First, a Recap:
Nadine, Larry and Joe
The episode starts off with a young Nadine, maybe 10-12 years old at what looks like a boarding school or maybe an orphanage (in the book, she’s an orphan). She’s the “new girl” and the other girls are playing with a planchette and get her to join them. There’s some goofing around before the device writes “Nadine”. They are just starting to laugh at her saying she did it, when suddenly, none of them can take their hands off it – it begins to write furiously, obliterating the board beneath it and carving into the floor violently. When it’s done, the other girls run screaming from the room – Nadine stays behind and it reads “Nadine be my queen” and lots of other stuff but the camera pans away too quickly to read all of it. Nadine then wakes up with a start – she’s in her house in Boulder.
She puts her hair up and gets dressed – it’s the first day going to visit the school that’s been set up for her. She goes to get Joe, who’s hiding under the bed with Larry’s guitar…cut to the day she and Joe meet Larry on the road & Joe has a knife he tries to stab Larry with. Back to the present, she lets Joe stay under the bed, and then Joe and Nadine are at the school, where Teddy Weizack (whom we’ve seen mostly with Harold previously) shows them around and they make small talk. Cut to flashback where she’s trying to convince Larry to let them go with him…he tells them about Rita and that maybe he’s better off alone, she asks him where he is going and they come upon another of Harold’s signs. He says “Wherever Harold leads me”. She then says they’re coming with him. Back at the school, Nadine and Joe say goodbye to Teddy – Harold is in the background futzing with something. Teddy talks about maybe having a shot with Nadine “the hottest woman left” now that he’s a little closer to being the last man on Earth, and Harold laughs and says he has no shot.
Later on we get a flashback of Larry, Nadine and Joe at an empty ballpark, presumably somewhere on their journey. Larry noodles around on his guitar, and Joe seems interested – Larry offers to let him try…and Joe’s a natural, plays back the exact tune Larry was noodling. Joe tries to teach him more, but Joe flinches and walks away with the guitar. Larry and Nadine exchange a glance which I’m interpreting as sexual tension, because I know the book. But who knows? It may not be.
Still later, Nadine is alone, it’s night time and she’s getting the “Planchette” game ready to use. Another brief flashback of her as a child looking down at the words etched in the floor, she realizes she has a black stone with a red flaw around her neck (similar to what Lloyd received in last week’s episode). Cut back to present day, she’s still wearing the stone. She starts to use it is transported, at least telepathically, to the desert where Randall Flagg is waiting for her. She’s wearing a white nightgown. Says she doesn’t like Boulder because she can’t feel him there. He blames it on Mother Abigail and tells her she’s there to be his eyes. They have a heated moment and she says she wants to come NOW…he says “Soon…there’s one thing I need you to do first.” “Anything!” she cries breathlessly. “Anything!” “I want you to kill the witch and the five puppets she put in charge.” He says he has the weapon, they just need the trigger – at which point Joe walks in and catches her, just staring at her. Saying she was just playing a silly game she used to play at his age, she takes him back to bed. Closeup on the Planchette paper, which says “Harold Lauder”.
Stu, Frannie, Harold & Glen Bateman (ETC)
Stu and Larry are walking down a deserted road in Boulder when a bright yellow sportscar pulls up behind them,
driving really slowly. It stops next to them and a guy in really bad shape opens the door and spills out – he has no pants on, only underwear. They ask if he’s okay – look inside the car and find a “Las Vegas” key chain. He has wounds on his wrists. He wakes up and says he has a message for them, which is “He’s coming”. I looked up the IMDB and discovered this was Heck Drogan (who never reached Boulder in the book).
We cut to Frannie in the hospital with “Dr. Sylvia Wen” (according to the credits), getting an ultrasound. They see the baby and Fran pulls out a photo saying “Hey Jess, meet our kid”. Wondering again if we will ever meet Jess and get more of Fran’s backstory in flashback. Maybe I’ll look at all the actor credits in IMDB and find out.
