Some individuals won’t be prepared for HBO Max’s “Station Eleven.” In spite of everything, it’s a narrative of a pandemic that destroys a lot of the planet and divides its survivors. Whereas it’s based mostly on a 2014 acclaimed novel by Emily St. John Mandel, the present has one thing to say about what we expect we’ve misplaced eternally, and what we uncover will one way or the other return to us that feels completely different in 2021. It’s a present that’s resonant otherwise now that it might have been pre-pandemic, however, I feel it might have been extremely highly effective each time it got here out as a result of its themes being timeless. They only really feel somewhat extra pressing in 2021.
Created by Patrick Somerville (“Maniac”) with a premiere directed by Hiro Murai (“Atlanta”), “Station Eleven” opens in Chicago on the eve of a world-destroying pandemic. Jeevan (Himesh Patel) is at the manufacturing of King Lear when he realizes that the lead actor, a star named Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal) is having a coronary heart assault. He’s the primary one to hurry to the stage and try to save the actor’s life, which thrusts him into an uncommon function. The tragic occasion forces Jeevan into turning into the guardian of Arthur’s little one co-star Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) as a result of her common “wrangler” is occupied. Jeevan agrees to stroll Kirsten’s dwelling … after which the world actually collapses.
Far more than COVID, the pandemic that pushes its method throughout the globe in “Station Eleven” is nearly immediately population-destroying. The story jumps ahead twenty years and divulges Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) remains to be alive, a frontrunner in a touring firm of performers that rolls throughout the land, doing theater for fellow survivors. I’m unsure how a lot of the development of “Station Eleven” mirrors the e-book, however, it’s extremely strong storytelling in tv type because it strikes backward and forwards between the early days of the pandemic, some key occasions from earlier than the tip of the world, the primary 100 days after, and 20 years later, utilizing every part to not simply cheaply fill in plot particulars however thematically and emotionally touch upon each other. The writing additionally blissfully embraces episodic construction, typically leaving main characters for a complete hour to fill within the function that one other will play on this saga. For instance, Danielle Deadwyler leads the third episode as Miranda Carroll, the previous associate of Arthur. She occurs to be the creator of a graphic novel known as Station Eleven, and she or he hears of Arthur’s coronary heart assault whereas she’s abroad, realizing she is going to in all probability by no means make it dwelling once more.
The residence looks like a vital theme of “Station Eleven.” What does it imply when the essential buildings of society crumble? Is it the place where or who we’re with? The exceptional Irish stage actor David Wilmot performs Clark, who finally ends up making a brand new dwelling in a deserted Michigan airport with a bunch of survivors there, together with Arthur’s new spouse Elizabeth (Caitlin Fitzgerald) and son Tyler (Julian Obradors). All of those locations and other people will intertwine in a method that may undoubtedly really feel pressured to some viewers however, the most important inspiration right here is Shakespeare—the very plot of Hamlet impacts the narrative—and so there’s a component of “Station Eleven” that ought to be appreciated as grand, theatrical tragedy.
That’s very true due to the function that theatre performs within the narrative. It is a story of performers, one well-known one who influences a youthful one, who then decides that artwork can’t be misplaced whilst civilization crumbles. It’s additionally a narrative of acts of kindness, which turns into its most shifting theme for me. Jeevan is the primary man to face up when he senses one other particular person is struggling, and that call modifications the lives of so many individuals, actually setting the complete story in movement—nothing right here is identical without it. I’m a sucker for tales of 1 unselfish act beginning a butterfly impact by the lives of others, and once I sat again and thought of that side of “Station Eleven” after the extremely shifting finale, I used to be so impressed with how this journey had been crafted. It’s the primary present because the finish of “The Leftovers” jogs my memory of that masterpiece, one other program about loss and connection, and what I think about among the finest dramas of all time. (It ought to be famous that Somerville was the author on “The Leftovers,” so the effect is not coincidental.)
Like “The Leftovers,” “Station Eleven” can be charmingly unpredictable. It has a darkish, sudden humorousness. It balances nearly broadly melodramatic scenes of emotion with extra surreal moments of the sudden plot. And it doesn’t have a false efficiency. Davis one way or the other finds a solution to mirror each the voice of motive that Kirsten grew to become and the little woman who by no means went dwelling after her buddy died in entrance of her. Patel is equally delicate in that he might have overplayed a hero function in Jeevan however finds extra of a relatable everyman tone that actually pays off within the ultimate episodes. He’s simply the man who meets the second and doesn’t even understand that so many individuals don’t. Wilmot is a pure, charismatic performer. Bernal and Deadwyler solely have a couple of scenes in comparison with the remainder, however, they take advantage of them. Daniel Zovatto performs a mysterious character who calls himself The Prophet, strolling research in how trauma can type a harmful persona. After which small roles are stuffed out with vibrant character actors like David Cross, Lori Petty, Enrico Colantoni, and Timothy Simons, amongst others. I liked each efficiency.
Once more, “Station Eleven” will probably be an excessive amount for some individuals proper now, particularly these coping with the lack of a liked one over the past couple of years, however, there’s additionally an extremely shifting undercurrent of hope that pulses by this manufacturing. Loss reshapes the world, however, it doesn’t cease it from turning.