This far into the story, I would have thought we would have the characters completely fleshed out. Early on, viewers were given backstories for all of the major characters. Other characters were neglected, such as Ray Brentner.
In this episode, we finally get introduced to Trashcan Man. In the book it was so much better. There was more depth to what was going on in his head. Here, he’s a nutcase who is introduced blowing up some sort of fuel storage tanks. In the book, he pretty much burned a whole city to the ground.
It is after this that he hears the call from Flagg. There’s a bit shown of his background, but unless you’ve read the book you won’t really understand who he is. He arrives in Vegas rather quickly and is greeted by Lloyd rather disdainfully. Flagg, however, welcomes him with open arms. He sends him off in pursuit of a nuclear warhead.
In Boulder, everyone is out searching for Mother Abigail, who is off on her self-imposed exile. Harold sees this as an opportunity for him and Nadine to pull off what they’ve been planning. They are holding a vigil that night for her. In the woods, Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg have a confrontation.
When Fran knows Stu is out with Harold searching, she takes that opportunity to break into his house again. This time she enters the basement. She finds out what he’s up to and reads his manifesto. Unfortunately, she’s discovered. Harold locks her in the basement, knowing he only needs a few hours.
The third spy, Judge Farris, is holed up in a motel not far from Vegas. Flagg wants her alive. He can’t see who the third spy is and he needs to talk to her to figure it out. Tom Cullen, meanwhile, is trying to decipher a message left for him by Dayna, telling him to get the hell out of there. Okay, it just says “RUN” but that’s what she means. He ends up hiding in a load of dead bodies about to be taken out of the Inferno Casino, just in time to avoid Flagg.
The episode culminates in Harold and Nadine’s plan coming to fruition.
This is the first sign that things are going to be a lot different from here on out than they are in the book. The incident with Trashcan Man is sorely lacking. This seems to be more like the original edit of the book where King had to cut a significant number of pages to get it published and deleted a whole section on The Kid. One day Trash is blowing up fuel depots in his hometown, the next he’s in Vegas. Supposedly there was a plan for him and The Kid, who was to be portrayed by Marilyn Manson, that was deleted from the final product. I think that’s a big loss.
The dynamic between Trashcan Man and Flagg is missing as well. In the book, Trash is in Vegas for quite some time, helping them get things running. There are hints in this episode to what is going on at the airport, but not much else. In the book, Flagg is not actively looking for a nuclear weapon. He is looking to get planes in the air to attack Boulder, and after a personal slight, Trashcan Man blows up the planes and the pilots. On his own, he sets out to retrieve a nuclear bomb as a way of making it up to Flagg for doing that.
This was important, because not being able to see who the spies were followed by what Trashcan Man did was the first sign in Vegas that things are not what they appeared. It was a wake-up call for some people, who began to desert Flagg, sneaking off in the middle of the night. Absent this sequence of events, there’s not much happening yet that shows the wheels are starting to come off.
The timeline for everything is sped up. Mother Abigail was gone for some time in the book; here it’s a day. We see nothing of the confrontation between Judge Farris and Bobby Terry that results in her death, we just know it happened when she is taken in a body bag to Flagg with a bullet in her head. What happens to Bobby-Terry, though, isn’t pretty.
I did like the confrontation between Flagg and Mother Abigail. The exchange between the two and the visuals were excellent. I also liked the confrontation between Harold and Fran before he locks her in the basement. The dialog in these moments is good and the acting is great. I wish there was more of that. It seems like there is some heavy editing with some of the characters and it suffers from that.
I’m on the fence right now about the series. Much like Flagg, it could start coming off the rails here, depending on what happens down the line. They’ve done great with the first few episodes, but here I’m starting to wonder if they’re going to be able to conclude this series in a way that is satisfactory to fans of the book, like me.
Previous episode of the series (link): The Stand – Episode 5: Fear and Loathing in New Vegas