Cut to Frannie and Harold on their journey, siphoning gas. Frannie is stealthily taking prenatal vitamins because she hasn’t yet told Harold she’s pregnant. Harold goes off to relieve himself, and Stu approaches for the first time. Harold is extremely suspicious of him. He and Frannie argue about letting him come with them, and Harold is emphatically against it. Frannie and Stu chat for a minute before parting ways – she says they’re going to the CDC in Atlanta and Stu says he might go out west to LA or San Diego. They part.
Back in the present day, Stu and Larry bust in on Fran’s ultrasound carrying Heck Drogan in. Nick shows up and presents a note saying “He came from Las Vegas” – apparently Mother Abigail knew Heck was coming. Stu asks how she knew, because someone “who knew how” nailed the guy to a cross (between the bones of the forearm). Asks Nick if he can tell him who did it.
Later on, Stu is walking by himself when a big golden retriever runs up to him. A voice is calling “Kojack!” and this is where we meet another major player, Glen Bateman. They get the “don’t shoot me, I’m not a threat” thing over with and Glen introduces him to Kojack and asks Stu if he likes caviar. Next, they are finishing their meal in Glen’s home – his wife made him get a generator awhile back, but we discover she died 10 years ago, and discover Stu’s wife died a year ago when “a guy ran a stop sign”. (In the book, it was cancer). They continue to hang out, Glen is smoking, Stu’s having a beer, it’s established Stu doesn’t talk much and Glen talks a whole lot. They talk about how the plague took most of the dogs, horses and guinea pigs, but left deer and rats… and lightly argue about whether people will get things “up and running” again – Glen things that’s what got them into this mess in the first place.
Stu wakes up and looks through Glen’s paintings – discovers one of Mother Abigail in a cornfield and wakes Glen up to ask about it. “Most vivid dream I ever had – figured I’d put it down on canvas best I could”. Stu asks who she is and is her name Mother Abigail? Glen doesn’t know. Stu asks if they are having the same dream, and Glen brushes it off saying it’s probably some commercial everyone’s seen of an old woman selling laundry detergent. Stu says she told him to come see her in the mountains of Colorado at Hemingford Home (which, in the book, by the way, is in Nebraska, but I guess moving from Nebraska to Colorado was yet another thing that was too complicated for the creators to explain. If you’re detecting an eyeroll here, it’s because I am rolling my eyes right now.) Stu asks what else he’s been painting and finds a portrait of a very pregnant Frannie out in a field, tells Glen he met her on the road, but she didn’t appear pregnant. Glen says he painted it 3 days ago.
Back in the hospital by Heck Drogan’s bedside, Stu, Frannie, Larry, Glen and Nick are bickering amongst themselves about whether or not to tell everyone in Boulder about Heck’s arrival. Glen thinks they should be transparent. They talk about putting it to a vote. They are uncomfortable with being appointed leaders by Mother Abigail, who has told them it’s god’s will, but not everyone believes that. They feel like administrators. Mother Abigail shows up and says she will only speak through Nick, so tell it all to him. She proceeds to go to Heck’s bedside and holds his hand. He wakes up and she asks if he’s alright – he says he dreamt about her. He talks about Las Vegas being a bad place…at first, they were happy about Flagg showing up because he brought them out of chaos, but then there were slaves, things went bad and he tried to escape. They found him and crucified him (in the book, people were crucified on telephone poles), then Flagg took him down and decided to use him as an emissary to give Mother Abigail a message. Suddenly, Heck starts seizing and twitching in a very Japanese Horror Film way, and his eyes are completely black. We hear him speak in Flagg’s voice: “I have your blood in my fists, Old Mother – pray your god takes you before you hear my bootheels on your steps…I’m gonna blow your house down!” Heck jerks around unnaturally again, and then dies.
