Machinery…ominous music…more machinery…unearthly shrieking is heard, and finally, Trashcan Man is hoisting himself into a hole to get his nuclear warhead. He gets it with rope and pully, out of the hole above ground. Crows are flying overhead. Trashy continues to shriek his unholy best and when the nuke is fully out, he embraces it with his whole body, still shrieking. Geiger counter, measuring radiation levels. He gets the nuke on some kind of automated cart and drives it, grunting, out of the military base and through the desert. Opening credits.
Harold & Nadine at the amphitheater upon Flagstaff Mountain, as he speaks into the walking “I do this of my own free will” and they detonate the bombs below together. Harold looks stunned by the whole thing, yet is calm as he rebuffs Nadine’s attempt at physical affection – “This stops NOW…Flagg will give me a woman that makes you look like a potato sack. And you get…him.” He says they need to get going if they’re going to make 100 miles by sunup.
Larry makes his way through the mob of candlelight vigilists now vigiling outside the Boulder hospital, and sits next to Glen. They discuss Frannie and the baby being okay, and about how Harold “did this”, and that Nadine probably planted the explosives in Mother Abigail’s house. They wonder if there’s anything left of Nick to bury, and how Nick was the Mother’s favorite and maybe it’s a blessing she won’t wake up to find out he’s gone.
Mother Abigail is sleeping in a hospital bed – Ray keeps vigil, snoozing in a chair beside her. Suddenly, Mother grabs Ray’s hand & tells her to assemble the committee. Stu rouses Frannie gently from her own hospital bed and everyone congregates around Mother Abigail. She tells them that she sinned in pride, thinking she was the potter and not merely the clay – she thought Nick would be the one to lead them, but “the lord saw fit to take him home.” So it’s up to Stu to lead them: WEST, to the Dark Man’s stronghold. They, Stu, Larry, Glen and Ray, are to leave TODAY, on foot, with nothing but he clothes on their backs. She continues that one of them won’t see the end of the journey – she can’t see who – but Fran is to stay behind. She warns that bitter days are ahead, and not everyone will live through them. The Dark Man grows stronger and will destroy all who stand against him…his kingdom is west, “there you will make your stand.” She tells them this is what God wants, and then she dies. They all hang their heads in mourning.
Harold and Nadine race along a snowy mountain highway on their bikes. Nadine speeds way up – pan out to cold desert, snowy and desolate mountains. Harold guns his engine to catch up with her, yelling at her to slow down. She sees a sign for an upcoming hairpin turn and slows down. Harold misses it and slams on his brakes hard…the bike skids and throws him over the edge. He lands on a barren tree far below, skewered through the shoulder by a branch, his leg splayed at a nauseatingly unnatural angle. He coughs up blood, and screams for Nadine to help him. She looks down at him from above and refuses to help, saying it’s for the best, that Harold was never going to be a part of it all. She reminds him he has the means to end it if he wants, and turns to leave. He attempts to shoot at her, but misses. He hears the sound of her bike as she speeds away. He screams into the void.
Stu and Fran at home as he prepares for his journey. They speculate on how long it’ll take to reach Vegas on foot…probably the end of February, about a week before the baby’s due. They discuss whether Mother Abigail really does speak for God – the dreams were real, so…are they all just chess pieces in some game between God and the other one? They talk about Harold and Stu feels guilty about not listening to Frannie’s worries…and that Harold has probably gone to Vegas. Fran tells him bringing Harold to justice isn’t part of his mission, but he’ll do it anyway, and Stu agrees to, if he can. She just wants him to come home safe so they can raise the baby together. Asks him to promise to come back…he promises to try.
In front of the Boulder city sign, Larry and Joe say goodbye – Larry gives Joe his guitar to look after while he’s away. Joe throws his arms around Larry. Stu and Frannie kiss goodbye. Glen arrives, with Kojak in tow – he has a Polaroid camera around his neck, which he gives to Fran to take a photo of them before they go – she does. Then Stu, Larry, Glen and Ray start walking out of Boulder. Fran and Joe watch the go…and begin to wait.
The four are walking, sometime later, through the mountains. They discuss how they’re going to get by, maybe carry food from one town to the next? Larry mentions he’s toured through Utah before, there are vast stretches of nothing (it’s true!). They can drink from streams, etc, but worry about giardia. They all look at Ray, who grumpily says “You figure the Injun Girl must know the ways of the earth?” there is a pause, and they all nod earnestly. “Can you?” She stays stern for a moment, then smiles. “Of course!” She laughs.
