A lethal virus wipes out most of the human inhabitants, and the survivors discover themselves caught in an apocalyptic battle between good and evil in The Stand, the newest miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling 1978 novel. But regardless of a strong begin, terrific performances from the all-star ensemble solid, and spectacular manufacturing values, as a narrative, The Stand starts unraveling halfway via, culminating in a meandering, seemingly pointless finale.
(Spoilers for the guide under; a few main spoilers for the new miniseries under the gallery. We’ll offer you a heads-up once we get there.)
As we reported beforehand, The Stand is broadly thought-about to be amongst King’s greatest work, with a sprawling solid of characters and a number of storylines. It’s additionally his longest, with the 1990 Complete and Uncut Edition surpassing even It in web page rely. King has mentioned he needed to jot down an epic darkish fantasy akin to The Lord of the Rings, solely with a recent American setting. “Instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and as an alternative of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg,” King wrote in his 1981 nonfiction guide, Danse Macabre. “The land of Mordor (‘the place the shadows lie,’ in response to Tolkien) was performed by Las Vegas.”
The novel opens with the unintentional launch of an particularly contagious and lethal influenza virus (dubbed the “superflu” or “Captain Trips”), developed as a organic weapon in a secret US authorities laboratory. The accident kills everybody in the laboratory apart from a safety guard named Charles Campion, who escapes and tries to flee together with his household. But he’s already contaminated and spreads the virus earlier than he dies. Even imposing martial legislation cannot comprise the virus, which finally spreads worldwide, killing over 99 p.c of humanity inside a month.
But some folks show to be immune—together with the most important protagonist, Stu Redman—and these survivors should determine out learn how to rebuild some semblance of a functioning society. They are aided by mysterious shared goals. In one, “Mother Abigail” Freemantle requires them to return to her Nebraska farm; the different includes terrifying visions of a “darkish man” named Randall Flagg. Each survivor should select one or the different. Stu finally ends up main a bunch of survivors in Boulder, Colorado, who comply with Mother Abigail; Flagg units up a brutal totalitarian authorities in Las Vegas, the place he’s worshipped as a messiah and crucifies all those that displease him.
In 1994, ABC aired a miniseries adaptation of The Stand, starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Ed Harris, Miguel Ferrer, Laura San Giacomo, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, amongst others. The miniseries obtained vital reward and was nominated for six Emmy awards; it received two, for make-up and sound mixing. So why produce a second miniseries in any respect when the first one was such successful? Perhaps the intent was to introduce a brand new era to King’s darkish apocalyptic imaginative and prescient. Or maybe CBS simply needed a bit of the present market demand for King diversifications (cf. It, It: Chapter Two, Doctor Sleep, the Castle Rock collection, and so forth).
This new restricted miniseries on CBS All Access is co-written by Josh Boone and Ben Cavell. In this model, James Marsden stars as Stu Redman, who leads the group of survivors that heed their visions of Mother Abigail (Whoopi Goldberg) and type a neighborhood in Boulder. He falls in love with, and finally marries pregnant school scholar Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young), a lot to the disappointment of teen nerd Harold Lauder (Owen Teague), who can be in love with Frannie. En path to Boulder, disillusioned pop singer Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) befriends a 30-something virgin instructor named Nadine Cross (Amber Heard), who has in flip befriended an orphaned boy named Joe (Gordon Cormier).
(Some main spoilers under; cease studying now if you have not (a) learn the guide, and/or (b) completed the miniseries.)
The Boulder denizens additionally embody a deaf/mute named Nick Andros (Henry Zaga); sociology professor Glen Bateman (Greg Kinnear) and his trusty golden retriever, Kojak; a mentally challenged man named Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke); and farmer Ray Brentner (Irene Bedard), gender-swapped from the guide. On the darkish aspect, a suitably menacing Alexander Skarsgård performs Randall Flagg, with Nat Wolff enjoying Flagg’s conflicted right-hand man, Lloyd Henreid, a profession felony whom Flagg sprung from jail after everybody else round him had died, leaving Lloyd to slowly starve. Ezra Miller performs the Trashcan Man, a pyromaniac/schizophrenic who performs a pivotal position in the ultimate confrontation. (There can be a sly cameo by King himself for eagle-eyed viewers.)
The first three episodes are implausible, vividly depicting the onset of the lethal pandemic and the ensuing panic, regularly introducing us to our most important characters, introduced collectively by their shared visions of Mother Abigail. That’s loads of narrative threads to juggle and Boone and Cavell achieve this admirably. Unfortunately, they had been unable to take care of that delicate juggling act over the course of the total collection, starting to elide over key character developments of their rush to the inevitable confrontation with Flagg.
This is most noticeable in the love triangle of Stu, Frannie, and Harold, notably the latter’s resolution to hitch forces with an more and more deranged Nadine (who additionally will get brief shrift as she descends into insanity) and comply with Flagg. Harold finally ends up planting a bomb that takes out most of the neighborhood’s management. King’s novel spends a great deal of time fleshing out Harold’s deep-seated psychological points that finally drive him to violence, solely repenting on the brink of demise. We get none of that right here, apart from just a few temporary glimpses of the teen’s rising obsession and paranoia—though Teague’s portrayal of Harold’s ultimate moments, after Nadine abandons him, is kind of shifting.
Up via the penultimate episode, the narrative hews carefully to King’s novel, significantly the longer uncut model, with minor modifications. That contains the stark good vs. evil binary, Nadine’s being pregnant by Flagg and subsequent suicide, and Flagg instructing the Trashcan Man to retrieve a nuclear warhead. But the Trashcan Man brings the warhead to Flagg’s headquarters, the fictional Inferno resort, as an alternative, and it kills everybody in “New Vegas” when it detonates. There’s much more nuance to all of this in the novel, which is missing in the miniseries, to the latter’s detriment. It makes the Hand of God plot system (the quintessential deus ex machina) that units off the warhead downright foolish, particularly because it’s accompanied by lightning strikes vaporizing a lot of Flagg’s followers, like the ark of the covenant taking out Nazi troopers in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
One is perhaps inclined to chop the present some slack on that rating; it is supernatural horror, in any case. But for some purpose, the writers determined to tack on yet one more episode, written by King and his son, Owen. It’s primarily a protracted, rambling denouement the place Stu and Frannie go away Boulder with their new child child to go to Maine, as a result of Frannie is homesick and desires to see the ocean. Stu agrees as a result of the Boulder Free Zone is getting too populous for his liking, and he fears crime will grow to be an issue—which is mindless, given all the horrors we have witnessed over the course of the collection. A number of drunk and disorderlies ought to appear to be heaven in any case the torture and homicide and whatnot.
The final episode frankly serves no clear objective. I imply, Frannie falls down a effectively, has a imaginative and prescient of a resurrected Flagg, and is in the end rescued by Stu and a younger model of Mother Abigail, who warns them that the wheel retains turning and the struggle between good and evil by no means ends. Just… why? I can solely presume that CBS is hopeful of a possible second season, targeted on the survivors attempting to rebuild humanity, with Flagg as a lurking menace to their success. And who is aware of? Freed from the onus of following the supply materials, with so many strong characters already established, it would simply make for a greater sequel.
All episodes of The Stand miniseries at the moment are streaming on CBS All Access.