The Stand review: A world wiped clean by a communicable disease with a few stray survivors could be a recurring nightmare of 2020. The world has lost a lot of lives due to COVID-19 and so, The Stand comes at a very opportune time. Considered one of Stephen King's best novels, The Stand has all that it needs to merge fact and fiction but falls short on many accounts, especially while establishing the contrasting characters of Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg. Stephen King’s Anthology Series Castle Rock Cancelled by Hulu After Two Seasons
A new strain of Government engineered influenza has infected and killed nearly 99% of the world's population. Those who survived started seeing dreams, one of a benevolent mother Abigail asking them to come to Colorado and another of the evil Rendall Flagg. The survivors then decide which side to pick. Abigail's camp is handled by five people picked by her: Stu (James Marsden), Glen (Greg Kinnear), Underwood (Jovan Adepo) and Frenni (Odessa Young). Flagg however wants complete dominance and uses his survivors as his soldiers for that cause. The conflict is Flagg Vs Mother Abigail, good vs evil and what lies ahead for humanity with just a handful of survivors.
This isn't the first time that Stephen King's novel was adapted for Television. It had a 1994 version on ABC. What works here are the different personalities of the characters who are immune to the disease. As the bodies fall everywhere, some of them rise from the ashes which range from a peeping Tom with an unhealthy obsession for his former baby sitter Harold, a man who is deaf and mute with compromised eyesight Nick, a man who escapes a special holding cell after he was found immune to the infection upon coming in contact with the first super-spreader Stu, a quiet boy Joe, a mentally unsound guy Cullen, a pregnant woman Frannie, a disillusioned rock star Underwood...it's a spectrum which lodges people into every label that we have ever put on humans. In fact, the people who move in and out of the scene as guest stars provide a certain edge to the situation.
The first two episodes explain the plot, although hurriedly, and you know what you are looking at. It also promises you a thrilling ride ahead as from a pandemic induced survival struggle of humans, it has moved to a war between good and evil. We all like a story peppered with a bit of God and the Devil. Since the series takes an approach of focusing on the characters and the road ahead rather than the pandemic itself, it rushes through the symptoms of the disease. A cough here and a sniffle there rises your suspicion as much as that of the characters and which makes the first two episodes quite evolving.
However, it's debatable if that works out well for the series because, without the cause, the effect makes vague sense. David Boone (Fault In Our Stars) and Benjamin Cavell seemed more interested in looking beyond rather than dwelling in the source. So despite being the trigger, the pandemic ends up being a neglected sub-plot. Post two initial episodes where it manages successfully to present a new and empty world like every other cliched film of this genre, The Stand doesn't really dig deep. Even the nightmares of Flagg or the visions of Abigail that's supposed instill some sense of trepidation or anxiety is just superficially pieced together. These scenes are just there because they have to be to provide a missing link.
What's even more disappointing is the clash between Flagg and Mother Abigail which doesn't even brew to seem sinister enough in the four episodes that were provided for review. From the international reviews that I read, it doesn't seem to get any better in the coming episodes either. Now that defies the purpose of the show a lot. The rapid back and forth between timelines to show the backstories of the characters are riddled with jumps and confusion. In fact, the present is very carelessly handled to show the past.
Flagg as per the novel is supposed to establish a cruel totalitarian empire of his own and lure a lot of survivors to join his ranks. Nothing of the sort is established in the first four episodes. In just one stray scene, he is seen breaking a mass-murderer Lloyd out of a jail to be his right-hand man. That isn't enough to show how dreadfully evil he is, complete with his supernatural powers. It should have been a cross between Damon Salvatore and perhaps Joker while Alexander Skarsgård just comes across as a charming handsome man doing bad deeds. The nightmares? nay...not scary either!
Speaking about performances, lack of better writing leaves each one of them half-baked and confused. But the biggest disservice is done to Whoopi Goldberg's Abigail and Stresgard's Flagg, the two characters who needed more inputs. How Abigail comes to the conclusion that she is here to do God's will is unclear and so is Flagg's vileness towards her. Hasn't Good and evil existed together before? James Marsden is easy on the eye but doesn't have much to offer apart from being the 'Good Guy'. The one person who shines here is Owen Teague as the creep who keeps up with his demeanor always. His disdain for Stu who Fannie takes a liking for is quite apparent and that fake smile he pastes on his face to come across as any other normal citizen can stir up a lot of bad memories.
- Post pandemic world
-good range of characters
-initial two episodes
-Neglectful approach to pandemic
-weak character development
-poorly dealt with conflict
The Stand gives an un-complicated spin to Stephen King's novel but gets mired by sketchy representation and under-developed characters. It's neither thrilling nor scary.