Station Eleven episodes 4 and 5 expand, deepen, and take us further
The following contains spoilers for Eleven station Episode 4, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Not Dead” (written by Nick Cuse and directed by Helen Shaver) and Episode 5, “Severn City Airport” (written by Cord Jefferson and directed by Lucy Tcherniak)
There is an undeniable intensity to Station eleven. It’s hard to say how much this has been made worse by the state of the world over the past couple of years, but it is certain that our own pandemic is shape the way we experience the show. But driving tension never seems forced or intrusive. The characters are so nuanced and seem so real that the world falling apart or rebuilding itself around them is incredibly moving. In Emily St. John Mandell’s novel, this experience spans decades and changes the perspective of the characters with each chapter. Likewise, series creator Patrick Somerville structured the series to focus each episode from a single character’s perspective and slowed down the narrative considerably to deepen our bond with them.
Unfortunately, HBO Max decided to release the episodes in blocks. This is not a show designed to binge, it would be better to experience each episode as a stand-alone play. Each episode has its own setting, its own central themes and characters, and they’re all only linked by the circumstances and Miranda Carrol’s (Danielle Deadwyler) graphic novel about the title and the life of Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal). . As viewers of the show, we receive new perspectives, new experiences and new understandings in each episode. This artistry and emphasis on making each episode feel structured and each character having meaning, is what makes Eleven station so much more than a simple pandemic broadcast.
Episode 4: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not dead”
For Episode 4, we’re once again focusing on the “20 Years Later” timeline and the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) is understandably shaken after meeting The Prophet (Daniel Zovatto) in “A hawk with a hand saw”. The Prophet had made his way into the group and regaled Kirsten and Alex (Philippine Vege) with his sad story of a deceased woman. But Kirsten is clearly suspicious of everything and, as we learn from the flashbacks here, has always been paranoid and suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true. So she finally stabbed him and left him for dead. Unfortunately, he survived and is now hiding in the shadows, watching the Symphony and creating chaos to force them to change their plans and fall into its traps.
The Symphony does not depart from their structure. They play Shakespeare and don’t adapt or update it. They walk the same route, the same path, year after year. This structure is how they deal with the pain and loss that they have seen and try to move beyond it. The Traveling Symphony is both incredibly different from anything these characters would have experienced in the world before the flu, but also the way they recreate the life they had. By shaping art, theater and music, they are able to live and uphold the mantra of Eleven station this seems to be Kirsten’s defining conclusion: “Survival is insufficient. “
Part of this structure was an annual split where the actors went to a community on a former golf course to perform while the musicians went further afield to perform for a group of music lovers. We learn that The Conductor (Lori Petty) no longer allows this split because her former lover Gil (David Cross), the former director of the Symphony, now lives in Pingtree, a community built around a golf course, with its new wife. In order to follow the prophet, Kirsten convinces the conductor to return to visit Gil, insisting that she hears that Gil’s new wife has passed away. Then the Symphony separates, and with the split, their security and safety are shattered.
Once reunited with Gil, the actors are forced to endure both his insults about their acting ability and their resistance to change and also to grapple with the life they have chosen, without ever struggling. install, never really trying to establish some sort of stability in the uncertain. time. Unfortunately, the citizens of Pingtree have a lot of experience with The Prophet. He visited them, telling them the same lies about who he was that he used in The Symphony and ended up convincing all the kids to go with him. This establishes The Prophet both as “Pied Piper” and would be a savior for this new generation of children, those born after the pandemic. The Prophet considers them to be innocent and purer than the evil liars of the previous era. Of course, the irony of this master manipulator being the one who continues to preach about purity is at the heart of the character.
Change is everywhere “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not dead”. After Gil criticizes the group for never adapting Shakespeare, The Conductor overreacts and changes everything. They end up playing a new version of Hamlet, written for the new era, and with Alexandra in mind, much to Kirsten’s chagrin. This causes Kirsten and Alexandra to finally have a full argument about meeting the Prophet, and upon learning that Kirsten has lied to her, Alexandra sets out to find and join the new group.
