Station Eleven enters the home stretch with its penultimate block of episodes before next week’s finale. The two newest chapters, “Who’s There?” and “Dr. Chaudhary,” are among the show’s best, diving deep into even more of the ensemble and casting a sympathetic eye in all directions.
Spoilers ahead for both new episodes.
“Who’s There?” allows all of our Year 20 storylines to converge at the Severn City Airport, now the home of the Museum of Civilization curated by Clark Thompson (David Wilmot). This is the first we see Clark, Elizabeth (Caitlin FitzGerald), and Miles (Milton Barnes) since the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, but things aren’t much different from how we left them. The trio still share leadership of their makeshift village, but Clark fears that he’s lost his prestige. The community is thriving, but the first generation of post-pans have little interest in him, or in his museum. The episode is a showcase for actor David Wilmot, whose Clark is one of Station Eleven’s most conflicted and complicated characters. Through flashbacks to his last visit with his old friend, Hollywood superstar Arthur Leander (Gael García Bernal), we can contextualize Clark’s path from punk to actor to corporate consultant to post-apocalyptic politician. Like so many leaders before him, he hides his fragility with defensiveness and hostility—he’s desperate to connect, but afraid of being seen.
While much of the episode is told from Clark’s point of view, he also serves as the antagonist of its most suspenseful scene. After Kirsten and the Prophet (a.k.a. David, a.k.a. Tyler Leander) arrive at the airport colony claiming to be actors who got separated from the Traveling Symphony, Clark insists that they prove their identities by performing a scene together. The audience knows that Kirsten is who she says she is, but has no idea whether or not the Prophet can keep up the charade. Kirsten launches into an excerpt from the only text she’s certain he knows, the Station Eleven comic book. Their performance is intercut with Clark’s judging gaze, and the tension is built on whether or not Clark will see through their ruse. So much of the episode puts the audience firmly in Clark’s corner, yet it’s still possible to see the villain that the grown-up Tyler believes him to be. The Prophet fears Clark’s monument to the past as much as Clark fears the uncertainty of the future, but to the Prophet the past has a face, a physical form that he can destroy.
Tangled up in this mess is Kirsten, who is surprised to find that the Symphony doesn’t want to be rescued. The museum has offered to give them shelter for the winter, while conductor Sarah (Lori Petty) receives treatment for a heart attack. Despite the obvious delight of her companions Alex, August, and Deiter at the pre-pandemic luxuries afforded by the airport, Kirsten remains suspicious. It’s not just that the Prophet has warned her of their corruption, Kirsten also deeply fears change. She hasn’t been settled in one place since she was eight years old, and the idea seems to terrify her. But some change can’t be fought, as Kirsten learns when she peeks into Sarah’s hospital room to find that her surrogate mother is beyond her help. Lori Petty shines in what could stand as her final appearance in the series, performing a death (or near-death) scene that would make the Traveling Symphony proud.
While “Who’s There?” brings all of the Year 20 characters together under one roof, “Dr. Chaudhary” centers entirely around the one flu survivor whose fate has been kept hidden for most of the series, Jeevan (Himesh Patel). Months after leaving Frank’s apartment, Jeevan and young Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) have taken shelter in an abandoned cabin for the winter. Kirsten copes with the isolation by reading Station Eleven over and over, while Jeevan struggles to maintain his sanity and composure. Relief comes in a bizarre form, as Jeevan is rescued from a wolf attack by a colony of pregnant women who, via a misunderstanding, believe that he’s a doctor. Jeevan recovers at an ad hoc birth center, where Dr. Terry (Tara Nicodemo, Y: The Last Man) is preparing for the likelihood that all fourteen expectant parents might give birth on the same day. There, the always aimless “Leavin’ Jeevan” finds the one thing he’s been missing all his life: purpose.
For eight episodes, Station Eleven has teased that Jeevan Chaudhary is a tragic figure defined by the impact of his loss on Kirsten Raymonde. From her point of view, Jeevan simply disappeared after an argument; maybe he was dead, maybe just tired of taking care of her. With this missing piece restored, Jeevan’s story is now his own, as uplifting, powerful, and silly as any other corner of the series. Himesh Patel is effortlessly funny, and his warmth is part of what makes “Dr. Chaudhary” such a tender, feel-good hour of television despite its grim setting. Even isolated from most of the characters and narrative, “Dr. Chaudhary” embodies the essence of Station Eleven.