Oh wow, guys, I owe you all an apology. In the last recap, I started off by declaring that things on 1899 had really escalated. In my defense, I thought they had! The way folks really dug into that mutiny was wild! The fact that they tossed that kid overboard and then he showed up again? Wild! Things had really been kicked up a notch. But now that I’ve seen episode five … well, I’m not so sure any of us have ever grasped the true definition of “escalation” until now. “The Calling” doesn’t just kick the happenings of 1899 up another notch, it kicks them up all the notches. Every single one of them.
We’re only five episodes in, so perhaps the overall pacing of the show will be recontextualized once we see where our story will end up, but for now it feels like a perfectly executed slow burn. We haven’t gotten a lot of answers — and we still don’t ’em here — but there’s been enough intrigue doled out, enough compelling questions posed, and enough well-developed, interesting characters (plus a stellar cast from top to bottom) that you never find yourself frustrated that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. The ride is so enjoyable and well-crafted that you don’t want to get off; you trust that it’s going somewhere you want to be.
Now, of course, 1899 could totally botch the ending and I’ll be eating my words, but “The Calling” leaves me optimistic. The massive cast is cut down (in the most brutal of ways), leaving just the main ensemble; Maura is finally putting some pieces of the puzzle together (or at least realizing she needs to put some pieces together); and the people “in the know” (Daniel, the boy, Maura’s father) are spouting off confusing sentences that you just know are going to have a lot of meaning in an episode or two. You can see the show shifting into its next gear for its final act.
I guess we should start with the fact that the boy — who, again, has seemingly somehow survived a wild-eyed Danish woman tossing him over the rails of the ship — and his little pyramid can literally stop time. When Maura goes to pull him out of the cabinet that they’ve locked him in (they locked him in there with a fire poker, making the whole scene look a hell of a lot like the time they pulled him out of that other cabinet), all the dissenters yell out. They’re so freaked out that he’s “alive” they don’t want to take any chances. It becomes more than just yelling as they try to stop Maura, and one guy fires his gun. Daniel starts to jump in front of the bullet, and time just stops. Everyone except Maura is frozen. (That shot of everyone standing there frozen? It’s insanely good. Not that I’m surprised — the special effects on this show are mind-blowingly great.) Maura pulls that bullet headed toward her out of the air, opens the cabinet to let the boy out, realizes this whole time thing must have something to do with that pyramid, and then the two of them are off. As soon as they leave, time starts again and everyone is in shock — Maura and the boy have seemingly disappeared into thin air. This is not even the wildest thing that happens in this episode.
That’s when the alarm starts going off. Something is going on in that closet with the wiring and then an alarm blares for a few seconds. Once it stops, a new sound starts: the ticking of a clock. Suddenly, people go dead-eyed. They begin to march in lockstep out of rooms, toward stairs, all seeming to be going to the same place. People who haven’t been put under whatever kind of trance this is — pretty much our main cast — watch in confusion. There are, however, a couple people we know among the hundreds under the spell of the ticking clock. Ling Yi’s mother heads off with the group and eventually Krester, too, starts his march. That means we have to see both Ling Yi and Krester’s father, Anker, watch in horror as the people they love arrive at the group’s final destination. Everyone in the trance is marching up to the top deck of the ship and calmly launching themselves overboard, as if it’s just another step in their little walk. I don’t know what’s more horrifying: the wide shot of the ship with dozens of bodies going over the sides or the interior shots of people talking in their cabins and bodies falling past the portholes. Both are imprinted on my brain and will haunt me for the foreseeable future, so that’s fun.
There’s nothing like mass trance-based killings to bring people together, and eventually when the two factions that’ve been fighting one another meet up in the middle of this insanity and learn from Anker what’s happening to everyone, they all band together to try and stop people from marching any farther, but there’s no stopping anyone under this trance. Afraid that whatever’s happening might be contagious, they give up on saving people and focus on saving themselves — they all end up tying themselves to something sturdy or blockading the door to their cabin in the hopes that they don’t wind up making that long march to the top deck.
Now, where are Maura and the boy while all of this is going on? Back in her cabin, she once again asks the boy to explain what’s happening, and this time around she finally makes some headway. He finds some paper and writes “they are listening,” and then pulls her close and whispers, “I can’t tell you, you’ll have to ask the creator.” I guess set aside a little reminder to watch out for a “creator” in coming episodes because that’s the first we’ve heard of this person, but they seem important! He leads her to the shaft under her bed and uses the beetle to open a doorway. In an episode filled with cool visuals, this one might take the top spot — they crawl through the shaft and hop out into a frozen tundra area, outside of the mental hospital, and there’s just a floating hole in the air from where they came out. Reader, I gasped!
