“Look How They Massacred My Boy”
We begin episode 1 of The Stand with Mother Abagail narrating about the coming war. A viral outbreak is about to engulf the world and the Kingdom in the West is where our characters will make their stand.
In Boulder, Colarado, the initial outbreak of the virus has already ravaged the world as 7 billion people are dead. With the power out, Norris briefs the team and tells them what they’re doing is tough work; brandishing a raise of hands for those looking to come back and do the same again tomorrow.
We then jump back 5 months earlier to Maine as Frannie looks after her Father who’s coughing and has a fever. Harold Lauder watches her through a hole in the fence creepily until a group of bullies show and knock him down.
With his bike broken, a defeated Harold heads home and finds his Mum coughing in the bedroom. A letter from the publishers regarding his book heaps more bad news on him; he’s been rejected. Angry, Harold snaps his laptop in half while radio broadcasts confirm that the virus is getting worse.
In a US Army Research Facility in Texas, Stu Redman is kept in confinement. He wants to know what he’s doing there and this sees him talking to a man named Ellis. Through a series of flashbacks we see Patient Zero charging up in his car from the military base and crashing into the front of the bar Stu happened to be sitting drinking at.
Instead of showing us, we’re told about Stu being taken into confinement and how the virus is spreading fast. Everyone who comes into contact with this thing passes away – apart from Stu. At least for now.
We then fade to black before seeing Harold out and about in the eerily quiet streets of his town. The place is deserted and he spies Frannie in her garden digging her Father’s grave. It seems we’ve jumped forward again to after this virus has killed everyone as Harold talks about how news has spread online for quite a while about this. Frannie is confident someone will come to help them but Harold is not so sure.
Harold instead heads out and finds a police car, quickly snatching up a gun in the driver’s seat. As he does, Harold heads home and begins typing on his typewriter as the power shuts off.
Frannie awakens from a bad dream featuring Mother Abigail who tells her to come and visit. However, she’s not the only one on the move given Stu is taken out of confinement and moved to another “secure location”. After wearing a mask on the way there, he’s held underground in a new facility.
However, Ellis begins coughing on the way out the door. Things certainly don’t look good for him and as Stu soon finds out, this virus has grabbed almost everyone round the throat and choked the life out of them. A solider over the tannoy (later confirmed to be the General) opens the doors and shows Stu the way out.
That way out brings Stu to General Starkey who confirms that he’s lost contact with the outside world. The last time he spoke to someone was 2 days ago.
Surrounded by monitors, Starkey talks about the contingency plans he has. Stifling a cough, Stu is given instructions to leave and to tell whoever’s survived that he stood his post and did his duty until the end. As we cut back and forth between this and a scene of Stu rushing outside, the general shoots himself. It’s supposed to be a slick and well edited shot but here it just feels haphazard and messy.
Harold meanwhile, shows up at Frannie’s but finds her passed out in the bath with pills all around her. He eventually manages to save her life as she coughs up the pills and breathes heavily.
As she recovers, Harold has a plan for them both, especially given the fatality rate of this virus is 99%. In order to learn more, they decide to give themselves up to the CDC for testing.
In the morning, the pair head out and hit the road. This sees them head up to the dig site we saw earlier in the episode (at least that’s what it looks like, we may have cut forward in time it’s not initially clear) as Harold talks to the workers there.
In a dream, we catch our first glimpse of Randall as ‘The Stranger’ by Billy Joel plays in the background. However, it’s only a dream as Harold awakens and finds Frannie and Stu hanging out together at their base. On the back of this, Harold decides he’s going to kill Stu and possibly Frannie too.
Another flashback cuts us back to day 1 as our patient zero, Charlie awakens Sally from bed and together they bolt out the doors and drive out the facility.
The Episode Review
The Stand is my favourite book of all time so I do appreciate that this is a re-imagining of that story and some liberties need to be taken. Unlike the miniseries from the 90’s though, the nonlinear storytelling gives this absolutely no rhyme, rhythm or pace. Sure, the visuals may be better but in terms of storytelling, this one is all over the place. I can only imagine that non-book readers will probably be completely lost. Especially toward the end of the episode.
The Stand brushes past a lot of the action and intrigue with seeing humanity’s downfall to instead focus immediately on the after-effects and coming war with Randall. Given King’s masterful chapter depicting how quickly the virus took hold of the world and brought about its destruction, there was a perfect opportunity here to kick things off with a bang and shock people into witnessing society crumble before their very eyes.
Instead, what we get is a tepid, haphazardly edited jumble of scenes told out of sequence. This is just likely to confuse people more than anything else.
While it may seem like a teasing glimpse of things to come by showing our characters alive and well at the base, it also destroys any tension for those who don’t know the story.
In that respect, we know Stu, Frannie and Harold survive their ordeals to make it this far so if we do cut back in time then we know there’s no tension surrounding their characters.
It’s still early days though and the next episodes could well slow down and see a more linear narrative coupled with an intimate look at each of our characters. For now though, CBS’s version of The Stand may have a hard time standing the criticism it may receive from avid fans of this enthralling post-apocalyptic story.