HBO Max’s dystopian series “Station Eleven” is a truly unique watch that strikes different chords after the global experience of the last two years. Adapted from Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel, the series presents a dangerous virus that wipes out most of the earth’s population within a short while and the aftermath of such a pandemic on those who managed to survive. Beneath this base plot, though, there are other major discussions, the most important of which, in my personal opinion, is the immortality of art, and also its triumph, in some senses. The plot undoubtedly has certain areas unexplored and far-fetched, but “Station Eleven” more than makes up for it with its magnificent presentation, its gradual unfolding of characters, and the themes it brings to the fore.
‘Station Eleven’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
On a winter night in Chicago, Jeevan Chaudhury and his girlfriend attend a theater production of King Lear, performed by a celebrated actor named Arthur Leander. However, in the middle of the show, Arthur falters and stumbles across the stage clutching his chest, and while others think it to be part of the performance, Jeevan identifies it as signs of a heart attack. Despite not having any experience or knowledge of the medical field at all, the young man jumps in to try and save the actor, but as medical help arrives, he is announced to be dead. Jeevan spots a young girl by the stage, who is part of the theater group, and keeps her company as she looks visibly upset by all that has happened. This girl, Kirsten Raymonde, looks to be mostly left alone by everyone else, and her parents are nowhere to be seen either. Without thinking much, Jeevan readily agrees to accompany young Kirsten home, but on the way, he receives nightmarish news on the phone. The spread of a deadly virus had already been heard of in the news for a few days, and now Jeevan’s doctor sister Siya informed him of the true nature of the disease. Siya tells her brother that there is no chance she will ever see her family again, owing to the fast-spreading disease that kills people within a few days, if not hours, and she also tells Jeevan to go over to their brother Frank’s house and keep themselves safe from the virus. After recovering from an initial panic attack from the news, Jeevan decides to follow her suggestion, but going over to Kirsten’s house, they do not find her parents. Now quite confused about what he should do with a young eight-or nine-year-old girl, Jeevan keeps her along for the time being and leaves messages for her parents on their phone numbers. After a grand shopping spree of about six carts full of groceries and supplies, the two go to Frank’s house, where Jeevan describes everything to his brother. Despite Frank’s disbelief and disinterest in the whole matter, Jeevan tapes up air vents and locks the main door shut to avoid any chance of the deadly virus entering their apartment. Within some time, they even see an airplane just fall out of the sky and crash into the nearby harbor. Finally, eighty days after the virus has run rampant all over the world and has turned Chicago into a snow-covered post-apocalyptic city, Jeevan and Kirsten are seen leaving the apartment, with survival gear and supplies on their back. Still together, the man and the young girl now set out in search of more supplies and a possible new life.
What Happens To The World Twenty Years After The Virus Outbreak?
In many ways, it was Jeevan Chaudhury’s random act of kindness on the night of the outbreak, and his continued support for Kirsten even when life got difficult, that shaped the events of the world twenty years after. During their almost three-month-long stay at Frank’s apartment, the three bonded with each other like a family, but not without misunderstandings. Frank used to be a journalist who had been injured by a bomb blast during his dangerous work, and this had left him with a crutch for the rest of his life. Struggling to cope with this new change, and also from having left his journalistic profession, Frank had taken up ghost-writing and, along with it, an addiction to hard drugs. Despite having kept himself away from drug abuse for some time, he had initially not wanted Jeevan to join him in his apartment, perhaps because of the judgment his brother might pass on him. Weeks later, when Jeevan finds drugs in one of the cabinets, this is exactly what happens, and the two have a huge disagreement over it, even though Jeevan’s advice was only out of concern for his brother. Gradually, over time, as electricity and all its advantages were discontinued, as there was nobody left alive to run the plants, Jeevan grew delirious and would often speak to imaginary people like his dead sister. Having been very close to Arthur Leander, as she was his understudy, Kirsten had been gifted a graphic novel called Station Eleven by the man, and it is with this book that the young girl spent most of her time. She had also lent it to Frank, and the two would often talk about the story and its protagonist, Captain Eleven. Kirsten had finally decided to stage a play based on one of the scenes in the book inside their apartment with the help of the two brothers, and she got busy preparing for it. At that point, Jeevan wanted to leave the apartment in search of food, as their own supplies were getting very low, but ultimately decided to stay back one more day on Kirsten’s insistence. The three enjoy playing out the scene with props and costumes, all made by Kirsten, and share a wonderful moment, but this is soon interrupted by grave danger.
