- 🍸It's pretty to look at!
- 🍸Dayna Jergens gets her moment.
- 🍸Nadine's crisis of conscious means nothing when it takes place after her "fall."
- 🍸Mother Abigail's choice lacks any punch with her interference.
- 🍸Randall Flagg lacks any real teeth.
The Stand continues this week with two primary plots. In Las Vegas we have Dayna Jergens (Natalie Martinez) and Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke) on reconnaissance, with Judge Harris (Gabrielle Rose) hiding out somewhere on the outskirts of town to try and scatter their arrivals. Meanwhile, in Boulder, Frannie’s (Odessa Young) suspicious of Harold (Owen Teague) and all of his creepy grins, and Mother Abigail (Whoopi Goldberg) finds out about the council’s spies. The story, as it stands, moves forward in an adequate enough way. However, I wonder if there’s any real “saving” the series at this point.
We open in Vegas, where Dayna meets Julie Lawry (Kat McNamara) and Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff). As promised, Henreid is now Randall Flagg’s (Alexander Skarsgärd) right hand man. As for Julie? Well, Julie just knows where to go to keep herself nice and comfy.
Before long, we shift to Nadine (Amber Heard) and Harold in Boulder. We’re right on the heels of their first murder, and Harold is reconciling with what he must become in ways that make little sense for the character. That said, that reconciliation doesn’t last long. He catches Frannie in a lie when she invites him over for dinner as a guise so Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) can search his home. These scenes are mostly vehicles of discomfort, but they do show off Harold’s impressive camera collection. He even plants one in Frannie and Stu’s (James Marsden) bedroom for good measure.
“What would you care? You gave me to Harold.”
“No, Nadine. I gave you purpose.”
This exchange between Randall Flagg and Nadine Cross has been ringing in my ears since I watched “Fear and Loathing in New Vegas.” It’s not that it’s surprising that The Stand’s lead antagonist speaks about his future bride as a possession. That’s expected. It’s that it’s exactly how this series sees the character of Nadine. Her fall mattered, her kindness mattered, and while we did see a bit of said kindness for a fleeting moment this week, they’re traits that are stolen from her in CBS All Access’ depiction of the story.
You know what else mattered? Randall Flagg’s quiet creepiness. This character is supposed to fill you with dread and unease. Everything about him is meant to be disconcerting. We know for a fact that Skarsgärd is more than capable of playing all of the above with an unnerving amount of charm — so which showrunner is telling him to turn that all the way off every single episode and how do we get in a time machine and tell them to stop?
We’ve obviously discussed this frustration before, but the iconic scene between he and Dayna Jergins drove home just how much cheap thrills have been traded for genuine terror in the most reductive, lazy ways possible. Even the terror of Flagg’s disciples is nearly non-existent. (Sorry you couldn’t get it up, Lloyd!) The scene between Dayna and Flag is — as far as I’m concerned — one of the most iconic moments of King’s novel. It’s depiction in the series is relatively close to what happens on the page, but it lacks the big punch because Flagg simply isn’t what he’s supposed to be. We’ve got shining eyes and loud voices, and maybe a cheap magic trick from the Walkin’ Dude every now and then, but it just doesn’t measure up. All the same, Natalie Martinez absolutely crushes it in this role from start to finish.
This chapter’s final frustration is the departure of Mother Abigail. In defense of the episode, it’s not at fault for Abigail Freemantle being meaningless in The Stand. That all occurred well before she went on her (canon) walkabout. As with so many other things in this series, the moment is made meaningless because the lead-in to it means nothing. When they announced this adaptation, they assured that they’d shift from the Magical Negro trope. Instead, the trope remains present and the character is meddling in decisions that she has to actively avoid for her character to have purpose.
When it’s all said and done, “Fear and Loathing in New Vegas” is one of the prettier episodes of The Stand. There’s entertainment to be had here, whether you’re looking for the spectacle of New Vegas or the quiet sleuthing in Boulder. It’s all empty. But at least it looks good!
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