Episode 2 of The Stand begins with a whole colony of survivors huddling together inside a department store. Nadine and her son Joe happen to be in one of the tents and they’re greeted by Larry Underwood. He’s on his way to Boulder, where Stu gives him a warm welcome along with the other survivors.
Stu gives him a lift into town where they discuss Mother Abagail and how she was the one to bring them together. Through exposition we hear how Larry was originally following Harold who was guiding him along with a makeshift breadcrumb trail. Eventually Larry makes it into town where Stu shows him the different residents, including Harold Lauder himself.
Larry thanks him for helping through tough times and asks about Frannie. This is a pretty sensitive subject for him though and his smile quickly disappears in favour of something far more troubling. He solemnly declares that she doesn’t live there anymore.
We then jump back in time – 5 months earlier to be precise – as we find Larry snorting coke, smoking and generally acting like a tearaway before his big gig up on stage. Only, he’s interrupted by Wayne – his former roommate – who shows and claims he’s stolen his music. A brawl between the two consumes the show and puts a black cloud over Larry’s future career prospects.
In the morning, Larry awakens and snorts a line for good luck. Getting dressed, he bails on the girl in his bed (tellingly with snot crusting to her upper lip and sporadically cough) and rushes to hospital. His Mother, Alice, has been taken in with a nasty cough. In fact, as he starts squeezing through the packed hallways he realizes this plague has spread – and spread fast. Catching up with his Mother, she tells him to find his Father who’s at the bar.
Unable to let go of his grudge, Wayne shows up while Larry wheels his Mother out the hospital and back home to rest. As she struggles to breathe, Larry is eventually forced to watch his Mother pass away. With Wayne down and out, he collects up the bag of drugs stashed in his boot and takes off.
When we cut back to Wayne later in the episode (and continuing this story thread) we see him with the bag of drugs wandering out alone. Alone that is, until he finds Rita Blakemoor sitting on a bench with an umbrella. She greets him warmly and the two begin hitting it off. So much so, Rita encourages him to head back to her apartment to eat… and make love.
With 8 million dead and further diseases spread from rats a very real possibility, Rita and Larry head out in the morning. They begin walking down the eerily deserted streets of New York. Along the way, they find a man holding a suitcase full of money. Money that, of course, has absolutely no use in this post apocalyptic world.
Unfortunately he’s not alone as several armed crooks show too. A chase ensues, as Larry and Rita evade these men by eventually heading underground into the sewers. Rita begins freaking out from the rats nearby until Larry too freaks out, courtesy of some nasty visions of his dying Mother.
Eventually he reconvenes with Rita above-ground and they pair begin trekking North. An incredibly powerful image of New York then ensues, showing how quickly everything has come to a standstill in the wake of this virus.
In Arizona, Lloyd is arrested and thrown in jail. His cellmate, “Gorgeous” George greets him and tells him he’s made the news. It turns out Lloyd has been framed for being a cop killer but he’s certainly no saint himself.
In a flashback we see exactly what happened as he heads into a small convenience store intending to rob the place. Only, his erratic companion shoots their hostage in cold blood. A police officer nearby also receives a killing shot too, which is the beginning of the end for Lloyd as officers rush in the shop and pin him to the ground.
Back in the present before the two separate camps across America (see how convoluted this out-of-sequence stuff needlessly becomes?) the virus spreads to the jail but the officers are loathe to let any of these criminals out. That is especially true for Lloyd given as he’s branded a cop killer after the shoot-out.
Things look bleak for Larry as he struggles to stay alive in the wake of no food or water. With little hope, he’s greeted by a strange man named Randall Flagg. He questions Lloyd, who confirms he’s done everything he can to survive – including eating a rat and part of his cellmate. Flagg decides to make Lloyd his right-hand man and in turn, frees him from his cell.
The Episode Review
The Stand returns this week with another episode that confirms this jumbled up timeline malarkey is going to continue right the way through to the end of this series. I do understand that book material needs to be changed sometimes but telling a story out of order just to “be different” doesn’t feel like a great way of telling this prolific and incredibly expanse story.
There’s a reason The Stand is one of King’s best books and that’s solely due to the structure and tight pacing despite its incredible length. To be fair though, episode 2 hones in on two of the more fascinating characters from the book – Lloyd Henreid and Larry Underwood. Both feel like two sides of the same coin coin and The Stand actually does a pretty good job showing their changed fortunes across this hour-long episode.
Some of the editing is pretty good here too, although of course the constant back and forths do this show absolute no favours. This one remains a tonally inconsistent, back-to-front puzzle. Still, this second episode is a mild improvement over last week so hopefully this is a sign of things to come going forward.