheus, turned out to be Daniel and Maura’s son. He had died of an illness and his brilliant mother is desperately creating the simulation where she can keep him alive. It certainly looks like he would have died in a second season, but anything can happen in this world, so maybe there will be a resurrection? Or can Maura go back in time and find a cure for Elliot’s disease?
What’s Ciaran’s deal?
Ciaran is Maura’s brother. At first, we’re led to believe he’s gone missing on the Prometheus and Maura is looking for him. But ultimately, it turns out that Ciaran is running the simulation, keeping his sister and father captive. He leaves Maura a note for when she finally wakes up, but a second season needs to introduce this mystery sibling so we can find out why he ended… well, any things he did.
What is the Prometheus Project?
Maura finally wakes up in a new place, a starship sailing through space in 2099 as “Project Prometheus”, with 1,423 passengers and 550 crew. We know almost nothing about the so-called “project”. But it’s listed as a “survival mission”, so maybe Earth has been destroyed or is about to be destroyed and these people, like the migrants aboard the Keberos, are looking for a new homeland.
Is this spaceship a new simulation?
So we end with Maura on the spaceship, and, because she used the new keys (her wedding ring and the colored pyramid toy instead of black), we assume she actually is now. But who knows? It could be another simulation, with the real reality still out there.
Was the black bug that Virginia had curable?
Virginia Wilson touches a black metallic substance that grows and spreads throughout Kerberos. He jumps onto her body, blackens her hand, and appears to extend his arm up to her neck and the side of her face. She’s able to walk around with it but it doesn’t seem like she can bend that hand. (Game of Thrones fans will see a resemblance to grayscale, the mortal state in this series that makes flesh look like stone.) Henry, Maura’s father, and her husband, Daniel, refer to her as the “virus”, which makes it sound like a virus computer crawls into the code of the simulation. Was Daniel the cause with his desperate attempts to make things right? Wherever he comes from, he has some creepy physical effects, and it’ll be interesting to see if a version of that makes it to Season 2.
Why was simulation introduced in 1899?
It’s a cool period piece, with geishas and gentlemen and cosplay. But if we assume Project Prometheus is the actual reality, and 2099 the actual date, why would the whole simulation take place on a ship 200 years ago? As mentioned above, this creates a nice parallel to immigrants fleeing their homelands for a new world, just as we assume spaceship passengers are desperately looking for a safe place to land.
We might actually have an answer for this one. Showrunner Jantje Friese says the show’s creators loved 1899 because it’s on the threshold of a new century, moving from the old days into a new future. “There was something fascinating about that particular moment in time,” Friese told Netflix blog Tudum. “What happened at that time was that modernism came up against old beliefs. More scientific thinking began [influencing society] when you still had very religious beliefs [also prevalent] and those two things were pulling against each other, the old and the new.”
Have Kerberos passengers lost their memory?
So Kerberos passengers can die and then have their memories reset so they can start over in a new version of the simulation. But by the end of the first season, the passengers weren’t dead. Some (all?) of them are on the Prometheus project. Will they somehow remember their life as an ocean liner? Will we all find them as people from 2099 if the show gets a second season?
What is 1011, inverted triangles, pyramid toys?
There were a number of unexplained symbols in the show. Maura’s ship cabin and the spooky injection room both had the number 1011, and this number reappeared often, as did the inverted triangle symbol and a pyramid toy. The show’s creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar also talked about it in the Netflix Tudum blog. Turns out they loved the mystery of a pyramid or tetrahedron, and say the shape has a role in simulations and virtual realities.
“The recurring triangle symbol itself represents the element of earth,” Friese said, in what seems like an obvious nod to the ending and the passengers fleeing Earth. The room number 1011 was supposed to allude to binary code, which could give a hint that the ship was a computer simulation. But it will be interesting to see if those same numbers and symbols reappear in the spaceship, or if new ones appear.
What are the shiny green bugs?
Mechanical green bugs are used in the show to crawl under and unlock doors, sometimes create doors, and in one case lead Maura and Elliot to the ship’s captain, Eyk. We know that in real life Elliot had a green beetle he called Alfred and his mother, Maura, told him not to keep it trapped. Looks like Maura created the bug, maybe Elliot would still have his pet, but a few more bug details would be welcome. There’s definitely symbolism there, because the very bug that Elliot wanted to keep captive opens doors and sets people free.
Do we really need this sexual assault scenario?
The Danish character Tove is very pregnant, and we learn that it is the result of a rape which took place in front of her parents and her brother. This is perhaps the most gruesome scene in the series, and there seems to be no reason for it to happen to her, except that all of the passengers have terrible pasts full of secrets. At the end of the show, she did not give birth. Will she even be pregnant if she is part of the new series? Will the baby be born one day? What about other passengers’ pasts – will they all be reset? Some of them could be an entire show on their own, including Ling Yi dressing up as a geisha after accidentally killing her friend, and the mysterious duo of Ángel and Ramiro.
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