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'The Stand' 1.03 Review: Blank Page

Welp. Maybe 'The Stand' just isn't going to get any better.

Joe and Larry practice guitar at Yankee stadium.
(Image: © CBS All Access)

Our Verdict

So far, this adaptation of 'The Stand' as removed any meaning from its story. This episode does not improve that flaw.

For

  • 📖 The scene from Nadine's past is great!

Against

  • 📖 I guess Nick Andros' and Nadine Cross' conflicts of conscience don't matter?
  • 📖 Skarsgärd is perfectly capable of doing both charming and terrifying, so where is it here?
  • 📖 It only shows when it should be telling, and goes huge when it should be small.

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

A tweet was circulating about a week ago that said something along the lines of “This ain’t your grandma’s The Stand. This one’s meaningless.” Let me tell you, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. “Blank Page” marks the third episode of the miniseries, in which a ton has happened. And yet, with all that’s occurred, it continues to feel as if very little of it means anything. King’s novel might have been long-winded, but at least it had a point. 

All the same, we’re here to talk about the miniseries, so let’s talk about it.

“Blank Page” doesn’t focus on one key player in the way that the two before it did. Instead, we see a mish-mash of Nadine Cross (Amber Heard), Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo), Nick Androse (Henry Zaga), and Stu Redman’s (James Marsden) stories. Nick’s story is absolutely important enough to warrant his own lead-in similar to Stu and Larry’s episodes, but it seems showrunners Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell are content to condense his past and cut out any meaningful backstory he has.

Speaking of backstories, we learned more about Nadine Cross this week. Girl has some weird times every time she picks up a planchette (the Ouija board doodad). Those weird times are because she is, for all intents and purposes, betrothed to Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgärd). That’s not something you’re supposed to find out until we’re about 3/4 through the story, but again, who cares if the narrative here matters?! Who cares that there’s supposed to be conflict over Nadine heading to Flagg? That she’s not supposed to be dying to get to him? 

Here’s the thing, folks. It’s not my job to tell you about the source material. It’s my job to break down whether or not an adaptation is a successful one. But it’s the fact that The Stand is so unsuccessful so far that makes me continually turn back to things that are supposed to be happening. Liberties are required when it comes to stories like these. Adaptations are supposed to do something new in a way that compliments the source material and draws new fans into the fold. But there’s nothing in this story to inspire new fans to stick around. 

In fact, I cannot fathom someone who doesn’t know the underlying story here having one damn inkling about what’s happening throughout this series right now. That’s not a question of viewer intelligence, either. So far, the series has told you that Nick Androse is important, but done nothing to show it. We’re supposed to be terrified of Randall Flagg, but nothing about Skarsgärd’s performance is delivering that fear. And we know that he’s capable of it, so the question then becomes “what in the world is going on in that director’s chair?”

There was an attempt in “Blank Page” to drive home the discomfort that Flagg is meant to convey. A poor soul stumbles into the Boulder Free Zone with clear signs of crucifixion. And not that fake, fluffly, bible crucifixion, either. Whoever’s doing this knows to ram those spikes through the wrists so their prey doesn’t slip off the cross. That's a good, solid kind of spook there. 

Had this moment been left to the looming fear that it was obviously Flagg rather than going with the big, in-your-face possession moment, it might have hit its mark.

But it didn’t.