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Series / Station Eleven

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"We're the Traveling Symphony. We travel for a reason. We burn the house down, then go! Just try to make the world make sense for a minute. And, you know, they blame you if you stay! But they love you like you saved them when you come back."

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic TV miniseries based on the 2014 novel of the same name. It premiered as an HBO Max exclusive on December 16, 2021.

The story centers on a young girl named Kirsten Raymonde (Matilda Lawler), an aspiring stage actress studying under Arthur Leander (Gael García Bernal), a hollywood superstar trying to get back to his roots in Shakespeare. When Arthur dies on-stage during a performance of King Lear in Chicago, leaving the crew in chaos, she is walked home by a kindly stranger, Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel) — but with her parents missing and a deadly disease outbreak sweeping the city, the two are forced to shelter together to survive.

20 years later, after the outbreak has sent humanity into a new dark age, the now-adult Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) travels the Great Lakes with the Traveling Symphony, a troupe of Shakespearean actors putting on performances for settlements of survivors. After an encounter with a mysterious cult leader known as "The Prophet" (Daniel Zovatto), Kirsten finds herself entangled in a web of conflicts seemingly tied together by one thing: Station Eleven, a sci-fi graphic novel written by Arthur Leander's ex-wife, Miranda Carroll (Danielle Deadwyler).

Told in Anachronic Order, the story explores the lives of the people connected to Arthur before and after the apocalypse, including his best friend Clark (David Wilmot), his second wife Elizabeth (Caitlin Fitzgerald), and his son Tyler (Julian Obradors), as their lives begin to intersect for the first time in two decades.

Tropes in the series:

