The following contains spoilers through Episode 8 of The Stand on CBS All Access, and for the entirety of the original Stephen King novel The Stand.
Welcome, constant reader, as we continue to review the CBS All Access miniseries The Stand with Episode 8, “The Stand.” We did not quite get completely clear of the novel, so it looks like there will be a mix of old and new material in the final episode. Rumor is there will be a time jump though, so maybe we will just assume our way past Stu and Tom getting back and Frannie’s birth. Not out of the question for this series. We shall see.
This episode mostly stayed within the swim lanes of the book, and where they made differing choices, most of them worked decently enough. The mock trial was a good start to show the waning of Flagg’s power over his people. Good boy Kojak fights off Flagg’s wolf in defense of Stu, instead of on his way to Boulder. That was a nice touch. Execution by drowning, in the same pool-turned-arena where they had been holding daily gladiator-style death matches, seemed a little anticlimactic. Then the flip side to that was God’s little glow ball of death, descending from the ceiling to blast away at all of Flagg’s remaining faithful. A tad over the top, but fun if you could turn off your critical brain for a few minutes and just enjoy the special effects.
Glen gets snuffed out fairly early in the episode, but this episode was his moment to shine. He points out to Larry and Ray something that they do not want to hear. These people in Vegas are not so different from the people in Boulder. A “bunch of lost, scared people.” The only difference is that in Boulder they huddled around a benevolent leader, and here they’ve huddled around a tyrannical leader. Hope and fear are two sides of the same coin, and dumb luck drives which side flips up, perhaps a little too much.
At the trial, Glen is the first to make his stand, physically standing up to confront Lloyd, and by proxy, Flagg. In the novel, he stood up to Flagg directly. Here however, the point is to address Flagg’s followers. Like the gods in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Flagg gets power through the worship of his followers. As their confidence falters, so does his power, as evidenced by his wobbly landing after Lloyd’s less-than-dramatic execution of Glen.
After the mock trial, Ray and Larry are taken back down into the depths of the hotel and locked up. Nadine takes this moment to visit Larry, giving us the reunion scene we thought we were going to pick up on from the end of Episode 7. It is a little unclear why she would bother at this point. Perhaps she is hoping to convince him to accept the Dark Man’s offer to swear loyalty and avoid their fate. The glamour she is under still has her thinking that she’s more radiantly beautiful than she’s ever been, and coming to Vegas was the fulfillment of her destiny.
Like Mother Abagail did in Boulder, Larry reminds her of the good choice she made, this time to protect all the children. She protected him as well. Part of her must already be thinking along these lines, because she wants to know if any of the others made it. Larry still wants to blame Harold, and maybe he has a point. We think that Flagg sent Nadine to Harold to keep him motivated, but maybe it was the other way around. Nadine needed the fuel of Harold’s hate to keep her from slipping away as well.
Larry breaks the glamour and she sees what is really happening to her. In her moment of doubt, the “baby” starts coming. She is rushed back to the penthouse, where the Rat Woman of all people is set to be her doctor. Truly, Rat is a renaissance woman: entertainer, judge, doctor. Quite impressive. However, it is also a sign that Nadine is not really expected to survive this delivery.
Flagg is weirdly looming over the whole scene smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of milk, which only makes it worse. Flagg uses his stone to calm Nadine, and maybe it does get through just a little bit. Enough for her to understand that Larry was right. She is just being used. Resigned to her fate, she chooses to die on her own terms, using the power of the stone to smash the window and free fall into oblivion. Flagg, of course, mourns the loss of his son, not his queen, as Lloyd and the Rat Woman look on helplessly.
The cleanup crew manages to do a damn good job even without Mr. Moon, and the hotel pool is turned back into a pool for the big execution event. Before the main event however, Flagg sends a message to Larry, delivering Nadine’s head on a literal silver platter. Larry’s takeaway though is the same message Glen deduced from the crucified bodies outside Vegas: it’s all falling apart. If this is the fate that befell Nadine, his queen, who does Lloyd think his head will be sent to?
At the rally, Flagg seems to have the crowd under his sway, but the cracks in his button show otherwise. Larry finally realizes that through his whole schpiel, Flagg is talking about Mother Abagail as if she is still alive. He does not know she is dead—long since dead in fact, as this is a few months later. He has them stirred up against a threat that does not even exist.
