CBS’s The Stand
Ep. 1: “The End”
Directed by Josh Boone
Written by Boone & Benjamin Cavell
* For a recap & review of “Pocket Savior,” click here.
Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) gives her prophecy from God about the Dark Man.
But we start in Boulder, Colorado with piles of rotting bodies in a church. A group of people head inside while one goes running back out to vomit. “7 billion people” are dead in the wake of a deadly virus. Skip back 5 months earlier when life was still normal. Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) is in the backyard with her father, who seems to be coming down with a fever. She’s being watched by Harold Lauder (Owen Teague). He gets caught by some fellow kids from school and has to make a go of it on his bike. A dead animal sends Harold flying off his bike, saving him any more punishment from his bullies. At home, Harold gets a rejection letter from Cemetery Dance Publications, though they encourage him to keep writing. Plus it sounds as if his mother’s come down with that flu.
Everywhere it seems flu season’s started up, fast and early. The CDC are quarantining people in Arnette, Texas. Phone and internet’s being jammed, cutting off the town from everywhere else. We see Kileen, Texas where Stu Redman (James Marsden) is being kept at a military facility and interviewed by Dr. Jim Ellis (Hamish Linklater). Stu’s pissed off. He’s been held for several days without any info or a phone call. Good news? He seems to be immune from the virus, which is being called Captain Trips.
So, let’s go back to Arnette.
Stu and his buddies were hanging at the gas station, drinking and playing cards when a man came flying towards the pumps. He managed not to crash into those, somehow. The driver, a guy named Campion, was military. He was also infected with the virus. Now, Stu is getting angrier. He wants answers about his friends and finds out they’re all dead. However he’s pressed by Dr. Ellis because they’re trying to contain the virus’s destruction. No time to waste. Before Campion died he told Stu a bit about what happened at the facility where he was working at a “bio–weapons facility” around California. The bottom line: Stu hasn’t gotten infected, everyone else who came in contact with Campion did and died. So he gives consent for tests.
While Frannie’s out digging graves she hears Harold calling. Well, he actually has been spying on her and made sure she was there before he called out. A manipulative creep who stalks and jerks off to Frannie constantly. Christ. Not a great guy to wander into your life after the plague has started to wipe out the planet. He has to break it to Frannie that all this was man-made, but it doesn’t mean much to her when she’s lost what’s left of her family. She gets angry with Harold and tells him to fuck off essentially. Later, he’s scavenging around town and gets himself a cop’s gun. Oh, no. As Frannie puts her father in a grave we hear Bryan Cranston’s President of the United States of America try to keep the nation calm with lies, all the while coughing. The POTUS keeps talking until the lights go out on Frannie.
Then Frannie has a dream of Abagail Freemantle telling the young woman to come find her in Colorado.
At the Texas facility, Stu finds he’s being transported to a CDC facility in Vermont. A nurse’s child tested positive for the virus, so the whole place is compromised. Stu tries to get more answers while being whisked away but Dr. Ellis is fairly tight-lipped other than the basics. They head off in a military vehicle and Stu has to wear a hood because they’re going to a “classified facility.” Cobb (Daniel Sunjata) is along for the ride and he’s a no bullshit type of guy who gives even less answers than Ellis. The rest of the world is slowly falling apart further and further outside of those military facilities. All Harold can think of at the end of the world? He’s trying to creep on Frannie, hoping to convince her to leave with him and go on the road elsewhere. He goes by her house and discovers she’s tried to kill herself with pills. He hauls her from the shower, then puts his fingers in her throat to purge the pills. That night, Frannie decides to go with Harold, and they’re going to make a road trip to the CDC.
At the next facility, Stu and Ellis play cards, talking a little more. They’re both in a similar sort of situation. Neither have any real freedom, even if the doc’s there to work and not a patient/prisoner. Not a great sign when the doc starts coughing, either. Stu’s soon having dreams of the cornfield. He runs through it hearing the cries of a baby. He reaches a clearing where there stands a red-eyed wolf. The dream ends and Stu finds Ellis at his door, very sick. Basically everyone at the facility has started to get ill. This leaves Stu in a bad spot. Especially with General Starkey (J.K. Simmons) locking the place down tight. Cobb comes by, also desperately sick, and he shoots Ellis. Stu kills Cobb before he gets killed, and then the door opens as Starkey beckons. When he reaches the upper floor he sees screens full of chaos. He gets a bit of explanation of what’s been going on, how all this came to be, and after that Starkey tells him how to get out of there. Before Stu goes he’s read “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats and then Starkey kills himself.
It’s Harold we saw in the earlier sequence helping dispose of the bodies.
He’s trying to become a new Harold in “this new America.” But is he becoming someone better?
He sees that wolf Stu saw in the cornfield and then he sees it become a man, holding out his hand and offering a dark, glistening stone. Is this his destiny? Oh, you bet. And it’s nothing good, either. Harold fancies himself a guy in a movie living out a plot, not a man living in the apocalypse. We’re further ahead than expected. Stu and Frannie are together, she’s even pregnant. They live in a small community of people, each with their own work to do and their own new lives. Harold wants to kill Stu, naturally; he’s a psychopath. Maybe the virus can’t kill Mr. Redman, but a horrible person can still do him damage.
I must say, in this opening episode I’m not thrilled by the structure. The flashing back and forward is a bit disorienting. Also doesn’t serve much purpose. Understandably they’re trying to tell The Stand in a different way than the previous miniseries. Just unsure of why this kind of format was chosen. It doesn’t add much, if anything. And the ending where we see Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård) for the first time is… weird. Hopefully the series will pick up with the next episode or two.