  • Adaptational Badass: In the book, Elizabeth has a mental breakdown that negatively influences her son and leaves the airport. In the series, she remains stable, stays at the airport, and becomes one of its leaders.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • The Prophet is still a dangerous Cult leader, but he isn't a pedophile and he's portrayed as more conflicted and redeemable than his novel counterpart.
    • Elizabeth and Arthur don't have an affair while Arthur is still married to Miranda, unlike in the book (although Miranda still suspects them of it).
  • Adaptational Location Change: Though characters in both book and show move around the Great Lakes region, most of the pre-apocalyptic action in the book is set in Toronto, while the show sets these scenes in Chicago.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the book, Kirsten and Jeevan meet only briefly at the start of the pandemic. The show makes them one of the central relationships: Jeevan takes Kirsten in and they ride out the first months of the end of the world together. Twenty years later, Kirsten remains greatly shaped by her time with him and their Big Damn Reunion in the finale Bookends the show.
  • Age Cut: In episode 5, from Tyler to the Prophet, revealing they're the same person.
  • Anachronic Order: The series jumps around in time to follow the lives of the main characters both before and after the apocalypse.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: Twenty years after the Georgia Flu, electricity is almost unheard of, transportation is animal or human-powered, and organized agriculture does not seem to have returned, with families and even large settlements growing food in horticultural plots. The material culture of Post-Pandemic society heavily relies on an industry of reusing and recycling Pre-Pandemic material, of which there is an abundance. Among other things, former automobiles are used as horse-drawn wagons by the Traveling Symphony, almost everyone is dressed like they came out of a thrift store (synthetic fabrics seem to be valued), and the actors search for interesting pre-Pandemic items for props and stagecraft.
  • Arc Words: Various quotes from the in-universe Station Eleven serve as these due to their applicability to the lives of the characters familiar with the comic. The most significant is Dr. Eleven's opening monologue:
    "I remember damage. Then escape. Then... adrift in a stranger's galaxy, for a long time. But I’m safe now. I found it again. My home."
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Getting shot in the head with a beanbag round and collapsing unconscious onto concrete are extremely dangerous. Even though Jeevan apparently avoids cracking his skull open on the concrete, he would still almost certainly have a concussion, yet he wakes with perfect lucidity. After the fact, he suffers nothing more than a lump on his forehead.
    • The Museum of Civilization is Properly Paranoid about quarantining outsiders, yet there's no given reason for why their field agent Brian doesn't also have to quarantine after returning from interactions with outsiders.
  • At the Crossroads: The final shot of the series has Kirsten and Jeevan part at a crossroads.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • When we're introduced to Jeevan, he immediately notices that Arthur is having a medical emergency and rushes to the stage, implying that he's got some sort of medical knowledge. Once he arrives, however, he simply turns around and calls for a doctor. It wasn't a special skill that prompted him to rush forward but a simple desire to help.
    • Frank becomes obsessed over a recording he's made and insists on showing it to Kirsten and Jeevan, but it turns out to be some meaningless looped noises, suggesting that he's has gone insane. Then, however, Frank starts rapping to the beat of the recording, revealing that he's actually just become obsessed with creating a song.
    • When both versions of Kirsten watch their final day in Frank's apartment, the younger version expresses a reluctance to watch the upcoming events because they're "gross." Then, in the play, Kirsten uses stage magic to slash Frank's throat, implying that Kirsten finds this part of the play distasteful. However, moments later, actual violence happens.
  • Benevolent Boss: Leon, Miranda's boss at the shipping office. After he gets infected, he spends his last hours trying to prepare escape routes for his employees so that they can survive The Plague.
  • Big Damn Reunion: In the final episode Jeevan and Kirsten reunite after a twenty-year separation. Though they say nothing during the hug, their facial expressions and body language show how happy they are to see each other again.
  • Bookends: The show opens with Arthur's death and Kirsten ending up in Jeevan's care. It ends with Jeevan and Kirsten bidding goodbye with a promise to see each other next year.
  • Central Theme: The healing power of art.
    • Miranda began her graphic novel Station Eleven after losing her entire family and finishing it was cathartic. Both Kirsten and Tyler used the graphic novel to cope with being kids in a society that had since collapsed.
    • The Traveling Symphony make it a point to perform Shakespeare for various little post-apocalyptic towns because they believe "survival is insufficient" and folks deserve to see art.
    • Tyler/the Prophet finally communicates with his mother Elizabeth and father figure Clark when the three are cast in the analogous roles of Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius. Clark complains that it shouldn't be art therapy... but it ultimately fulfills a similar function.
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway
    • Due to Adaptational Angst Upgrade, this becomes Miranda's fate. She survived the death of her entire family in a hurricane, before dying of the Georgia Flu.
    • In episode five the sole survivor of the Gitchegumee airplane, who was apparently immune to the flu, is killed by the residents of the airport in a panic at seeing someone emerge from the contaminated plane.
  • Composite Character: In addition to his novel role, Jeevan fills the role of Kirsten's brother and initial protector, who doesn't appear in the show.
  • Costume Porn: The traveling actors indulge in some very avant garde, DIY costuming for their productions.
