Review, TV Shows

Station Eleven Review: HBO’s Pandemic Drama is Perfect Timing

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Station Eleven hit HBO Max back on December 16 to little fanfare. The 10-episode miniseries is based on the 2014 Emily St. John Mandel novel of the same name, but prior to the show’s release, we didn’t really get a ton of details. Even the wiki page is mostly bare.

By the time the first trailer was released in November, we hadn’t really seen much more from production. And to top it all off, a late cast announcement in June made us believe that we wouldn’t even see Station Eleven until 2022.

Why am I mentioning all of this? Mainly because the lack of hype threw me off the scent a bit, and, while I was excited to see the show based only on the trailer, I probably could have waited a few months before I did. I sure am glad I didn’t.

This article will serve as a review that is broken up into two labeled parts: spoiler-free impressions, and a full spoiler section for those who have seen the show and/or read the book.

Station Eleven

Spoiler-Free
Station Eleven tells the tale of a global pandemic that wipes out most of humanity. The story begins through the eyes of a young girl, named Kirsten, who is away from home when the world ends. She’s taken in by a kind man who looks after her during the difficult time directly after the apocalypse, and she eventually grows up into a wise young woman who travels with a nomadic theater group bringing entertainment to villages of survivors 20 years later.

This is about all I knew of the show when I went into it (having not read the book), so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this series is much deeper than that.

Now, I enjoy a gritty, action-packed post-apocalyptic movie with battling cars and plenty of spiked armor as much as the next guy, but there’s no denying the power of a good humanitarian piece. Station Eleven is a realistic tale of how people will truly act if the world ended today. It might take a while for the guzzaline barons to take over the wasteland, so in the meantime, we have the relationships and the importance of human connection to hold on to. And that’s refreshing.

Spoilers Ahead!
The character of Kirsten is painfully relatable as a lost child and lost adult, although I must admit that she handles it all very well. But her reactions are real and I couldn’t help but feel like I would react to these situations in a similar manner.

This series isn’t so much about the Shakespearean actors and their performance of Hamlet as it is about the individual relationships. How the characters tie together at the end is brilliant, as is the tie-in with the graphic novel (named Station Eleven) that acts as a holy tome of sorts for the survivors.

“Arthur gave me Station Eleven,” adult Kirsten states toward the end of the series. “And when I read it, it didn’t matter that the world was ending. Because it was the world.”

Arthur is the unexpected catalyst of this show with relationships that tie together all of the main plot points and characters. He gives Kirsten his sacred copy of Station Eleven, which was originally created by his former lover, Miranda.

Miranda’s individual branch of the story is absolutely brilliant, as is the related branches from Arthur’s wife and son, his other former lover, and co-workers.

But it’s his family (both by blood and extended) that truly forms the heart of this series, even though poor Arthur wasn’t even around for most of it!

Station Eleven might seem like a story that’s too soon to tell (although filming began pre-pandemic, and was ironically postponed due to the pandemic while telling a story about a pandemic), I actually think that the timing couldn’t be better.

The fact that the origins and details of the global pandemic are not really explained gives Station Eleven the feel of more than just a pandemic movie. It’s a movie about surviving any tragedy and coping with the aftermath with those left mourning around us.

Station Eleven reminds us through all of these crazy mandates and vax cards and N95 masks and social distancing that we are still humans at the end of the day. We still need each other and we can’t forget that we’re generally social creatures. This show couldn’t have come out at a better time and I highly recommend you check it out.

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Shawn has been infatuated with the post-apocalyptic genre since he wore out his horribly American-dubbed VHS of the original Mad Max as a child. Shawn is the former Editor-in-Chief at Joystiq's Massively.com, creator of the Aftermath post-apocalyptic immersion event, and host of the Through the Aftermath podcast for over 11 years. He currently resides on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with his wife and four children.

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