The end scene is Harold and Teddy Weizack tossing Heck’s body into a freshly dug mass grave – it’s the only body there. They talk about it being weird to finally be burying a “fresh one”. Harold says there will be more.
Nick Andros & Tom Cullen
Somewhere in the middle of the episode, we FINALLY meet Nick officially and start getting some of his backstory. He walks into a crowded bar and doesn’t notice as he accidentally jostles some guy mid-sip on a beer. He continues into the bar and gets a drink. Meanwhile, the guy’s panties are in a bunch and he’s yelling at Nick. As a deaf-mute, Nick, of course, doesn’t hear, which pisses the guy, Ray Booth, off. He keeps yelling, Nick keeps not hearing, and finally, he grabs Nick and starts punching him out…Nick keeps trying to give the “deaf-mute” sign, but Ray basically beats him to a bloody pulp, first punching him in the eye with his signet ring, and the last thing Nick sees is Ray’s boot as it stomps his face and he’s knocked out.
Cut to Nick finding himself in the middle of a dream about Randall Flagg in the desert. Flagg has a Craps table with a spotlight. Nick seems to be able to hear. Flagg recounts Nick’s past to him using playing cards and we discover his mother was an immigrant who fled El Salvador, crossing the border in a trunk of a car to give her child a better life. Flagg offers to make Nick his “right-hand man” and give him everything he ever wanted, including a voice. Nick signs that he has a voice. So Flagg asks about his eye, how eyes must be very important to someone deaf and mute. Nick wonders what’s wrong with his eye and Flagg says he’s about to find out – tells Nick he can fix him, and all Nick has to do is worship the ground Flagg walks on. Nick shows him a card, then lowers the card to reveal his hand, which is flipping Flagg the bird.
Nick wakes up from the dream to find himself in a deserted hospital with a bandage over his right eye. He leaves his room and goes to the nurse’s station, where he rings a bell…no one answers. The lights are out. He finds a newspaper with a headline reading “Is This The End?”. He sees Ray in a room adjacent to the nurse’s station – he goes into the room to find Ray handcuffed to the bed and yelling at him, with a pretty advanced case of Captain Trips. Nick briefly flashes back to the fight, and walks out of the room. Ray accuses him of now being able to finish Ray off, but Nick simply comes back with a bowl of water and a cloth and proceeds to try to bring down Ray’s fever with the wet washcloth.
Later on, Nick is walking through a cornfield, another dream. He’s then in Mother Abigail’s house and he can hear her…she says he can also speak, and he tells her the Dark Man scares him. She introduces herself as “an old woman the lord has chosen to talk to”. Nick says he doesn’t believe in God and she tells him “He believes in you. He wants you to be my voice.” She tells him the world is now a blank page and unless they all work together, they’re not going to be able to rewrite it. “Come find me at Hemingford Home…spelled M-O-O-N” (and I got excited at this point, because it’s a reference to another character in the book). Cut to the image of a book full of blank pages blowing open. Nick wakes up from this dream and we meet aforementioned book character, Tom Cullen who effusively introduces himself to Nick with a spiel he’s probably recited thousands of times throughout his life, telling his name, his age (42!) and how he might not pick up on normal social cues…he is mildly developmentally disabled, which I knew from the book. Nick, of course, can’t reply, and tries to get om to understand he is a deaf-mute, at which point Tom says “You sure are quiet…M-O-O-N, that spells quiet” (M-O-O-N spells everything, we discover, in Tom’s mind). He recites his spiel again. Talks about the “nice old black lady from inside my head” (Mother Abigail) and recites the spiel again.
