The Station Eleven Series Finale Closes the Circle (Episode 10)

“Unbroken Circle”

Dr. Eleven in his spacesuit looks down on Miranda
Photo: HBO Max

The following contains spoilers for the series finale of Station Eleven, Episode 10, “Unbroken Circle” (written by Patrick Somerville and directed by Jeremy Podeswa)

Station Eleven is a different type of show. Somehow Patrick Somerville and the rest of the creative team behind the series have managed that seemingly impossible alchemy of telling a masterfully effective, complete, story. While maybe not quite a phenomenon, the series has been exceptionally well received as HBO Max doled out episodes over the past month. Each week brought two glimpses into the lives of these characters and no matter the focus, the circumstances, or even the timeline, it proved to be an incredible journey.

Tyler looks at Kirsten
Photo: HBO Max

“Unbroken Circle, ” Station Eleven Episode 10, the series finale, may have topped those expectations by doubling down on the profound hopefulness of the show and turning everything we thought we knew inside out. People coming in with expectations about television may have been expecting the heroine and the villain to face off, and that the plot would be broken down to those who had a better understanding of the world. Whether it be Clark (David Wilmott) with his eyes turned to far toward the past or Tyler (Daniel Zovatto) with his dangerous disdain for “before” most shows would have given in to the pressure of plot and made one of them “break bad” in a way that had to be stopped.

Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, for all its greatness, is even bogged down by this in the final chapters, rushing to a conclusion that is quite different from the show, though probably justified in those versions of the characters. The show concludes its fantastic run with an introspective episode, one where Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) resolves the central plot by becoming “The Director” and forcing Clark and Tyler, and Elizabeth (Caitlin FitzGerald) to “do the work”.

The fact that she does this by casting them all in the Travelling Symphony’s production of Hamlet—as Hamlet, Claudius, and Gertrude respectively, of course—makes for the centerpiece of the Station Eleven series finale, and really shines a bright light on the fundamental theme of the series. Growth, grief, life, death, love and art are intertwined and we cannot run from the things that scare us and from our interior pains. Clark clings to the last vestiges of everything that was “before” while Tyler rejects all of that, including his mother, as a sickness just as virulent as the fatal flu.

Elizabeth and Clark as Gertrude and Claudius in Hamlet
Photo: HBO Max

But in the show, they come face to face and realize that their pains and hatreds are not the only way to see the world. It opens them both up, through their complicated collective love of the Ghost, Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal). And, amazingly, the tensions break. The players move on to different aspects of their lives having been fundamentally transformed by the power of the play, just as Station Eleven the graphic novel had once transformed Tyler and Kirsten in their youth.

This opens something in Clark, allowing him to see that the world he has created at the Severn City Airport, while impressive and important in the way it keeps alive the people around him, isn’t the only thing that life can be. He and Miles (Milton Barnes) built a life together and created a comfortable shell for the others, but at the expense of some of their humanity. The pain and grief broken by the transformative experience of art, he allows Elizabeth to leave with Tyler and he seems finally able to see past his own fears to be ready to embrace this new world.

David Wilmot’s performance throughout the series can not be forgotten, he plays this broken man in love, in pain, and in decay but with such a delicate thoughtfulness that he never becomes a caricature. Clark may have been wrong, but he was wrong for the right reasons and by the end of Station Eleven Episode 10, he embraces his failures.

Elizabeth holding Tyler's face in Station Eleven Episode 10
Photo: HBO Max

As does Elizabeth. Caitlin FitzGerald’s portrayal of the Elizabeth in this timeline is grounded and serene, an earth mother searching for her lost child. When she and Kirsten discuss how hard it is to find someone you lost “before” both FitzGerald and Davis are able to wrest every bit of pathos out of the scene. Kirsten has lost so much you can see how important it is to her that no one else gets left behind.

She latches onto the idea of Elizabeth accepting Tyler back as her son because that is what she so desperately wants, to be able to reconnect and say goodbye. The fact that during this scene is also when Kirsten learns of yet another love from her life dying, as Mitch informs them over the walkie that Sarah, The Conductor (Lori Petty), has died, only adds to the passion and pathos and to the painful reality in Davis’s performance.

