1899 Episode 1 Recap: The Ship

Andreas Pietschmann as EYK

Fans of the Netflix series Dark rejoice! The showrunners of Dark, Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, released a new Netflix series called 1899. With bo Odar and Friese at the helm, viewers can expect mind-bending twists, complex and compelling characters, and a richly detailed world. Let's waste no time with the details and jump right into the recap. (I do Dark content, too, if you're looking for that.)

Series description from IMDb: Multinational immigrants traveling from the old continent to the new encounter a nightmarish riddle aboard a second ship adrift on the open sea.





Episode 1: The Ship

We open with a nameless voice reading the first two stanzas of a poem written by Emily Dickinson:

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

For—put them side by side—

The one the other will contain

With ease—and you—beside—


The Brain is deeper than the sea—

For—hold them—Blue to Blue—

The one the other will absorb—

As sponges—Buckets—do—

Emily Beecham as MAURA

The lyrics of the poem are paired with panned out landscape shots: the sky, a desert, clouds, a pyramid, the sea, and a steamship on the water. After the last line, the camera takes a stomach-dropping dive into a swirling whirlpool in the water. Inside the water is the image of a woman running down a darkened hallway. She's wearing neutral-colored rags and looks unkempt. 

Her gaze lands ahead at a man in the shadows. She cries: "Father! I'm not crazy! What have you done with my brother? Where is my brother? He was on the Prometheus. He found out what you were doing on these ships. Why can't I remember? What have you done with my memory?"

Two men come and drag her back to a room with the number 1011 in the center. The man she was talking to walks out of the shadows and issues a command to "Wake up!"

Emily Beecham as MAURA

An awakening with Maura Franklin

A woman with red hair -- the same woman -- wakes up in a bed. He hair is nicely done, though, and she's dressed in Victorian Era clothing. She looks at her wrists. They appear to be red and scarred. She then looks down at the floor. On top of an ornate carpet lies a newspaper. She picks it up and reads: "Steamship lost at sea. Prometheus missing after four months." The sound of whispered voices can be heard, but it's unclear where the voices are coming from.   

She places the paper on her desk on top of what looks like a textbook manual with images of a human brain and a copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. She then turns her attention to an envelope addressed to Henry. The letter has already been opened. Inside there is a postcard. She turns it over and reads aloud: "I found out what our Father did. Meet me in New York. Don't trust anyone. Your brother." So how Maura came to have a letter addressed to Henry is a mystery. And who is Henry? At first, I thought he was the brother. But if he Henry was the brother, why would a letter be signed, your brother? 

She then walks to a full-length mirror and pulls her sleeves over her scarred wrists. She says, "I am Maura Franklin (played by Emily Beecham). Born in Morefield. Today is October 19, 1899. I am not crazy." She then walks outside her room, closing the door behind her. Her cabin number is 1011 -- obviously matching the number in the "dream sequence." High-pitched noises can be heard. She walks towards a window, and we see she is looking out into the ocean and is a passenger on a steam liner. 

The title credits begin. The song is a distorted version of "White Rabbit" from Jefferson Airplane. Before we move onto the next bit, I want to make a few comments about The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I've never read the book, but you can be sure that whatever props are used, they are clues of some kind or just further the enjoyment of the story. The Awakening is a story of one woman's rebellion against the norms of society. Published in 1899, it's considered an early depiction of feminism. The lead character's life ends tragically when she drowns herself in the water. Also, the name Maura is an Irish name meaning "star of the sea." Maura speaks English. 

A Polish immigrant

After the title credits, we cut to an engine room, filled with men shoveling coal. They are talking about how it's wild that it's been four months and yet the Prometheus has not been found. Perhaps the boat sank. As they work, they realize the supply of coal has run out. The person in charge commands "The Polack" to climb up and fix it. The Polack's names is Olek (Maciej Musial), and he speaks Polish, of course. Olek is a Ukranian name that means "defender of mankind." 

As instructed, Olek climbs up a ladder to figure out what is causing the coal blockage. He lights a lantern and takes a moment to pull out a postcard of Lady Liberty. He looks at the picture but is interrupted by a clanging noise. It's the men below yelling at him to pull the lever. He does.

Gabby Wong as YUK JE

Breakfast is served

We cut to a dining area and the sight of tea being poured into a cup. Clemence (Mathilde Ollivier) remarks to Lucien (Jonas Bloquet) that she is nervous about traveling on a ship owned by the same company as the Prometheus. But then she contradicts herself that it's not likely a ship from the same company could go missing twice in a row, right? Clemence and Lucien speak French. Her earrings are red triangle upside down. Clemence is a Latin name meaning merciful. Lucien is a French name meaning light. 

