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The 1899 series: as if Nolan filmed Titanic and then loaded it all into The Matrix

The point of the series and an explanation of the ending is in my breakdown. Spoilers alert!
Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015 she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod,, after which she created a course called "Storytelling: How to Tell Your Story" based on it. Over 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by education, she quickly masters new areas. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in movies/serials, and writes about it in her project's blog.
Series and puzzle movies occupy a separate place in the soul of movie buffs. It is very pleasant not just to look at a beautiful picture, but also to feel how the gears of your brain move. "Lost", "Inception", "Butterfly Effect" - these are all projects where the authors put so many puzzles before the audience, that sometimes about the answers you have to build a different theory because of the open ending or the shortcomings of the script.

In 2022, the set saw a project that will definitely appeal to all fans of puzzles. After all, there are so many puzzles in it that literally every 10 minutes of any of the 8 episodes just wondering how everything becomes "more and more miraculous". And while some questions get their logical answers by the end, the resolution of others are not at all obvious.

If you're still confused after watching the series, I hope you can clear them up after reading my breakdown. But be careful - there are a lot of spoilers and the main intrigue of the series is revealed here, because without that you can't explain what's what.

What's the show about?

The action of 1899 takes place at the end of the 19th century on the ship Cerberus. It has sailed from Europe with a thousand emigrants on board, and is on its way to America. On the way the ship encounters the ship Prometheus, which disappeared four months ago and is of course impossible to pass by.

The mysteries on the ship begin almost immediately. From the first minutes of the series, we see the main character, Maura Franklin, who can't figure out what her cabin on the ship and the room in the psychological hospital have in common, where her wounds on her wrists came from, and in general, what's going on around her.

On the Prometheus, the crew finds a single passenger, a silent black-haired boy who is silent and explains nothing. This is an example of the "Creepy Child" trope, a very strange child whose realization we've seen in The Addams Family (Wednesday, of course!), in "Very Stranger Things," and even in the very beginning of "The Walking Dead." Remember that weird girl in Rick's dream?


A trope is an artistic device in storytelling. It is a collection of several factors that form a character/phenomenon. And that character is something we encounter in different movies/books/series.

Our brain identifies that there is something in common, but unless we know for sure the name of the trope and its characteristics, we can hardly explain it

The Prometheus itself is a Ghost ship, a ghost ship. We have seen examples of this trope in "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Titanic" and many real-life stories about sunken or lost ships that hide a lot of secrets.

The series is European, and therefore in the original was multilingual. That is, all the characters, whether they are French, Spanish or Polish, each speak their own language. The Russian translation solved it with subtitles, so if you're a polyglot, you'll be very pleased to hear familiar phrases! But if you don't want to read subtitles for most of the action, you can find another translation online.
Literally immediately we understand that there is something wrong with the ship.

For example, the soundtrack of the series is instrumental arrangements of modern rock hits, which kind of hints to us at once - the action is more modern than we think. The second clue is that the women all wear the same clothes day after day, although according to the etiquette of the time, it was considered bad form not to change the toiletries even for the next meal.
And, of course, the most striking "wham moment" - the turning point after which you realize that everything is not at all what you thought it would be - when at the end of Episode 2 we see the screens broadcasting us the key characters. There is a dissonance in the brain - what screens in 1899?
And from that point on, the action seems even more confusing and incomprehensible, literally on the verge of not making sense. There are many more such "wham moments", but it is this one that is key to understanding the plot.
Throughout the action, we see many "arcs" - repeating elements.

For example, the arc number here is 1011.

And arc words are the words "Wake Up," which should also give us a hint as to what's really going on.
The idea that everything that happens is a dream begins to resound around the middle of the action, and is heard more and more confidently as we, along with the characters, realize that this universe of ours has no rules at all - drowned children come out of closets, flashbacks look as if you are back in the middle of events, and there is a whole forest of memories under the hatch in the bottom of the ship.

But if this is a dream - the next minute anything can happen.
The vivid flashbacks of the characters are a "Dark and troubled past" trope, showing us the complexities of each character's past, some such secrets in the closet. We saw a similar "wagering" in Lost, where each episode revealed the true essence of this or that character, as well as in the Russian "Koltsentr", where the narrative follows a similar scheme.

The main mystical symbol is the pyramid. It is the pyramid that stops time in the hands of the strange boy, and it ends up being the key to solving the puzzle.

But the pyramid is also a triangle, as if the "Bermuda" triangle, from which no ship can escape, and from which no man can escape, being a prisoner of this strange collective dream.

