A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Positive messages about strength and adaptability of the human spirit abound, but this story is also grim and scary, so they may be overshadowed, particularly for teens.
Positive Role Models
Main characters Kirsten and Jeevan are kindred spirits; both kind-hearted, dependable, and capable of great love for others. Villains and heroes are humanized, and we understand what makes villains tick as well as why heroic characters resist and attempt to find joy in connecting to and supporting each other.
Protagonist Kirsten is a nuanced female character. Characters of color have key roles, like Jeevan (Gujarati British actor Himesh Patel) and The Prophet (Costa Rican American Daniel Zovatto), who enjoy rich characterizations. Race sometimes comes up ("Little White girl," Frank greets Kirsten upon meeting her for the first time) but is not a major theme. Same-sex romances are normalized among main and supporting characters. Disability stereotypes come up when a character pretends to be disabled but turns out to be a villain, or when a disabled character is overly self-sacrificing. The only positive portrayal of disability comes through the very minor role of August (Prince Amponsah, who survived a fire accident).
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Violence & Scariness
A pandemic kills off most of the world's population; expect to see scary scenes such as hospitals full of sick people, groups of people coughing and becoming ill, dead bodies in pools of blood, decayed bodies. One central character stabs another abruptly. Deaths take place on-screen, sometimes suddenly. Mines explode. A man is mauled by an animal; blood is visible after the attack but not during. Brief birthing scene shows a baby's head coming out of a vagina. A woman dies in childbirth; not graphic, although she's shown gray and still as a sheet is drawn over her. Many images show weeds growing in formerly crowded areas, and cities in visible decay. Pervasive sense of unease and peril.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters carry on a romance; we see them flirting, kissing, dating, kissing in bed passionately.
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Language and cursing includes "f--king," "a--hole."
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Products & Purchases
Visible brands include Apple, Q-tip, Wikipedia, Us Weekly magazine. Characters in post-apocalyptic scenes long for Instagram; the app is seen in flashbacks. The movie Pretty in Pink is played.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Visual references to alcohol, such as when Kirsten and Jeevan buy groceries, and several liquor bottles are included. A key character is revealed to use heroin (related accessories are shown) but is never seen high. Another character who was 9 years sober has whiskey during a fraught moment; the scene skips forward to him shirtless and rubbing lines of cocaine on his gums, a stranger's naked arm hanging off a bed in the foreground. Jeevan occasionally smokes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Station Eleven is adapted from Emily St. John Mandel's same-named 2014 novel about a post-apocalyptic society. A traveling theatrical troupe confronts a religious zealot as the story moves back and forth in time to show us how troupe members are connected with others in ways they didn't expect. Violence is generally not graphic, but a character does get mauled by a wild animal, there's an abrupt stabbing, and the show's overall tone can be grim: Scenes show terrified crowds of sick people, dead and decayed bodies, a desolate landscape, a visibly decayed city bare of people. Sexual content isn't graphic, but characters flirt, date, kiss, and marry. Language includes "f--k" and "a--hole." A grocery shopper buys several bottles of liquor when stocking up on supplies for a siege. The show is female-led; actors of color have important, nuanced roles; and same-sex romances are normalized. Unfortunately, there are also disability stereotypes. Expect sudden, shocking deaths and an overall haunted atmosphere, but this drama also has powerful messages about the adaptability and strength of the human spirit and our ability to connect to each other even in the worst circumstances.
Is It Any Good?
Powerful, elegiac, and entirely too realistic for those who have lived through an epidemic or pandemic, this series has profound things to say about life, loss, and the human spirit. If you can bear to watch, that is. St. John Mandel's wistful speculative sci-fi novel was released in 2014, when the idea of a global killer flu was something for apocalyptic horror novels and movies. This adaptation, which follows the bones of the novel's narrative yet makes some significant changes, is simply, starkly beautiful.
Many, many narratives have imagined apocalyptic scenarios, spinning off that high-concept idea into action (the Mad Max series), comedy (The Last Man on Earth), and horror (The Road). Station Eleven manages to find something different: beauty and meaning, most of it wrapped up in the pandemic's survivors, our main characters, and the way they manage to connect to others and find some joy even in a grim time and place. Certainly the central metaphor of the traveling troupe Kirsten belongs to is a potent one, as the actors transmit echoes of a lost world in an attempt to hold on to something that was good. It's a powerful reminder of humans' ability to somehow make a home wherever they land, and a spooky story with a setting those who watch will be able to relate to, no matter how much they wish that weren't true.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.