Episode 4 ends with the Prophet sending some of the children back to Pingtree, with landmines (the same landmines that people in the community thought they were protecting) strapped around their necks. Kirsten is able to realize what’s going on, but it looks like Gil is killed in an explosion. All of this underlines how far the Prophet is ready to go and how little safety or security there can be in this world which is still, after 20 years, on the verge of complete collapse.
Episode 5: “Severn City Airport”
“Severn City Airport” has a fascinating structure. We follow Clark Thompson (David Wilmot) as he sails the first few weeks after the event. It becomes clear during the episode however that this isn’t just a character study on Clark – although it is that – it is also an origin story for Eleven station antagonist. We learn, much earlier than expected, that Arthur Leander’s son Tyler (Julian Obradors) is growing up to be the Prophet.
This choice is excellent for the show. Instead of relying on tired mystery boxes and twists and turns, it allows the events of the rest of the series to unfold naturally. And it lets the audience see how Tyler and Kirsten mirror each other. Each of them has an intense bond with Arthur Leander and with Eleven station, but they took almost opposite views. When Kirsten says, “To the monsters, we are the monsters,” to Jeevan (Himesh Patel), it’s clear that she thinks about it in terms of seeing the friendly monsters. For Tyler, he sees it in nihilistic terms, that if we’re all monsters then he has to embrace that and be a person even monsters fear.
At the beginning of Eleven station Episode 5 Although Tyler is a relatively normal kid, a little distracted and certainly already suspicious, but certainly not meant to be a leading sociopath. He and his mother Elizabeth (Caitlin FitzGerald) have a strange relationship, and she starts off incredibly unsympathetic and seems to constantly lie to him. It seems she does it in a selfish way, but we learn in a pretty heartbreaking way that part of the reason she lied to him so much is to hide her father’s indifference from him. Arthur Leander is the one who, through his pride and his ambition to return to the old world, helped shape this monster of the new. Tyler is a big bad guy, and “The Severn City Airport” tells an amazing and nuanced origin story for the violent madman who attaches bombs to children in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Not Dead”.
Clark Thompson is an equally nuanced character and David Wilmot’s performance in “The Severn City Airport” is a star in a series that has already been peppered with astonishing performances. At the start of the episode, Clark is lost and adrift, mourning his best friend Arthur and pining for his partner who stayed behind as he flew to plan the funeral. What follows is a masterful piece of world building. It turns out that this plane of people has avoided contact with the flu and is rerouted to an airport in the middle of nowhere in an attempt to keep them from being exposed. (In the book this is made explicit, I can’t really say if it’s clear on the show, but it still works.)
All along Eleven station In Episode 5, we follow the passengers as they first navigate the confusion of the apocalypse and then its aftermath. After half of the survivors are taken away by a con artist and almost certainly led to their doom – a strange precursor to The Prophet – Clark enlists to try to lead the rest of the survivors and help them create a new society in the airport. There’s a delicate balance as these scenes are most reminiscent of what we’ve actually experienced in the real world, with N95 masks, quarantines, and constant fear plentiful, but Eleven station is able to thread the needle and make everything work.
Sadly, Clark is also probably the main reason for Tyler’s turn to Darkness. At the airport, there was another plane, one that landed but whose passengers were never allowed to leave. This plane sits on the tarmac in front of the windows of the survivors like a horrific talisman of pain and death. Tyler becomes as obsessed with the airplane as he is with the Eleven station graphic novel (a last gift from his father before his death). When a survivor makes his way out of the plane, Tyler brings them to the others but fear sets in. The survivor is killed and Tyler and Elizabeth forced to quarantine themselves for a month alone. There, Tyler becomes more and more obsessive. He eventually burns the plane of death, faking his own in the process, and flees to create a new “better” society. Clark watches it all, straining to force the world to remember what it was and creates the Museum of Civilization. With “I remember the damage” always a mantra for them all.
Much of the success of Eleven station Episode 5 seems to revolve around Cord Jefferson’s script. Jefferson won an Emmy for a similar decade spanning the origin story in HBO Watchmen series, and it uses some of the same beats here to get us inside the character’s head. There is a real connection between the script, the original material, and the performance that really makes Episode 5 stand out as a highlight. Eleven station is halfway there, but the story has a resonance that seems destined to last well beyond this too brief period.