Who is here?
Photo: HBO Max
Eleven station deals with farewells in all their various forms: protracted, painful, late, bittersweet, unexpected. This is why “Who is there? Stands out from previous episodes. So far, our characters have mostly bounced off each other, ricocheting into their own stories and leaving each other behind. During this hour, we begin to feel a streak finding its end – a process that begins with getting everyone into position under one roof.
Elizabeth sits near the envelope of Gitchegumee Air 452 and communicates with the young son she believes she lost to the self-immolation. She talks to him like Clark talked to Arthur on the radio, like Kirsten told Frank about her poisonous runaway, like Jeevan talked to Siya, like Tyler wanted children to talk to their dead siblings and brothers when Tyler was still a child. himself. Maybe the ritual keeps Elizabeth in eternal mourning, or maybe it keeps her son alive enough that she can bear to live. There is solace to be found even in the fiction of the company, as Miranda felt with Dr. Eleven. Talking to the dead – or the missing, or the invented – appears as a powerful motive.
Back in the woods, Kirsten and Tyler continue to feel the special connection between them, still oblivious to their connection through Arthur. When Tyler asks her what she’s been dreaming about under the spell of the Red Bandana’s poison dart for three days, Kirsten is cautious but truthful. âThe first hundred,â she tells him, a period of time that haunts all pre-pots. Soon Miles, who still provides security at the airport after all these years, catches them hiding inside the perimeter fences. He drags Kirsten and Tyler (now dba Lonergan) through the airport terminal to face Clark, revealing some sort of paradise along the way. His plan to install solar panels worked. They grow their own fruit trees in Severn City; they have bathrooms and surveillance cameras. They even have support groups, where Clark, now an old man, can express his feelings. Today’s epiphany is that he always felt hated, a suspicion that is corroborated when he tries to explain a karaoke machine – a treasured artifact from his Museum of Civilizations – to a group of college students. who don’t care.
Maybe Clark’s perception is correct. This would explain why, 20 years after the onset of the flu, he still rules the airport, sowing fear of the unknown. Even during the winter of his life, he wants the doors of his small stronghold to remain closed. Elizabeth, on the other hand, begs him to welcome the world again. The traveling Symphony’s limited invitation, it seems, is an experience of compromise. Clark calls on Kirsten and Lonergan, whom he doesn’t recognize, to prove that they are actors – an echo of what Tyler’s Undersea asked Kirsten in episode six. Even in the absence of governments and borders, people have defined themselves in groups and devised rudimentary identity checks. “What have you done, monseigneur, with the corpse?” Clark asks and waits for Tyler to answer. “Mixed with dust, of which it is the kinship”. See? He is an actor!
Except that Clark is not satisfied. He asks for a scene, and Kirsten expertly picks up a mug from the desk. Inside the airport, they still have cups; from the glass-fronted control tower, they could be on a space station. The two perform a scene shortly after Lonergan retrieves Eleven’s body. It’s improvised, that’s for sure, but between people who know the text so well and who have lived its story so recently, it feels choreographed. Clark watches as Kirsten makes Eleven out of nothing but a cup of coffee, too puzzled to notice Tyler is sneaking something in the floor. From outside the room, Elizabeth is also listening. Does this sound familiar to him? Has she ever flipped through the comic book that kept her son so captivated? What about Clark – has he ever snuck into the pool house to take a peek at what Miranda is working on?
Or maybe Kirsten’s face is what brings Clark back to her memories. He went to see Arthur as King Lear when the production was in rehearsal; he even met young Kirsten backstage, gave her the same Shakespeare challenge (“Our oldest, speak first,” he begs, and she responds, “Sir, I love you more than words can. win. â) Clark was sober. then, but Arthur suggests they go to a bar because he’s forgetful or insensitive or both. Back at the hotel for dinner, Clark even has to remind Arthur of her boyfriend’s name. Arthur is one of the worst kind of friends, really – the kind who doesn’t let you change, who holds you infinitely responsible to your young self. Arthur reminds him that when they first met Clark was a punk violinist; now it’s a costume with bad values.
They fight with a special awareness of the fragile points of the other that decades of friendship offer. Arthur tells Clark that he prefers to surround himself with gentler people than those found in the business world, as if Clark’s failure as an actor is a matter of choice. Clark says Arthur prefers sycophants anyway. The conversation gets so deep under Clark’s skin so quickly. He pours himself a glass. Then another. It makes him bolder and meaner. Clark is not jealous, he insists. He just misses friendship. He misses when Arthur was someone he could be friends with.
