At this point and in these circumstances, nothing more lazy than a series about a global pandemic wiping out the world’s population and forces the survivors to rethink their existence in a new world. In addition, the fictional ‘Station Eleven’ virus has the symptoms of the flu and is tremendously infectious, so comparison with our harsh real circumstances is inevitable. However, ‘Station Eleven’ goes beyond being another echo of the phenomenon ‘The Walking Dead’ or other portraits of decaying civilizations.
‘Station Eleven’, to begin with, is not a post-pandemic reflection. The coincidence with what we are experiencing is accidental: filming had already started when COVID arrived, which had to be interrupted in the first confinement. Additionally, it is based on a 2014 novel by Emily St. John Mandel that won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. But in addition, its apocalyptic atmosphere dispenses with the well-worn tropes of “Man is a wolf to man” and other pessimism of a bad and lazy screenwriter.
And that is because Patrick Somerville, creator of the series and scriptwriter of a famous production with which it has a few similarities, ‘The Leftovers’, He is not so interested in the chaos unleashed by the virus as in the difficulties of rebuilding a normality that, despite everything, makes its way. To do this, it makes continuous leaps, sometimes overlapping the two spaces, between the moment when the pandemic breaks out and twenty years later, when there are already generations born after the Georgia flu.
Thus we will know two moments in the life of a girl, Kirsten, an actress who is caught very close to the beginning of the infection, and her version two decades later, turned into a woman who continues to dedicate herself to acting, with a traveling company that it only represents works by Shakespeare. And there is something that unites these two versions of the same person: a mysterious comic that also describes a pandemic and the civilization that is born later, ‘Station Eleven’.
Creation as exorcism
That is the core of the five episodes that HBO Max has premiered to date, though abundant digressions are allowed about other characters impacted by the events. So far it’s happened in chapters three and five – these twists away from the nuclear-seeming plot work and naturally interconnect with Kirsten’s story, so we may see them more often. It is a special way (although not absolutely novel: ‘The Leftovers’, without going any further, did it quite a bit) of not focusing on a chained mechanical flashback between the two Kirstens.
There are a mysterious element in everything that ‘Station Eleven’ tells that is treated with remarkable skill and that maintains the suspense in a magnificent way. That mystery, difficult to define, sometimes takes the form of the ‘Station Eleven’ comic and its almost supernatural properties (but also connected to that conspiranoid delight that was ‘Utopia’). Other times, that mystery comes to us as references to characters and events that we will never know, for example in the fascinating dialogues of the troupe of actors, with references to adventures from the past.
Thanks to the sensational performances (the two Kirsten shine especially, a fascinating Mackenzie Davis and a Matilda Lawler who fills the girl witness to the disintegration of the world with nuances), that mystery remains constant, and goes far beyond a mere “The world is ending, there are good people, there are bad people”. It is touches of disturbing extravagance in characters like The Prophet that give personality to what could have been one more post-apocalypse, and there we have the failed ‘Y: The Last Man’ to endorse that it is not easy to do so well.
‘Estación Eleven’ is cared for down to the last detail, with plausibility when he describes the onset of the pandemic but also with his description of an improvised world after the disaster (the costumes and accessories of the company’s actors, for example, are a delight). A series about how human creation sustains the world when everything falls apart – in the same way it did before the chaos – and that cleverly and honestly threads a different apocalypse.