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'The Stand' 1.02 Review: Pocket Savior

The Stand continues to introduce us to key players while jarringly trying to tumble along in its story.

The Walkin' Dude meets one Lloyd Henreid in The Stand.
(Image: © CBS All Access)

Our Verdict

'The Stand's insistence in this non-linear format will continue to do it absolutely no favors.

For

  • 🐺The practical effects used for the heist are great.
  • 🐺The aforementioned heist manages to still be jarring despite being pulled directly from King's novel.

Against

  • 🐺Showcasing Larry Underwood's growth in a non-linear format is a huge disservice to the importance of his narrative.
  • 🐺Nadine Cross is just... here.
  • 🐺We're really struggling to make Flagg intimidating, even with Skarsgärd's talent.

This post contains spoilers for The Stand.
Check out our last review here.

Non-linear storytelling can be a huge asset for a series. However, it might not be the best method to lean into when you're adapting a story with the number of characters that The Stand has. This week's episode introduces us to several new players. The most notable of the bunch is Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo), but that doesn't pull from the importance of Nadine (Amber Heard), Joe (Gordon Cormier), and Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff). We also get more of a look at Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgärd) himself, but we'll get to him a bit later.

Larry Underwood is a taker. Or, at least he is in the beginning of his story. Regrettably, our first meeting with the musician isn't at the beginning. That Larry will come into play, but first "Pocket Savior" chooses to show us the man he will become after countless trials and hardships. 

This is a silly decision. 

By showing us the man that Larry grows into immediately, The Stand successfully undermines any underlying narrative value to his growth. There isn't any "will he or wont he." Perhaps such things have no place in a story that's been around for nearly forty years. But, for my money, no adaptation should assume all of its viewers are familiar with the source material. Two episodes in, and that assumption seems to be the series' cardinal sin. 

"Pocket Savior" gives Rita Blakemoor (Heather Graham) and a one-and-done narrative. Rita and Larry cross paths at the very beginning of Larry's journey. In the novel, her death is used as a jarring turning point for Mr. Underwood after he wakes up next to her corpse. In The Stand her character is given a bit more autonomy. While I'm never one to begrudge giving a female character power over her story, the method used here feels less impactful. Whether that's because of the time-jumps, the truncated manner of the mini-series, or a failed attempt at something new is anyone's guess. (It's likely a combination of all three.)

Running in conjunction with Larry's story is that of Lloyd Henreid. (Nadine is involved in the episode, but in a very perfunctory manner by no fault of Amber Heard.) We meet him as he's being walked to his cell in prison - mixing up his story in the same way that everyone else's has. Though it is less annoying in his case due to the fact that that his early origins don't matter much beyond a thrilling murder sequence. 

Said sequence is pulled right from the pages of King's novel, and done so with some exceptional practical effects that the camera feels no need to pull from. Even knowing that Andrew "Poke" Freeman (currently uncredited) was going to blow someone's face off didn't pull from how gruesome the scene manages to be.

And so, Lloyd goes to prison. With Poke dead and Captain Trips beginning to take hold of the population, he is about to find himself fully alone in a way that he is not equipped to manage. Thankfully, Randall Flagg is there to make sure little ol' Lloyd never has to be alone again. 

With Flagg comes the final frustration of "Pocket Savior." His career has all but proven that Skarsgärd is fully capable of playing charming in a way that is simultaneously utterly terrifying. And yet, none of that emits from this version of the Walkin' Dude. He's tickled with his game, and little more. That would probably be all well and fine from a character with less history than Flagg, and might even be excusable if they went so far as to bother to imply what level of horrors he can bring. Instead, it's just the charm.