Lucien appears to be staring at another table with two characters of Asian heritage. One is dressed in traditional Japanese geisha attire. This is Ling Yi (Isabella Wei). The other woman is Yuk Je (Gabby Wong). They speak in Cantonese, which is a form of Chinese spoken in Southeastern China. Ling complains that there are so many knives. Yuk encourages her to just pretend she knows what she is doing. Clemence notices Lucien staring. Ling can mean several things: sound of jade, dawn, or sound of chimes. Yuk means moon. 

Maura enters the dining hall. We can the whispering voices following her into the room. She takes a seat at an unoccupied table. 

We then cut to two men speaking Spanish. One man is dressed in black priestly attire; the other in an all-white suit. Appropriately, the man in the white suit is named Angel (Miguel Bernardeau); the priest is Father Ramiro (Jose Pimentao). Angel orders another drink, and Ramiro speculates he has had enough. Angel complains at how boring Ramiro is and also points out that no one can understand what he's saying anyway. Ramiro means renowned counselor or great judge. Angel needs no explanation, but remember that in the Bible, angels were messengers. 

"The brain holds all of the secrets of the universe," says Maura

An English lady name named Virginia Wilson (Rosalie Craig) asks if she can sit with Maura but doesn't wait for agreement. Maura look displeased to be interrupted, but Mrs. Wilson insists she's doing her a favor. Yes, it's sometimes preferable to be alone, but it's also easy to be judged, and rumors are already circulating. She asks if Maura really is a doctor. Maura confesses she studied the human brain. Mrs. Wilson is impressed that Maura got to cut up brains, but Maura admits that women can study -- not practice. Mrs. Wilson says, "That's what they do. They show you the world, and then they tell you you can't have it." Everything Mrs. Wilson says hints at a life worn down by cynicism. She sees herself as a caretaker but comes off a little arrogant. Virginia means "pure virgin maid." 

She points out a Dr. Reginald Maury stuffing his face. She claims he's dumb as a stump but that he comes from a long line of doctors. She asks, "What is so interesting about the human brain?" Maura says, "The brain drives our thoughts, our behavior. It holds all of the secrets of the universe." She goes on to say that there's a whole world inside each of us that only needs to be deciphered. This draws to mind the poem at the beginning that the brain is wider than the sky and deeper than the sea. 

Mrs. Wilson points out that some things are best left in the dark. She continues pointing out the fellow passengers. Look at that nervous wreck of a priest and his horny looking brother. Or that exotic bird with her servant. Or the French honeymooners that look miserable. The are all running away from something. Why else would they want to go somewhere different? At once, everyone (except Maura) lifts their teacup at the same time, takes a sip, and lowers it back to the saucer. For a moment everything is still. She points out that Maura must be running from something, too. We observe that Mrs. Wilson is very dangerous. She a gossip. Not only is she extremely observant, but her attempts at conversation are driven by a desire to get Maura to admit her secrets. 

Lucas Lynggaard Tonnesen as KRESTER

Is there a doctor in the house?

The sounds of polite conversation come to a halt as a man runs into the dining hall yelling in Danish. He is calling for help from a doctor, saying that his sister needs help. The passengers can't understand him, but he does manage to say the word doctor. The aforementioned Dr. Maury doesn't move an inch, but Maura looks like she wants to help. Some crewmen speaking in German come in and drag the man off, yelling that he isn't allowed in there. 

The crew drags the Danish man, Krester (Lucas Lynggaard Tonnesen), back to the third class stairwell and push him down, locking the metal gate behind him. The gate separates the third class from the first class deck. Krester means follower of Christ. After the crew leaves, Maura follows the downstairs. Krester runs from her at first, but she stop him by asking if he needs a doctor. 

She follows him below deck to find a crowd around a very pregnant woman. Maura goes to her and tries to communicate, but they speak Danish, and she speaks English. A little girl at the pregnant woman's bedside, Ada (Vida Sjorslev) can speak a little English. She tells Maura that the woman, Tove (Clara Rosager), is 7 months along. Tove grabs Maura and tells her to get the baby out. Ada explains she thinks the baby is dead, but Maura uses an instrument to listen to the belly. She can hear a heartbeat. Her best guess is that the umbilical cord is choking and baby. She needs to turn the baby. Tove cries out, but as Maura uses her hands to turn the baby, the pain subsides. Tove is a Norse name meaning beautiful, peaceful Thor. Ada means noble. 

The pain at rest for the moment, Ada smiles at Maura. Krester and Maura also seem to share a moment. She realizes he has spotted her scarred wrists and quickly covers them. Krester simply says "thanks."

