This post contains spoilers for The Stand.
The Stand makes several questionable choices in its first episode, but one of the most noticeable offenses – outside of the choice to tell the story in a non-linear format – was the depiction of Frannie Goldsmith’s (Odessa Young) character. This isn't a question of acting. Odessa Young will do a lovely job as Frannie if this first episode was any indication. No, the question here is the way the writers have started her story. When this piece was originally written, I had pointed out that there was still plenty of time for the series to course correct. Now, after the penultimate episode, it has become abundantly clear that the writers saw no importance in Frannie Goldsmith's spine or integrity.
To provide those who haven’t read the book with some context, we meet Frannie right as she discovers she’s pregnant in King’s novel. Before the virus takes hold of the world, Frannie meets up with Jess to discuss their situation. The baby’s father is sweet, and soft, and truly does believe that he loves Frannie and will be there for their child. However, after some frustrating signs, she decides to go it alone when it comes to raising her child. And in telling her parents.
Frannie has a close relationship with her father, but she and her mother have butted heads most of her life. Fred Goldsmith is shocked at the news, but ultimately supportive. Carla Goldsmith, on the other hand, threw a fit so strong that her laid back husband stepped in and went so far as to slap her in an attempt to get her out of it. This fight leaves Frannie scared she’ll have no support, but she’s still stalwart in her decisions to leave Jess, keep her baby, and share her news with her family. She leaves home long enough for her mother to cool down. But Carla would be dead two days later as one of the first victims of the plague.
Our meeting of Fran gives us a clear outline of who she is as a person: young, and a little scared, but a stubborn and smart woman who knows what she wants. The Stand might be a beast of a novel to adapt, but it feels like a real misstep not taking the time to introduce these characters in the way that we got to know them in the novelization. Showrunner Benjamin Cavell may be convinced that this isn’t a show about a pandemic, but excluding the people that our survivors lost takes away key traits that we learn about them early on. And I say that about a character whose family we do meet in “The End.”
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The Stand’s premiere gives us a glimmer of the woman Frannie Goldsmith is when we see her determination to bury her father – a moment dutifully depicted nearly to the letter. Beyond that, it’s a lot of reliance on those around her. And no, this isn’t an ill-conceived shot at her attempted suicide. People who attempt suicide in a normal situation aren’t weak, and a girl trying to off herself after she believes she’s lost absolutely everything is even more understandable. But that moment does set up an opportunity for Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) to swoop in and be her white knight.
Rather than take the time to depict Fran as the frightened but decisive and strong-willed young woman we meet in the novel, “The End” illustrates her as a horrified girl in need of a savior. The world’s ending. Many of us would be scared and in need of saving – especially after what she went through. But that’s not who Frannie is, and to see her solely depicted that way from the jump is disappointing.
We honestly don't see much of Frannie in the series—despite her playing a major role in the narrative. (Then again, the same can be said for Nick Andros (Henry Zaga.) Through all the shifts and changes, the moment of Mother Abagail's (Whoopi Goldberg) death is played pretty much to the letter sans one key moment: Frannie's objection.
When Mother Abagail tells the Council that they're meant to schlep across the Rocky Mountains with nothing but the shirts on their backs, Frannie goes into a rage. She's lost everything, and now she's being told by some old crone who just got done abandoning them that her boyfriend is meant to walk to his death for the good of humanity. That is hot nonsense, and it matters that it's called out as hot nonsense! The (very logical) protest adds meaning to the ultimate outcome. But because the series has decided that this character needs to be toothless, there isn't so much as a peep from Frannie.
The scared, strong woman that walked through the pages of King's novel has been traded in for some kind of demure housewife who just allows whatever's meant to unfold around her. Her strong protests to the spies? Gone. Her banter with Stu? Gone. Any aspect of her stubborn and occassionally fierce personality was thrown in the pits with the rest of the corpses and the character deserved way better representation in 2021.
Amelia Emberwing is the Entertainment Editor and lead critic here at What to Watch. She survives on a steady IV of caffeine, rants, pixie dust and fangirling, and will probably sass you. You can find her on Rotten Tomatoes as an individually approved critic. She's also a member of the Television Critics Association and GALECA.
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