Station Eleven is an award-winning dystopia novel by Emily St. John Mandel about a flu epidemic that devastates the world. The book isn’t even 350 pages, it’s a breezy read, and unique in the way it centers culture over humanity as the thing worth preserving in the face of near-total human extinction. It’s a great book, and was a best seller, so an adaptation was inevitable, but oh boy, could this not have arrived at a worse time. Station Eleven has been adapted into a miniseries to air on HBO Max beginning December 16. You know what no one is going to want to watch over our second pandemic holidays? A show about a goddamn pandemic.
That doesn’t mean Station Eleven looks bad—it looks very good. I don’t think the trailer is doing a great job establishing the way the story spans twenty years, but maybe someone at HBO thinks that’s like, a big reveal or something, and not just the basic premise of the plot. But the cast is great, with Himesh Patel, Mackenzie Davis, and Gael Garcia Bernal leading the way, and the actual look of the production is stellar. But the minute the voice over says, “We’ve never seen a flu like this before,” I’m out. Yes, the book is great, and this trailer is promising. But cripes, talk about arriving at exactly the wrong moment.
It doesn’t matter how good Station Eleven looks, or how rich the source material, who is going to want to watch multiple hours of TV about a pandemic-wasted world? Especially when Netflix has escapist fantasy fun The Witcher on offer. Maybe the thought is that, because of everything we’ve been through the last eighteen months, people will relate more to Station Eleven. But a better thought is probably that, because of everything we’ve been through the last eighteen months, no one is going to want to be reminded of the last eighteen months.