1899 Recap: The Awakening

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1899

The Storm

Season 1

Episode 7

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

1899

The Storm

Season 1

Episode 7

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

Photo: “1899”

We’ve been in a simulation all along! Well, not “we” we, more “we” the characters on 1899. Although … I did recently have a dream in which I was shopping at a grocery minding my own business and then someone called my name and I jolted awake so … which reality is the construct and which is actual reality? Am I living in Plato’s Cave right now or have I just gotten way too deep into this show? I think we all know the answer to that.

Now, 1899 has been pretty much pointing to the ship being a simulation for some time now, so I don’t think Daniel telling Maura flat out “this is a simulation” will come as a huge shock to most people, but it is nice to have official confirmation. Plus, we’re only in the seventh of eight episodes, so I have a feeling this is not the last big reveal we’ll be getting — I’m fully prepared to have the triangle-clad rug pulled out from under me.

The great thing about 1899 is that it is so compelling and so well-constructed, it’s not just about the shock of a reveal but about all of the context surrounding what exactly is revealed. Because of how well this world is built and these characters are developed, instead of it being about the crazy twist, it’s more about this story opening up in a new, huge, unexpected direction. That’s exciting. I love this journey for us and I love it for these characters. I mean, they probably won’t love it when they all realize they are trapped in a looped simulation for reasons unknown but there’s not much we can do about that.

We finally learn about the simulation from the one person who seems to hold all of the information and also wants to be helpful to those trapped in it: Daniel spills the beans. We kick off things with Daniel in the hot seat: In his memory, he and Maura are in bed together talking about brain stuff, the real aphrodisiac. This memory is important to everything really: Daniel argues that “reality is more than neurons firing around in your brain,” it’s about the outside world too, but Maura reminds him that the outside might not even really exist: “We’ll never know if the stimuli in our brain are caused by a reality or the construct of one.” In other words: How do we know if our reality is actually reality? The passengers and crew of the Kerebos sure didn’t.

Then the camera pans out and we see that Daniel and Maura are in bed in a very modern-looking room — definitely not 1899. Maura heads off to get some food when sirens begin to go off and a voice overhead says “initiating shutdown” and Daniel goes outside to find Maura’s nightgown on the ground and oh yeah … he just walked out of that huge pyramid. That’s where they were! Inside the pyramid!

Daniel hears “wake up” and he comes to on the floor of room 1011 in Maura’s mental hospital memory. Even within the first few minutes of this episode, there are tons of questions. Does this mean Daniel, who seemed to be working outside of the simulation is also part of it but just happens to retain his memories when no one else does? There are still lots of questions 1899 has yet to answer. Anyway, my brain hurts and we’re just getting started.

Since Daniel’s locked in that room and according to him “we don’t have much time before everyone will die again, the shutdown has started,” he gets to work. He realizes he can pry open the hull of the “ship” and move around that way. The inside of it is just a nest of wires — definitely not ship-like! It’s a maze leading to different portals and doorways, just like the shafts. We watch him try a few different ones and we see places we haven’t been yet — one has a rosary like Ramiro’s on the ground, this must be his memory, the next has blood in the snow and the postcard Olek’s been carrying around. In Olek’s memory, there’s a glitch and Daniel’s able to rip off the piece of the sky to open another portal. (I’ll never get over how cool that visual effect is and I never want to!) Finally, Daniel lands where he wants: In Maura’s memory, but outside of the hospital. He heads over to the grave, digs up the coffin, opens it, and climbs down into a children’s bedroom, — where the boy has been waiting for him. It’s a room within a memory room. This simulation knows no bounds!!

The boy is Daniel and Maura’s son (why, yes, I did call this back in episode five),  and he’s desperately worried that the simulation is going to shut down and start over again. He wants to free his mother from it — he wants his mother to remember him. Daniel assures him there’s still hope, but that no, he hasn’t yet found “the code” or Maura. But he will. If he can get his device back — which Maura still has — he thinks he can stop it. The boy gives Daniel Maura’s wedding ring that he’s been holding on to (we saw Maura find it when the boy first arrived, but it did nothing to jog her memory) and then Daniel’s back on his way. A lot of cardio for this guy today.

All this time, Maura’s been back on the boat looking for Eyk. She won’t find him since he’s trapped over in that ship graveyard, but in her pursuits, she decides to try looking in the shaft under Daniel’s bed. This of course means she finds herself walking into Daniel’s memory. She’s in their bedroom, which surely looks strange to someone whose brain thinks she’s from 1899. More alarming: She sees a table full of family photos: her and Daniel and the boy. When Daniel realizes where she is, he comes to her side. He didn’t want her to find out this way, but the boy’s name is Elliot and he’s their son. That’s impossible because the doctors told her that she could never have children, she says. It’s a false memory, he explains. He’s still not as forthcoming as I’d like, but he’s afraid of pushing her too hard, I guess? Still, he says things like that she has no memory of Elliot because she “wanted to forget” and she “wanted to get rid of the pain.” So, like, Elliot is definitely dead right? RIGHT?

