Editor’s Note: The following contains major spoilers for 1899.
1899 is finally available on Netflix, delivering another mind-blowing tale of Dark creators. However, while the previous TV show of Frisian Jantje and Baran bo Odar curved time, 1899 plays with the notion of reality itself, causing viewers to doubt everything they have seen. So, in the credits, you might still be wondering what happened on board the Kerberos, a ship from Europe to New York, welcoming thousands of people from very different cultural backgrounds. .
Many questions remain unanswered after the end of 1899, as the series was clearly planned to span multiple seasons. Nevertheless, we have enough clues to solve some of the 1899the greatest mysteries, such as the nature of the Kerberos project and why the ship’s passengers are constantly forced to confront their traumatic memories.
What is the Kerberos project?
During the first season of 1899, we learn that there is something wrong with the Keberos. The ship was bought by an English businessman, Henry Singleton (Anton Lesser), which made some weird edits. As the Kerberos voyage takes place in 1899, wondrous technology is hidden within the ship and its passengers are brought back to relieve their most traumatic memory. The only people who seem to know what’s going on are Daniel (Aneurine Barnard) and Elliot (Fflyn Edwards), the two remaining survivors of the voyage of the Prometheus, the previous company’s ship, which was lost at sea.
After receiving a mysterious message, the Kerberos crew find the Prometheus adrift in the ocean and rescue the boy from inside. Daniel goes to Kerberos alone and manipulates Maura Franklin (Emilie Beecham) to question its reality. Like the last episodes of 1899 reveal, the ship is part of a computer simulation designed to keep people’s minds trapped inside a machine. Wells spread throughout the ship serve as loading points, allowing people to move from one part of the simulation to another. Each well represents the path to a different memory simulation, and each memory simulation is inspired by the past of one of the Kerberos passengers. However, it seems that all these memories are false, introduced into the minds of passengers to make them forget who they are.
For example, Maura is Henry’s daughter and is connected to the simulation. She doesn’t understand why, but it quickly becomes clear that Kerberos is just the latest simulation in an endless cycle. After people die on Kerberos, their consciousness is rebooted and reused in the next simulation, with each previous ship representing log data from a failed experiment. Henry watches the Kerberos people from his desk all the time, judging their choices and blaming them for making the same mistakes over and over again. Although we don’t get a clear answer as to why these experiences are repeated, it seems the goal is to understand the human mind and unlock its full potential by teaching people to put reason above of their feelings. While Henry appears to be the mastermind behind the Kerberos project and previous simulations, the truth is more elusive. And as we learn in the finale, Henry is as much of a puppet as everyone aboard the ship.
Who built the ‘1899’ simulation?
In the real world, Maura and Daniel are married and Elliot is their son. At some point, Elliot’s body begins to fail due to a mysterious illness, prompting his mother to create a way to save his consciousness inside a computer. Maura refuses to let go of her son, so she builds the first simulation to keep him alive forever. Maura and Daniel are the creators of the simulation, as he is a master programmer and she is a neuroscience genius. So, as the creator of the simulation, Maura designed the program’s architecture, allowing multiple people to be plugged into a machine simultaneously, so they could spend time with deceased loved ones in the real world.
Whereas 1899never explicitly confirms it, it looks like Elliot died at some point. Unable to bear this pain, Maura decided to erase her memories and stay forever plugged into the simulation, where she would not remember her failure. Throughout the series, Daniel and Elliot are aware of their virtual state and attempt to wake Maura. Turns out Maura programmed an exit key into the simulation. Yet since she hid it before erasing her own memories, no one knows where the key is. Henry took control of the simulation with the same goal of finding the key, so he could finally be freed from his virtual prison.
What happens in the finale of ‘1899’?
In the series finale, the key and lock that need to be connected end up in Henry’s hands. Blaming his daughter for all the pain inflicted on those trapped in the simulation, Henry decides to reset her memory, send her back to the start of a new boat trip, and use the key to get himself and his loved ones out of the simulation. The key doesn’t work, however, because, in a desperate move to wake Maura, Daniel alters the Kerberos code, altering the structure of the program and destroying the latest iteration of the simulation.
In the simulation, each object represents a different piece of code. For example, the black syringe Henry uses to stick Maura in the neck functions as a memory reboot, forcing her to relive the same hellish boat trip over and over. The key and the pyramid that Elliot always carries are the two pieces of code that, when put together, wake someone up and bring them to the real world.
When Daniel changes the simulation code, he changes the black syringe to transport Maura to the first iteration of the simulation, a simple room the family used to extend their life together. Daniel also changed the key code to Maura’s wedding ring and the pyramid code to a toy found in the first iteration room. As Daniel explains, it’s imperative that Maura wakes up and works in the real world to free everyone else. This is because, while she was in a deep sleep, her brother Cirian took over the simulation, trapping everyone inside. Maura follows Daniel’s instructions and exits the simulation, but there’s still a lot we don’t understand about what happened in the virtual world.
For starters, we don’t know why Cirian decided to trap everyone in a computer program, or why he made everyone’s false memories so filled with traumatic events. We do know, however, that everyone on board Kerberos has chosen to be there at some point, and a future season may reveal why. There is also the issue of the computer virus spreading through the simulation, which could corrupt the passenger’s consciousness. We don’t know where the virus came from, but it may have been introduced by Daniel in a way to break Maura out of Cirian’s mental prison. Finally, Daniel’s drastic changes to the simulation’s architecture succeeded in freeing Maura but could have put everyone in danger. If Netflix greenlights season 2 of 1899, the series must deal with the consequences of Daniel’s desperate escape plan. Finally, we need to know what’s going on in the real world as Maura wakes up to an unexpected reality.
What is real in ‘1899’?
As Maura unplugs herself from the machine that has imprisoned her consciousness in the simulation, she realizes that she is in a chamber where some of the passengers she encountered inside the Kerberos are also plugged in. The room is inside a spaceship belonging to the “Prometheus Project”, which also houses several equal rooms, which means that all the inhabitants of Kerberos are there too. While the Kerberos simulation tricked people into 1899, the real year is 2099, and nearly two thousand people are transported through space to an unknown destination.
This explains why the people inside the sim were sort of volunteers, but it doesn’t help us understand why Ciaran took over and kept people locked inside. However, Ciaran is aware of his sister’s escape and sends a message to welcome her back to reality. Season 2 is set to partially take place in futuristic reality as we go back to the simulation again to figure out what happened to all the people trapped inside and how Daniel could have inadvertently doomed them all. Fingers crossed we’ll get our answers sooner than later.
1899 is now available to stream on Netflix.