Station Eleven ending explained

·7-min read
Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Station Eleven finale spoilers follow.

Like The Leftovers before it, Station Eleven is a show that's not afraid to make changes from its source material. Even those who read the novel didn't know what to expect from this finale. Would Miranda's fate be explained? What's the next step in Tyler's plan? What repercussions would Tyler face for blowing up the Museum of Civilization, let alone for his years of kidnapping kids and turning them into child soldiers?

Perhaps the biggest question was whether or not Kirsten would get to see Jeevan again. Despite these two characters only sharing a single scene in the novel, the show has made their relationship the emotional throughline of the series. No matter what happens in Kirsten's present, those first few months of the apocalypse with Jeevan always seem to be on her mind. Jeevan somewhat adopted the young Kirsten at a time where everyone else in her life was dead, and she helped Jeevan become the leader he always wanted to be.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

The penultimate episode of the series, 'Dr Chaudhary', revealed how the duo became separated in the first place. While going out into the woods to retrieve Kirsten's copy of Station Eleven, Jeevan was attacked and nearly killed by a wolf.

He was rescued from almost certain death by a pregnant woman, who brought him back to a maternity ward under the mistaken belief he was a doctor. By the time Jeevan recovered enough to clarify the situation and send the woman back to check on the cabin, Kirsten had already left.

Their forced separation was devastating for both characters. Kirsten would spend the next 20 years wondering if he'd abandoned her or if he was killed, and Jeevan was stuck with the feeling of having failed and betrayed her, that his brother had been right to give him that nickname, Leavin' Jeevan. There's a strong sense throughout this episode that these two characters' relationship isn't over yet. The show's put too much focus on it to leave it here.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

The penultimate episode ends by jumping to the present day, showing how Jeevan has become an actual doctor who regularly visits towns to provide his aid and expertise. Considering that the Traveling Symphony's conductor, Sarah, is currently in a serious life-threatening condition, fans hoped Jeevan would be called over to Severn City Airport, so he and Kirsten could finally find closure.

What happens in the finale?

'Unbroken Circle' features the resolution to Miranda Carroll's storyline, the woman who wrote the graphic novel that drives so much of this show. Although the series' earlier Miranda-centric episode ended on an ambiguous note, with seemingly-still-healthy Miranda hiding herself in her hotel room, she's already coughing in her first scene here.

Knowing her time is nearly up, Miranda spends her last few hours alive calling up the pilot of a contaminated plane that's parked on the runway of Severn City Airport, begging the pilot not to let any passengers out. It's a devastating conversation between two people who know they're dying, one which reveals that Miranda is the reason Clark, Elizabeth and Tyler were able to survive those first few days of the pandemic.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Most of the present-day parts of the episode focus on the reconnection of Tyler, Elizabeth and Clark. Although Elizabeth still loves her son, Tyler is still so overrun by pain and resentment that he refuses to even speak to her. Observing this dynamic, Kirsten gets the idea to change the casting for their play of Hamlet, pushing Elizabeth to play Gertrude and Tyler to play Hamlet.

In the play, Hamlet is a character who's grieving his father's death and suspects his mother of betraying him, and Gertrude is a grieving mother who tries in vain to stop her son from being consumed by grief and rage. Kirsten forces Tyler and Elizabeth to address their feelings towards each other through these characters whose emotions mirror their own.

Meanwhile, Clark is moved by the revelation that Kirsten is the same girl he met at Arthur's play rehearsal 20 years ago, and agrees to play Claudius. In the play, Claudius is Hamlet’s uncle, who murders Hamlet's father and marries Gertrude.

By taking on this role in the play, Clark acknowledges Tyler's feelings of being wronged by him, and indirectly asks for his forgiveness. Tyler pulls out a knife unscripted and considers stabbing Clark in the middle of the play, but is unable to go through with it. No longer playing Claudius, Clark tells him he loved his father, and Tyler walks off the stage.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

For a show that's been so interested in the way works of art can help people overcome real-world problems, it seems fitting that it's a play written hundreds of years ago that helps Tyler reconnect with his mother. His storyline ends with him and Elizabeth making amends, and her leaving with him and the rest of his children of the undersea.

It's a bit of a messy resolution. Although Tyler's evil was toned down from the book (there are no child brides here), Tyler still kidnapped children and brainwashed them into child soldiers willing to blow themselves up on his behalf.

The fact that he never deals with any real punishment for this may be disappointing to some fans, but this was never a show that was interested in questions of crime and punishment. The show's always been about how people can grow and heal from trauma, and that's exactly what it delivers on here.

Finally, the show gives the long-awaited reunion between Jeevan and Kirsten. After Clark burned himself in the aftermath of 'Who's There?' Jeevan was called over to help him with the wounds. There are a couple of near misses, and by the time the episode's almost over it feels as if the reunion wasn't meant to be.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

But with just ten minutes left in the episode, they see each other for the first time in 20 years, and it's exactly as cathartic and emotional as fans hoped. As showrunner Patrick Somerville said in an interview for Rolling Stone, this moment was what the finale was always supposed to end on: "That was literally the end of my pitch in every room that we sold the show [in]."

The episode goes on a little longer to show two talking to each other, reminiscing about their time together as the Symphony leaves the airport. Kirsten tells him, "I was never scared with you," and he tells her how he was always scared. The finale ends with them parting ways yet again, but this time they get to say goodbye, and they each know the other will be okay.

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Will there be a season 2?

Although there is no sequel novel to Station Eleven for the writers to adapt, fans of The Leftovers know this doesn't necessarily make a second season impossible. Like with Station Eleven, the first season of The Leftovers covered the entirety of its source material.

Despite this, the show still went on for two more seasons, continuing the seemingly-concluded arcs of its season one characters in a fresh, exciting way.

However, there aren't many signs at the moment that Station Eleven will go down the same route. Unlike with The Leftovers, Station Eleven was billed as a mini-series from the beginning, and Somerville doesn't seem interested in continuing the story.

But he has since acknowledged that it's not impossible, saying in an interview for Collider: "If we had the right situation, there's more story that could come from this world."

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely any time soon. "This was a limited series and I don't know," Somerville said, "we'll see what happens."

Station Eleven is available on HBO Max in the US and starts Sunday, January 30 on STARZPlay in the UK.

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