Station eleven It is not an easy program to watch, but it makes it as easy as possible.
Let me unpack that statement for a minute. When I say Station eleven makes visualization difficult, I mean its theme: a flu pandemic that destroys society practically overnight, effectively causing the end of the world. All the signs and signifiers we’ve learned from our own experience with a very real global pandemic are there: the overloaded hospitals, the confusing news updates, the panicky grocery stores, the fear of contact with other people along with the desperate. need be in contact with other people. Bonus points if you have children or care about them: You will recognize the constant calculations you do to keep them as safe, happy and healthy as possible in a world that grows more and more terrifying by the second.
Sure, the situation in Station eleven (based on the novel by Emily St. John Mandel) is much more terrible even than ours. But barring a security guard killed here, a delusional victim in a van stuck there, or a suspected flu-induced plane crash in the middle of a major metropolitan area, it’s too recognizable from our point of view here in late 2021, with eight hundred thousand Americans killed and a host of ghoulish politicians and pundits trying to cash in on the carnage. It is sure to be more than many viewers can bear.
That being said, enduring it is easier than you think. Why? Due to the absolutely charming performances of the two protagonists of the episode, Himesh Patel and Matilda Lawler. Patel plays Jeevan, an underemployed writer; Briefly mention blogging and content creation before admitting “I don’t have a job,” and yes, if you have the job I currently have, it hurts a bit. Jeevan attends a Chicago theater production of King Lear in which Lawler’s child actor character, Kirsten, has a small role.
The couple have an adorable, instantly endearing surrogate parenting encounter under bleak circumstances. When Arthur Leander (Gael García Bernal), the movie star who plays Lear in the play, collapses from a heart attack on stage, Jeevan rushes out of the audience to help, though he’s not a doctor. This puts him backstage amid the chaos that follows Leander’s death; It is here that she meets Kirsten, whose “wrangler” has left her behind in the rampage.
Much like rushing on stage to help a complete stranger despite not having the qualifications to do so, it tells you everything you need to know about Jeevan who, with a significant personal inconvenience (his girlfriend just gets up and leaves him while is backstage), takes himself to make sure Kirsten gets home safely. He’s uncomfortable and nervous about it, of course, as would any grown man who has appointed himself as the guardian of a girl he doesn’t know. But your heart is in the right place.
Your mind is a different story. While riding the L back to his parents’ house, he receives a phone call from his sister Sia (Tiya Sircar), an ER doctor who deals with an influx of flu cases of a guy who appears to be turning up with a increasing gravity around the world. . In a memorable scene, she tells a group of children who wear masks and who will soon be orphaned that their parents are getting the best care they can get, then staggers outside to have a coughing fit. What he tells Jeevan next sends him into a full-blown panic attack. Her advice, as a medical professional, is to get to the apartment of her (much more successful, Pulitzer Prize-winning) brother Frank (Nabhaan Rizwan) and literally lock the door. It’s so bad. And it’s only going to get worse.
When Kirsten’s parents won’t open the door and he discovers that Kirsten has no key and no neighbors she can trust, Jeevan enlists her on her new quest: buying literally $ 10,000 worth of groceries and bringing them all to Frank’s house. Along the way, she lies to him and tells her that she was able to communicate with her parents, who encouraged her to go with him. (They actually know Frank from work, he reassures her.) They manage to get everything to their high-rise apartment just in time to see a plane fall from the sky and crash into a nearby fireball. It is the episode’s way of setting a period for the world’s death sentence.
And then we cut to the future, twice. First, Jeevan and Kirsten emerge from Frank’s apartment, navigate the building’s unlit stairs, and head toward the car-covered, snow-covered wasteland. Then, many years later, an adult Kirsten is summoned to a rehearsal by a fellow survivor. For the moment, though, she’s engrossed in a graphic novel that we’ve previously seen a woman hand over to Leander… called Station eleven.
Also, an astronaut appears at one point, and he looks a lot like an astronaut in the graphic novel. So there is that too.
Running for just over 45 minutes, including the end credits, this is a remarkably assured debut episode from showrunner Patrick Somerville (a veteran of The remains, who was brilliant and creator of Manic, which was … less) and director Hiro Murai (longtime collaborator of Donald Glover, responsible for several Atlanta episodes, as well as the period music video “This Is America”; the way it captures the sunlight that shines on the lush green vegetation that grows in the wake of the fall of humanity is only worth the price of admission). It balances Jeevan’s bewildered but deeply ingrained kindness and Kirsten’s childish curiosity and precociousness with an end-of-the-world scenario played out for ultimate white-knuckle terror. (Seriously, this episode alone is scarier than the entirety of the Paramount + remake of the similar theme. The support from this time last year.) Take all your anxieties and fears about our future, which seems like an endless stream of predictable but somehow unavoidable calamities, and turn them into something human. Is an achievement. I am excited and full of dread about where it will go next.