The Stand, TV Shows

The Stand – Episode Five: Fear and Loathing in New Vegas

Recap:

The episode begins in “New” Vegas at a power station. Dayna Jurgens, the spy, has been there for a bit, and has been asking questions about Flagg. Julie Lawry and Lloyd Henreid (remember him from Episode Two? Now dressed to the New Vegas nines), who are now together say they will talk to him and Dayna goes with them. They escort her to a casino – a veritable carnival ride into Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights circa present day, a bacchanalia to the true spirit of Sin City. “Welcome to Heaven!” Lloyd sings to Dayna.

Casino in New Vegas

Tom Cullen has also recently arrived in Vegas and is being interviewed for work placement by a woman who seems very annoyed to have to deal with him. He gives his rehearsed schpiel. She tells the others to “just toss him in the slave cages”. The man who brought him reminds her that Flagg said anyone who comes voluntarily is a citizen, no matter what. Exasperated, she finally tells Tom to “Report to the front desk, gladiator’s hole.”

Nadine makes sure any evidence is washed away

Back in Boulder, Harold and Nadine are presumably in Harold’s house, stripping themselves of their clothes from their visit (in episode 4) to the ranger station and the crimes committed there. Harold is still shaken by Nadine’s stone-cold murder of Weizak, seems to be having second thoughts. Wonders if they should just leave now. Nadine takes charge, says they can’t leave until they finish what they’ve started. Then they hear Stu on Harold’s City Watch walkie-talkie transceiver calling all Watch members “to the amphitheater now.”

Larry and Stu are at the amphitheater, presiding over the body of Teddy Weizak, whose body has been placed, slumped over on a park bench with a gun in his hand. Larry seems to smell something fishy, since it’s so close on the heels of the Heck Drogan arrival and death. Harold, visibly anxious and upset, shows up and “wonders” whether it was an accident or a suicide. He mentions that Wiezak wanted to open up a drive-in theatre and asks if he can now take that project on in Teddy’s honor.

Cut to Mother Abigail, chastising Nick about the committee’s decision to send spies without notifying her. She is super pissed, afraid it might’ve started a war: “We’ll find out what you’ve wrought.”

Mother Abigail is angry about those spies!

In New Vegas, Lloyd and Julie are in bed, fooling around. Dayna is in the bathroom, in sexy lingerie, looking at herself in the mirror. She finds a pair of scissors and hides them in the sleeve of her robe. Lloyd and Julie call out to her to join them. She does. As they are kissing, Julie talks about getting Dayna relaxed enough to meet Flagg. Lloyd starts to get shifty – says he get nervous every time Julie talks about Flagg. He has gone soft. Julie suggests that “if sex isn’t happening, we should go shopping.” So that’s what they do. They exit back out through the casino, where some kind of cage match seems to be happening at the bottom of a dry, indoor swimming pool…” the gladiator’s hole”? Bets are being taken. Julie gets Dayna some champagne. They see Tom Cullen at the bottom of the dry pool, working as a cleaner for the aftermath of the cage match. Julie thinks she recognizes Tom and tells Dayna about her encounter with Tom and Nick, prior to her arrival in Vegas.

The MC introduces Lloyd as a VIP, then announces the main event, and introduces Flagg, “the greatest man the world has ever known, the father of the future!” Flagg, high atop the building, levitates, and he is seen in the casino on a mega screen. He spouts propaganda: “In the world that was, they told you it was wrong to love violence. They told you it was wrong to love sex. They told you it was wrong to want more! Well I say, their time has ended. Our time has begun! Citizens of New Vegas: welcome to freeeeedommmm!” The crowd goes wild. While he is saying this, Dayna is looking at the screen. Flagg’s mouth is not moving, and he seems to be looking directly at her with a smirk playing on his lips. “So…when do we get to meet the man upstairs?” Dayna asks, with a slightly frightened smile.

Aleksander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg on the Jumbotron

Nadine dreams about making out with Larry. They are pretty hot and heavy, until Flagg’s voice interrupts. She walks

Nadine’s Dream

to him barefoot, in a white nightgown, in the desert. “The old witch’s powers are fading…I can see you there now, even without your toy.” Nadine angrily says, “What would you care – you GAVE me to Harold.” He says no – they’re in this together, since he found her in the orphanage at 12. He didn’t give her to anyone – she belongs to HIM. He kisses her. She starts awake and moans.

