The following contains spoilers through Episode 2 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 2, “Pocket Savior.” Once again, they use the flashback format to drill down into the background of two primary characters, and this time Larry and Lloyd are up.
Both of these fine gentlemen are neither fine nor gentlemen as we catch up to them at the start of the epidemic. Each of them is on the cusp of becoming truly famous in their chosen profession. Larry has a billboard in Times Square. Lloyd actually puts the flu outbreak on page two. The epidemic ends their ambitions and they both struggle to get free of the place they are left caged in. There are some nice parallels there that I had not considered before.
Overall though, this episode is a little weaker than the first. Lloyd’s story and the tweaks they made to him are fine. Probably better than Miguel Ferrer’s Lloyd from the 1994 miniseries, to be honest. Truer to the source material, anyway. Larry’s background has all of the hard hits gutted out of it though, similar to how Stu was treated last week. Also like last week, the jumping around between past and present is leaving holes in the story that I worry new folks are going to struggle with.
We start in the middle again with Larry. He’s caravanning to Boulder with Nadine, Joe, and a gaggle of others. Stu meets them at the city limits to intercept Larry in particular. Larry learns that, unworthy as he is, he has been dubbed one of the inner circle by Mother Abagail. She just knows the “who,” it’s up to them to figure out the “how.” When he goes to meet her, we get our first glimpses of Ray Brentner (gender changed from Ralph) and Nick Andros, recently returned from the Caribbean apparently.
During all of this, we are flashing back to Larry’s experiences at the beginning of the super flu epidemic. As with the book Larry, this Larry is not a “nice guy.” Not only with the ladies, but in this incarnation he actually stole his hit song from his drug dealer/musician roommate, Wayne. A song that he immediately sold out to be used to sell cologne. Topping all of that off though, he’s an addict, disappointing his mother by following in the footsteps of his likely alcoholic father.
We rush through Larry in the park, Larry meeting Rita, and Larry trying to get out of New York City. As with Stu in the last episode, I wonder at how this Larry will be without the PTSD of his iconic trip through the Lincoln Tunnel. Ask any fan of the novel what their favorite scene was, and that one will be in each and every one’s top five. I understand the desire of the showrunners here to set themselves apart from what has come before, and give those familiar with the story some unexpected twists and turns to keep it interesting. Still, the Lincoln Tunnel scene?
I have to admit though, I always wondered why Larry and Rita didn’t just take a clogged bridge out of the city instead of a clogged tunnel.
Certainly, Heather Graham’s Rita is a different take on the character from the novel (the 1994 miniseries omitted Rita, merging her bits into Nadine’s storyline). The book version of Rita is weak and timid. She is a pampered socialite who needs a man to take care of her, and likely a man who was also abusive towards her. Her puzzle piece clicks right in with the book version of Larry, who is portrayed as much more of a womanizer with a barely controlled temper.
This Rita is strong and independent. She has the gun because it was her husband that was terrified of being robbed, not her. She braves going back up to street level by herself when Larry refuses, and ultimately she ends up rescuing Larry from the sewer. She’s scared, sure—you’d have to be batsh*t crazy not to be—but she has a kind of nihilistic optimism about her. Like she’s in on the cosmic joke of it all. She helps Larry see that his billboard will be up forever—he conquered New York City.
All of this makes Rita’s suicide more poignant. It’s wonderful that she’s found at least one more person who’s not crazy, however she finds out that Larry is far from perfect. He lost his phone, but by golly he saved his drugs. Larry is, in his own words later to Stu, a disappointment. Beyond Larry lies the horrors of the Monster Shouter, the Yankee Yanker, and the Indecent Proposal guys. She has rationally come to the decision that she doesn’t want to be part of this post-civilization world, and she opts to leave the party.
Nadine and Joe
We don’t get a lot of Nadine, and it’s all present moment so far. No flashbacks yet for her. Nadine is very troubled. She has one of the black stones from Flagg, same as Harold and Lloyd. Not a good sign.