A stranger walks into their apartment, with a knife in his hand, and tells them to leave the place as this new man wants to move in here. Jeevan agrees, as he wants to avoid hostility, but Frank disagrees and is immediately stabbed by the stranger. Jeevan now fights back and kills him, but Frank dies from the wound. Even more shaken up than before, Jeevan and Kirsten leave the apartment as they had planned, and Kirsten secretly picks up the stranger’s knife, a weapon that becomes part of her character from here on. The two survivors move towards Lake Michigan and find numerous deserted houses, one of which they now use as their shelter. They also find guns and gradually start to make use of such weapons in order to protect themselves and survive in the city that has now turned into a wilderness. Kirsten learns to use guns and picks up knife-throwing skills to hunt wild animals like deer and wolves for meat, while Jeevan is a bit slower in adapting to this new life. However, Kirsten stays engrossed with Station Eleven and often makes time to read it even in the middle of scavenging trips, much to the annoyance of Jeevan. On one such scavenging trip, Jeevan is attacked by another survivor and has to protect himself on his own, as Kirsten, who was supposed to be providing cover for him, has started reading her book. This makes Jeevan wrap up Station Eleven in a plastic bag and throw it away when Kirsten is not looking, but the girl is terribly angry when she finds out. Kirsten throws a fit and almost forces Jeevan to bring the book back even though it is late at night, and the man, too, feels sorry for her and leaves the house to fetch it. However, he is attacked by wolves on the way and is bitten on his leg. Although Jeevan somehow manages to survive, Kirsten does not find him when she goes looking the next morning, and she has no option but to move away with her Station Eleven book that she manages to find in the snow.
Much later, in Station Eleven’s 9th episode, it is revealed that Jeevan had actually survived the wolf attack and was rescued by a woman named Lara, who took him to a community of survivors. Jeevan had earlier found radio equipment with which he had contacted a doctor and had even lied to her, saying that he was a doctor too, and since then, this community had been searching for him. Nestled in a large shopping complex, this was a group of doctors who helped pregnant women give birth to babies after the pandemic, children that are called “post-pan” in this world. After recovering from his wounds, for which he also has one of his feet decapitated, Jeevan starts to help around by aiding women to give birth. Finally, after some weeks, Lara readies herself to leave the camp after having given birth to her baby, and Jeevan, who had by now grown close to her, decides to join her. Lara had earlier tried looking for Kirsten on Jeevan’s behalf, but no trace of her could be found. Jeevan also goes back to their old house and searches for the girl, but with no sign of her, he leaves with Lara to settle down in Delano. Twenty years later, Jeevan and Lara are seen together living a happy family life, still in Delano, with three kids of their own. Jeevan now practices medicine and also does house-calls, and he is seen preparing to travel somewhere as part of his professional call.
On the other hand, young Kirsten went around places, surviving on her own for a few days before she came across a woman named Sarah, who happened to be a conductor in a group called the Travelling Symphony. This group of nomadic actors goes around a cycle of places around Lake Michigan to perform Shakespearean plays for the entertainment of the remaining survivors of the world, much like theater parties would go around performing a few centuries back. With a connection to Shakespearean theater since her very childhood, Kirsten obviously joins this group, and by year twenty (meaning twenty years after the pandemic), she has become the best actor in the Traveling Symphony. During their travels, the group is approached by two sets of strangers, both of whom raise suspicion in Kirsten’s mind. First, there is a middle-aged man with long hair and a young boy who he claims to be his son, who initially tells them sad tales about their lives, but Kirsten is very intrigued and cautious when she hears the man quote a line from her favorite Station Eleven book. Till now, Kirsten had been aware that there was only one copy of the book and that only she had read it. When she questions the man about it, he does not answer but instead threatens to bring harm to her friends from the group. The woman stabs him but is unable to kill him as he disappears from the camp by morning. Moving to the next town in their cycle, Kirsten and her friend from the group, Alex, find a poster that reveals that the man who had visited them was a dangerous cult leader known as the Prophet, who brainwashes children and uses them to carry out his plans of terror. Kirsten and her group now move to an old golf course named Pingtree to meet their old acquaintance, Gil, who had been a co-founder of the Travelling Symphony and also an ex-lover of Sarah. Gil and his new wife also talk about the terrorist acts of the Prophet, who had recently taken away all the children in their own community, and Kirsten grows warier of Alex’s interest in this strange and dangerous man. Attacks are finally launched on the group itself, when a couple of children, armed with mines and bombs all over their bodies, enter the house and kill Gil. Having retrieved her copy of Station Eleven, which she had hidden in Gil’s house, Kirsten now leaves the place and her group in search of this dangerous Prophet.