  • Dead Star Walking:
    • David Cross appears in a role, and dies by the end of the episode, though he appears in a second episode in a flashback.
    • Subverted by Gael García Bernal, who dies in the very first scene and yet appears in quite a few flashbacks over the course of the series due to its Anachronic Order.
  • Death by Childbirth: Terry/Deborah and Jeevan successfully deliver over a dozen babies with only the supplies from a department store, but one mother, Rose, has a difficult birth. The baby (implied to be Traveling Symphony member Alexandra) survives; Rose doesn't.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The novel's version of Frank kills himself shortly after the plague. The show version expresses an unwillingness to continue living in the post-apocalypse, but is ultimately stabbed by an intruder and bleeds out.
  • Dramatic Irony: When the Traveling Symphony returns to the golf resort, they run toward Gil excitedly to reunite with him, unaware that he's screaming at them to stand still because they're running through an active minefield.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We're introduced to Jeevan immediately reacting to Arthur's medical distress and rushing onto the stage, only to reveal that he's not a doctor. He later notes that he wasn't the first person to realize that something was wrong. He was just the first person to "do something." This urge to help people whether or not he has the skill to do so is what prompts him to take Kirsten under his wing and eventually become a "healer" of the post-apocalypse.
  • The Fagin: The Prophet leads a civilization of children who have Undying Loyalty to him.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Invoked by Clark when he reveals a supposed "Homeland Security agent" was really the airport custodian by asking if no one thought to ask why a Homeland Security team would be in Sevren City, Michigan.
  • Famed In-Story:
    • Elizabeth and Arthur are both famous actors before the apocalypse. Twenty years later, people still vaguely recall that Elizabeth used to be famous.
    • Deborah, the disgraced doctor turned post-apocalypse OBGYN, is famed 20 years into the apocalypse as "Saint Deborah" and has the community St. Deborah by the Sea named in her honor.
  • Fanservice: Alexandra and Kirsten spend a fair amount of time in tight clothing. It's implied at bras aren't particularly popular at this point in society.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Clark repeatedly insists that he's not jealous of Arthur's success and ease with people, but of course he is.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The passengers on the Gitchegumee airplane die onboard the plane rather than leave and spread the virus. In the final episode, it's revealed that the pilot may have forced them to make this sacrifice on the advice of Miranda.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Frank and Jeevan speak to each other in Hindi when they want to keep something from Kirsten.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Clark starts chugging liquor after his conversation with Arthur heats up in spite of being The Teetotaler. We see a lot of people, Clark included, drinking booze during the start of the pandemic as well.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Frank’s death weighs heavily on both Jeevan and Kirsten and each of them blame themselves.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Used sparingly despite the pandemic setting. Most prominently heard during Tim's last voice mail to Clark and conversation with Miranda.
  • Intergenerational Friendship:
    • Arthur Leander had a genuine bond with Kirsten, one of the child actresses playing his onstage daughter.
    • After the apocalypse happened little Kirsten depended on Jeevan, an adult, for survival.
      Kirsten: I was lucky for a kid. I had a grownup who cared about me.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: The Traveling Symphony's motto is "Survival Is Insufficient". They travel around Lake Michigan performing Shakespeare for post-apocalyptic towns because they believe in the transformative power of art following disaster.
  • Karma Houdini: Tyler is at least partially responsible for sending children to their deaths using bombs and the resulting murder of Gil, and is fully responsible for the planned attack on the airport, but gets off essentially free in the end.
  • Kavorka Man: In spite of his lack of natural charisma being one of Clark's defining character traits, his boyfriend Tim is much younger than him and looks like a model, while Clark himself is aging and rather average in appearance.
  • Meet Cute: Or rather violently. Lara first meets Jeevan by shooting him in the head with a beanbag round and knocking him unconscious. He then wakes up and hits her over the head with a club, knocking her unconscious. They later start a relationship.
  • Off the Wagon: In spite of being nine years sober, Clark starts chugging liquor shortly after reuniting with Arthur and later goes on a bender. Due to the Anachronic Order, we see him drinking liquor before discovering that he used to be on the wagon.
  • One Degree of Separation:
    • Clark is shocked to learn that Kirsten, the actress he's heard so much about, was briefly a protege of his frenemy Arthur Leander. This association is also how Kirsten knows of Elizabeth and Tyler, Arthur's ex-wife and son.
    • It's implied that Kirsten's first guardian Jeevan delivered Alex, who grows up as Kirsten's surrogate sister in the Traveling Symphony.
  • Parental Neglect: Hinted at with Kirsten. Arthur at one point tells Miranda that Kirsten's life is "sad", but what's far more telling is the fact that on opening night of a big, much-publicized production, neither of Kirsten's parents are in attendance (nor does she seem to have expected them to be).
  • Race Lift: The book version of Arthur Leander is unlikely to share his show counterpart's Latino (specifically Mexican) ethnicity, since he's mentioned to be a native of a small town in British Columbia.
  • Ragnarök Proofing:
    • Some clothes on the characters are name brand and are absolutely unfaded 20 years after production stopped on them.
