One thing I love about Station Eleven is that for an apocalyptic novel, it’s not very interested in the mechanics of the world ending. The pandemic is much worse in the show’s world, and we all understand pandemics differently now than when the book first came out. We understand how vaccines can help other people and how connected our health is to that of others. So the metaphor is already there, in a way, but Station Eleven doesn’t dwell. It does not give us more sheets and studies to read about how the virus works. Instead, it knows the most compelling part of the story is simply in the connections between people.
I was in glorious suspense watching “Unbroken Circle.” No, not for that Hamlet play (though the costumes were enthralling), or the Chekhov’s Knife that Kirsten gives Alex, or even to really find out what happens to the characters. All I cared about was Jeevan and Kirsten meeting again. Ugh, I was afraid this show would betray me, and it just wouldn’t happen. When one character mentioned “the doctor left,” I was ready to throw something at the screen. I thought that maybe they’d set us up, that the two would pass each other like ships in the night.
But of course, Station Eleven wouldn’t be the soothing balm it is if it didn’t deliver: Kirsten spots Jeevan just as he spots her, during the conductor Sarah’s wake. The moment is almost romantic even as their love is platonic, familial. Their story really is unlike any other. Unlike the fury and history and push-and-pull of Tyler, Elizabeth, and Clark, which needed to be play-acted through Hamlet to be processed, or the strange “babies raising babies” complexity of Alex and Kirsten, or the matriarchal role of the conductor, or even the lost children that follow the Prophet, Jeevan and Kirsten’s connection is special. Losing Jeevan meant more to Kirsten than losing her own family, because he actually felt like family. And the worst part of it was that Kirsten and Jeevan’s loss of each other had no rhyme or reason.
At the beginning of my recaps, I often wondered what kept Kirsten from the others in her group, what made her seem particularly traumatized compared to the others. But upon reflecting on her relationship with Jeevan, you can see why: For her, that loss, that goodbye, was completely inexplicable. Jeevan just disappeared one day. Sure, he was upset; sure, they were driving each other crazy. But the emotional weight of their connection should’ve been sturdy enough for him to stay. As she tells him when they walk together, she never felt scared when she was with him. The show alludes to unhappiness at home, which suggests that her time with Frank and Jeevan was the only time in her life she didn’t feel scared with people.
So, in a way, losing Jeevan was a wound for Kirsten that could never close. Station Eleven, as a show, is about open wounds and lack of closure. It’s also about the inexplicable reasons that connections break, like the one between Tyler and Arthur, or between Arthur and Miranda, or that between Arthur and Clark.
Station Eleven the comic book exists because of Miranda’s open wound. We return to her in the hotel room, where she goes to see her coworker, realizing it’s foolish to be alone in this moment. She reveals to him that her whole family died at once, and only she survived. We understand that the comic book was a way for her to explain an inexplicable tragedy, a life interrupted because of the loss. That it was her life’s work to make sense of this tragedy through her art. It makes sense that both Tyler and Kirsten clung to the stories of the book, as the story was born from someone else’s trauma of losing everything, a way for her to escape to a place where things made sense.
The show has many stories that people escape into: Tyler’s stories about losing his wife Rose and how you can’t trust the people behind the museum are ways to explain his confusing reality. Hamlet is an escape hatch for him, his mother, and Clark to explore the loss of Arthur and reset Tyler’s story of them both. And hasn’t the show itself acted like that for us? Station Eleven has felt like a soothing balm precisely because it acts as a counterweight to the bombardment of bad news of the pandemic. Instead, it trades in hope and optimism.
And, in a way, that comic book was a way for Miranda to heal wounds in her present day life. She finally finishes it after hearing news that explain her wounds from Arthur in a way that made sense, and she tries to use the comic those wounds by printing out copies for Arthur and his son. And that does it: Miranda tells Clark in their last call that Arthur asked her out on a date.
Of course, his death and a giant global pandemic interrupted this healing process. But the healed wound provides its own mercy. Miranda knows she can’t save herself but while on the phone with Clark, she figures out how the people there can stay safe. (Of course a job in logistics would be helpful in this regard.) It turns out she’s the one that calls the pilot on the Gitche Gumee flight to tell him to keep the passengers on board.
Because of this conversation, the airport could be a safe haven for its inhabitants. But the end of the episode suggests they are eager to leave—and several do, with Tyler and Elizabeth in the end. Alex joins them with a proper if perfunctory goodbye to Kirsten.
While I understood the machinations of Tyler, Elizabeth, and Clark, I found it really hard to emotionally connect with that story. It’s partly the major hiccup in the storytelling—why would Kirsten help him?—and partly because the actor was truly hard to take seriously in his hipster beard and Carhartt overalls. It could also be because their bonds both predate the pandemic and are similar to a typical family unit.
In contrast, Kirsten and Jeevan’s story serves as the backbone of this series in a way that surprised but truly stuck with me. It’s no surprise that Kirsten walks with Jeevan with her hair down, wearing a dress. It’s not so much a sign of her femininity as the fact that it’s the most carefree of outfits, and Kirsten hasn’t felt carefree in a long, long time. She promises to add the airport to the wheel, and to meet Jeevan’s family. The show ends with a story unfinished and ongoing.
- With all the different connections that commenters found in the show, I think I have to rewatch it.
- How I wish the show had simply spent the whole episode focused on the conversations they must be having after almost 20 years apart. What do you think they talked about?
- The costumes in the Hamlet sequence were so incredibly beautiful.
- I wonder if the writers know how the comic book story goes. I found the bits and pieces of story strong enough to satisfy me, but I wonder if they ever sat down and figured out the story at some point.
- I didn’t get a chance to shout out his acting, but I really enjoyed Prince Amponsah’s acting as August. I wish he’d had more to do with the main stories.
- How many times did you cry watching this episode? I cried three times, and two more while writing this recap.