I mostly liked all of Nadine, Joe and Larry’s flashbacks this episode – though some of it is different than the book, feels like it still supports the story as a whole, it didn’t bother me the Planchette flashback scene wasn’t in college. Most of the Joe and Larry stuff was fairly consistent with the book, though in the book, Joe DOES start talking before they reach Boulder. I wonder if this will happen in the series, and if we will discover his real name/story as in the book? I guess we stay tuned for that. Interestingly, Larry is white in the book, but “sounds black”,when he sings (it’s kind of a THING), so during my re-read back in March, was wondering if they’d lean into that by casting a black actor. Doesn’t appreciably affect the story, though their choice to make him a black substance abuser is questionable, though they haven’t really gone back to that yet, after his introduction. He no longer has the blow-filled duffel bag when he runs into Joe and Nadine for the first time. While Nadine is actually a school teacher before the plague in the book, this never happens once she reaches Boulder, so I’ll be curious to see where they’re taking that…especially in light of the fact she may not be in Boulder for long.
As for the Stu/Frannie etc story line: I was a little bothered they met and then separated, and THEN he met Glen…seemed clunky. We’ll see what happens going forward. A few “new things” were added to Glen’s story, specifically his painting of Mother Abigail and Frannie, which I do approve of…especially if these things come back later on. I’ll be curious if Kojack’s story line is the same as in the book…but won’t spoil it until we find out!
I have been looking forward to the introduction of Nick – he’s my absolute favorite character from the book, and in my opinion, if Mother Abigail is the soul, Nick is the heart of the story. So I was dismayed his introduction didn’t come until halfway through the episode and was SEVERELY truncated. Teddy Weizack, a passing character in the book, has so far received a lot more screen time (though, I suppose, no backstory). We may get more flashbacks of Nick’s backstory, but I was not impressed with his introduction. Though he’s been made “the voice of Mother Abigail” I feel he’s being treated as more of a supporting character, which he is NOT, in the book. But given the flashback-y nature of this interpretation, we’ll see if there’s more to come. There is a LOT that happens between his waking up after the bar fight and meeting Tom Cullen which was totally glossed over and dismissed. I appreciate they’re trying to be economical with the story, but wish it weren’t at Nick’s expense…we coulda done without Frannie’s suicide attempt, for example. As a Latina, I appreciate they leaned into that with casting (though there are lots of folks up in arms about the use of a hearing actor) and with his backstory – that’s a departure from the book. Also, another addition the series made is Flagg asking Nick to be his “right-hand man” – Nick did dream about him and was offered hearing and speech, and everything he ever wanted, but not specifically that. I kinda liked that touch.
Tom is another important character whose introduction was completely different in the series, and also glossed over…BUT, really fun to see the actor, Brad William Henke, who played the gay, authoritarian security guard in Orange Is The New Black show off his range with a 180 degrees polar opposite character! (am wondering if people are as annoyed with this casting, since Henke is not developmentally disabled) – I DID kinda like that Mother Abigail connected him, which wasn’t in the book, though if they’re so bent on truncating things, she could’ve also explained to Tom that Nick was a deaf-mute…though the reciting of his little spiel 3 times within the space of about 3 minutes was pretty funny.
Finally, the Heck Drogan character coming to Boulder. In the book, he dies being crucified publicly for drug use in Vegas – Flagg forces everyone to attend the crucifixion. Because of the dreams everyone’s having, the folks in Boulder know he’s in Vegas, crucifying people, so we don’t need this device of an actual physical message…that said, I liked it done this way as well, and felt bad that Heck didn’t get to recover and live in a more peaceful community.
I think I’m coming down on the side of not really liking so many jumps forward and back. I realize we now live in a very short attention span society, and since I’ve had the patience to read the 1.4K page novel multiple times in the first place, I’m probably an outlier, but it makes the story feel very disjointed, and sometimes, even I can’t tell if it’s taking place in the present or the past until they get well into the scene. I’m mostly liking it better than the 1994 miniseries, but still feel dismayed at all that’s being left out. I suppose it’d have to be a 3-5 season story if they wanted to get the whole thing in…but is that really so unreasonable? (hahahaaaaa…) – these characters and the story is great, and deserves a faithful retelling in this medium. But maybe I’m just a cranky fangirl. I give this episode a C.
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