Harold and Nadine are in the school. She asks what happened with Stu and Larry. He is angry and asks why she killed Weizak – he was Harold’s friend; she didn’t have to kill him. She tells him SHE’s his friend. He grabs her face a bit violently. She says they are so close…soon they can go to Flagg. She then appears to give him a handjob. When they finish, Harold leaves the room and runs into Frannie in the hallway – she offers condolences re: Weizak, and invites him to dinner tomorrow night. Silent, in the next room, Nadine hears the entire exchange.

Fran visits Larry, who’s chopping wood, and tells him she just invited Harold to dinner, and would Larry mind searching his house while the dinner is taking place? She thinks he might be panning something bad, and Larry agrees something’s off about Harold and somewhat reluctantly agrees to the task.

Nadine is looking for Joe, she’s just fixed him lunch. She can’t find him, goes outside, calling to him. She asks a woman if she’s seen him, and she points towards Mother Abigail’s house, where Joe is playing piano. She chastises Joe, and Mother Abigail apologizes, says it’s her fault. Says they were “talking”…Nadine wonders if she found out his name (she didn’t). They talk about playing piano…Mother Abigail says she doesn’t know how to play, but says she keeps it open to make the children comfortable. She commends Nadine for her choice to keep Joe safe, Nadine says she didn’t have a choice, and Mother Abigail doubles down that it WAS a choice.

Owen Teague as Harold Lauder at dinner

At the dinner table with Stu, Frannie and Harold. Harold arrives in the rain with wine and flowers. Frannie is unnaturally cheerful, and of course, Harold is flashing his best Tom Cruise smile. Stu takes Harold to try and find a corkscrew for the wine, while Frannie radios Larry to give him the go-ahead to search Harold’s place. He opens the door to head out, and Nadine is standing there. She needs to talk to him; he wants to talk later. She asks him about

Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, coming to seduce Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood

the day they met, when he said he didn’t want to eb alone anymore. She says he might be the only person in the world she trusts. She kisses him. He breaks it, asking why. She lays it out plainly “I want you to FUCK me, Larry”. He tells her she doesn’t talk like that; this isn’t like her. She feels spurned. He insists he wants her, but not like this…why now? She says she doesn’t have a choice, it’s the only way he’ll let her go. “Who’s him?” Larry asks. He doesn’t want her to wake up feeling regretful. Is worried about having a falling-out that will affect Joe. Nadine, dejected, says she doesn’t know what she was thinking and leaves. Something has shifted inside her, it seems. She walks out into the rain.

Montage of Stu, Larry, Frannie eating dinner, Larry breaking in and searching Harold’s house. There is music. Larry finds a locked door, and searches for the key. Harold is telling Fran and Stu about a time Fran took him to get ice cream. The guy behind the counter ignores him and when Frannie walks in, the guy’s demeanor totally changes and instantly gave them 3 free ice cream cones. He asks Fran if she remembers. She laughs nervously and says yes, that she felt bad about getting them for free. Harold calls her out, and says he wasn’t there. She says he was, he says no, I was never there, you never took me anywhere, you never invited me, that Amy, his sister told him that story. Everyone loved Amy – especially their parents. Fran says she misses Amy. Harold resentfully says it’s good both his parents weren’t immune, because they wouldn’t’ve been able to live without her. It is an awkward moment, and Harold apologizes, asking if he can go put water on his face. He goes through their house, appears to be snooping. Larry is also still snooping, comes across the photo of Tom Cruise on Harold’s bathroom mirror.  Harold goes into Fran and Stu’s bedroom. Larry finds a chess set. Harold sees a stuffed bear with overalls and a Russian fur hat on its head. Stu is talking to someone on the transceiver. Harold goes into the dining room and sneaks up on Fran, who is a little startled. They laugh. He says he should be heading out. She tries to get him to stay, but he says good night and leaves.

Whoopie Goldberg as Mother Abigail and the wolf

Mother Abigail prays in her home, apologizing to God for offending him. She is in voiceover as we see Larry in Harold’s house, he finds a shirt he saw Nadine wearing a few days before (flashback).  Fran runs into Stu, who is talking with Larry on the walkie, and tells him to get out of Harold’s house NOW. Larry puts the shirt back and some of the chess pieces move – he frantically tries to put them back in the right place as he hears Harold come in the house. Harold seems to feel something is amiss, and goes to his chess board. Larry is gone, but one of the pieces is amiss, and Harold arranges it properly. Mother Abigail prays, “Please god, I am your willing recipient.” We hear a growl – a wolf is looking in her face, and roars.

