If you are a fan of apocalyptic thrillers, as I am, then HBO Max’ “Station Eleven” might disappoint — its truly unnerving initial episodes gradually give way to the character-driven drama that I’m sure are the focus its source material. (I haven’t read Emily St. John Mandel’s internationally bestselling novel, but I loved this miniseries so much that I plan to. And the book gets glowing recommendations from that most erudite of sources, my Mary Washington College alums.)
The show is still incredibly good. I’d rate it a perfect 10 for being a beautifully scripted, surprising, moving and original story that leans heavily into the themes that presumably spring from the book. I can’t remember the last time I was as emotionally invested in the survivors of an end-of-the-world tale. (Other reviewers have wisely observed that it’s surprisingly hopeful for a story about a flu that wipes out humanity.)
As far as its themes go, your mileage may vary with how well they resonate. It is very much about the power of art. (Here’s a treat for comic fans — its central plot device is an in-universe, self-published graphic novel that is has nothing to do with the plague.) “Station Eleven” seems to have a few optimistic things to say about human nature — and about the possibility of reconnecting with people who are important to us. (The former was a little less plausible to a cynic like me. I honestly believe that shallow, aloof or selfish people do not become less so after calamity strikes.)
I highly recommend this. It really is a successful example of experimental, genre-busting storytelling.