The Conductor may have moved on, but she was not alone. Dr. Jeevan Chaudhary (Himesh Patel) was there to guide her through her last moments with the grace and kindness that he had from the very first moments of the series, only honed now by 20 years of living the life he never could have had in the old world. Jeevan’s innate kindness, again accented perfectly by Himesh Patel’s incredibly welcoming performance, makes the last few scenes of the series feel like a welcome rush of warmth and compassion.

Kirsten sees Jeevan for the first time in a blue room with plants in lights
Photo: HBO Max

Kirsten has been transformed too. Davis has been playing a very closed off, hardened version of the character, very different from the precocious young actor we met and fell in love with during the episodes with Jeevan played by Matilda Lawler. Unfortunately we only see young Kirsten in flashbacks during the Station Eleven series finale, so we don’t get one last chance to revel in Lawler’s fantastic performance. But her performance has still left its mark on the viewers and her work in the character is still held in Davis’s portrayal too, particularly here as her walls finally melt away. Kirsten is a marvelous character, and both actresses combine to make her all the more memorable.

When Kirsten finally sees Jeevan at Sarah’s wake the feeling for both the characters and the audience is cathartic. (This happens while the Symphony sings “Midnight Train to Georgia” which just adds to the emotion.) For the characters 20 years may have gone by but, when they hug each other, it all melts away. They went through the end of the world together and were each transformed by having had the other in their life, for however short the time

I have yet to be able to get through the last scenes without crying because of how much this show, in such a short amount of time, has made me feel the amazing bond between these characters, particularly these two. They walk back toward Jeevan’s home together, a bit apart from the symphony, and as they recall the events from the premiere the emotions build between them and the viewer feels that we have been with these people for years and will be for years to come.

Kirstin and Jeevan walking along the path to the crossroads in the woods
Photo: HBO Max

But the real perfection of Station Eleven Episode 10 is that it tells a story that really ends. Kirsten and Jeevan may have made plans to meet again next year, when the Symphony adds the Severn City Airport to the “wheel”, but the part we get is that they finally say “goodbye” to each other out on that road. Two people brought together by chance, bonded by love, and split by the fear and frustration of the world (also by a wolf) have come together again to say goodbye.

We also check back in with Miranda Carroll (Danielle Deadwyler) as the pandemic is unfolding. We learn that she was inspired to write Station Eleven when her family was killed during hurricane Hugo. This is the story that haunts her because that time haunted her. And that is what made the story so essential to young Kirsten too. She saw the loss and had to try to make sense of it.

Deadwyler plays the dying Carroll with the same ferocity that she did the young and passionate version of the character in “Hurricane“, but in both her drive is infused with knowing sadness. She and Jim (Timothy Simmons, hilarious as always and amazing to the very end) are instrumental in saving the Severn City Airport from the infected people on the Gitchegumee Air flight, as Miranda gets the Captain, whose name, Hugo, completes another circle, to keep them locked aboard.

Jim (Timothy Simmons) reads Station Eleven while Miranda rests on the couch
Photo: HBO Max

Death is inevitable but it leads to creation and inspires art. Art allows expression and leads to redemption. Life is nothing and everything all at once. And Station Eleven created the perfect vision of a world inhabited by people who ultimately chose to live lives infused with creation instead of destruction. There is no final conflict, no more death and loss and fighting. We just get to see the children wander out into the field and Station Eleven Episode 10 ends. Leaving us to imagine all the new circles that are just about to begin.

Alex rides a white horse off into a field with Tyler, Elizabeth and the children of the undersea
Photo: HBO Max

Written by Clay Dockery

Clay Dockery is an actor, author, and impresario extraordinaire. They are the co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and was the co-head organizer and creative director of MISTI-Con, Coal Hill Con, and The West Wing Weekend fandom conventions. They live in New York City with their girlfriend and their two chonky cats.

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  1. Superb review. It’s exactly what I feel, but I don’t have the expertise to put it down in writing like you. Thankyou.

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