A stowaway on board 

Back in the coal room, the men continue to work. In a back corner, a man climbs down from the shadows. Unlike the mostly white-skinned passengers, this man is Black. He enters the ship hallway barefooted and finds some extra clothes. The show credits list him as Jerome. Jerome means sacred name. 

Mathilde Ollivier as CLEMENCE

The honeymooners

As Jerome disappears down another category, we narrow in on room 2101. Inside, Lucien and Clemence are making love -- only unsuccessfully. Clemence seems to just be lying there while Lucien grunts away. He stops and moves away angrily. She reaches over and touches his shoulder, but he shrugs her off. He accuses her of not helping: "Maybe if you helped instead of just lying there." Clemence asks if he's saying this is her fault. He snaps again, accusing her of putting on an act: "Your parents are dead now. You don't love me and never did." He walks outside the room. As he does, her face changes from hurt and surprised to sly and knowing. Perhaps she is putting on an act of some sort. 

A vision and an instant connection

We go back below deck. Ada thanks Maura again and says, "When I grow up I want to be a doctor just like you." Maura expresses apologies that she can't understand what the girl is saying. Ada tries again but uses body language. She boldly puts her hand on Maura's belly and asks, "Do you have children?" Maura feels startled and sees flashes. She says, no, I can't have children. She begins to walk away but is intercepted by Krester, who tries to give her a metallic cross. He offers it to her as payment: "This is all we have." She pushes away and begins to see more flashes of her wrists bound. She runs up to the top deck, gasping for her and rests against the side of the ship. She grasps hold of a small gold medallion at her throat. 

A figure comes forward, blurred at first. It's Captain Eyk (Andreas Pietschmann). He looks concerned and asks in German if she's lost. She replies that she didn't see him there in English. He corrects himself and begins to speak in English. He also hides a bottle in his coat. His coat is amazing by the way. Very captain-ly. As he walks closer he realizes she must have come from the third class quarters and locks the gate again. He asks, "What were you doing down there." She tells him it's none of his business. He tells her that "First class passengers aren't allowed down there. There are rules on this ship, and they shouldn't be challenged." She has now gotten her breath and turns around, retorting. "Who made those rules and for whose benefit were they put in place." He smiles at her impertinence. He is secretly pleased that she is willing to challenge him. Eyk mean oak or ruler, and it's also an anagram of key. 

"Captain, we've received a signal."

We've received a signal

The German crew interrupts their conversation to share some news. They have received a signal from another ship. For 20 minutes, they have received a signal, and they think it's the Prometheus. The Captain walks off.

He and the two crewmen, enter the bridge to the ticker machine. A string of paper is unspooling. The message is coordinates: 44-57-59-60.  The sailors mention the ship is just sending the same coordinates over and over again. But the sender has also not identified itself as the Prometheus. The captain asks from how far away is the signal coming. The measure 18 knots. He looks at a map and muses that it's odd. If the Prometheus wandered off course, the current should have taken it north -- not south. Anyway, it turns out the coordinates are 7 hours away. The captain sets an order for a new course: 42.4 degrees North and 44.57 West. They reduce speed and begin to turn. 

Down in the coal room, the workers receive the order to prepare for turning. This seems to upset Olek greatly. He musters up the English he knows to ask, "Why turn ship?" The foreman tells him not to ask questions. 

[L-R] Jose Pimentao as RAMIRO, Miguel Bernardeau as ANGEL 

The sheep and the wolf

Meanwhile, we visit Angel and Ramiro in their cabin. Ramiro chastises Angel for his behavior. "It's as though you want everyone to find out. Can't you be more careful?" Angel sketches in a journal and teases Ramiro about their differences: "I have no fear; you are consumed by it. Maybe you should have a chat with God and ask him why he turned you into a sheep and me into a wolf." It's unclear what Ramiro is afraid of and what he wants Angel to hide. Both of their faces change as they realize the ship is turning. Now Angel shows fear. He states, We can't go back. I can't go back." 

A ship of shadows

Around the same time, Tove has a strange vision of a doll. It turns out she's sleeping. Ada wakes her up. Tove asks where everyone else is, and Ada tells her that they are looking for the lost ship. The Prometheus has been found, and they are turning around. She reminds Tove of a story that she told of a ghost ship where all the passengers had sinned by killing a whale. The spirits got angry and send a huge storm, and all the people turned into shadows. She wonders if the when they find the ship if all the people will be mere shadows like in the story. Tove tells her it's just a story. 

Back in her cabin, Maura pulls out the envelope she viewed earlier, addressed to Henry. This time she reads the inscription on the flap: "What's lost will be found." She looks thoughtful. 

