Episode 1 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 1/5
The Stand is a perfect example of how not to adapt a book. Regarded by many as one of the most prolific and beloved books Stephen King has written, it’s perhaps surprising then that we haven’t seen more attempts to adapt this story. Aside from a miniseries in the 90’s, this story has gone relatively untouched over the years.
In an age of endless reboots, sequels and spin-offs, it perhaps was only a matter of time before it received a modern adaptation. And so CBS snapped up the rights to this one and began work on a 9 episode reimagining.
Reimagining is definitely the key word here and after watching all 9 episodes, you’ll be left with one simple question – why? Why was this made? With a spliced up timeline, rushed characterization and a butchered storyline, The Stand takes everything that made the novel great and sucks the life out of it, turning this into a bare-bones cliff-notes version.
Despite the promise of a new ending, the writers instead decide against explaining anything, leaving book-lovers to turn back toward the novel and newcomers left feeling indifference when the final credits roll.
To be fair here, King’s original novel had a tendency of throwing in these Act of God moments but in The Stand the grounded, realistic depiction betrays the other elements of the story, which remain fixed in the present day timeline.
For those unaware, The Stand centers on a deadly virus that’s unfortunately released from a government facility. Patient zero is eventually stopped but the damage has been done. 99% of the world’s population die.
The pockets of survivors that withstand this are haunted by visions of a woman called Mother Abagail. She gives them all a task to come and find her, bringing all these characters to a common goal. That’s just as well because an evil presence lurking on the West Coast rises up, ready to strike at any moment.
With the battle lines drawn, Mother Abagail presents herself as the spiritual guide for these “good” souls while Randall Flagg, the personification of the Devil, begins to recruit and seduce those over to his “evil” side. This continues through to a big war at the end that sees both sides duel it out for the fate of the world.
It’s a decent story in truth, and the novel does a wonderful job following members from both sides of the conflict. There’s a real sense of greyed lines in the book, as those on Abagail’s side find themselves swayed by temptation while those on Flagg’s side wane in their beliefs too.
Unfortunately all of this subtlety is lost in this adaptation, along with a lot of the tension too, thanks to the way The Stand is written. The timeline is completely jumbled up, with scenes in Act 3 blurring with the early days of the virus to produce a jarring, drama less blast through the main plot lines of the book.
The problem with this way of telling the story comes from a profound lack of tension and drama, which are both lost in showing these moments as flashbacks. We know certain characters survive and as such, their moments of danger completely dissipate to nothing. So why should we care?
To be fair though, the second half of the story does slow down a little and allow the plot to grow and breathe, but by then the damage has already been done. With little time spent with key characters, the second half meanders toward the final conflict, which ends with a whole episode about two characters out for a drive, one of which getting stuck in a well. That’s not an exaggeration either, and given the show boasted a new ending to the book, this is essentially the final straw in a very disappointing adaptation.
Stylistically, the show doesn’t do much better, armed with odd music choices (‘I put a spell on you’ for Flagg’s moments of seduction for example) and other characters feeling like caricatures of their much more interesting book counterparts (Hello, Trashcan Man).
The result is something that will either yearn for you to pick up the book and re-read it, or dive back into the 90’s miniseries again. It’s incredibly difficult to recommend this series, and aside from some good acting performances, the show falters in almost every other department.