The other stranger who had come to meet the Travelling Symphony claimed to be an agent representing another community of survivors called the Museum of Civilization, and he was there to officially invite the actors’ group to be the first-ever performers at the Museum of Civilization. Although the group was used to being invited by communities to perform, Sarah denied taking her group to this new community simply because it was not close to the cycle of cities that she wanted to perform in around Lake Michigan. This agent, also, was not ready to hear no for an answer, and his persistent approach to the group at each of their stops suggested that the community he was representing really wanted the Travelling Symphony to visit them. Many years earlier, the renowned actor Arthur Leander had a very close friend called Clark Thompson, who had once been an actor himself before stepping into business and finance. Over the years, Clark had grown distant from Arthur as well, with growing differences between them, but had never fallen out of love with him. After Arthur’s sudden death, Clark was on his way to Chicago and also noticed the friend’s current wife, Elizabeth, and their young boy, Tyler, on the same flight. Their flight, however, did not make it to Chicago but landed in Severn City instead, because of the rampaging virus outbreak. As all other flights were canceled, and also due to an utter fallout of administration, the passengers on the flight remained locked up inside the airport to save themselves from the virus. A second plane also landed on the runway in a short while, but the passengers inside it were never allowed to leave the plane and enter the airport, as they were suspected to be carrying the virus. As days went by, Clark and the other people trapped inside the airport complex seemed to lose their sense of panic and fear and began to get used to this new life. Over time, as all chances of escaping the place went out of the picture, Clark rallied all the survivors and emphasized the need to preserve themselves and start afresh when the virus outbreak would be over. A security personnel named Miles and Arthur’s estranged widow Elizabeth supported the man’s idea, and together, these three quickly placed themselves at the head of this new community. Years later, Clark Thompson started collecting old artifacts and instruments from the pre-pandemic era, such as radio transistors, music players, and handheld gaming devices, to put up at a museum he was building in the traffic tower of the airport. This quickly gave the surviving community its name—the Museum of Civilization.
“Station Eleven” also introduces another extremely important character into the mix, an artist woman named Miranda Carroll. When a young woman, Miranda, was approached by Arthur Leander one evening, and despite her initial unwillingness, the two gradually grew close. Within some time, Arthur married Miranda, and she also became very good friends with her husband’s best friend at the time, Clark Thompson. However, Miranda had her own mental turmoil, as the woman still could not get over the trauma of suddenly losing all her family together in a cyclone when she was a young girl. Despite her professional field being logistics, Miranda’s passion had always been drawing and illustrating. She had started working on her own project, one that she did not allow even Arthur to see, and one that somewhat led to the end of her marriage with the actor. Hating herself and the world even more than ever, she burned down all her drawings and illustrations till the time before leaving Arthur’s house. Many years later, in 2020, she had finally finished her book, a graphic novel she had named Station Eleven, and had gotten five prints of it done. One of these she had given to Arthur, as she went to meet him, and the actor had in turn gifted this to Kirsten. When the man mentioned how his own son, Tyler, would also like the book, Miranda gave him one more copy to give to his son. Eight days later, when the virus struck Chicago, Miranda was in Singapore for a business meeting. The Asian country was already on high alert due to the virus’ origin being in Asia itself, and Miranda was soon instructed by her superior to leave the nation secretly on a ship. For reasons more than one, Miranda decided not to leave but to stay put in her hotel room, where she rapidly moved towards her death. With all the effects that Miranda’s graphic novel has had on survivors later on in the world, it might seem that the woman was the source of all evil. “Station Eleven” finally reveals how wrong such an interpretation would be, as Miranda is seen calling up the pilot of the second plane that has landed in Severn City after she gets to know for certain that the passengers inside it definitely have the virus. She pleads with the pilot to not let the passengers out, saying that they have already lost their lives and it would be better if they agreed to keep the others outside safe. In a heartfelt plea, Miranda suggests how she often felt that she did not need to survive the cyclone, and that the painful survival had created suffering in her and others’ lives, and the pilot also agrees to remain on the runway till their supplies last and wait for their death.