Clark hasn’t thought of Arthur with such clarity and intensity in years, and it takes him away from the idea of ââthe Traveling Symphony happening at all. If Kirsten and Tyler’s one-off scene could unfold so quickly, imagine what Hamlet could do in Severn City. Insolence! Subversion! Poor misunderstood Claudius!
On the tarmac, however, the Traveling Symphony settles down and has fun. Someone took out the karaoke machine and Alex is doing Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” (I’m glad to hear she survives the apocalypse). They play music and laugh and, thanks to the high doors that surround them, they feel safe. But when Clark returns Kirsten to his friends, the mood takes a turn for the worse. She immediately reformulates the situation according to the cynicism Tyler told Alex to wait for pre-casseroles. Fences don’t keep bad things locked up; they keep the Symphony under lock and key. Sarah is not helped. She is being held for ransom: a depiction of Hamlet for a driver.
The cast debate what comes next when someone mentions Elizabeth by name, and Kirsten ultimately connects the points that have led her from Chicago to Pingtree to now: who Elizabeth is to the Prophet; who is Tyler to Arthur; who is Tyler for her. âHoly shit,â she said, which I think is perfect dialogue under the radar, really. Kirsten saw the end of the world, but nothing survives like a coincidence. Imagine if Frank’s grandfather’s compass broke as it pointed west. Maybe Kirsten and Jeevan will never cross Lake Michigan. Maybe Kirsten never met Arthur’s son like she was supposed to do all those years ago.
And if they didn’t meet, then they would never do the scene that sent Clark down the ugliest hallways of his memory. “Do people like me more?” He asks Miles as they get into the bed. The conversation between the aging lovers is interrupted by moments after Clark’s last hit with Arthur. The relaxation between them did not last. When Clark wakes up the next day, Arthur tries to chase him out of the hotel without Tyler and Elizabeth seeing him. “I’m sorry Tyler had you as a father,” Clark tells Arthur, but Tyler is unknowingly within earshot. That’s how they first met, a few weeks before meeting on the plane to Severn City. This is the Clark Tyler knows. Not the old man who mumbles lines from Miranda’s novel as he falls asleep – yes, it seems he read it too – but the bruised and angry man who hated his father.
Tyler returns to Severn City on a revenge mission wrapped in liberation gear. He wants to prevent Clark from remaking the world as it was “before”, with its artifacts, hierarchies and selfishness. It’s impossible, of course, but Kirsten decides to follow him on this desperate mission. In the dead of night, he leads her to the carcass of the Gitchegumee, and they exchange secrets in the same place his mother talks to him every day. They’ve built a memorial there now – a paper airplane-shaped statue, bearing a quote from Clark. Tyler tells Kirsten how Clark punished her for trying to help the only survivor on the plane.
It’s time for confessions, it seems. Kirsten reveals that she knew Arthur, that she knows Tyler’s real name. Maybe because they’ve both been alone in the same way or maybe because two teenage spirits got together. Eleven station understand each other instinctively, she feels there’s more to Tyler’s return to Severn City than revenge. There is payback here for him too. He could get his mother back.
Tyler is less sure. “I remember the damage, then escaping, then drifting into an alien’s galaxy for a long, long time.” He repeats Miranda’s words to Kirsten as Clark mumbles the others to himself. The magic in Miranda’s writing is that it has nothing to do with the end of the world. We’ve all had times of fallow, times of no direction. As he leaves her, Tyler frees Kirsten from the Undersea she never really belonged to in the first place. Kirsten belongs to before.
Tyler sets the memorial on fire and Elizabeth meets him near the fire, followed by Clark. There is an account but no reconciliation. For Tyler, Clark is the living embodiment of pre-pan culture: cruel, cynical, stuck. He uses his old portable game console and the explosive he hid under the floor earlier to blow up Clark’s stupid museum, although I really hope the karaoke machine is still on the tarmac. Miranda’s Eleven station ends without end, without closure. Kirsten doesn’t know who wins or loses, if the Undersea returns to Earth or revolves around her for the rest of her life. Maybe that’s what is happening. Civilization is not rebuilding itself because there are enough people who do not want it to come back.
Before Tyler drives Kirsten to the Gitchegumee, he brings her to see Sarah, who thinks she is heartbroken. This is the only goodbye of the episode. At Sarah’s request, Kirsten promises not to tell others that Sarah is dying until the show ends. âThe play is the thing,â Sarah told him, an ominous farewell to the girl who has dutifully followed her around and around a lake for almost 20 years. In Hamlet, the play reveals Claudius’ guilt. In St. Deb’s, play Hamlet revealed Kirsten’s vulnerability to Tyler and, in Pingtree, it revealed Alex’s thirst for freedom. What secrets remain to be discovered in Severn City?