Finally, he lays it on her: She’s trapped in here. All of them are. It’s exactly like she used to say, about not knowing whether you were living in a reality or a construct of one. He tells her it’s like the allegory of Plato’s Cave: Like the people born watching shadows on the wall, she and the other passengers assume what they are seeing is reality. They don’t realize there’s something making those shadows and that is what is actually real. They don’t even think to question it. She has forgotten what is real and she better start remembering real soon because he has some bad news: If she doesn’t wake up soon, “there will be nothing left to wake up for and [her] consciousness will be trapped in here forever.” No pressure or anything, Maura girl!

Maura’s brain hasn’t exploded from all of this new intel yet, but if you can believe it, Daniel has more to lay on her. The clock is ticking on this shutdown and simulation restart — no, literally, Henry has a “shutdown” clock on his desk because he’s a real cute boy like that. Back on the ship, Daniel tells her that the only way to stop this shutdown and prevent her from getting trapped in the loop again is to find the code for the override. The code, which could manifest as anything in the simulation — a key, a door, etc — is somewhere on the ship and she needs to remember where, or what, it is. Maura asks why Daniel thinks she would know and I have to imagine the answer probably has something to do with the fact that Maura is the one who is always whispering the “wake up” start word to all the passengers. I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that Maura may have been the architect of this simulation. Anyway: She realizes she does know where the code is — it’s the key inside the locket she’s been wearing.

Daniel does some more running around, trying to reprogram parts of the code so they’ll have a head start once the simulation begins again, but it doesn’t matter much. By this point, the first mate has located Elliot and his pyramid and brought them both to Henry. Henry, who, remember, has been watching all of this play out from his TV screens, gets on a loudspeaker and tells Maura and Daniel that if they want to see their son again, they need to bring him the key. Daniel has put up a valiant fight, but he has failed. Everyone will “die” and the simulation will start again, as planned. God, Henry is so high key with his drama. I guess I’m not that surprised since he exclusively wears mandarin collars but like, get a grip, sir. Anyway, Daniel has one last idea. He tells Maura to trust him and that he loves her. He gives her back her wedding ring and he’s off. I feel a little bad that I was rooting so hard for his wife and the captain to hump. But not that bad.

Here’s how you know the people behind 1899 know what they’re doing. Now we know that what’s happening on the Kerberos isn’t real — in fact, it will all be wiped away and the loop will start from the beginning. It’s happened dozens of times already. And yet still, everything that goes down on that ship in this episode is just as heart-wrenching and devastating as it would be if we still believed the consequences are real. I mean, that (fake) storm is going to sink that ship and people are (fake) dying!

Olek risks his life out on the deck to keep Ling Yi safe and ends up getting wiped out by a wave? Tears! A beam falls on Ángel in the engine room and Ramiro holds him in his arms and pleads “don’t leave me, no, my love” as he dies? Sobs! And Anker? ANKER. Iben refuses to go somewhere safer because if she dies it is God’s will and Anker begs her to stop being so ridiculous, but doesn’t leave her side. “I’m not going to leave you. I will never leave you,” he tells her as he pulls her close before the water takes them both. I thought I had cried enough tears over people holding each other as they brace for death in an ocean liner back in the ’90s when Titanic came out, but I guess not. It doesn’t matter that we know this isn’t real and somehow these deaths aren’t actually going to stick because it is so real to them and over seven episodes we’ve been given plenty of reasons to care, in some capacity, for each of them (well, except Mrs. Wilson, the jury’s still out on that lady).

The storm rages on until a giant whirlpool forms (like the one from the premiere!) and creates a tunnel in the water for the Kerberos to travel through. And what do you think is on the other side of that tunnel? The graveyard as ships — or, as Daniel explains to Maura earlier in the episode, the “archive” of every previous simulation. Eyk, who must have believed he was cursed to be alone forever, looks out across the water at the remaining survivors: Maura, Clémence, Jérôme, Ying Li, Mrs. Wilson, Tove, and Ramiro. Will Maura try to convince them all that everything they see is a lie? Will any of them believe her?

• Strangely, both Maura and the first mate clock a copy of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening on the floor of Maura’s cabin. The novel was published in 1899 and it’s about a woman, Edna, who feels trapped in her marriage and bucks societal traditions in the pursuit of independence, even though that ultimately leads her to killing herself by drowning in the ocean — her only real escape. So, yeah, I guess there’s a few ways we could interpret the book’s appearance on the Kerberos!!

• In case you were wondering: Lucien has another seizure and they can’t get to his medicine in time, so he bites it. Franz sacrifices himself to close one of the bulkheads and keep the water from rushing onto the ship. Franz! Who knew?!

• Once Henry has the tiny pyramid, he opens it up to reveal the perfect little key hole inside (why he needs Maura’s key) and, wouldn’t ya know, inscribed in the top portion are the words “wake up.”

• Henry watches as everything on the Kerberos slowly deteriorates: “Every time they make the same mistakes and every time they die because they can’t get rid of their emotions. That’s what makes them weak. Human nature’s ultimate flaw. Don’t base a choice on love, anger, hate. They’re just silly feelings that cloud the mind.” Wow, this guy is the worst.

1899 Recap: The Awakening

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