The first two episodes of the CBS All-Access limited series The Stand, based on the Stephen King book, were criticized by many for being a bit jumbled. The story is not being told in a linear fashion and it can be hard to follow at times, especially for those unfamiliar with the book that I consider my favorite of all time.
Episode 3 of The Stand begins drawing the characters together more. There is still a fair amount of jumping around in time. However, more of the story is taken place in the “current” time in Boulder, Colorado which makes the story more linear. People are trying to rebuild a society by cleaning up the city and starting up school again. By the end of this episode, I know that I am liking this version of The Stand much better than the 1994 version.
Why is that?
One of the main reasons is the attention to the character of Joe. Readers of the book will immediately know who I am talking about. He was something of a minor character in the book, but he was important. The earlier mini-series basically ignored him. I hated that series’ portrayal of Nadine Cross as well. Though I am not fond of Amber Heard, she is doing a great job in this role.
Blank Page flashed back to give the background of several characters who have already appeared in the series a bit. We see Nadine Cross as a young girl in school and see how she was being courted by Randall Flagg through a Ouija Board for many years. Joe is her one tie to the person she could be, but Flagg has been grooming her for so many years that her path is pretty certain.
We also finally get to see more than a glimpse of Nick Andros. His background is fairly faithful to the book, although we don’t get to meet the amiable sheriff and doctor who help him out. The story is a bit changed, but it’s recognizable. He also meets Tom Cullen fairly early on, and he’s not the blond giant described in the books. Still, I like the actor and the interaction between him and Nick. He’s portrayed as an adult on the autism spectrum, which is a great angle.
The story moves along as well. People on their way to Colorado who are having the dreams of Mother Abigail begin meeting up. Stu first meets up with Harold and Fran. A bit of a change is he first doesn’t join up with them, although Fran seems quite receptive to the idea. Instead, he keeps wandering and eventually finds Glenn Bateman and the golden retriever named Kojak. The two share a night of male bonding that is about as normal as things can get at this point in the story.
Larry Underwood lost his previous companion and is just following Harold’s signs across the country when he happens on Nadine and Joe. This meeting is faithful to the book for those who know it.
In their “current time” in Boulder, a man arrives from Las Vegas with a message from Randall Flagg. Larry and Stu first encounter him and bring him to the hospital where he delivers it in spectacular fashion. The drama of Captain Trips is about to be eclipsed by the battle against evil.
Whoopi Goldberg also has a bigger role here. All we know is she is a very old woman who everyone is dreaming about, but we get a bigger picture of what she’s about thanks to her interaction with Nick as well as more of the story taking place as people come together in Boulder. Particularly in the scene where she meets with the man sent by Flagg to hear his message, she is the faithful disciple who knows what’s coming and accepts it as she has accepted so much in her life, even if she doesn’t really want to.
There’s still a good deal of Harold Lauder in the story as well. He’s building toward his tragic climax as there’s a chance for him to become something more than what he was. It’s seen in some great snippets instead of the concentration that was shown in the first episode. His story arc is very prominent in this adaptation.
After three episodes there are many characters from the book we haven’t seen or gotten to know yet. I’m really wondering how they will pull this off in just nine episodes. There’s so much of the story yet to tell. I do think it’s way better than the 1994 series which could not be as graphic as this one since it was on network television. The changes in the story from the book have so far been minor and enough to keep the story from dragging or getting off track while still giving enough background of the characters.