The following contains spoilers through Episode 4 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 4, “The House of the Dead.” There’s no direct reference to a “house of the dead” in the episode, but I suppose it must be referencing Hemingford Home. We finally find out that not only did they move Hemingford Home from Nebraska to Colorado, they turned it into an actual “home”—a rest home, that is. Mother Abagail was apparently a resident when the super flu hit. Now she’s holed up there, surrounded by her dead friends, awaiting the arrival of those she’s called to her.
In light of how the real world pandemic particularly targeted the elderly in rest homes across the U.S., I bet the writers now wish they hadn’t made that particular change. It is clever, I’ll give them that. Now that we’ve finally caught up to Mother Abagail in the flashbacks, I was surprised at how much agency they are taking away from her and giving over to the committee. Just before Nick and Tom arrive, she even expresses doubt that anyone is coming. She lacks the confidence of her book version counterpart that she is enacting God’s will. These doubts apparently continue into the present day Boulder scenes, as she insists they take no action in response to the Dark Man’s warning. Is God even talking to her anymore?
This episode finally delivered us all the boring, society-rebuilding scenes set in Boulder that we had all been eagerly waiting for. That’s what it could have been. However, the use of cutting back and forth between the meeting and the preparations for the meeting is really well done and played effectively here. You hardly feel the dryness of the material. It’s even interesting.
Things almost go bad when a nervous Stu gets knocked off script right away by an angry heckler in the crowd. Larry finally proves his worth as he swoops in to rescue Stu and get the crowd all stirred up. He’s a great opening act even without the guitar.
The committee enacts the plan set in motion by Glen to call for open elections. Harold surprises everyone by recommending the ad hoc committee members be accepted as the permanent committee members, “in toto.” The crowd unanimously agrees and the committee breathes a big sigh of relief, thinking they have just had a big win. Little do they know Harold has other motivations for keeping the band together.
We end the episode on another town hall, this time held outdoors, celebrating the restoration of power to the town. There’s a fun moment when Frannie gives the countdown, gets to one…and nothing happens. Then boom, the lights come on and the crowd cheers. Larry once again rocks the crowd, this time with the guitar, to a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” that Hendrix would be proud of.
There are really only two flashbacks in this episode, though they both span multiple scenes. We start with Harold and Fran, still on their own and headed to Atlanta. This is an extremely bad 24 hours for Harold. First, he gets utterly shot down by Frannie. Now we see why he was a little harsh on Teddy with his “last man on Earth” comment last episode—didn’t work for Harold, why should it work for Teddy? The next day, he has his manhood firmly eviscerated by the “alpha” male looking to make an example of Harold to his “pride” of captive women. Then that evening, he overhears Frannie confiding in Stu Redman about her pregnancy. A fact she has kept from him all this time.
In the novel version of the “pride” scene, it’s several men keeping a “zoo” of captive women. Harold, Fran, Stu and Glen are already teamed up and have a larger shootout that ends similarly with Dayna killing the last of her captors. In that version of the battle, Harold actually gets off a shot and kills one of the attackers. He’s stunned and afterwards keeps gibbering about it to Stu, in what almost seems like a bonding moment between them for a minute. In the series however, no such moment for our antihero. The hits just keep coming for Harold.
The other flashback crew making their way to Boulder, Nick and Tom, also get into a bit of a shootout during their run in with Julie Lawry. Julie is enjoying the post-apocalypse life of a former mall rat, looking like she stepped right off the set of Night of the Comet. She has many similarities with Harold, in all reality. She too is a teenager (at least, she claimed to be 17 in the novel). She is full of anger and hate when scorned. However, she lacks the self-control Harold displays. Harold keeps it all bottled up. With Julie, every vitriolic thought raging through her immature head comes pouring out of her mouth.
It only takes a few minutes of this for Nick to have had enough. As he and Tom walk away, she pleads with them, “Hey, wait. Please don’t leave me.” Tom turns and you can see him make the briefest of connections with Julie as she says she’s sorry. Tom is all heart and Julie is as sincere as when she let out “Oh, my God, I’ve been so lonely” to Nick. Unfortunately, Nick never heard either one of those moments, so he steps back in and drags Tom away with him. Sincerity gets tossed out the window and, well…Hell hath no fury.
After the first town hall meeting, Harold comes home to find a gift waiting for him from the Dark Man. Nadine is his on loan to make all his sexual dreams come true—minus that one little thing, of course. In another blow to his manhood, he lasts all of about 10 seconds at even the thought of it. That’s OK though, as long as he figures out how to kill the old witch and her five little chosen.
In a serendipitous moment that is seemingly brought on by a bird’s call (a crow?), Harold reaches into his newly assigned neighborhood watch jacket and finds a pamphlet for the Boulder Ski Patrol. Watching Stu shaking everyone’s hand, Harold was so close to losing it. Now, he has the answer to his dilemma. With everyone else in town gathered for the big power restoration party, he and Nadine sneak off and find a stash of avalanche control explosives. Guns aren’t the only thing left lying around after the apocalypse.
As they’re loading up Harold’s truck, Teddy of the Watch stumbles onto Nadine, like his dreams have come true. He moves to help her with her “school supplies” when Harold steps out and joins them. As Nadine looks back and forth between Harold and Teddy, she realizes that this guy is actually a friend of Harold’s. Once that clicks in place, she pulls her gun and shoots Teddy. She kills Teddy, not because he discovered them, but because he is potentially a link keeping Harold tethered down in Boulder.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- Fran was the lone dissenting vote in the novel when the committee decided to send Tom as one of their spies. That has often been criticized as placing her in the role of the sole emotionally driven female of the group. They made a nice course correction here in the series.
- Poor Teddy. He actually tells Harold, “Hawk. Run.” as he is dying in Harold’s arms.
- Fran’s first diary entry at the start of the episode is strangely worded. She wishes she could reach out and ask a question of the reader. If this is intended for her baby, why doesn’t she think she will be there to talk to him or her? Also, she talks of lines that had to be crossed, well before the idea of sending people “into the lion’s den” has been brought up. I wonder if this scene is possibly our first flash forward. Given that we know the final ninth episode is dedicated to Frannie’s “stand” moment, perhaps this is our first glimpse into its content.
- Bouncing off that, let me put out another theory. Maybe Fran’s “stand” isn’t going to be against the Dark Man. Maybe it is going to be against Harold, supposing he survives the trip to Vegas and returns to Boulder to finish the job. While it is an ensemble cast, of course, to a large degree Fran and especially Harold have been the focal points from the beginning. It makes sense that the series would bring things back around to the two of them for closure in the end.
- In case you couldn’t follow events, Dayna Jurgens, Fran’s pick for one of the three spies, was the woman who survived the “pride” attack and killed the man holding them captive. Judge Farris, Larry’s pick, was the woman riding in with Larry when his caravan first arrived in Boulder in Episode 2.
- Well, we finally got the Stephen King cameo in this episode. Did you catch it? He shows up in the poster for Hemingford Home that Nick and Tom run across. It’s laughably Photoshopped too, as an added bonus.
- The matching jackets Nick and Tom are wearing for Tom’s big send off is possibly one of the greatest “show, don’t tell” moments I’ve ever seen.
Best lines of the episode:
- “Remind me, who has more experience working a crowd?”
- “Never pegged you for a politician.” “Desperate times.”
- “Officer Teddy Weizak. This really is the end of the world.”
- “I will never feel these things for you.”
- “Way I figure, things all started to go south soon as people decided we all had to be equal. Made a whole bunch of rules so beta male snowflakes like this one here wouldn’t have to compete on an even field. We’re back to nature now. Alphas on top.”
- “I thought I recognized a fellow traveler.”
- “It’s a little easier to admit that you’re seeing a nice old lady instead of a leering psycho with a coat hanger.”
- “Look, you want to carry a gun, God knows there’s plenty of ‘em laying around. But Teddy, you want to shoot your dick off, that’s on you.”
- “Never made it with a deaf guy before.”
- “Nick. My friend Nick.”
- “Why don’t you just head over to the plumbing section, and chug a little drain cleaner, all right?”
- “M-O-O-N, and that spells…‘full.’”
- “If it’s more than one person, run. If it’s one person, kill ‘em.”
- “I got to say this whole thing makes me feel like a pay toilet, but…yes.”
- “You have an earring. Heh, heh, heh.”
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:
- The Losers’ Club podcast (which is always excellent) has an hour long interview with showrunner Benjamin Cavell, talking about his history as a Stephen King fan, the genesis of the series, and a teensy bit about the “Coda” episode penned by the master himself.
- TVLine has a good little interview with Katherine McNamara (Julie Lawry). I love how she says part of her process in playing Julie was to ask herself, “What’s the character choice here that makes me feel like the worst possible, grossest human being?” Nice.
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