We see triangular symbolism even in such seemingly inconspicuous little things as the Frenchwoman Clemence's earrings.

And in the story itself we get a lot of love triangles (Maura-Captain-Daniel, the line with Angel and the priest, the French couple). This technique is called Visual PUN (play upon words) - when we observe the visual embodiment of some wordplay.

In general, a lot of things in the series are based on word games and symbols. For example, the pimp's name is Virginia, and virgin is virgin in English. Bugs are bugs, the same green ones that are the keys to the locked doors on the ship. Also "bugs" are interference in the program. So these bugs are bugs, and also another hint at the artificial and programmatic nature of what's going on.

In general, 1899 is such a puzzle, like from childhood, when you have to unwind a whole story about a balloon trip from a sentence like that in the middle of the desert with a match, and at the same time answer the question of why he's naked. It is not without reason that the way to control program reality is the spotting game that some of the characters use.
By the way, throughout the plot the creators keep throwing us "leftist" anti-heroes, that is, villains who are supposedly the concentration of all evil and are responsible for such a complicated world.

At first this anti-hero seems to be Eliot, then Daniel, then Maura's father, who really just turns out to be an observer of the human psyche. But in the end, it seems that the main villain will be the main character's brother, who sent her a message in the last seconds.

So what's really going on in this world?

As has become clear, 1899 is not the real world, it is a simulation. The shared dream of 1,500 passengers on the Prometheus spaceship in the year 2099. This simulation was created by the brilliant scientists Maura and Daniel, but because of Maura's moral problems, the simulation is "jammed" and played over and over again, unable to break away until the girl "unlocks" the painful memories that broke the whole process.

That is, time after time the characters find themselves on the ship and go through their traumas, and then the ship goes to "The Archive," a collection of such ships plunged into the abyss, where we see both "Cerberus" and "Prometheus" at the very end. But this time, Maura's husband Daniel manages to pull her to the first level of the reality they've created, which is very similar to our own ("A dream in a dream and more in a dream? Is that even real?" (c), and actually wake her up.
Maura is the only one who wakes up on the spaceship and sees the sleeping protagonists of our series connected to the machine. This is where the real "Matrix" begins.

So it turns out we have three layers of reality:

  • 899 year
  • modern time
  • 2099 year - but this begs the question, is the ship in space really real? Or another layer of dreams? We don't know the laws of this world, maybe it's so unpredictable that seven levels of sleep can be built there, as well as levels of dusk.
Thus, here we see a kind of "Dog's Dream," as moviegoers ironically call an action that never happened in reality. That is, we have spent eight hours of our lives watching a confusion, albeit very beautiful, and in the end it turns out that it never happened.

Like when Khabensky takes it and writes on the wall NO, and 2 parts of "Watchmen" might as well not have been watched. On the other hand, the thoughts from "Inception" and "Harry Potter" immediately come to mind:

Just from the fact that it's happening in your head, can't it be real?
In general, it is clear that our heroes are flying in space, maybe after the cataclysm that happened and the end of the world, as in Through the Snow, and the 2 more seasons that the series was extended for, we can maybe figure out what happens in 2099, or maybe we can see familiar faces in the Jurassic setting, and dive into another one of their dreams.

But let's go down to the level below, because that's what explains everything that's happening to us. Here we see Maura and Daniel's apartment, their photos together with baby Eliot (and in the photo, they are wearing the same Victorian-era clothing. I chalk it up to the popularity of vintage in modern times), as well as the brightly colored children's room. This is the main clue: there is a cross above this room.
That is, in all likelihood, Maura and Daniel's child, the silent boy Eliot, is terminally ill. This is alluded to by Maura's father, who says that the hospital was really for Eliot. The boy fell ill and died, after which the brilliant scientists created their first simulation-this very room where they could meet their child. That Eliot is not in reality, we can also conclude because his body is not on the ship, connected to the "Matrix". Well, next, something probably happened in the world that caused this spaceship to launch. But something went wrong with Maura's psyche, because she just blocked out her memories of her family, of once having a child and then dying. And because she controls the simulation, she has also imprisoned everyone else in it. And now, in order to let the "hostages" go, she must remember her traumatic past.

In general, the main concept here is the "Plato's Cave" that Maura's father tells us about-when we see moving shadows but can't be sure what they really are. One thing is certain: the 1899 series is complex, multi-layered, and will definitely appeal to puzzle fans. We'll see where things eventually turn in the sequel.
And what wham moment in the 1899 story seemed to you to be the most pivotal?

When did you guess what was really going on?