We got ourselves our first decent episode!
- 💣Tom Cullen and Nick Androse have the first real emotional beat of the series.
- 💣Dayna Jurgens owning a would-be rapist with a metal pipe.
- 💣Nadine Cross is leading Harold Lauder down a dark path that he was already supposed to be on.
- 💣Meaningful character moments continue to be sacrificed.
There’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation going on with this week’s episode of The Stand. The good news is that “The House of the Dead” is the best episode of the series so far. The bad news is that has been a very, very low bar to clear. That bit of (well earned) snark aside, this week offers some emotional beats that connect in ways none of the others have, and introduces us to the feisty Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara).
The story begins with the council trying to manage the fallout from last week’s visitor. His sudden appearance and subsequent death have left the townspeople of the Boulder Free Zone decidedly on edge. The lack of power with winter fast approaching isn’t doing much for anyone’s disposition, either. Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) helps the crowd cool down long enough for them to let Stu Redman (James Marsden) speak, but it’s Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) who “saves” the day.
Teague’s performance as Lauder has been the most impressive aspect of the series by far. Making Harold’s character sympathetic is a tall order to begin with. Making his character sympathetic while we learn his story out of order is damn near impossible. But, Teague manages to pull it off to some degree. His creepiness is omnipresent, though we receive incremental reminders that he was once just a scared little boy.
All the same, scared little boys who grow up to be monsters are still just that.
We’ve discussed some of the frustration with Nadine Cross’ (Amber Heard) depiction in this mini-series, which “The House of the Dead” only expands on. Not only is any of her crisis of conscience gone, she also seems to be more of a driving force in Harold’s descent rather than a partner to his villainy as she’s meant to be. While we’ve seen Harold’s desire to off Stu Redman, he seems much more hesitant than he should be at this juncture in the story. Let me tell you: if we’re going for the redemption arc of a mediocre, sad, white boy after he was “tainted” by a temptress in the year of our lord 2021… woof.
“The House of the Dead” marks the beginning of the two’s team-up. They collect their explosives from a ski lodge (of which there are none in Boulder, as it’s not a ski town, but alright), and happen across Tedd Weizak (Eion Bailey) as he works to shut off any extra lights that might blow the power grid when they turn it back on. Harold’s only real friend takes a bullet to the chest – shot by one Nadine Cross – well before his death is meant to occur, and by the wrong hands.
While the committee had plenty to worry about this week, there’s also the question of who will be sent to Las Vegas to learn more about everyone’s would-be tormentor(s). Three members of the Boulder Free Zone will go: Dayna Jurgens (Natalie Martinez), Judge Harris (Gabrielle Rose), and Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke). None of them are to know of the others or tell anyone of their plans. You'll recognize Dayna from earlier in the episode when she brains a dude for trying to rape Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young). But it's Tom Cullen that sparks a particular debate due to certain cognitive disadvantages, but the group ultimately agrees that sending him along is the best move.
The most successful emotional beat of the series so far takes place upon Tom’s departure, but first we have to learn why it matters. The non-linear format continues to be messy, however we do get the first time it really works with the two characters.
When Nick Androse (Henry Zaga) and Tom encounter Julie for the first time, it’s in an abandoned hardware store. The vixen makes it pretty clear that she’s headed to Vegas very early on in their meeting. Some shining moments include a profuse use of the “R” word and telling Tom to go drink Clorox. Despite her behavior, the gem of a human isn’t thrilled to lose the first people she’s met in the apocalypse. She shows her remorse by, well… shooting at them. Tom saves Nick’s life when he hears her cock the gun, and the two flee for their lives arm in arm.
The brief scene goes a long way to illustrate their connection before we see Tom prepare for his departure in the “present”. The two’s hug goodbye is the first time anything emotionally impactful has hit its mark in a series about the end of the world. That’s rough for the series as a whole, but it doesn’t pull away from the meaningfulness of their separation.
Whether or not “The House of the Dead” marks a minute turning point in the series remains to be seen. There is, at the very least, a whole lot of action coming our way!
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.
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