What happens when the world comes to an end? What would you do if that were your last day on Earth? In this comedic and optimistic take on a very grim scenario, we explore what it means to be human in our final days.
The “the world is always ending book” is a hopeful and human take on the end of the world. It’s a narrative that we can all relate to because it’s not just about the end of humanity, but also about love and family. The author uses his own personal story as an example to help us understand what it means to be human in this day and age.
It’s December 2021, and mankind is in the aftermath, if not the middle, of a life-altering epidemic. COVID-19 continues to have an impact on our daily lives, causing not just infection fears but also supply chain and scarcity challenges as we strive to move ahead in a world that is both the same and different at the same time. While it may seem strange and even surreal to be considering a book written before the pandemic about a world more dramatically impacted by a hauntingly similar disease as live-action entertainment, don’t let that stop you from tuning in to HBO Max’s adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s massively popular 2014 novel about life after a catastrophic pandemic, Station Eleven, as live-action entertainment, don’t let that stop you from tuning in. The adaptation of Station Eleven is a frightening, at times beautiful, and quietly inspiring narrative about more than just survival. It’s a story about hope and the things we cling to, and it’s without a doubt one of the finest television shows of the year.
Time is treated extremely smoothly in HBO’s Station Eleven, which is fairly apt. https://.com/tv-shows/news/hbo-max-releases-new-station-eleven-trailer/ With terrible speed and effectiveness, wipes out the majority of mankind. The rapidity with which the world collapses is brought to a climax in the first episode, which begins with a death unrelated to the narrative’s apocalypse but on which most of the remainder of the plot is based. While acting King Lear on stage, fading actor Arthur Leander (Gael Garca Bernal) falls and dies of a heart attack. It drives a member of the audience, Jeevan (Himesh Patel), to attempt to save his life, eventually becoming the unwitting guardian of a young actress called Kirsten Raymonde (the child version played by Matilda Lawler). What was supposed to be a weird and challenging evening quickly becomes a life-altering experience when Jeevan’s medical sister informs him that the illness that has been making news is much more dangerous than they imagined. People are dying in a matter of hours, so she advises Jeevan to seek refuge with their brother, Frank (Nabhaan Rizwan). Before hunkering down for the end of the world, he takes Kirsten on a scary supplies hoarding expedition.
The first episode, directed by Hero Murai, is heady and disorienting, but necessary, and if you can get through it — one must recognize that we’ve all experienced our own small end of the world with our own pandemic, so elements of this first episode are almost too real for comfort, despite being beautifully done — the rest of the series is a little easier to stomach. It also beautifully establishes the tone for the rest of the film, both visually and aurally. We follow a grown-up Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) as a traveling performer in the Traveling Symphony, a group that delivers Shakespeare the last vestiges of civilization. The plot continues to weave back and forth in time, providing glimpses into our protagonists’ early post-pandemic experiences as well as fleshing out the lives of others. It’s a bit unsettling at times, but only in the manner that time loses meaning after a traumatic event. It’s an unusual approach, but it enables the series to keep the deep character study component of Mandel’s book despite the adaptation’s extreme modifications. Yes, this series alters the book in significant ways, which may be difficult for lovers of the novel to accept at first, but they are important and really well done. Some characters’ relationships are a little different, while others’ characterizations change. Even the story’s antagonist’s — if you can call them that — motive is changed in a manner that is nearly more disturbing. None of the alterations, however, distract from Station Eleven’s essential meaning. It’s a narrative about connection, hope, the things we hang onto, and transcending survival at its heart, and it’s all evident in this film. Survival is inadequate, as the Traveling Symphony’s slogan states.
The superb performances in every part in the series are what make those issues so vivid and real. As Miranda, Arthur’s first wife and the writer of the Station Eleven comic book that is so important to Kirsten’s life, Danielle Deadwyler gives one of the best performances of the season, as we see her poised to come full circle possibly a moment too late. Davis captures the wonder and resilience Lawler so masterfully imbues in the younger version of the character in her portrayal of Kirsten, a young woman whose existence is shaped by pain but whose heart is not closed to hope and joy. Patel’s Jeevan adds a human element to the plot, leading viewers on a journey that seems eerily similar to our own, filled with doubt, a feeling of obligation to keep pushing ahead, and, finally, love.
The best performances at Station Eleven, on the other hand, aren’t always typical performances. They’re from a show inside a performance, so to speak. The art is a character in and of itself. Instead of Shakespeare, a potential new Symphony member auditions using Bill Pullman’s monologue from Independence Day. Young Kirsten crafts a play based on the Station Eleven comic and has it performed with incredible gravity by Frank and Jeevan. And then there are the Hamlet performances, which serve as both entertainment and a means of absorbing the world, a reminder that art can be therapy, an anchor, and a celebration all at once, much like Station Eleven.
While some may find pandemic entertainment tiresome, and others may be concerned about adaptations of renowned literature, Station Eleven is a unique production that not only rises above, but genuinely shines. This is a series that transcends the time period in which it is launched and manages to build on the original material while never losing sight of what makes it so popular. The outcome is an unforgettable and honest celebration of the best of the human spirit, one of the year’s greatest television shows, and a work of art in its own right.
5 out of 5 stars
On December 16th, HBO Max will premiere Station Eleven.
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