    • The residents of the golf resort eat MREs that are apparently still unspoiled. While MREs have a shelf life of many years, 20 years is quite unlikely.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: Twenty years after a plague wiped out the vast majority of humanity, nature has started creeping into abandoned buildings. In one scene in the first episode, Jeevan and Kirsten walk by a tidy house before flash-forwards to twenty years later show it covered in vegetation.
  • Resentful Guardian: Downplayed. Jeevan is very kind about it, but it's obvious that suddenly being responsible for a little girl he didn't even know before the outbreak and societal collapse takes a toll on him. However, he still deeply regrets their separation and when they reunite, it's clear that he held no ill will and even spoke of Kirsten fondly to his family.
    Jeevan: I was only supposed to walk you home.
  • The Reveal:
    • What happened to Frank after Jeevan and Kirsten left his apartment: He was already dead, having been stabbed by an intruder.
    • Why Jeevan and Kirsten separated: Jeevan was wounded by a wolf and rescued; by the time he made it back she had left.
    • Who the Prophet really is: Elizabeth's son, Tyler.
    • Why the Gitchegumee airplane never disembarked: Miranda convinced the pilot to hold everyone inside.
  • Rhyming Names: Jeevan's childhood nickname was "Leavin' Jeevan."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Tyler's nanny ditches the family while they wait at the airport. We never learn her fate.
  • Serious Business:
    • Miranda is outraged that Arthur showed off some of her work to his friends. She pours wine onto the carpet, burns down his pool house, and dumps him.
    • Theater production is serious business after the end. The Traveling Symphony spends all of its time producing plays, performing for small communities, and having very important arguments about their artistic direction. Much of the conflict in the series involves or is directly resolved by theater.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There are references to Shakespeare in every episode. Various characters will occasionally throw out quotes to Shakespeare even when they're not discussing their production.
    • Dan's audition monologue is from Independence Day.
    • When Clark and Arthur talk about playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, their comments (such as the interchangeability of the parts being the point, and that one of them invents the sandwich) make it clear that they're talking about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, not Hamlet. Episode four's title is "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't Dead."
    • Frank's rap is mostly a cover of "Excursions" by A Tribe Called Quest.
    • Kirsten watches the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Conscience of the King," an episode that references Hamlet.
    • The Severn Airport flight tower has an Airplane! mug in it.
    • Jeevan and Kirsten watch Pretty in Pink on their last night together. A song from the soundtrack plays in the same episode.
  • Show Within a Show: Miranda's Station 11 graphic novel plays a major role in the post-apocalyptic world. It's frequently quoted from.
  • Spot the Imposter: Kirsten seems to accept David's talk of being from another community. But when alone together...
    Kirsten: It's pronounced "Mack-in-aw" not "Mack-in-ack", the Island. Chicken of the Woods don't grow up North.'re creepy.
  • Talking to the Dead: Jeevan eventually starts talking to and hallucinating his dead siblings.
  • Tap on the Head: Jeevan is shot with a beanbag round to the head and gets knocked out cold. He then hits Lara over the head and knocks her out cold.
  • Theatre Is True Acting:
    • Arthur is a famous movie star who has become frustrated and disillusioned with his career. It's mentioned that he takes the title role in a buzzy Chicago production of King Lear because he wanted to reconnect with the craft of acting.
    • The events 20 years post-apocalypse are all about how theatre is a life-affirming art.
  • Time-Shifted Actor:
    • In-Universe, Kirsten is playing "Young Goneril" in the production of King Lear Arthur is leadingnote .
    • Kirsten is played by Matilda Lawler in the scenes following the Georgia Flu, and Mackenzie Davis in the scenes set 20 years later.
    • Julian Obradors and Daniel Zovatto similarly play the young and old versions of Arthur's son Tyler respectively.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The Shakespeare scenes can go on a little long even for those who understand the references. The plot is even resolved by casting characters in Hamlet, making them think about their actions.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: All of the violence that is perpetrated is portrayed in a very unglamorous light. When Jeevan and the intruder fight to the death, the camera wanders away from the brawl so we only hear the desperate grunting and thuds for most of its duration.
  • Wasteland Elder: Clark, who was middle-aged before The Plague, runs a community at an airport, like in the book. Unlike in the book, he's more paranoid and stern toward outsiders and shares power with his longtime acquaintance Elizabeth and Miles, an airport employee.
  • We Interrupt This Program: The first true sign to the folks inside an airport things are going to hell is when a newscaster stops her broadcast to tell her husband to get their kids and get to his parent's house before removing her mic and walking offset on live TV.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: A couple of episodes are set twenty years ago:
    • The entirety of "Goodbye My Damaged Home" takes place while Kirsten, delirious from poison, starts looking back on her time with Jeevan and Frank with new clarity. The audience is taken along for the ride through flashbacks. Kirsten picks up on things that weren't clear to her at the time.
    • Except for one scene at the very end, "Dr. Chaudhary" shows Jeevan and Kirsten after leaving Frank's apartment. It tells the audience how Jeevan got separated from Kirsten and where he ended up.


Video Example(s):


A Wordless Reunion

Jeevan and Kirsten don't have to say anything for the audience to understand how happy they are to see each other after two decades.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BigDamnReunion

Media sources: