The following contains spoilers through Episode 7 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 7, “The Walk.” It’s funny, last episode we all praised the show for finally doing something different that was meaningful. Now this week, we’re all just so darned happy they stuck to the book for a nice long stretch. Harold died. Mother Abagail died. Stu fell. And Kojak is a good boi.
I will say, I was actually surprised when Harold died. After all of the investment in that one single character, I was convinced that they were going to rewrite things a bit and have him survive to be the antagonist of Frannie’s Episode 9 “coda.” I guess that’s good though, because it means Stephen King’s new material will probably still track with the original story. For all the series’ ups and downs, this new material will be the true measure of its worth in the end.
At long last, they finally make Whoopi Goldberg look old. Not 108 years old, mind you, but at least they’re trying. Mother Abagail has Ray gather the remaining Committee members to her deathbed. She seems to imply that the Lord took Nick specifically because she chose him to lead. In her pride, she picked him because he was her favorite. He found her first, and maybe even rescued her a bit, as she was running out of water.
Throughout this episode, they’re wrestling with whether or not Mother Abagail really did speak for God. Frannie in particular thinks she did, but that He is not exactly working in their best interests. They are just being used as pieces in a game, set against the other player’s pieces over in Vegas. After all, God didn’t tell Mother Abagail about Harold. He just let that happen.
Despite their reservations, the four set out on the walk, with just the clothes on their backs, as directed. Larry is convinced they are gonna be wiped out when they get to Vegas, but Ray can’t believe Mother Abagail would send them off to get murdered. Glen, the devout atheist, is the most practical though. He chimes in that he has no idea if there is a God or if He was talking to Mother Abagail, but they’re “on this train now till the end of the line.” They are riding the beam.
Stu has been kind of a not-really-there character most of the series until now. He really shines in this episode though, as expressed through his relationships with the other characters. His parting scene with Frannie is as torturous to watch as it is for them to go through. Stu blames himself for what happened and for Nick’s death. Now, he clearly believes he’ll be leaving the world just as the baby is coming into it. Fran isn’t having it though. She wants him to swear he’ll come back. God can’t be in charge of everything. Stu swears that he will try.
As the four set off, Larry starts in right away asking if anyone has a plan for how they’re going to get water. He is now the designated skeptic of the group, since Glen has abdicated the role, asking the “big logic questions.” When Stu breaks his leg, Larry is ready to scrap the trip and stay to take care of him. Stu puts Larry straight, forcing him to accept what they signed up for here, and mean it. In the novel, “I will fear no evil” becomes a mantra for Larry in Vegas, passed on more so by Glen to the group as a whole. It is nicely fitting to come from Stu in this instance, as he passes the mantel of leadership on to Larry.
Glen is the last to say his goodbyes with Stu. As Nadine left Harold with the option to end it quickly, Glen also leaves Stu with an important reminder about the pain pill dosage. It’s the parting laugh though, as “East Texas” gets in a good one on Glen, that says all you need to know about their bromance. They have been on this road together for nearly as long as Frannie and Harold were. Stu pulled Glen out of his comfortable hiding hole, where he and Kojak could have lived out their remaining days and just left the world to be. I think, even though it looks like it’s going to end badly for them all, in the end he is glad for that.
While they were pretty faithful to the novel for the “walk” portions of this episode, they veered off like Harold flying over the guardrail when it came to Nadine in this episode. For starters, Nadine chooses to kill Harold. It’s not Flagg who distracts him, as portrayed in the novel. Maybe it was that barb Harold got in, back at the amphitheater. Maybe it’s jealously, like Lloyd shows towards Trashcan Man. She’s worried Flagg might be mad at her for it too. When she arrives in his hotel room, she brags to Flagg about killing a lot of the Boulder people, but of Harold she only says he “didn’t make it.”
This Nadine is just simply not the book Nadine. This Nadine is all in with Flagg, brainwashed since age 12. Sure, she faltered there for a moment in Boulder, but ironically what happened in Boulder stays in Boulder. If anything, I feel the writers screwed up a little bit when they gave her that “something’s wrong” moment. She comes out of their night of love making in the hotel/desert with the smuggest just-got-laid look imaginable. This Nadine probably isn’t going to see the error of her ways and commit suicide.
Of course, she may be dead already, being eaten alive from the inside by Randall Flagg’s spawn. That reveal at the end was perfection, and the looks her two bodyguards kept exchanging was priceless. We knew she was living in a fantasy, we just didn’t realize how much of a fantasy it was. Well played.
