The following contains spoilers for Station Eleven Episode 8, “Who’s There?” (written by Patrick Somerville and Sarah McCarton and directed by Helen Shaver) and Episode 9, “Dr. Chaudhary” (written by Will Weggel and directed by Jeremy Podeswa)
It can sometimes be difficult for television shows to create characters to whom the audience can connect. Often it takes full seasons to create deep and interesting characters. Station Eleven doesn’t have this benefit of time. It isn’t as if the show has a vast resource of source material, Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is only one volume and it is relatively short. It is also significantly different in many ways, particularly regarding the characters and interactions. But in both versions of the story, there are the long time shifts and wide assortment of point of view characters that add to the difficulty of developing individuals.
There will likely only ever be one short 10 episode season of the show. But in just these few episodes Patrick Somerville and the other writers have succeeded in expanding and deepening Mandel’s creations and creating several incredibly varied and shaded characters of their own. Station Eleven Episode 8 and Episode 9 really take their time to develop the relationships between characters and to give us much desired insight into what happened to Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel) after he and Kirsten were forced to separate.
Episode 8: “Who’s There?”
Station Eleven Episode 8, “Who’s There?” is imbued with tension throughout. By having Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) and The Prophet, Tyler Leander (Daniel Zovatto), together for the first few scenes we can really see the connection they are developing. And that connection disturbs me. Tyler, while maybe a bit more grey than he is in the book, is still a single minded zealot and one not necessarily above child murder at that. (His claims that he didn’t launch the attack on Pingtree are something I will never believe.)
“Who’s There?” opens with Kirsten being jolted awake from her flashback to her past with Jeevan and Frank we saw in “Goodbye My Damaged Home”. Helen Shaver’s direction, which has been consistently great on every episode with her at the helm, shows the disorientation and dizzying madness that Kirsten must feel at the way her world has, once again, started to come apart. Kirsten awakens and finds all of the attackers from “Survival is Insufficient” gone. Only Tyler remains, somehow having saved her, but still continuing his obvious manipulations.
Zovatto’s portrayal of Tyler is full of intensity and passion, but ultimately the thing that is most insidious is how appealing he makes this pretty monstrous character. Tyler is charming and disarming, with Zovatto playing up his cute asides and charming smile. I can imagine Tyler having a great number of real world acolytes and that is not something I would consider necessarily a positive development. With Tyler Leander, Station Eleven has that central anti-hero, complete with his plausibly understandable philosophy. Kirsten, like the audience, seems to be being drawn into his web but they are split when they are taken into the Severn City airport.
Once inside the airport the story becomes a meditation on masks and the lies we tell ourselves to survive. Kirsten is reunited with Symphony but has no love for the strange and unwelcoming way they have been treated. They are locked away outside, clearly being monitored and at the whims of their captors. Once Kirsten learns that The Conductor (Lori Petty) is being kept elsewhere the break is complete. She turns back to Tyler and his ideology because it seems to be the best idea for breaking free from these wildly scary bounds. Tyler for his part had been initially imprisoned by Miles (Milton Barnes) but quickly broke free to continue whatever nefarious plan he has afoot.
Tyler comes back to Kirsten, showing her how to sneak through the airport ducts and get anywhere secretly. She uses these passages to see The Conductor in the hospital. They are cut off from each other, The Conductor unable to remove her breathing machine and Kirsten on the other side of a grate. Their scene is sad one of a noisy, unfulfilled goodbye, but it is clear that they both expect never to see each other again. With another part of her connection to the world gone I think it is clear that we are seeing Kirsten at a crossroad, either about to abandon the world like Tyler did, or on the cusp of bringing everyone closer together.
Being back in the airport, we check back in with the now much older Clark and Elizabeth. Clark Thompson (David Wilmot) has set up a meticulous fantasy world inside the airport. Obsessing over his trinkets from the past and unable to let go of the things that initially allowed him to come into a place of power. In contrast, Elizabeth (Caitlyn FitzGerald) seems to be thriving mentally but constrained by the world she and Clark have created in the airport. It seems clear that she was transformed by what she thought was Tyler’s death, with her filling the mother role for everyone after that point. Both of them are clinging desperately to the world they used to know.
