Photo: ‘Station Eleven’
“I Remember Damage. And Escape. Then Adrift In A Stranger’s Galaxy For A Long Time. But I’m Safe Now. I Found It Again. My Home.” This quote from the brilliant HBO Max series ‘Station Eleven’ perfectly encapsulates its major theme of survival at all costs in the wake of an apocalyptic pandemic that ends the world as we know it. The mini-series follows a diverse series of different characters at the point when a deadly virus takes hold of the world, and then their interconnected stories twenty years later as what is left of civilization struggles to hang on in a constant battle with both the natural world and those that would destroy any post-apocalyptic progress that has been made. While the show is predominantly about survival, it also touches on the core desire of each of its characters, which is to find a home, whatever that may mean to them. Adapted from a novel of the same name, this dramatic and beautiful sci-fi series, like its formidable lead characters, found its way through a Pandemic to shine.
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From the very first scene of the series, it is established that we will be in for a wild ride. We follow and watch in horror with Jeevan, played by Himesh Patel in his best role yet, and Kirsten, a child actress, played by the very impressive newcomer Matilda Lawler, that he is helping to get home as the effects of the rapidly spreading and deadly virus take hold in real-time. After the events of our own world the last two years, one would think this type of subject matter would be hard to watch, however, I found myself immediately and completely gripped by the writing. The show hinges greatly on suspense, with each episode seemingly upping the ante even further from the last as we progress through each character’s storyline and the pieces to the puzzle of how the future will come to reveal themselves.
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Perspective and the Timeline
Another shining point of the storytelling is in the way they handle perspective and the timeline, choosing to give you specific plot points in very well thought out and planned areas to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat, begging for more to be revealed. Each episode of the series follows a different character in a different timeline as they react to the events that will ultimately connect them all together. I am not afraid to admit this would normally feel daunting to keep track of with so many characters and timelines, however, the strong writing plays a critical role to grab the viewer and make them invest in the different characters instantly while also feeling wholly capable of keeping track of it all. The power of this series lies in the different ways in which it aims to both deceive the viewer of their perception about the events at different points in time relative to the Pandemic, consistently leaving storylines unresolved at the end of episodes with beautiful cliffhangers.
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Patrick Somerville and his writing staff did a masterful job of molding and adapting these characters from the novel and putting them into a world that feels so real and grounded that you feel when they feel and embrace the tension and despair so prevalent to each of them in their specific circumstances. It is no easy task to make a vision of a post-apocalyptic world feel believable, though they did a flawless job of getting the viewer to buy into this version of the world. Too often post-apocalyptic and science fiction works feel too far outside the realm of reality, however, the world of ‘Station Eleven’ feels completely believable to the viewer.
Another immense strength of the show lies in its individual performances, none more so than from its female leads in Mackenzie Davis, who plays an older Kirsten twenty years after the Pandemic has wiped out the earth, and Danielle Deadwyler most recently seen in Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall’, as Miranda Carroll. Miranda is the author in the series of the book ‘Station Eleven’ that features prominently throughout the show. While these two characters only briefly share the screen with one another, they individually embody the show’s major theme of survival at all costs. Both are far too used to loss and heartbreak, though they will not let anything stop them in the face of incredible challenges and the odds that they face. Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten was really a marvelous undertaking, embodying a character so fraught with loss, and yet still so profoundly strong when the moment needs her to be.
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She plays her part brilliantly with her intensely expressive eyes, giving you a vision into this person who has been through so much just to be where she is. Likewise, Danielle Deadwyler’s Miranda is a striking portrait of a person so pushed to their edge and logical end, yet still able to soldier on despite all the weight on her shoulders. She brings a disarming rawness to her performance as someone longing for home, yet not knowing how to embrace it if she can find it. In a story that relies heavily on a collective ensemble of performers, these two actresses shine through as the most important pieces to make the engine of the show run.
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Shakespeare and Hamlet
Heavily featured throughout the series are the works of Shakespeare, and most specifically Hamlet. Though devices like these can sometimes appear heavy-handed or forced in other works of film or television, Somerville uses them masterfully to tie to the current emotional states of the characters. In year twenty since the Pandemic, Kirsten is a part of a traveling theater group and the group’s portrayal of the works of Shakespeare works on two fronts to demonstrate the ways in which art can and will survive past the end of the world, and to express certain characters emotional states. The tying in of the themes and works of Shakespeare plays in a delightfully unexpected way to help get to the roots and express feelings that our characters cannot just openly come out and say to the camera, in a way that makes them intrinsically feel like a part of the plot as opposed to a separate entity entirely.
‘Station Eleven’ is a masterwork and one of those rare pieces of art that comes along only so often where every aspect and member of the series is at their finest. Somerville and the staff did a brilliant job adapting the novel and the tremendous performances of Davis, Deadwyler, and others were incredible at bringing life to these fascinating characters. Make sure you do not miss ‘Station Eleven’, now streaming on HBO Max.
Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Danielle Deadwyler, Himesh Patel, Matilda Lawler, David Wilmot
Cinematography: Steve Cosens, Daniel Grant, Christian Sprenger | Editors: David Eisenberg, Anna Hauger, Yoni Reiss, Isaac Hagy, Kyle Reiter, Karoliina Tuovinen, Anthony McAfee
Directors: Jeremy Podeswa, Helen Shaver, Hiro Murai, Lucy Tcherniak
Producers: Patrick Somerville, Emily St. John Mandel, Scott Delman, David Eisenberg, Mauricio Katz, Nate Matteson, Hiro Murai
By Mark Raymond
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Mark Raymond is a writer and screenwriter who believes himself to be the only person desiring to work in film who originated in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles. Mark was inspired to write from a young age and has always desired to connect and uplift others through his work, as those that motivated him did for him. Mark feels very strongly that the world could use a lot more positivity and optimism, and is therefore very aligned to the mission of The Hollywood Insider to not spread hate or gossip, but instead to build each other up and shine a positive light on anyone bold enough to put their heart and soul into a piece of art. In his writing, Mark aims to use his signature wit to highlight the severity of the more serious and pressing issues of our time, to shine a beacon of light through the darkness. A devoted ally to all, he seeks to inspire and use his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and let his readers know that while everything may not be great right now, one day it can and will be.