In New Vegas, Dayna is talking to the guy from Tom Cullen’s interview – it appears she wants to talk with Tom. The guy calls Tom out as he is working. She asks the guy to give her a second with Tom, as he breaks into his schpiel again. She says she lost something…says it’s a silver bracelet. Lloyd and Julie are looking for her, saying Flagg is ready to see her. She secretly gives Tom a piece of paper and goes with them. It says “Run”.

Tom Gets a Note from Dayna

Lloyd and Julie are escorting Dayna up to the penthouse in an elevator. Julie says “See ya!…wouldn’t wanna be ya.” And she is in Flagg’s suite. He is looking out the window and drinking, looking at Caesar’s Palace. She has her scissors hidden in her hand. He greets her, offers her a drink. She accepts. He gets her a beer. He asks her what brought her to New Vegas, that he’s been watching her for days, almost since the moment she left boulder. She feigns to have no idea what he’s talking about. She wonders if he’s just going to kill her. He says no – there’s been too much death already. He brings up Garvey – she has a flashback to killing Garvey (Episode 4). He’s going to send her home! …as long as she gives him the name of the 3rd spy. He knows about her and the Judge, but can’t figure out who the 3rd one is. She is astounded he can see so much, but can’t see that, it must be driving him insane. She jabs the scissors into his neck. He falls down dead. She goes down to check…he laughs and says it was just a trick, laughs at her a little at her audacity. He goads her about the 3rd spy. She looks afraid, but says she’ll never divulge the 3rd. His eyes grow red and he yells at her. She breaks the beer bottle on a table and waves it at him – he just laughs. She goes around the corner and jabs it into her own jugular, falls down dead. Flagg, frustrated, sits on the couch.

Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg

Stu and Fran are in their bedroom, talking about how things went down at dinner, says she has a bad feeling about it. Stu says maybe they are misreading the whole thing – Harold had a crush on Frannie, who didn’t return her feelings, and that can mess a person up in “all sorts of ways”. They kiss and begin to get intimate. The camera pans to the bear in the Russian fur hat, and we find out Harold has placed a camera in the bear, and he is watching Frannie and Stu get it on on a television monitor. The monitor next to it displays Larry, snooping in Harold’s house. Harold is watching it all with a grin.

Ray Brenter goes to Mother Abigail’s house and finds a note on the door: “Please do not come looking for me – I will come back if it is his will. I love you all.” Ray calls out on her walkie. Stu answers. Ray lets them know Mother Abigail is gone. “She left us!” Harold watches this on his monitor as the episode fades out to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (Blue Öyster Cult).

Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Thoughts:

Super excited to FINALLY hear “Don’t Fear the Reaper!” From what I recall, it was the opening music to the 1994 miniseries, and Stephen King actually includes some of the lyrics in the page before the novel begins, so it’s hard not to associate the two pieces of art together at this point!

I enjoyed the dark, carnival aspect to Vegas, but also felt it was a bit unearned, a little hollow. Like the production team is hoping a little sex and spectacle will make up for the fact they’re not really diving into the meat of the story.

Someone on that production team really LOOOOOVES Harold, because we are getting a WHOLE LOTTA HAROLD to the detriment of other characters. I actually think Owen Teague, (despite NOT ONLY not being FAT, but being pretty SKINNY) is killing it as Harold, and I have no problem with his performance; as a matter of fact, I feel that way about most of the cast!

I have loved Aleksander Skarsgård since his days as Vampire Eric on TrueBlood, but based on the book’s Flagg, would not have cast him in this role – the Flagg of the book is supposed to be nondescript; someone who could easily pass under your nose and not be given a second look. I picture someone more like Matt Damon, who, as an actor, can be really attractive, or so plain your eyes might pass over him in a crowd. I thought Skarsgård too “pretty” for the role, but they are kind of going in a different direction with his Flagg, and I’m enjoying it.

Back to Harold, in the book, yes, he is a main character and a catalyst, but if you were to read the book and were asked the question “If you had to choose, who is the main protagonist of The Stand”, you’d probably say Stu Redman. In this adaptation, I feel like we’ve gone further into Harold’s head and heart, while Stu remains a bit generic. We haven’t gotten a lot of Frannie’s inner dialogue either, which is huge in the book. And Nick is almost a non-entity.

