CBS All Access adaptation of Stephen Kings The Stand is continuing the slow burn of episode one. The story has so many interesting characters, some of kings best actually, that introducing these characters only a few at a time is a smart way to allow an audience to form a specific emotional response to them. Also, beginning the show in the already populated “Boulder Free Zone” is clearly blazing a new path from the original novels.
The decision to have the show start in the “Boulder Free Zone” was one that the show’s runners did not make lightly. In an interview with Den of Geek, showrunner Cavil states, “I know it feels to everybody like a big choice, and obviously it is. But it just felt very clear to me, and to us from the beginning, that we didn’t want to make people sit through three episodes of the world dying before we got to the meat of our story. I mean, look, those first 300 pages of the book are wonderful, and I certainly remember them from the first time I read the book, but it’s also not exactly what the book is about.” He goes on to explain what the true story behind The Stand is stating “this elemental struggle for the soul of what’s left, and these questions about how you go about rebuilding, and what constitutes a human society. If you had a chance to press the reset button on humanity, would you build it back the same way?” It is hard to argue the reasoning behind this new beginning to an already loved story. The writers weave in and out of each character’s backstory works to give foundation to the world they now find themselves in.
In the second episode of season one, the show introduces Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo). Underwood is a struggling musician who is just about to cross that line of success. The line that every artist is running towards. All of the hard work and dedication is about to pay off for Mr. Underwood; only Captain Trips decides to take out 99% of the world just as Larry is making it big. As the episode goes on, Underwood’s addictions are made known. Struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, Larry uses these to numb the pain of his new reality. When first seen on the screen, Larry is backstage, not ready to go out solo since his band is sick. The fear of being alone on stage causes him to use the crutch of booze to calm his nerves. Just before he goes on stage, his mother comes into the scene, and their back and forth lets it be known that Larry has been struggling with addiction for some time now. While on stage, Underwood talks about his “real fans” not letting a few sniffles stop them from coming out and supporting him. However, just before he gets into his music, a drunk associate of Larry’s comes into the room and begins accusing Underwood of stealing his song to make it big.
Running away from a one-night stand, betraying one of his friends, and focusing more on his music and selfish desires than his mother’s needs paint the image of Larry being somewhere between good and evil. In a story where good and evil are continually fighting for the “soul of the world,” having a character that seems to be neither good nor evil is a clever way to watch Larry’s story unfold. It does this in a way where the viewer is not sure where he will end up, with the Walking Dude in Vegas or Mother Abagail in the Boulder Free Zone.
One character who creates no uncertainty about his good or evil intentions is Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff). When Lloyd comes into the show, there is little evidence that he can be a “good guy” in the show. While robbing a store with a friend, a woman and cop are both killed. Lloyd shows he doesn’t really want to kill anyone but is also not one to mourn their deaths. He is soon locked up in prison, where he sits while the world suffers to Captain Trips. Locked in the cell, worried he will die of starvation, Lloyd begins luring rats into arms reach so that he can live off of what little meat they have to offer. Once the rat buffet closes, Lloyd must resort to minor cannibalism to survive. This is when he meets the Dark Man. Randall Flagg walks into the prison and begins speaking to Lloyd as a father would. When everyone else spoke down to Henreid, the Walking Dude seems to lift him up with his words and encourage his negligent behavior. Flagg gives Lloyd the choice of serving him and going free or staying in the prison cage. Of course, Lloyd agrees, and Flagg uses magic to make a key for him to escape. Henreid (we later will discover) becomes Flagg’s right-hand man because of this, and he sinks deeper into his evil ways.
This adaptation of The Stand does a great job of blending the aspects of the story that has to stay true to the original and diverting a little in places where it can help enhance this fresh take. For instance, in the novel, Larry Underwood leaves New York by escaping through a pitch-black Lincoln tunnel. In this new adaptation, Larry flees in the sewers of New York City. When asked about the change by Den of Geek, Cavil explains, “And really have the decisions people are making feel like they come out of character and logic, and not just for dramatic purposes. Viewing it through that lens, it is almost impossible to explain why somebody would leave New York with the power out through a tunnel. I mean, the idea of going into a tunnel that you know is packed with stuff, when you know that the lights are out, is almost insane.” The ability to stay faithful to the original while still carving out their own ideas in how that tale will play out speaks volumes to this show’s ability to succeed.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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