Potential viewers of the HBO Max series, Station Eleven, adapted from the bestselling novel by Emily St. James Mandel are in for a treat. Here are some of the best aspects of the show!
With a show that has the premise of a post-pandemic apocalypse, Station Eleven may initially be a tough sell. However, as the series, created by Patrick Somerville, has recently concluded with critical raves, hesitant viewers will be pleasantly surprised at the approach the series takes that makes it an ultimately cathartic experience.
In the interest of transparency, Station Eleven begins exactly as what many fear the series will be and as such, have no interest in watching while COVID rages. The pilot is set on the day of a global flu pandemic that cripples global society overnight. It’s a masterful piece of television but it isn’t the easiest watch. The show returns to this timeline to showcase where each of the ensembles were at that time in standout episodes. However, it alternates with 20 years in the future where society is rebuilding shot with warm hues that contrasts with the cold sheen of the flashback episodes.
The performances in Station Eleven knock it out of the park. The cast features several familiar faces such as Yesterday and Tenet’s Himesh Patel as Jeevan Chaudhary in the flashbacks. His arc over the season is an absolute stunner as he finds his new way of living in the post-apocalyptic world. Halt and Catch Fire and Happiest Season’s Mackenzie Davis plays the adult Kirsten 20 years later with The Traveling Symphony and she is terrific at portraying grappling with the new world and changes to her new family. Young Kirsten played by Matilda Lawler is a newcomer but stuns surviving the pandemic outbreak environment and living with Jeevan and his brother Frank.
Station Eleven is adapted from a bestselling novel. As such, the characters are developed in unique and compelling ways. The characters enter and re-enter each other’s lives and intersect in emotionally charged ways. It’s lyrical and emphasizes the nature of The Wheel that the Traveling Symphony embarks on. There are also tie-ins to the in-show graphic novel that gives the show its title, Station Eleven, which is used in breathtaking ways. Each episode has a centerpiece sequence and the writing truly grounds them emotionally.
Recommending a show for its score may not be a frequent reason. For Station Eleven, however, Dan Romer, composer of Disney’s Luca and frequent collaborator of Ben Zheiltin has delivered a masterclass in composition. Full of horns and strings similar to his scores for Wendy and Beasts of the Southern Wild, it is a hopeful and beautifully inspiring score. Highlight tracks: “Doctor Eleven,” “There is No Rescue Mission,” “Jeevan” and “Kirsten.”
The emotional punch of this show is outstanding. As the characters grow and heal together, all of the highlighted elements combine into powerful sequences in the climactic stretch of episodes. Sequences of The Traveling Symphony where the beauty of art and performance coalesce into moments of hope or moments of survival and determination into moments of new life. And characters heal and grow from the pandemic-induced trauma together. And a few surprises that I won’t spoil here.
The full mini-series is now streaming on HBO Max.