Then there’s the matter of Larry and Nadine’s arc. I’ve wanted to bring it up before, but was waiting to see if they’d introduce the other woman in Larry’s story…but they haven’t, and looking in the IMDB credits, she’s nowhere on the list, and she was such a HUGE part of Larry’s redemption in the book. They’ve made a lame-ass attempt to make Larry a substance abuser here, but it was half-hearted, at best.  Stephen King’s original character was basically a self-absorbed user at the start of the story. He basically stepped on lots of people to get to the top, and his hit single “Baby Can You Dig Your Man?” was hitting the top of the charts just as Captain Trips was starting to make people sick. He had been living in California for several years, and had overspent against his advance from the single, and quickly got the hell outta dodge and went back to his Mom’s place in NYC before the creditors could come looking for him. His Mom very much loved him, but recognized he was a user that was out for number one…but had potential to be a great human being. We see this in his relationship with Rita as they leave NYC – he’s really horrible to her, and though she is constantly popping pills to calm her nerves, he never questions her. In the book, her death is an accidental, not purposeful overdose. He finds her stuck in her sleeping bag trying to get out, having choked on her own vomit. Her death PROFOUNDLY changes Larry, and he has been alone for quite awhile before he comes upon Joe and Nadine.

Lucy Swann in The Stand Comic – illustrated by Mike Perkins

He’s in love with Nadine, but every time he tries to make an advance towards her, she spurns him (because of course, she knows she is to be Flagg’s bride). They come upon another woman, Lucy Swann, who joins them as they make their way towards Boulder. Lucy and Larry hook up physically, though he is still pining for Nadine. Lucy knows she’s sloppy seconds, but does it for the comfort factor, and also becomes Joe’s other mom – he has a Lucy-Mom and Nadine-Mom. When they get to Boulder, She and Larry shack up, and Joe goes back and forth between Nadine’s house and their house. Larry still loves Nadine, but has made a life with Lucy. SO, when Nadine comes to Larry to seduce him, as she just did in Episode Five, it is a BIG DEAL that he spurns her and returns home to Lucy, who assumes he’s just going to go off with Nadine now. He returns, and we know he has changed. In this episode, Nadine is all of a sudden having sexy dreams about Larry when they didn’t even bother to address any sexual tension as they were travelling? Just NO. The whole Nadine going to seduce Larry to “make a choice” rang as hollow as New Vegas. The story didn’t earn it.

The Vegas stuff was also highly truncated, but mostly didn’t bother me too much. It was nice to finally have an episode that wasn’t jumping back and forth in time and was dealing completely with things going on in the present. The jumping between Vegas and Boulder didn’t really bother me, and any flashbacks that happened were mostly quick memory flashes for individual characters. It was effective to have Julie and Lloyd together and bring Dayna into their fold, though originally, it was just Dayna and Lloyd, and Julie wasn’t really a part of Lloyd’s story other than to tell him about recognizing Tom Cullen (which is kind of a major plot point in the book, as it ends up being the breaking point between Lloyd and Flagg). And I’ve seen an actor listed as Trashcan Man in the IMDB credits…I guess we’ll be seeing him next episode, but another major character glossed over in this adaptation.

I’ll end on a positive note, though: since the original story was written in the 70’s, it didn’t contain cell phones, computers or home surveillance equipment, but I’ve welcomed the use of it throughout this adaptation, along with Glen as a vaping pothead. Really loving Greg Kinnear’s take on Bateman.

Harold spying via surveillance monitor

I’m not sure it’s even worth it to continue grading each episode at this point, because the issues I have with the overall story may not be fair…however, I will say this: American Gods  (Neil Gaiman) is another of my most favorite novels that’s been adapted for the screen, and I just heard it was renewed through Season 4 (10 episodes per season) last summer. It’s about a third as long, and they are really taking their time with it. Seems like the same justice could’ve been paid to the characters and 1400+ pages of The Stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to being obsessed with postapocalyptic books, television & film, Carolynne is a theatre "slash" artist (actor/playwright/producer/graphic designer) living in Seattle, who's even written a few postapocalyptic stage plays...find out more at www.carolynnewilcox.com.

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