At first Station Eleven irritated me. Three episodes in, I might fallen asleep not as soon as, however twice. I wasn’t simply pissed off with Station Eleven’s self indulgence – I used to be fully bored.

A post-apocalyptic HBO Max miniseries set within the rapid aftermath of a lethal and extremely contagious flu, Station Eleven is a present a couple of fictional pandemic – shot, produced and launched throughout an precise pandemic. However in lots of ways in which pandemic is subservient and unimportant. Station Eleven is a present about issues. About large concepts and themes. It is a present about survival. About trauma. About taking refuge within the transitive energy of artwork and the connective tissue of our shared humanity.

Learn extra: Review: Station Eleven’s HBO Adaptation Came at a Weird, but Good, Time

In different phrases: urgh.

From the outset, this can be a present that spells out grand ambitions in clear phrases. This can be a present that opens with King Lear. A present that makes flagrant use of Shakespeare as a story and framing gadget, but additionally has the gall to put itself on the heart of a grand literary canon. 

As soon as once more: urgh. The most important urgh I can muster. 

Three episodes deep I jumped into one in every of CNET’s many Slack channels to unload on the present with my co-workers. It was self-indulgent. It was boring. It took itself approach too critically. It was excessive by itself provide. It was basically flawed compared with a present like, say, Yellowjackets – which masked its personal themes of trauma underneath the guise of a crafty and compelling thriller field present. 

“Station Eleven sucks.” I feel that is what I typed. I used to be improper. I could not have been extra improper.

Simply seven episodes later, on the present’s conclusion, I went crawling again to that very same workplace Slack, on my arms and knees, to inform everybody that – really – Station Eleven is without doubt one of the greatest TV exhibits I feel I’ve ever seen in my life and that each human being alive ought to make efforts to look at it.

So pretentious

Himesh Patel as Jeevan and Matilda Lawler as young Kirsten in Station Eleven

Jeevan and Kirsten.

Parrish Lewis/HBO Max

My favourite second in Station Eleven happens midway by way of episode 9.

Jeevan, one of many present’s primary characters, has been taking care of Kirsten, a baby actress obsessive about a comic book guide – the titular Station Eleven. A comic book guide she carries along with her all over the place as she travels within the post-pandemic world. A comic book guide that provides her hope in determined circumstances. 

After trekking again to their dwelling base, Kirsten realizes she’s dropped the comedian guide within the snow. Pissed off, not fairly understanding why it issues, Jeevan angrily stomps again into the wilderness to retrieve it. Through the search, a wolf assaults him, mauling him half to loss of life. As he crawls on his arms and knees, combating for survival in excessive subzero temperatures, he stumbles throughout the comedian guide, buried within the snow. In full agony he begins studying it, earlier than tossing it apart, screaming: “IT’S SO PRETENTIOUS!”

It is an extremely cathartic second. To start with, it is humorous! A wonderfully timed second of comedy within the midst of a darkish, visceral second. I laughed out loud. Nevertheless it’s additionally an acknowledgement, a crystalized second of self consciousness. The present is speaking about itself, on to its viewers. Sure, Station Eleven is pretentious. It is a present actively wrestling with large concepts – swinging for the fences, navigating the worth of artwork in a world crammed with struggling. 

However Station Eleven is additionally self-aware sufficient to know it is asking lots. Of its viewers, of itself as an leisure product. That is essential.

An enormous ask

Why ought to we care a couple of tv present? Why ought to any type of artwork matter? In a world the place I discover myself drifting away from so-called “status TV,” Station Eleven pressured me to ask myself that query. 

Not too long ago I have been extra more likely to eat countless, disposable anime, or binge watch feel-good actuality exhibits like Previous Sufficient and The Nice British Bake Off. Given what we have all gone by way of over the past two or three years, it has been troublesome to summon the “large mind vitality” required to take pleasure in a present like Station Eleven. A present that forces us to reckon with large questions and large concepts. 

Daniel Zovatto as the Prophet and Mackenzie Davis as Kirsten in Station Eleven

Station Eleven goes in instructions you won’t anticipate.

{Photograph} by Ian Watson/HBO Max

That is exactly why I discovered Station Eleven so repulsive at first. Within the midst of COVID-19, a interval of ground-shaking political strife, you are actually gonna ask me to interact with a TV present a couple of touring troupe of Shakespearean actors performing Hamlet in a post-pandemic wasteland? That is an enormous ask.

However Station Eleven works as a result of it guidelines on each potential degree. It is so simple as that. It is a well-written present, with nice performances and soundtrack that can hang-out you lengthy after you’ve got completed watching. 

Station Eleven swings for the fences however hits the ball clear. It takes time to ship on its daring imaginative and prescient, however for those who stick by way of that preliminary sluggish burn – battle by way of that preliminary repulsion – you will be rewarded with a present that has nuanced issues to say on each “Critical Matter” it dares to broach. This can be a present about households – actual and inherited. It is a present in regards to the legacy of shared trauma. A present about artwork as a refuge. If that provides you the ick, I get it. However in a really actual universe the place we’re deep within the wilderness of our personal ache and struggling, Station Eleven is as important as tv will get. 

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