Here is yet another post apocalyptic story after a deadly flu wipes out most of the world’s population. It is like an extreme case scenario of covid-19!! However, this is based on a 2014 novel by Emily St John Mandel and made into this mini series before the current pandemic strike, so it is quite coincidental on how its theme resonates so closely with reality today.
While its premise of a deadly pandemic spreading across the globe felt too close to reality for comfort, its story on how its main characters survived and how their lives crossed each other seem highly improbable. Key characters conveniently and miraculous survived through the pandemic and we are not really shown how they managed to survive over a period of 20 years. Basic needs like food, water, clothing’s, and in one case, electricity seem to be readily available. Even the distances between events and communities seem to be little challenge without any motorised means of transport apart from walking and use of horse power. The idea of a group of survivors forming a travelling troupe of performers is hard to believe especially when their performances tend to lean on Shakespearean plays rather than more easily appreciated form of entertainment. The post apocalyptic world seem to be populated by people who are familiar with such heavy literature as King Lear!
So my greatest problem with the series is in its highly improbable or at best highly unbelievable portrayal of survival after a deadly pandemic wiped out most of earth’s civilisation along with all its technology and advancement. None of the surviving people appears to have formed any team to rebuild the basic infrastructures but yet we see a big group of travelling performers, another group of women who specialises in helping expecting mothers give birth, and yet another who manages to form a group of new borns (ie those born after the apocalypse). How each group came together and survive 20 year after the pandemic without the benefits of any modern technology is never addressed. We are expected to just accept that these groups exists and be more involved in the human drama that are somehow intertwined. This absence of simple logic to explain how people can survive or why they chose to end up in the small pockets of communities rather than trying to rebuild the technology is never addressed. The pandemic may have wiped out the majority of the human race but the hardware, buildings, machines, infrastructure etc still exists.
On the other hand, what I liked about the series is in its performances and in its interesting characters. The story telling through multiple timelines over the series’ 10 episodes is also very compellingly done. This method somehow succeeds whereas a similar style involving multiple plots of people in different parts of the world in another end of the world TV series, Invasion, failed. So inspite of the unrealistic scenarios, I found myself still invested in many of the key characters’ story and that made me want to continue watching to see what happens to them. The whole complex tapestry of what the future has become merely served as a way and excuse to write the story of these characters. Overall the series is heavy on human drama and connections and how they deal with loss, and abandonment. It has very little to do with science fiction or logic to support its vision of a future after an apocalyptic pandemic.