We’ve been to this place before: The episode opened with Maura in a hospital gown wandering around out here. She comes across a grave and written on the cross acting as a grave marker, it says “wake up.” Then she’s inside the mental hospital, once again screaming with her father about how she’s not crazy and demanding to know what happened to her brother before she’s taken into room 1011 and injected with something that wakes her up on the Kerberos. This time around, she sees the grave again and grabs onto the locket (I’m starting to believe she’ll open that thing up and there will be pictures of people we recognize in there), but then makes her way toward the mental hospital.
On the ship, Daniel runs to Maura’s room and is pissed when he realizes that she and the boy went down the shaft. He follows and finds the boy standing at the grave alone. Their conversation is purposefully obtuse: Daniel tells him that he shouldn’t have come here because “it knows we’re here now,” but the boy responds that they’ve “never made it this far,” so “maybe it will work this time.” When Daniel asks why he brought her here, all he says is that “she didn’t remember.” It’s a testament to the quality of this show that not one part of this conversation makes any sense and yet I’m very into it. What does it mean? My current theory is that the boy is Maura’s son and … he died and that’s his grave they’re standing over? I don’t know! And I don’t care that I don’t know! Anyway, Daniel tells the boy to sit tight — “He won’t find you, I promise,” he tells him — because he needs to “stop this before they sink the ship.” Again — what? Also, great!
Over at the mental hospital, Maura’s having another trippy encounter with her father, who is there one second and gone the next, like a blip on your TV screen. “Where did you hide it?” he asks her. She has no idea what he’s talking about. When she asks once again where her brother Ciaran is, his response is “You’re not asking the right questions.” She’s strapped down in a chair and injected with whatever is in that syringe and wakes up back in her bed on the Kerberos.
While all of this is confusing for us — and don’t even get me started on Daniel running down to the closet with the wires and trying to shut things down because if he doesn’t turn it off, “everything will start again”; how many times have we done this little exercise in terror at sea?! — it seems to ignite something in Maura.
She finds Eyk, who is still reeling from her little disappearing act, and we get a big info dump and some startling reveals. Maura’s last name is actually Singleton, as in Henry Singleton, the guy who bought the fleet of ships. She explains to Eyk that her father studies the human brain; he has zero interest in ships. She thinks this whole thing must be some sort of experiment so that he can study the passengers. She finally tells him that she also received one of those letters — Henry is a nickname her brother used to call her — and that her brother had contacted her four months prior to talk about something he learned about their father, but when she went to meet him, he wasn’t there. He’s been missing ever since — she thinks he was on the Prometheus.
As is usually the case, showing is better than telling, so Maura uses the green beetle that she finds in the room to show Eyk how the shafts work. They wind up back in the woods near his house. “We’re on a ship. How does a whole landscape fit inside a ship?” he asks. YES, EYK, WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO KNOW THIS.
Back in Eyk’s room, Maura posits that none of this is real. Those people killing themselves by hurling themselves into the sea? Not really dead. “How can this be real?” YES, HOW, MAURA?!! She goes on to tell Eyk that she thinks she figured out what her father was doing but that he somehow erased her memory. She was a doctor at a mental hospital and somehow he’s trying to make her believe she was the patient. She doesn’t remember who she is. So, like, that’s not great.
Don’t think for one second that Maura’s the only one with wild information to share. Eyk whips out that Prometheus passenger list to show Maura something on there aside from her own name that seems impossible: his signature. Eyk Larsen was the captain of the Prometheus.
It definitely seems like everyone has lived through whatever is going on with the Kerberos over and over again but on different ships; we have work to do before we can get to hypothesizing! Daniel shuts off the machine and the ticking stops, but there was only one person under the trance who hadn’t jumped yet: Mrs. Wilson. Everyone else is gone. All of the remaining cast gather on the deck together: Eyk, Maura, Tove and her parents, Jérôme and the French contingent, Ángel and Ramiro, Olek and Ling Yi — who are getting very close (!!) — Mrs. Wilson, and even Franz. The first mate, who we learn also has one of the triangle controllers, walks out with the message that’s been coming over the telegraph: “Sink Ship.” Everyone’s like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard that one before. But Daniel, always ready to creep into a party, shifts their thinking a bit: “I don’t think they mean the Prometheus,” he says. “I think they mean us.”
Oh, and the ship is running out of coal and there’s no land in sight, in case you thought these people needed more problems heaped on top of them.
We’ll leave our survivors to chew on that, because we have one last place to visit before this episode is over (I told you there was a lot going on down here!). We find Henry Singleton sitting at his desk; there’s lots of computers around, it looks pretty modern, and an assistant comes in with an “alert” from “Project Kerberos.” It’s a message from the first mate, and it says … well, I don’t speak triangle, so I’m not sure exactly what it says, but it can’t be good. He has a message for his assistant to relay back: “Tell him he doesn’t have much more time; he needs to bring me the boy.” And then this dude walks over to his window, opens the curtains, and takes a nice long look at his view: a giant pyramid sitting off in the distance. You know, normal ocean stuff.