Kirsten and Tyler wind up face to face with Clark and he orders them to perform to prove they are members of the Symphony. Kirsten has them perform a scene created from Station Eleven. As they rip through the material that means so much to them, they spark something within both Clark and the eavesdropping Elizabeth, but it is unclear at the end of Station Eleven Episode 8 what will happen to them. Tyler sets the Museum of Civilization ablaze and comes face to face with Clark, Kirsten, and his mother on the tarmac. All four central characters are adrift, hovering in orbit around Arthur Leander, Station Eleven, and each other but still not knowing where the trip is taking them.
Episode 9: “Dr. Chaudhary”
Station Eleven Episode 9, “Dr. Chaudhary” brings us the rest of the story of our reluctant knight, Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel) and it is an amazing bit of storytelling. We knew that Jeevan and the young Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) and been separated at some point before she met up with The Conductor in Year 2 but had no idea how or why. It seemed that perhaps Jeevan had lived up to his derisive “leavin’ Jeevan” nickname or that Kirsten had become too obsessed with her Station Eleven comic to continue to live with him. The answers turned out to be both of those things but also so much more.
The Station Eleven graphic novel is a poison that brews slowly between the two over their year together. Kirsten uses the book as an escape from the broken world and she turns herself into it over and over without expressing appreciation for the life Jeevan has been trying to give her. This is an understandable trauma response from Kirsten and one that in the world “before” would have been treatable with therapy and kindness. But unfortunately the world has lost all of those things. This makes Jeevan feel lost and helpless, and also angry that his life suddenly is all about this child that he wound up with in an accident of fate.
Matilda Lawler and Himesh Patel are fantastic at portraying these emotional depths. They live together in the cabin by the lake and take turns proving how much they care for each other, whenever they are able to break through the walls of pain and loneliness they have both set up. The scenes in the cabin are beautiful and perfectly encapsulate the joy and pain the two are faced with as they try to figure out how to move forward together. They decide to go into a nearby neighborhood to scavenge for supplies and Jeevan winds up getting attacked by a pregnant woman.
He is able to fight her off but is furious with Kirsten as she was supposed to be on the lookout with a rifle to protect him in case something like this happened. Instead Kirsten was reading the comic, again. Jeevan takes a chance soon after to try to throw out the book, which will ultimately be the move that separates them forever. When Kirsten discovers the book is gone she loses it with Jeevan, ripping him apart and seeing through his lies that he had nothing to do with it. Jeevan, as always driven by an interior goodness that he seems to actively fight against, goes out into the darkness to get the book and return it. While out, he is attacked by a wolf. Though it isn’t shown in Station Eleven Episode 8, it is clear that in the morning, Kirsten finds herself alone, retrieves the book from a pool of Jeevan’s blood, and continues her journey alone.
Jeevan’s encounter with the wolf doesn’t kill him though, he is saved by the same woman Kirsten would have killed had she been paying attention. Jeevan had spoken with this woman over a Ham Radio earlier, crucially telling her he was a doctor. It turns out that many more people have survived than the nine that Kirsten and Jeevan had seen so far. This woman and several others have set up shop inside a department store but they are looking for help as all of them are pregnant, and all will give birth soon.
Station Eleven Episode 9 is set mostly within the department store, tracking Jeevan’s journey from captive, to observer, ultimately to fully helpful participant. And tracking his evolution from fake doctor with a Dr. Eleven name tag left over from Kirsten’s play to a real doctor who ultimately saves lives and brings these babies into the new, post pandemic, world. Jeevan’s foot had to be amputated due to his wolf attack, so he starts off trapped in the store. He tries to get away to get back to Kirsten but ultimately his innate goodness overtakes him. He needs to help and, since he is told that Kirsten is gone, he makes the decision to stay and do just that.
All of the women wind up going into labor and they help each other through it with their two doctors (Jeevan and the leader of the group of women who herself used this opportunity to become a better version of herself) with all of the babies being born over the course of one night. Unfortunately, one of the women dies in childbirth. This woman had been waiting for her traveling companion to join them. Sadly that companion, the young Tyler Leander (Julian Obradors) makes it after she has died. You can see the resolution in his eyes as he leaves the baby behind, he wants to move beyond this world of pain.
In the end, Jeevan leaves the nursery with the same woman who initially saved him. They try to find Kirsten but once they are unable to do so, they move on together. Dr. Chaudhary finally reaches his potential, giving to others and with a family of his own. We end with him 20 years later, living in a small homestead and now a real doctor. He leaves once more as we fade to black, the good doctor heading out to make a house call in this new and rebuilding world.