“*achoo* Excuse me. Allergies.”
I adore The Stand. I used to read it every single year. And when the expanded edition came out, I snapped it up the instant it was available. It’s one of my top three favorite books, and I even enjoy the TV miniseries from the 90s. So when CBS All Access decided to remake the series? I coughed up my Hard Earned and settled in. And while I’m loving it, I have to think a good percentage of that love is due to the fact that I love this story. And maybe not that it’s a sterling adaptation of King’s tale.
Let’s start with the way the story plays out. We get dropped into the apocalypse after 99.9% of the earth’s population has been wiped out. We’re ushered into this world as a group of immune survivors clear a church of dead bodies. (It’s the Boulder Free Zone, but you wouldn’t know that if this is your first time with this story.) It’s an odd place to jump in, but four minutes later there’s a time jump back to Ogunquit, Maine, and we get to see Harold Lauder and Frannie Goldsmith dealing with the start of the plague, nicknamed Captain Trips. This starts a pattern in each episode, with the story bouncing from “present day” to the beginning/middle/end of the flu apocalypse.
With all the time jumps and dream sync sequences sprinkled in seemingly at random? If you’re the kind of person who likes a straightforward, linear narrative, it’s best you know the basic story points of before tuning into this particular adaptation. Because the plotting can get messy. I got used to it after the first episode, but there are times when viewers don’t get the requisite “[X] months ago” scrawl before a flashback. So you’ve gotta stay on your toes. If, like me, you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the story, you can just let scenes wash over you. But even still, it’ll take a moment to get used to the way this series is structured.
The cast does a decent job, though nobody has been given much to really dig into except James Marsden’s Stu Redman. Whoopi Goldberg’s Mother Abigail is a gruff woman who keeps to herself, Harold Lauder is a creepy perv that doesn’t go through the character development that made me root for his possible salvation, and Nick Andros is a cypher. As Fran and Nadine, the two women who seem to be mirror images of each other, Odessa Young and Amber Heard aren’t called on to do much more than Be Pretty. That they do admirably. We’ve only had brief bits of Randall Flagg, the Big Bad of the story, but Alexander Skarsgård oozes charm and malice in equal measure, as he did in True Blood.
I’m hoping for more character-driven scenes where this ensemble can really let loose; as it stands (HEH), scenes are relatively short, allowing no real build of suspense…or much else. That said, I loved the way the first episode ended, and how Flagg is shown in shadow and brief glimpses until the end of the second episode.
I’m also enjoying the way Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell are putting their modern day spin on this story. Several of their changes work well, if not better than, the book’s original plot. Nick being in hospital rather than behind bars works well. But gotta admit I missed the infamous Lincoln Tunnel scene. It’s different here, but felt like a change just for the sake of being different.
As a huge fan of King, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes Uncle Stevie has in store for us, especially with the much touted revamped ending. I love this book, so I’m addicted to this show. But I’m not sure folks who aren’t die-hards will sit still for – or pay to see – this jumpy, somber re-imagining. I’ll keep y’all posted.