Station eleven comes at a strange time of the pandemic – but then I think that at any time during the pandemic would be a strange time. But I have often wondered about the decision to premiere the series during the holiday season and into the new year. While the first few episodes were unwelcome reminders of the scariest parts of 2020, the recent episodes strike the show openly and let glimpses of hope and light shine through.
Am I mad because of the show or because of the season? It is hard to say. Even the decision to measure episodes two or three at a time changes the nature of viewing. The cliffhanger at the end of episode six, “Survival Is Insufficient,” with Kirsten attacked by poison darts, is quickly rejected in her hallucination-cum memory in episode seven, “Goodbye My Damaged Home,” as her younger self gives her the antidote.
By avoiding cliffhangers to capture viewers – as they did last week – the writers become present in the emotions of the latter section, which is focused on Frank.
I love, love, love how the show deals with Frank, especially compared to the book. I hated how doomed Frank’s character was in the book to sit in a wheelchair, though it was a tragic way to emphasize how these apocalyptic fantasies in science fiction usually omit handicapped characters. But thanks to Kirsten joining the group and Frank and Jeevan having a sister, Frank’s personality acquires a complexity and nuance that is so compelling to see. It helps that the actor who plays Frank, Nabhaan Rizwan, can get a simple look full of excitement and emotion.
The section is intended as a memory seen through the eyes of 8-year-old Kirsten, but newly understood by the 28-year-old Kirsten. It’s a nice memory trick, akin to BoJack Horseman episode, “The arrow of time, ”Which is told from the perspective of BoJack’s mother, who was confused by her dementia. Both of these shows play with memory with an undercurrent of psychological understanding. Of course, a 28-year-old Kirsten can tell that Frank did not accompany them because he was already gone, even though 8-year-old Kirsten could not – or could not – put it together. She also recently understands Jevan’s discomfort and fear with the situation, now that she feels a mirror image of it with Alex and that travel symphony.
Ah, Jeevan. Jeevan was my favorite character in the novel, not least because Native Americans rarely even show up in apocalyptic movies, but his characterization here is much less scattershot and more simply scary. He has a very strong “younger brother energy”, which is illustrated in how Frank encourages him to be brave towards Kirsten and how Jeevan talks to himself, as if he is talking to his sister Sia when he tries to calm down or find out things.
Meanwhile, Frank acts as, to quote Pacific Rim, “a fixed point.” He is strong for both Kirsten and Jeevan, although he himself struggles with heroin withdrawal and has his own untreated pain, the emotional wound from his injury forces him from being an investigative journalist with Vanity Fair to an autobiographical ghostwriter for the rich and famous. I wish we could just have a spin-off where Frank lives, in a manageable, non-pandemic world. To once again bring a parallel to Pacific Rim, Frank is an older brother whose weighty responsibilities mean he feels the need to hold Jeevan at arm’s length.
Again, the timing of “Goodbye, my damaged home. “ How many of us are with, or want to be with, our families now? Especially after more than a year under lockdown. How many of us, on the other hand, have been with our families for so long that we are frustrated that all our movements are linked to theirs?
The episode counts down to Kirsten’s acting, based on Station eleven cartoon. She gives Frank the death scene that feels less like a clumsy warning and more like her childhood self picking up evidence that Frank does not necessarily do so. will have to stay in this type of world. The way his death unfolds is a surprise to all of us, including those of us who read the book: because Jeevan moved the barricade to go outside, a man breaks in and stabs Frank before Jeevan kills him. It’s the knife that Kirsten eventually carries with her everywhere. The moment is a majestic piece of drama, as in a real play – Jeevan holds Frank’s upcoming dying body and refuses to accept it, as Frank is stabbed and pulls out the knife himself. And then Jeevan, who just a day ago discussed throwing himself out of an open window, has to take Kirsten and go.
You will notice that I do not go too deep into section six, “Survival Is Insufficient,” which starts a story that we will probably see more of next week. It’s also a minor episode in every way. The symphony rolls after Gil’s death, but we do not get a good sense of what everyone knows. Alex returns without noticing that Kirsten is gone. The symphony is occupied by the man who wants them to go to the museum (as mentioned in the comments of the last summary, I mixed the museum and the Prophet’s group). And after she finds marked graves for the symphony, Kirsten goes to find the Prophet.
There’s a scene that stood out to me. The Prophet uses Station eleven cartoon as a bonfire story with the kids, but tells Kirsten that he has lost the book. He also tells Kirsten how he got it and how his father’s first wife, Miranda, knew Spanish, but his father did not know it, and he complained about her to his father over the phone in Spanish. This was a scene in “Hurricane”, the Miranda-centered episode. I’m sure Spanish speakers had one over us on it, but now we know Miranda had one over all of us, even then. But how does this child know?
But the striking thing is that Kirsten does not take the lid. And why should she? The Prophet has killed her friends and raped her family. He behaves as if her trust can be bought and sold, based on resolving her friends; he persuades with great violence and manipulation. The way he talks about the museum even shows how distorted and angry his perspective is. Unlike him, Kirsten has had a real family she could trust who put her needs first. She knows the authenticity when she sees it.
- The only thing I wish they had changed about Frank is his name. Sia, Jeevan and … Frank? Open?? OPEN???
- The picture Kirsten sees of Frank’s apartment is similar to the first few pictures in the series, showing cities flooded with green areas. It always reminded me of the hungry green in Destruction.
- Did the conductor tell Dieter that she could tell he loved her? I did not quite understand that scene.
- How are the kids wearing the conductor’s glasses, and what glasses is she wearing now? As she throws up on the way to the museum, I thought of the way Disability Advocate Imani Barbarin has pointed out that one needs glasses–especially a strong recipe–is basically a disability. It’s just not presented that way because so many people need glasses, and the term “disability” usually translates to a lack of help or representation.
- The Red Bandanas and Gil’s explanation of them at the beginning of the episode was a strange but interesting look into the many more tribes of the post-pandemic world.
- Do we ever get an episode where someone does not die? Maybe it’s just too much to ask.
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