Who Is The Prophet, And What Is His View Of The World?
Although it is revealed a bit later by ‘Station Eleven’ directly, it is not too hard to connect that Arthur Leander’s own son, Tyler, is the Prophet waging war against other survivors of the apocalypse, twenty years after. Tyler had had a disturbed childhood from the very beginning, as his parents were breaking their marriage when he was a young boy. As a child, he is always seen engrossed in his own mobile phone or gaming device, with a pair of headphones keeping out every noise from the outside world. Despite Arthur being a really bad father, who was always absent from his young child’s life, Tyler had been very excited to go see his father play King Lear in Chicago on that fateful night. But he was denied this chance, too, as Elizabeth; also a renowned actress at the time, could not take him there. The suddenness of Arthur’s death at first, and then the apocalypse, made Tyler even more reclusive, and the boy hardly spoke to others at the Severn City airport when they were first trapped. Although he had known Clark as his father’s friend, Tyler did not speak much to him either, who was now being termed his uncle. One evening, while playing around the many connecting tunnels of the airport, young Tyler spotted a survivor coming out of the second airplane that was still sitting on the runway weeks after it had landed. The boy helped this man and even took him inside the airport building, much to the shock and horror of the others. Although Tyler tried to explain how the man had survived the virus attack for weeks, meaning that he was naturally immune somehow, the survivor was shot dead by Miles, and Tyler and Elizabeth were sent to quarantine for over a month on their own. Shortly before this, Elizabeth also gave the boy a copy of Station Eleven, which his father had sent him. She also lied that Arthur would often try to contact the boy after their divorce, but she would not let any of this reach him. Despite Arthur never having tried to make any such contact, Elizabeth takes the blame on her own, and Tyler now starts to think of his mother as selfish and develops hatred towards her. With ideas of Station Eleven buzzing in his head, he one day hears Clark saying that he wanted to get rid of Elizabeth and Tyler, and this makes the boy cross all boundaries. He puts a plane on fire and makes it appear as if he has killed himself, but he actually escapes.
With the ideas from the graphic novel, he gathers children born after the pandemic and starts a cult called the Undersea to get rid of all survivors of the pandemic. With his own past being the ugliest and darkest part of his life, Tyler, as the Prophet, preaches that everything of the past and everyone predating the pandemic should be destroyed. The little children, who quickly become brainwashed into believing in such a purpose, flock to cause harm to survivors, and in many ways, the Undersea becomes like a new religion in the post-apocalyptic world. When Kirsten goes looking for the Prophet and his cult inside the forest, the agent from the Museum of Civilization returns to Sarah and the rest of the Travelling Symphony, and this time he almost takes them hostage and takes them to the airport complex to perform a Shakespearean play for the community. Kirsten finds the Prophet, and when the man tells her how his friends have been abducted by the Museum, she agrees to work with him. Tyler tells her that he, too, intends to visit the airport to retrieve a device he had left behind and that he knows how to enter the heavily guarded compound, and Kirsten follows him along to save her friends.
‘Station Eleven’ Ending Explained: Why Does The Undersea Not Attack The Severn Airport At The End?