Did you know anyone on the Prometheus?

We then move to the captain's quarters. Captain Eyk drinks alone and gazes at a family portrait on his desk. In the picture is a man, wife, and three daughters. There's a knock at the door. He opens the door to find Maura, who asks to step inside. Ever a rulemaster, Eyk tells her it's forbidden for passengers to be in his quarters. She asks if it's true he has found the Prometheus. He shuts the door and admits they have received a signal that most likely came from that ship. She asks if anyone might be alive. He says that since it's been four months, it's highly unlikely, but if they rationed the food, there's a chance. He then asks her why she's interested and if she knew anyone on board. She notices the picture on his desk. 


Rosalie Craig as VIRGINIA WILSON

She begins to answer but changes her mind and says simply she wanted to know when they would get back on course. He tells her that everyone will receive an update at dinner in an hour and opens the door, indicating it's time for her to go. After she leaves, he opens a drawer and pulls out his own envelope that looks identical to the one Maura had, except his reads Eyk. 

Tell that one to cheer up

We then find ourselves in the ship corridor outside the drawing rooms. Mrs. Wilson glides down the hall and stop to knock at a door. Yuk Je opens the door, and Mrs. Wilson chides her: "I saw you two talking at breakfast." Apparently these women have been told they shouldn't speak. What is their relationship to Mrs. Wilson. Lucien walks past, staring as usual. After he leaves, Mrs. Wilson says that Ling Yi should cheer up. 


Six hours ago, we received a signal

At dinner, the captain informs the group that they have received the signal from a ship, and they believe it's the Prometheus. Even though they didn't identify themselves or ask for help, the captain plans to intercede the ship. He explains that the equipment on both the Kerberos and the Prometheus travels much further than normal, so that's why he's sure it's the Prometheus. There are 1423 passengers, and it would be irresponsible not to check on them, especially since it's only 7 hours away. 

Angel complains in English that they paid good money and that there should be no detours. The captain just turns around and walks out. As does Lucien, who seems quite agitated. His hands is shaky as he leans over the side of the ship. Clemence follows him and tries to comfort him again, but he moves away from her again, and the warbling music returns. This music seems to follow Clemence everywhere. 

Olek sits on the lowering deck, enjoying the view. Jerome steps out and surprises him. Olek gets up and begins to apologizing, as he knows he isn't really allowed there. But Jerome asks him to share his bread. Even though they speak different languages, they manage to trade names. 

Maciez Musial as OLEK

A hidden world in the shadows

As evening settles in, Maura stands alone on the top deck, looking out across the water. Eyk finds her there again, remarking that everyone else is at dinner. Shouldn't she eat? She replies that she's bored of the polite conversation and would rather be alone. The Captain and Maura seem drawn to each other, and I find myself intrigued by their unspoken connection. 

He asks if she really studied medicine, and Maura seems amused that Mrs. Wilson predicted correctly that rumors would spread. She then remarks that there are just as many rumors about the Captain. He smiles at this a little, but when he looks the other way, he looks worried and bothered by her words. 

He muses a little about the ocean, how the water is 4,000 meters deep. That man has mapped out much of the world, but no one knows what's down there in the depths. "A hidden world in the shadows." This reminds us of a few plot points already mentioned -- the story about the passengers who turned into shadows and the poem about the brain being deeper than the sea. Maura asks him what the thinks he will find when they find the ship. He doesn't know. 

Ship ahead!

Their conversation is interrupted by a cry of "Ship ahead!" The Kerberos releases a red flare to get a view of the ship. It looks dirty and neglected in the darkness, but the ships names is unmistakable. 

The captain find shipmates. His first mate encourages him to send a signal to the company, telling him they found the Prometheus instead of exploring it themselves. Everyone seems very frightened. It's no wonder since there are no signs of life on the ship. The captain declines the idea: "We'll lower a lifeboat." 

The men continue to argue, but the captain tells the first mate that he will be in charge of the bridge while he's gone. He turns to leave, but Maura decides she will go, too, in case anyone needs a doctor. The captain doesn't argue, even though many of the crewman look dubious. 

Jose Pimentao as RAMIRO

Let's bring the priest

The captain, his mates, and Maura walk down the hall toward their lowering deck, where the lifeboats stay. Many of the passengers are outside their quarters, and the first mate suggests that Father Ramiro should come, too. The sight of a priest might comfort anyone they find. Ramiro seems nervous since he can't speak English. The captain talks to Angel, and Angels tells Ramiro it will be okay. They just want him there as a visual comfort. 