Everyone is very welcoming in Boulder, and Frannie herself tours Nadine around to look for a home. Frannie remembers that she’s “supposed to ask” if Nadine is having the dreams (the world’s most cursory screening test). Sure, she’s having the dreams. Just not the dreams Frannie is referring to. Later, Larry tells her that “really not supposed to” tell her what Mother Abagail said to him. These unwritten rules are working to push Nadine away rather than try to embrace her and help her fight against Flagg’s influence.
When Larry takes Joe to meet Harold, Joe shies away from Harold when the topic of Frannie is brought up. He senses the flash of anger in Harold through just the briefest chink in his armor. Good old clueless Larry leaves thinking he and his new buddy will have a beer some night and swap stories about the ones that got away. And he calls the kid “crazy.” Oof.
I like this Lloyd. I mean, I don’t like him, you’re not supposed to like him. Lloyd is a thug, of course, though he really didn’t want to “pokerize” anyone. The changes here from the book are subtle and probably for the better. Lloyd gets the full spectrum of his post-apocalypse PTSD experience, including having to nibble on his cellmate’s calf to survive (which was missing from the 1994 miniseries). What was added on was that bit where the guard flung a glob of green mucous in his face. Oh man, that was worse than Larry’s trip through the sewers. Argh!
We finally get a good look at Randall Flagg when he comes to Lloyd’s rescue. He’s calm, quiet, and almost friendly toward Lloyd. He only looks to lose his temper at one point, when talking about the people who left Lloyd in here like garbage. He cracks just a bit to reel Lloyd in, talking about “people like us” as if he and Lloyd are equals. Then he gets a promise of loyalty from Lloyd in exchange for the promise of dinner, and their “beautiful friendship” has begun.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- Just out of curiosity, I downloaded the subtitles and checked. The word “f*ck” appears 75 times in this episode. I’m pretty sure almost every one of them voiced by Larry.
- Larry nicknames the “Monster Shouter,” and Rita counters with the “Yankee Yanker.” These two would have made a great couple.
- The Loser’s Club podcast pointed out something interesting. Maybe the guy yelling “Mother!” a few cells down from Lloyd wasn’t calling for his own mother, but rather for Mother Abagail, having had the dreams of her.
- The best, most subtle change they made in Rita was having her wear tennis shoes for their trek out of the city.
- For those who have not read the book and were wondering, Larry brought Harold a bag full of chocolate Payday bars. Everywhere he found the trail of signs from Harold to follow, Larry would also find discarded wrappers. They may get to that, they may not.
- Kudos to the prop department for finding an original Planchette board game instead of using the cheesy plastic Parker Brothers Ouija board game. I also love that they had Trivial Pursuit SNL DVD Edition on the shelf there.
- Minor continuity error: In the camping goods store, Larry walks past a cutout advertising “End of Summer Blowout.” However, the super flu was released at the end of June. Rita’s suicide in the book happens on July 4th. Not exactly the end of summer.
Best lines of the episode:
- “Of course, Wayne. I used to hide my purse whenever you visited.”
- “I never been the ‘notorious outlaw’ before.”
- “You’re not a nice guy!”
- “Young man we can do whatever we want now. Go anywhere. We’ve been freed from society’s constraints.”
- “That’s an awful walk. Did you tell him to go someplace closer?”
- “Welcome to the party, cop-killer.”
- “That’s not a very nice thing to say, Lloyd.”
- “It’s a good time for people like us.”
- “This is stupid.”
- “It’s like being the last people to leave a party.”
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:
- ScreenRant has an interesting article detailing how Marilyn Manson was set to contribute both music and play a role in this version of The Stand, but had to be cut due to budgetary reasons.
- Collider interviews Heather Graham, largely talking about a half dozen other projects she’s working in and on, but she does give a mention about how she loved Rita’s sense of humor in the face of a dark situation.
- In an interview with ComicBook.com, Amber Heard explains how she loves the heartbreaking tragedy of her character, Nadine Cross.
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