After reaching the airport, Kirsten and Tyler pose as actors and manage to enter the compound. Kirsten sees her entire group inside, living quite happily as they wait for their quarantine period to get over. Despite Clark’s belief in Tyler as an actual actor, Miles immediately suspects the true identity of the man and informs Elizabeth of this. As Miles abducts Tyler and keeps him in one of the holding cells, Elizabeth tries to go talk to her but to no avail. Tyler escapes the confinement and also takes Kirsten along with him out of the compound, where he tells her his entire life’s story. As he is soon found out by the airport guards and Clark himself, Tyler blows up the entire traffic tower that housed the Museum of artifacts from before. The man is quickly taken hostage, and Clark also blindly runs into the tower to save his collection, burning his hands in the process. Elizabeth calls for an emergency doctor to visit and heal the man, and Jeevan Choudhury, now a practicing doctor, arrives at the airport. Seeing the huge fire set in the night sky, hundreds of Undersea children now start walking towards the compound, armed with bombs, and wait for their Prophet’s signal to attack.
Although Tyler himself had not witnessed it before he fled the airport as a boy, he knew very well what was about to happen—Clark and Elizabeth would definitely marry to become King and Queen of the new community. And here was the rebellious young prince, Tyler, who wanted to avenge his father’s death, and more importantly, wanted to avenge all the hatred and jealousy, and abandonment he believed he was subjected to in his childhood. In this sense, “Station Eleven” does become an entire retelling of Hamlet through Tyler’s characterization, and the series does not want to be smug about its reference either. Instead, the show implements and brings in Hamlet very directly into the fore, and it is through Hamlet that Tyler can be reached by his mother again. After Kirsten listens to Tyler’s story, she too realizes that the play would provide an appropriate closure for the man’s rage, and she quickly takes up the role of the director for the performance. She casts Elizabeth as Gertrude, and when she reveals her connection with Arthur to Elizabeth and Clark, the man agrees to play out the role of Claudius. With the parental figures now set, it was obvious that Kirsten’s Hamlet would be Tyler, and he, too, agrees. Once the quarantine period is over, the play is staged, and it is now that Tyler expresses his rage against his mother and mostly his uncle, Clark, through Shakespeare’s immortal dialogues. It is also now, in a tremendous theatrical manner, that Tyler forgives when he hears of Clark’s love for his father and spares his life, despite having a real dagger ready in his hand. In a way, Tyler makes the play and art as a whole almost like a dummy to thwart his unresolved childhood grievances and finally learn to let go. In the end, he asks his mother to leave with him, and she agrees to do so.
Sometime after the play, Kirsten sees a young girl from the Undersea who is awaiting her Prophet’s signal to attack, and the woman shows her Station Eleven, which she had been carrying with her. She explains how all the ideas and plans that the young children believed to be divine messages were actually from a book, a graphic novel, that had only been misinterpreted by the disillusioned Tyler, who kept raging at the world. The young girl shows immediate interest in the book; she snatches it and runs away, and the Underseas never receive any signal to attack. Tyler resolves his personal issues with his mother and happily leaves the airport along with Elizabeth and all the children who had gathered to attack. Clark, too, supports the woman’s decision to leave, and he expresses his wish to keep in contact with them. After the play, Kirsten too met Jeevan very unexpectedly, when the doctor was preparing to leave after treating his patient. The two reunited after almost twenty years, and their moment of recognition is simply heartwarming. Neither Jeevan nor Kirsten needs to introduce themselves, as both their appearances have changed with age, as they first struggle to believe and then embrace each other.
The next morning, when the Traveling Symphony leaves the Museum of Civilisation, Jeevan too makes his way out with them. Tyler and the Undersea also make their exit at the same time, along with Elizabeth and also their newest member, Alex from the Symphony. Despite her exit, she and Kirsten profess their love for each other and approve of their decisions, as all the misunderstandings of earlier have now been resolved. Kirsten and Jeevan walk through a forest, with the rest of the acting group some distance ahead of them, and the woman invites Jeevan to come to watch their show at the airport next year, as she has added this stop to their cycle. Jeevan agrees to bring along his family as well, and then they walk on their separate paths. The farewell that both of them had wished for each other finally happened at last, after twenty years of being accidentally separated. Both realize how they have two very different lives now, with their own families, and there is no wish to return to their old relationship at all. “Station Eleven,” after all, is a story of letting go, of acceptance, of human loss, and of new beginnings.
“Station Eleven” is a 2021 Drama Fantasy Series created by Patrick Somerville.