The full moon in the desert, partially obscured by dark clouds. Harold in his tree, his blood dry, opens up a PayDay bar and nibbles on it. Then takes out his notebook. The breeze blows, he looks thoughtful, regretful. Begins to write, with unsteady hands.
The four walk through a mountain ghost town, pontificating on getting to Vegas & what might happen once they arrive. Stu teases Glen: “the world’s oldest atheist finally found religion!” Glen vapes in response and says there is overwhelming evidence.
In the morning, Harold in the tree finishes writing. There are vultures in the tree perched above him, waiting. He sobs a little, puts his notebook down, finds his gun and blows his own brains out.
Montage of the four walking, with music. Through mountains, rocky terrain, snow. Dawn, sunset, walking, crows watching. Walking through rugged farmland. More crows watching. Nighttime campfires. Walking along the road. More crows. Thunderclouds & lightning overhead. Skeleton in the grass. More walking, more crows flying. They round a bend. They talk about being “…in HIS country now…can you feel it?” They come upon Harold’s bike, look over the side and see his pathetic remains. There is no sign of Nadine. Despite Ray’s protests, Larry climbs down and reads Harold’s last words. Harold is heard speaking them in voiceover, as the camera pans to the rooms in his deserted house in Boulder, about a game he and the other kids would play when they were kids. They would all jump from a dizzying height into a pit below them, and the other kids would ridicule Harold, because he never could actually jump. He wonders whether things would’ve been different in life had he ever managed to jump. He condemns those bullies, but also condemns himself for what he did in Boulder. He apologizes for his trail of destruction, but admits while he was misled, he did it all of his own free will, and signs out with the name Weizak gave him in Boulder, which he railed at then (hard to tell he was bothered by it in the show – in the book, he is really bothered by it), but accepts it now: HAWK. Larry closes the notebook, lays it down, shoos off the vultures, takes off his jacket (waste of a good jacket, if you ask me!), and covers Harold’s face.
Nadine continues to speed across the desert, until she sees a glimmering in the distance. She stops, gets off her bike and walks into the desert…finds some white rose petals that seem to form a path. She follows the rose petals through the desert, which somehow transforms into Flagg’s penthouse suite at the casino. The trail of petals leads her to where he’s sitting at his table, waiting for her. She has a very vulnerable, childlike expression on her face as she greets him in the flesh for the first time. He goes to her. “Nadine…how I love to love Nadine.” She informs him they did it –killed everyone. He kisses her – she pulls away and tells him Harold didn’t make it. “Harold was very loyal, but his purpose is served…he was never meant to ascend to Olympus to live among the gods…like you.” She looks down and notices they are outside, it’s night time, and they’re still in the sands of the desert. They kiss heatedly again, in the penthouse, and Nadine is suddenly in a white nightgown, which Flagg begins unbuttoning. He tells her she lived up to her end of the bargain and kept herself pure for him. The camera pans back and he is removing her nightgown, and we get the creepy montage, to dark music, of their coupling…are they lying in the sand? Are they lying on satin sheets in the casino? Nadine falls under his spell, and as he is rutting over her, coming to climax, she sees his true form: grey, hairless, eternal demon as they finish in the sand, by a campfire.
The four continue walking down the highway and arrive at a place where there is a gap in the highway, creating a ravine between their part of the highway and the continuation. They go down the ravine without incident, and up the other side and everyone makes it, but as Stu puts his hand to pull himself up, the road crumbles and he tumbles down the ravine, breaking his leg in the process. The others scramble down to help him. They prop him up and he instructs Larry to set his leg. After this is done, they splint his leg as best they can with tree sticks and talk about making camp there, and going to see if they can find a stretcher. Stu tells them not to. That Mother Abigail told them it would happen this way. They argue with him. He gently tells them they need to continue, and brings up Psalm 23, “…yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” he makes Larry recite it once, twice, and then again, with feeling. Larry does. He’s in charge now. Larry and Ray say their goodbyes. Glen gives Stu his bottle of pain meds, stressing that if he takes 3 or 4, it might prove fatal…Stu catches his meaning. They say their goodbyes almost tearfully, ribbing each other to the end. Ray, Glen and Larry leave him.
We hear the beginning chords to “I Put a Spell on You”, the version by Screaming Jay Hawkins, and Nadine emerges from the desert, dressed in white. Her hair is also completely white. She looks dazed and intoxicated. She walks up to a black, American classic car (a Chevy Impala, maybe?) and the camera pans back to see the car speeding through the desert, with Flagg at the wheel and Nadine by her side. She is still in her trance, and suddenly clutches her stomach. Those of us who read the book already know: she’s pregnant with his kid. He has his arm around her and she sinks back into her daze. He tells her they’ll be home soon, as the camera fixes on a sign that says “Las Vegas – 20” and the car speeds on.
