The Stand: The House of the Dead

“I’m sorry she turned out to be a bad person.”

Oh! It’s a Franny epis—oh, no. It’s not.

If there were a theme this week—and there isn’t really—it would have been men and women, or specifically how risky women can be.

Frannie, for instance, is a real problem for Harold. Whenever he hits on her, she yells at him. This show portrays that as a valid impetus for Harold’s incel-ization, as though it’s Frannie’s job to stay calm enough to calm him down.

That tension all comes to a head when Frannie and Harold are captured by a self-described “alpha” with a small “pride” of women trapped in a cargo truck. That scene was a disaster, emphasizing the possibility of Frannie being raped as an emotional degradation for Harold. It only got worse, of course, when Stu and Glen showed up, and Frannie shared her feelings with Stu. That was rough for Harold. So, so rough. Poor thing. I can see why he’d be upset.

Dayna was the only redeeming feature of that scene. She beat the rapist to death with a convenient piece of pipe. We know she’s a badass because she was wearing a boxing sweatshirt. Cue the New Year’s Crossfit resolutions! Their workouts are Harold’s warmups.

Nadine is just as much of a problem. Did you know she was wearing sexy lingerie under all those midi skirts and bulky sweaters? Now we all know! Her job is to use sex to bring Harold to the Dark Side. The Dark Side is in Vegas, of course.

Nadine also shot Weizak (Eoin Bailey). Bitch.

Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara, who most of us might know from Arrow), the girl who tried to seduce Nick in the world’s saddest IKEA knockoff, was just as bad. We know she’s bad because she doesn’t even take the tags off of the jewelry she stole. Oh, and she insults Tom Cullen, but honestly this show has treated him so badly her behavior seems par for the course: for The Stand, Tom’s only characteristic is his intellectual disability. It’s the same for Julie Lawry.

In the book, Nick does have sex with Julie. He regrets it immediately, because she’s manipulative and crazy, but it’s nice that he gets to have a fun quickie. I assume this show cut that bit out because they’re playing up the Nick-as-Jesus angle, which is my polite way of saying that Nick is still a completely passive character with none of the nuance of the book’s version.

Nick is so passive that he rarely gets to speak, even at the meetings. For that matter, he rarely gets to listen, since Frannie is the laziest interpreter in the world, and for most of the committee meetings, everyone was eating, drinking, and even—I’m not kidding here—covering their mouths while they talked. In the book, Nick is constantly participating. Here, he sits quietly, probably planning his matching outfits with Tom Cullen.

In fact, this episode makes it clear just how much communication is lost in this adaptation. As with many of King’s novels, The Stand is long not because a lot happens but because his characters are constantly talking, problem-solving, making jokes, and generally bonding. The committee meetings—and the debates on things like police enforcement, how to run the first town hall, sending spies to Vegas, etc.—took up pages and pages. (In some chapters, the meetings are so long that King resorts to presenting us with the meeting minutes, with dialogue broken down like a script.)

Many people hate the alleged “bloat” of King’s novels, but I love the way he points out that it’s not just what happens, but also how we process it with others, that makes life and art meaningful.

The showrunners do not seem to share my opinion.

They are, though, invested in an economy of dialogue that results in a paucity of compassion. The first town hall was brutal: complaining people, everyone dressed in brown clothes, nothing of substance happening. In the book, that scene always makes me cry, especially when they all stand up and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” There’s none of that here. They don’t even ratify the Constitution, which is an important part of the theme of government and power that runs throughout the book.

As with last week, the only real highlight of this episode was Greg Kinnear’s Glen Bateman. I love how he handled Harold, who is a typical Opinionated Young Student of the type Glen, a professor, is likely quite familiar with: acknowledge the OYS’s intelligence, explain that you used to think like that, explain the process by which that thinking was altered, imply that that a change of mind is a sign of true intelligence. It’s Socratic manipulation, and Glen did it like the pro he is.

Now, if only he could talk Harold out of his plan to...blow Stu up with explosives?

Boulder Free Zone CB Radio:

• So many candles! Why don’t they find lanterns?

• So, Hemingford Home isn’t in Nebraska. It’s a care facility in Boulder. I’m interested in the small changes this show is making, because I can’t tell if they’re meaningful or just in the interest of concision.

• A few thousand people are left in the world, according to Frannie. In the book, it’s more, because 1% of seven billion is still a lot of people.

• Do you think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made it through the plague? I do. It’s important to have faith.

One out of four Daynas.

This episode was so bad—and I’m writing this review the night of a bad day for America—that I went looking for some good news. And I found some! Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. King. May you have 50 more excellent years:



Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

4 comments:

Logan Cox said...

As much as I hate that they've apparently wasted a perfectly good opportunity to make an even better adaptation of The Stand, which I think is probably one of the greatest pieces of American fiction, I do very much enjoy reading your reviews. Thank you for enduring this garbage fire for us, Josie.

Now I have the urge to go back and watch the original miniseries, which I've always had a soft spot for.

Josie Kafka said...

Thank you, Logan. "Wasted opportunity" is a really perfect way to describe every part of this show.

The real miniseries is hard to find. Stephen King said in his Twitter that it's on YouTube (for free, not with one of those weird YouTube subscriptions). I'm not sure I could watch something that long in what is likely poor quality.

Andrew said...

The 1990 miniseries of The Stand is available from Amazon on DVD and is still excellent. I bought and watched it just a little while ago. I was expecting it to seem campy and cheap by today's standards but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm disappointed by what I'm hearing of this new adaptation.

jo said...

I love the book and really like the mini series. Really, I kind of wish that the producers could have gone back in time and given it the budget this version has. The only things that I like is Alexander Skaarsgard's version of Flagg (he does do creepy seductive very well), and Frannie is a lot more like she is described in the book, although she hasn't had a chance to do much yet. Also Molly Ringwald just really annoys me. But yeah, I was looking forward to this, but it just seems all over the place. If someone didn't know the source material I think they'd be really confused, especially with the first two episodes and all the time jumping.