The group now comes to the lowering deck and finds Olek and Jerome there. The loudmouth man who dragged Krester back to third class shouts at both of them, saying that crew aren't allowed. The captain calms Franz down and gets him to stop threatening Jerome. The crew look very scared since the sea is so still and there are no signs of life or cries for help. Two of the guards drop out and say they don't want to go. The captain decides Olek and Jerome will come instead. 

The passengers all watch while the lifeboat moves closer to the Prometheus with Eyk, Olek, Jerome, Maura, Ramiro, and Franz on board. There is a lot of mist that makes it hard to sea. 

You have an interesting face

Angel walks to the third class deck and smokes a cigarette in the same spot Maura keeps coming to. A voice comes from inside the grate leading to third class. Krester, the gentle brother of Tove asks if he can have a cigarette, too. Angel moves closer to the grate and lights a cigarette. Instead of passing it through the grate, he holds it out to Krester so that he has to reach out. Angel tells him he has an interesting face and begins to caress his scarred cheek tenderly. I can't decide if his actions are intended to be tender or predatory. The class differences mean Angel has more power than the gentle Krester. The effect scares Krester, and he runs back down the stairs to third class. 

As our lifeboat crew moves closer to the Prometheus, we continue to see scatters of light and can marvel at how beaten up the ship looks. They pull alongside and get ready to board. The captain tells Franz to stay there. If the group isn't back in an hour, they should get help. Franz protests that he shouldn't stay since he has more seniority. Eyk repeats his order. The newer men will go while Franz stays. But as the group climbs up the ladder, back on the Kerberos, the ticker machine stops. A creepy silence sets in and the crew wonders why the signal has stopped coming across. 

Back on the Kerberos, our ragtag crew hold their lanterns high, searching for signs of life. The captain picks up a strip of paper off the floor and looks very creeped out. There are faint whispering noises, like the ones Maura heard before. 

Just stick to the plan

Back on the Kerberos, Yuk Je puts Ling Yi's wig on a wig stand. She commends Ling to stick to the plan. Ling complains that she is tired of wearing the geisha makeup and clothes. Yuk says that if she accepted her fate before, they wouldn't be in this position. To pass, the time, Ling should practice her Japanese. Yuk puts on a phonograph and the Ling begins to repeat the phrase on the record. Yuk then says, "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." This comes across very strange because I believe that's a very modern phrase and doesn't fit well at all in 1899. A quick google search reveals most people ascribe the quote to John Lennon but believe he heard it from somewhere else. 

Emily Beecham as MAURA

How did they send a signal? 

Back on the Prometheus, the crew come to that ship's bridge, they find the communications machine in disrepair and wonder how anyone sent a signal. Creepy indeed. 

Back in the lowering deck of the Kerberos, we see a hand shoot up from the water. A soaking wet figure climbs up and onto the deck. He stands up, but we can't see his face. 

Back on the Prometheus, the captain asks if anyone is on board. Everyone is still looking around. Maura notices a large shiny beetle. The beetle crawls away and Maura follows it with her light. She finds a small cabinet with the doors locked together by a rod. The group hears a loud banging from inside. Everyone is terrified. 

A passenger found

With everyone standing by and the captain with his gun pointed at the door, Maura pulls the rod from the handles. Inside is a small boy, holding an object. He steps outside and hands the object to Maura --it's a large black pyramid. The original version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" begins to play. 

A stranger on board

A mysterious stranger

Meanwhile back on the Kerberos, the wet stranger walks down the hall. He stop in front of room 1011, Maura's room. After hesitating, he moves away and instead opens the room next door, room 1013. He takes a beetle out of his pocket that looks identical to the one on the Prometheus. It crawls under the door and somehow unlocks the door. He walks inside and shuts the door, and the credits roll. 

This was a decent pilot episode. We met, who I assume to be most of the major players, and have plenty of mysteries to ponder. The group finding the boy by himself on the Prometheus is a good cliffhanger. If the boy has been locked in the cabinet for awhile, who sent the signal? Is it the man who climbed on the Kerberos? Or did he come from somewhere else?

  • Who is the strange man and what is his connection with Maura and/or room 1013? Is that Maura's brother?
  • Who is the little boy and how did he get locked in the cabinet?
  • Are there any other survivors on the Prometheus? Who sent the signal? 
  • Where is Maura's brother and was the vision at the beginning a dream? a memory? a reality? All?
  • What secrets does everyone hold? 
  • How does Mrs. Wilson know Ling and Yuk, and why are they pretending to be Japanese?
  • What is the connection between Angel and Father Ramiro? 
  • Is Father Ramiro really a priest or is that a disguise?
  • What is up with these evolved locksmith beetles? 

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