The Stand: The Walk

“We’re on this train now, to the end of the line.”

Well, at least one good thing happened.

RIP, Harold Emery Lauder. You were a noble and misunderstood poet. A man ahead of your time. A genius among idiots, a prince among men. Your pain is our pain, the pain of feeling like somehow the world just doesn’t understand how great we truly are. You will be missed.

I’ve talked enough about how much I dislike Harold and am confounded by the showrunners’ view of him as a protagonist. So let’s move on:

The A Team:

After grappling with the trauma of Nick’s death for about 30 seconds, Team Mother A (The A Team?) follows her instructions and heads towards Vegas with nothing but the clothes on their back (plus an extra parka or two). Luckily, Ray the “Injun girl” does “know the ways of the earth” and will be able to help the sojourners find safe water to drink. (Wow, sometimes this show doesn’t even need to be reviewed. Just quoting it is scathing enough, isn’t it?)

The long walk to Vegas is a serious test of faith in both Mother Abagail and God. It’s crazy: they’re walking through the desert with no supplies. It’s nonsense: they’ll be captured and/or killed as soon as Flagg’s henchpeople find them. But they go, and there’s something beautiful in the way they trust in Mother Abagail. Even Glen, the “world’s preachiest atheist,” believes that there may be a rhyme and reason to it all.

Frannie would disagree that the rhymes and reasons are good ones. She’s worried they’re all nothing more than pieces on a chessboard, the Book of Job writ across the American Southwest rather than across the span of one man’s life. The book and this show allow both interpretations, although I’m inclined to think that Flagg’s admission in “The Vigil” that he is not Satan but a mere demon is important. Flagg may think he's playing a game with God, but he doesn’t realize he’s one of the pieces on the board.

Regardless, the mysteriousness of it all, the sense of living in a world that is authored and not just random (which is the appeal of both religion and reading fiction), finally comes through in this episode as the A Team goes on their walk. The rift across the interstate, Kojak finding a path upwards...maybe it’s the desolate and beautiful setting, maybe it’s the way the show finally took a few moments with the characters, but there was something magical about parts of this episode, even up to and including Stu’s potentially deadly fall. The apocalypse finally feels like it has some stakes. And some meaning.

The Baby Brigade:

Stu’s fall indicates that there is a plan, albeit an unpleasant one. Nadine’s circumstances are a bit harder to pin down. In the book, Nadine has numerous moments to choose not to join the dark side. She feels fated but isn’t, not really. In this show, Nadine’s free will only popped up once, when Mother Abagail scolded her about having a choice. Nadine did try to seduce Larry, since her appeal for Flagg is her virginity, but she didn’t seem to ever realize that she could just not blow people up, not pair up with Harold, not leave him to die. And now she's Flagg's wife.

This episode plays fast and loose with how the A Team’s timeline matched up—or didn’t—with Nadine’s. By the time they arrive in Vegas, Nadine has gone from beautiful but schlubby to a white-haired pin-up to a very pregnant Tim Burton reject. Flagg’s magic may have sped up the pregnancy, and Nadine doesn’t exactly look glowing. (It’s a good thing Billie stopped watching this show. She hates mystical pregnancies.)

The Chekhov's Bomb:

Trash Can Man has acquired a nuke. I wonder if that will be important later?

Ezra Miller seems to be playing Trash Can Man as having an impaired right hand. Impaired, that is, when the hand isn’t doing anything. It works just fine when he needs to do stuff like turn a key in the ignition. A better person than me would situate this within the show’s long-running tradition of completely screwing up all elements of disability representation, but since I’m lazy, I’ll just link to this interview with Henry Zaga (Nick) and Brad William Henke (Tom) about how they did research into playing characters who are deaf and intellectually impaired, respectively. Here’s a highlight from Henke: “‘I found a thing online of someone I went to high school who received a brain injury while he was in college and I learned how he spoke and I sent an email if I could use his voice though I never heard back,’ Henke admitted.”

Boulder Free Zone CB Radio:

• The costume department has consistently done a lot of heavy lifting in the department of character development. They’ve done good work.

• Frannie and Stu don’t have any chemistry. Their age gap is a bit odd, but it is the end of the world. But there is no spark there at all.

• You know who does have chemistry? Kojak, with everybody. He and Stu are the death-defying buddy comedy we need.

• Desert advice: if you fall into a crevasse in the desert in winter, and you want your friends to abandon you, that’s your call. But do not camp in the crevasse, because winter is the rainy season in the desert, and flash floods are a very real thing.

• OMG, there are actual fake Roman statues of Flagg in Vegas near the old Caesar’s Palace and I’m literally deducting a star for this even though I think it’s a ham-handed attempt at a Trump joke.

Two and a half out of four Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, because this episode was actually pretty good.



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

7 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Josie, I am actually tempted to watch this one. Even if it does have a mystical pregnancy. :) But I'll wait to see what you think of the finale first.

Genkitty said...

I winced yesterday when I saw copies of The Stand at the store, with "As Seen on CBS!" type verbiage across the top edge of the cover. People who watched the TV series will be utterly shocked by the differences between show and book.

I have to wonder what Stephen King thinks of this show.

Billie Doux said...

Genkitty, I follow Stephen King on Twitter and he has said next to nothing about this adaptation. That might signal what he thinks. He certainly can't rag on it, but if he thought it was good, I'm sure he would have said so.

Josie Kafka said...

Genkitty, my copy of The Stand is so old that it promotes the 1994 miniseries. :-)

Billie, the finale might be interesting: apparently it's new material, and written by King himself. I'm guessing that the next episode will bring us to the end of the book, and the finale will be something else.

Perhaps, finally, a Frannie episode.

Logan Cox said...

For those who are interested in a more faithful adaptation of The Stand, there is an HD version of the 1994 miniseries on YouTube. Still mostly holds up, in my opinion.

Josie Kafka said...

Logan, Amazon had the DVD of the miniseries for $5 last week, and I'm already drafting my review of the first episode.

I'm really enjoying that rewatch.

(LMK if you want to trade off reviews of the four miniseries episodes.)

Billie Doux said...

So I decided to watch this one, since Josie thought it was almost good and I know the novel well enough to know what's happening, and yes, I agree that it's pretty good. The four of them walking from Boulder to Vegas was enjoyable to watch ("Isn't it a bad idea to set up camp under circling vultures?") and you're right about Greg Kinnear, who is now my reason to keep watching.

I did think the actual walk would last a little longer, though.