Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is a stunning novel—and one that’s not just about a pandemic. It’s about life before and after, about surviving, living, and connecting, and about the role of art in a world drastically changed. (Among other things.) But it was probably inevitable that the first teaser for Patrick Somerville’s HBO Max adaptation of the book would emphasize the pandemic part of the story.
Station Eleven traces the lives of a handful of connected characters through the arrival of the Georgia Flu and the reshaped world that comes in its wake, 20 years later: Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis), a child actor when the flu hits; Arthur Leander (Gael Garcia Bernal), an actor who we see at different ages; Jeevan (Himesh Patel), a journalist who sees Arthur’s final performance; and Miranda (Danielle Deadwyler), Arthur’s ex-wife and the creator of an obscure comic book that echoes through the story. Kirsten is part of a traveling troupe of actors who perform Shakespeare in what’s left of towns; there’s also the Prophet, holed up in an airport.
The teaser aims to hook us with the pandemic: grocery stockpiling, news reports, masks, fear. It’s light on dialogue and heavy on trailer tropes, like the inevitable epically slowed-down familiar song (in this case, “What the World Needs Now is Love”). It’s not the most inspiring teaser, but Mandel’s story is in skilled hands: showrunner Somerville is an author and the co-creator of Maniac and Made for Love; Hiro Murai (Atlanta) directed the pilot and is a producer on the show. So I’m still extremely hopeful.
Station Eleven premieres December 16th on HBO Max.