Lloyd wades into the pool with a microphone, holding out the same hope Nadine did, that Larry will come to his senses and renounce the old witch. Lloyd is visibly shaken by this whole thing, and obviously does not want another face haunting his dreams. Then Larry recants Stu’s final words to him, “I will fear no evil.” Lloyd tries to make him shut up, but he just won’t. The words spread through the crowd like a virus, and even Lloyd finally turns on Flagg, calling for the keys to let the prisoners loose.
In the end, this is the real reason the Boulder folks were sent to Vegas. To break Flagg’s spell and show them that ordinary people, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, can stand up to tyranny. Fear is how Flagg has been controlling his followers. It is what gives him power. Without it, his power weakens to the point that he does not see Trashcan Man coming with the instrument of divine justice. His guard down, the hand of God closes in around the Inferno.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- One of the more bizarre things in the background is the phrase “weasel eyes are watching” spray-painted on the wall behind Glen as he pontificates to Larry and Ray in their makeshift jail cell. Perhaps a nod to the scene in the novel where weasels attack Mother Abagail on her way back to her house with chickens for dinner.
- There was a potential nod to current events with the chain-linked fence cage where the Boulder three were kept in the basement. If that was the intent, it was weakly done and never really fleshed out. They could have done so much more to tie this version to the right-wing populist movements that have been springing up in the last few years.
- For example, Flagg gets down on the people’s level as he gets down to the music. Just like a certain other former leader liked to do at his rallies.
- The scene between Lloyd and Rat Woman, sitting out in the hallway to give Flagg some time with Nadine’s body, was probably my favorite of this episode. After she convinces him that he might be in trouble for shooting Glen, it’s a wonderful bit of comedy how he starts blubbering out an apology, working his way up to throwing her under the bus.
- Lloyd takes the same stand with Flagg that he did with Poke. He doesn’t want to kill anyone. Never did.
- You have to wonder about the folks working up at the Hoover Dam. It’s about 30 miles from Las Vegas as the crow flies (pun intended). Probably the shock wave flattened it, I guess.
- Kind of funny that Rat Woman tells Lloyd that she is “just the entertainment director on this cruise.” In my aged mind, that was definitely a reference to The Love Boat, where the character Julie (McCoy) was the cruise director. Makes me wonder if in the original script, some of these Rat Woman bits were supposed to be played by this series’ Julie (Lawry).
- Before he is blasted into oblivion (or at least into the next episode), Flagg is crouched down, seemingly speaking in tongues or something. Turns out, he is actually reciting a few lines of the most obscure needle drop yet, a 1966 song “Don’t You Leave” by Dutch pop band Tee Set. The full lines he recites are: “She brought me coffee. She brought me tea. She brought me everything, but the workhouse key.” Super strange.
- I don’t really like that Trashcan Man’s bringing the bomb into Vegas was reduced to a misunderstanding in this version. For one thing, Flagg never said squat about taking the bomb straight to the airfield, at least not on screen.
Best lines of the episode:
- “Bunch of lost, scared people following somebody who makes ’em feel just a little less lost. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”
- “Just as long as we’re not being overly simplistic.”
- “What are you all so afraid of?” “He can fly and he f***ing, like, ate a dude last week.”
- “I’m gonna tell you something, Larry. I’m a baby about pain.”
- “Lloyd…cancel the nursery.”
- “I’d be a lot less worried about that hippie and more about what Flagg did to the last guy who shot somebody he wasn’t supposed to.”
- “Waste not, want not.”
- “Next few minutes are liable to be unpleasant.”
- “He doesn’t know she’s dead.”
- “I always liked your music.”
- “He’s gone.”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to The Stand:
- PIX11 has a short 5-minute long interview with Brad William Henke (Tom Cullen), mixing in a little bit of his experience on Orange Is the New Black
- Owen Teague (Harold Lauder) has an even shorter TV interview with KTLA.
- AV Club goes a little more in depth with Teague, this time in print, discussing his 3-day long death scene shoot and how he prepared for the role of everyone’s favorite incel.
- While the series soundtrack is not quite out yet, we do finally, at long last, have the full version of “Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?” on YouTube. I’m gonna say, yes, I do dig it.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below.
All images courtesy of CBS All Access