CBS ALL Access released the new take on Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand in December 2020.
The show aired when humanity knew better than ever what effects a pandemic can have. The Stand’s first episode, “The End,” sets the setting for a world far too familiar.
Fans of the novel may be shocked at the opening of the episode. The show begins in the already established Free-Zone in Boulder, CO., after the world has all but ended. Since this is a new way to tell the story, we get the impression the writers want to have their fingerprints on this version. In the first scene, we see a group of people clearing out a church full of dead bodies. One of the crew members gets sick and runs outside to throw up. His supervisor lets him know it is okay and drops the fact that 7 billion people have died. For anyone not familiar with the stand, this starts to paint a picture of what happened.
The show flashes back to five months earlier. It is here that the viewer’s introduced to the crew member who got sick clearing out the bodies, Harold Lauder (Owen Teague). The show plants a seed of the type of man Harold is when we witness him spying on a woman through a hole in her fence. We later learn that he is obsessed with this woman and thinks he is in love with her. The woman we later know as Frannie Goldsmith (Odesa Young) is speaking with her sick father. While they are in conversation, they mention that most people in their town have this same sickness. Just as Frannie asks her father if they could have a serious talk, he has a coughing fit, and she takes him inside instead.
As she leaves the scene, Harold, who is still peeking through the fence, is violently ripped backward by two teenagers. They began beating on him for peeping, and after he slugs one, he escapes on his bike. The teens give chase and only catch up to Harold when he flips his bicycle over a dead skunk that is being eaten by a black crow. The crow may be an omen that could pop back up in later episodes. After the teens catch up with Harold and threaten him, they walk away, sneezing. Harold then walks down a boardwalk with a voice over a loud-speaker talking about the CDC shutting down public gatherings due to the virus. All the people around Harold are coughing and sneezing. It is an eerie scene to watch as we are still going through the pandemic. Very similar situations happened in real life mere months ago. When Harold gets home, his family shows him no love or support, even as they cough and sneeze, indicating they are also sick. He opens a letter, and we see it is a rejection letter from a story he wanted to be published. Harold pins the note on a big nail on his bedroom wall. This scene is a nod to Stephen King, who said that he would do this same thing when growing up. At one point, he says that the rejection letters where so many the nail came out of the wall, so he just got a larger nail.
We then are introduced to Stu Redman (James Marsden), who is in quarantine in what appears to be a government facility in Texas. Stu seems to be unaware of the events taking place outside of the facility. He is questioning a doctor when we first learn the virus is a super-flu called Captain Trips. The doctor says that Stu came in contact with who we will later know as patient zero. Somehow, Stu is not sick, which indicates he is immune somehow.
The scene changes again as we are taken back to Harold, riding his bike down the same boardwalk he was on before. Only now, instead of pedestrians coughing and sneezing, there are dead bodies scattered around. He makes his way back to Frannie’s yard, where she is digging a grave to bury her dad. Knowing Frannie is there, Harold starts calling out, “Is there anyone there.” Frannie hesitates before replying to him, giving us the impression she does not look upon Harold fondly. While they are talking, Harold begins blaming the government and talking about how Captain Trips was all planned, showing he buys into the conspiracy theories. Possibly a way to darken the shadow he is already walking in. That night as Fran goes to sleep, she dreams of a cornfield and meets Mother Abagail Freemantle (Whoopie Goldberg), who tells her to come to see her in Boulder, CO.
The show then goes back to Stu, moving to a new secure location in Vermont. He is moving because the facility he is currently in becomes compromised due to a nurse getting sick.
When we go back to Harold and Frannie, we see a little more insight into the type of man Harold is. As he is brushing his hair, he practices a speech and plans to give it to Fran. In one part, Harold says, “We are both hurting,” but then begins to chuckle, revealing he doesn’t mind that his family has died. Once he arrives at Frans house, there is no answer at the door, so he breaks in. He finds Fran in the shower attempting suicide and saves her life. They decide to leave together and head for the CDC in Atlanta.
Stu, who is now in Vermont, also begins to dream of a cornfield. Only in his cornfield, he does not meet Mother Abagail. Instead, Stu meets with a snarling wolf who has red glowing eyes. He wakes up to the doctor who brought him to this location, walking in sick. Learning that everyone is now infected, Stu decides to leave.
When the show cuts back to the current time, Harold Lauder is giving a monologue while writing. Part of this speech lets us know his hatred for Stu Redman and, now, the woman he once thought he was in love with, Fran Goldsmith. We also get to witness one of Harold’s dreams. His dream also has a wolf, only this time the wolf is not snarling with red eyes; it seems friendly to him. While Harold is standing in a spot lot with Vegas neon lights all around him, a stranger walks out of the shadows. The newcomer offers Harold a stone that is glowing red.
The episode ends with one last flashback, giving us insight into how Captain Trips came into the world, along with another glimpse of the stranger. He is in some military laboratory when the virus breaks out. As lockdown begins, the stranger uses his foot to hold a door open and allows one soldier to escape. The soldier races home and gets his family so they can leave town, hoping to outrun the virus. Only, he is already infected because we learn that this soldier is the same one who crashed his car in front of Stu Redman, patient zero. As the soldier is racing down the road, the same stranger as before is walking down the street hitchhiking. The last shot is of the stranger magically appearing in the car’s back seat with the soldier’s baby, giving the impression that he is not an average human.
This episode starts a little slow and leaves room to breathe. We are only introduced to a few main characters but knowing Stephen king’s novel. There will be many more characters full of depth and personality as the show develops. With King’s son Owen as one of the writers this first season, we can have faith that the show will stay on the right path. Creator and Director Josh Boone (The New Mutants) is taking his time telling this story. Boone gives fans of the novel and new viewers both something to look forward to with upcoming episodes.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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