Since this Nadine is not a walking coma patient like she is in the book, Flagg has a little fun and sends her to go greet their guests. Not only does Larry have to face the humiliation of hearing his own song blaring over the casino sound system, sans royalties, but then he’s met by his wanna-be girlfriend turned Bride of Frankenstein, Nadine. The hits keep coming.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- OK, I know this is getting to be just mean, but someone else pointed out that on the magically changing note from Mother Abagail, she writes “his will” in lowercase, instead of “His will,” as she undoubtedly would.
- The plates on Lloyd’s limo reads INFERNO1. Of course, it probably belonged to the Inferno Hotel and Casino where Flagg is headquartered, so not unexpected.
- People were upset last episode that Trashcan Man was being played in a dated and stereotyped manner. Now they’re upset that he has the mental wherewithal to handle all the gear he used to extract the nuclear warhead in this episode. Look, Trash is a savant. He’s not even human anymore. Stephen King has said The Stand is his Lord of the Rings, and that makes Trashcan Man this story’s Gollum. A man who used to be human, but has had all of his humanity stripped away, or perhaps burned away in this case.
- That said, Erza Miller’s Trashcan Man is a cross between Bobcat Goldthwait (circa Police Academy) and a velociraptor. Especially in this episode. You just can’t wait for his scenes to be over.
- During the walk montage, the four walk past a billboard that reads, “The Lamb’s Reward is the Laughter of His Children.” Except that someone spray painted an “S” in front of “Laughter” to make it “Slaughter.”
- Flagg is a big romantic, with the rose petals and the candles. Who would have thought?
- When Nadine grabs her stomach on the drive back to New Vegas, we see that Flagg carved his initials, “RF,” into her leg.
- We see Flagg’s true form at the end of their love making. He is an ancient evil that has been with mankind since the very beginning. His appearance is the kind of vision that would have haunted the dreams of our most primitive ancestors, huddled around a campfire and hiding out in caves.
- Once again, we get teased with a snippet of “Baby Can You Dig Your Man?” It sounds pretty good, actually. I expect / hope we’ll get the full thing as the closing song for Episode 9. I wonder if the lyrics will even play into the “coda” thematically in some way? I could see King weaving it in like that.
- I’m not normally one to pay much attention to directors, but Vincenzo Natali really stands out here in this episode. The pacing was slowed down and the story was allowed to breathe a bit. His take on New Vegas was refreshingly much less wild sex party and more so grim, 1984-esque hellscape. I’m really encouraged that he’s also the director on the next episode.
- Vincenzo Natali also directed In the Tall Grass, a 2019 movie adaptation of the story written by King and his son Joe Hill.
Best lines of the episode:
- “He’s gonna give me a woman that makes you look like a potato sack, Nadine.”
- “And I thought kicking dope sucked.”
- “It’s better this way, Harold. You see that, don’t you?”
- “They got to go collect their prize.”
- “What? You figured the ‘Injun girl’ must know the ways of the Earth, least enough to find you water you won’t sh*t yourselves to death?”
- “Don’t tell me the world’s preachiest atheist all of a sudden found religion.”
- “I sign this, my final word, by a name given to me in Boulder. I couldn’t accept it then, but I take it now freely. Hawk.”
- “I was starting to think you’d never get here, kid.”
- “Well sh*t.”
- “Hey. Kiss my ass.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Think I just did.”
- “It’s been a…pleasure getting to know you.” “I wish I could say the same.”
- “You know, my boss told me when you’d be walking out of that canyon down to the minute. Isn’t that crazy? It is a crazy f*ckin’ world.”
- “Render unto Caesars…”
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:
- PopHorror has an interview with Tarun Keram who plays Steve in the series. Who the heck is Steve, you just asked? He’s the veterinarian who is most likely going to deliver Frannie’s baby in the next episode. Needless to say, it’s a short interview.
- Flickering Myth has a far more interesting interview with production designer Aaron Haye. He discusses some of the aspects of recreating a handful of U.S. states within the confines of British Columbia. There’s a nice pic of the set for the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” scene (yes, that was a set built on a sound stage). He discusses Easter eggs hidden in the walls of Larry’s dressing room, and a cut scene where a blood-soaked Flagg welcomes a newcomer to Vegas.
- The Losers’ Club podcast has interview with Owen Teague (Harold), which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, but I’m sure it’s great, because these guys love Owen.
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