Stu is doing the best he can at the bottom of the ravine. High above him, Kojak appears, peering at him over the edge. Stu tells him to go on – worried that Glen will be upset at missing Kojack, who just whimpers and stays put. Stu throws a rock at him, but Kojak barks, undeterred.
Glen, Larry and Ray are walking, Glen calls out for Kojak, who is nowhere to be found. They wonder if they should stop and wait for him to catch up, that he’s probably just chasing a rabbit somewhere. But then there’s a honk, and a black limo pulls up, seemingly out of nowhere. Lloyd Henreid hops out and greets them. “I’ve been expecting you.” The limo speeds through the desert. Lloyd blows vape smoke at Glen, who looks annoyed. Lloyd says his boss told him, down to the minute, when to expect them – how crazy that is! They careen through the desert. Arrive in New Vegas at night, and gaze out the car windows at the sights, some disturbing: people working, treating each other badly, beating up on each other in the middle of the road, and Flagg’s face, speaking from every marquis in town, as well as replacing Caesar on a statue in front of Caesar’s Palace. They arrive at The Inferno (Flagg’s casino). Cut to Flagg levitating in his penthouse with Nadine beside him. He sees the limo arrive, down below and tells Nadine to go greet their guests. She does so, still intoxicated, like she barely has a thought in her head. Lloyd leads Larry, Glen and Ray into the casino through the ongoing and constant debauchery. Nadine, who is suddenly 9 months pregnant, with makeup making her look corpselike (indeed, slightly reminiscent of the Mexican La Muerte), holds her belly and welcomes them to New Vegas.
Though they are given precious little to work with, Ezra Miller is really making the most of all their screen time as Trashcan Man, and I’m enjoying the amount of fun they are having. Wish there was more, and wish there’d been more backstory, but: c’est la vie.
A lot of this episode was fairly faithful to the book in parts – particularly the journey by Stu, Larry, Glen, Ray and Kojack and Harold’s untimely demise. Of course, it happened much more quickly, like most of this series, but I’ve made my peace with that (for the most part), except for the fact there’s no Lucy in the series to take care of Joe now that Nadine and Larry have completely abandoned him…I guess that’s Frannie’s job??? (UGH). I’m still annoyed they chose to completely erase this character.
I LOVEDLOVEDLOVED the “I’ve got a spell on you” montage with Nadine, Flagg and the black car in the desert – so moody, so tongue-in-cheek, and a great contrast/transformation for Amber Heard as Nadine to play as the suddenly vapid trophy wife. In the book, Nadine has black hair, which gets streaked with more and more strands of white throughout the story until we get to this point and it’s completely white, so I appreciated that nod to the character, but couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t just have her dye it or wear a black wig so it’d be more of a stark contrast? I could still perceive the change, but it was subtle, considering the actor started out pretty light blonde.
I think it was also important for the audience to see the characters walking/driving through the totally empty country, in a way the flashbacks didn’t really provide, to give the feeling of how EMPTY the world is now. The show immediately plunged into the Boulder storyline, and hasn’t done a great job in the flashbacks of really illustrating how empty it is…however, it’s curious there aren’t more roadblocks (they did a GREAT job with BOTH these things in the early days of The Walking Dead, for example). Sometimes, it’s the little things…
I’m also enjoying Irene Bedard’s performance as Ray – she definitely has a MOUTH on her, and is memorable, despite her lack of screen time, though admittedly, she gets more this episode, which is good! Must congratulate the producers for giving acting work to a native woman – it’s a great re-interpretation of the character Ralph Brentner, which Ray is really NOTHING like, and though I loved Ralph in the book, Ray is a welcome change.
And: we’re at the point where Kojak will hopefully get his necessary part in the story line! In the book, Glen actually leaves him in New England, and we get bits from Kojak’s POV as he travels the empty country searching for Glen, and makes it to Boulder totally beaten up and finds Glen. I can understand this might’ve been an easy part to leave out of the series, but glad Kojak is also getting more screen time. He has an important role going forward!
And finally: buh-bye, Nick. Though you were supposedly a main, important character, we hardly knew you. His story does continue, after his death in the book, and I sure hope that is the case here – he actually still, potentially, plays an extremely vital role in the story, and I hope the producers didn’t do away with it altogether. Hopefully, now that main character Harold is also dead, they can devote some storytelling to the other folks. Hopefully. We shall see!