The latest iteration of Stephen King’s 1978 novel The Stand has just begun on CBS All Access this week, and many fans are excited to see how a “modernized” version of the classic story — complete with new ending — might play out.
WARNING!! THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE NOVEL, ORIGINAL MINI-SERIES, AND CURRENT MINI-SERIES
Even at one episode in, we can see how these changes may feel as we’re shown the deep contrast between Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) and Stu Redman (James Marsden). It’s an interesting approach for the very first episode, but the introduction of Fran Goldsmith (Odessa Young) gives us that midpoint to which most people will undoubtedly sympathize with more than the other two.
King is certainly no stranger to making additions to his classic novels. In 1990, the author added around 400 pages to the already lengthy book, just in time for the first mini-series adaptation four years later.
watching a new show where a deadly flu epidemic wipes out more then 99% of the world’s population, during a time when a virus currently IS wiping out the worlds population… this will be interesting. #TheStand
— RyaN SuLLy (@LeTsDaNce26) December 19, 2020
But here we are 26 years later and King (along with new series co-writer Josh Boone) felt that the world has changed enough since 1994 that several major updates needed to be made.
In the original book, the timeline of events from plague inception to the ultimate battle between good and evil takes place in chronological order. We see into the lives of the main characters as they survive through the plague, have dreams about the good guys or bad guys, then follow that path to follow the community they’re most drawn to.
I wish this show will stop fucking around and tell the story chronologically instead up jumping around the timeline faster than a rabbit on crack. pic.twitter.com/CYXayt5qOF
— Pyromaticidiot (@Pyromaticidiot) December 18, 2020
But already we’ve seen in this first episode just how different this series will be. The previous lives of our heroes and heroines are spliced in to build character dynamics as part of the whole, instead of one at a time to be united later.
“We made this decision to tell the story not in the linear way the book and the original miniseries was told, but to do this by going back and forth between timelines,” executive producer Benjamin Cavell tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That was done consciously in part because for us, as strange as it is to say at this moment, The Stand is not really a book about a pandemic. Of course there is a pandemic in it, but it really is Lord of the Rings in America. It’s this mental struggle between the forces of light and darkness for the soul of what’s left of humanity. Since that’s where fundamentally for us the story of where the novel lies, it felt like the honest place to begin.”
“I always knew there was one more thing I had to say in that book, one more scene I wanted to write, and I finally did.” – Stephen King
But this certainly isn’t the biggest change to the original. The writing team took liberties with race and gender to change what King said is a “very white” novel and mini-series into modern day diversity. “They have done a multicultural thing here, and that makes perfect sense,” King told the New York Times.
In addition to Boone and Cavell changing The Rat Man into the Rat Woman (played by Fiona Dourif), and changing Ralph Brentner into Ray Brentner (played by Irene Bedard), King was also very excited to finally make the change he’d wanted to do for a long time: bring Fran Goldsmith front and center to join the final battle.
“She’s sort of seven, eight months pregnant by that point,” Cavell said during the show’s TCA Panel earlier this month. “She can’t walk across the mountains to confront The Dark Man. But it always ate at [King] that she wasn’t there as one of the heroes of the book; she was never given her stand. So what I will say about the coda is that it is his planned attempt of the last 30 years to give her her Stand.”
In the novel, Fran stays back because she’s eight months pregnant, leaving Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Glen Bateman, and Ralph Brentner to make that final stand against Randall Flagg. But King and Cavell both say that the finale episode will play out as a coda from the original plans of the original novel.
“He had been planning this coda for 30 years, and the fact that he read the first couple of drafts of the first couple episodes of the show and said, ‘You guys clearly have a point of view and you know what story you’re telling; you guys can do right by this piece that I’ve wanted to add for the last three decades,'” Cavell said. “It felt like such a vote of confidence from Stephen King who was such an important figure for us and for everyone.”
“I always knew there was one more thing I had to say in that book, one more scene I wanted to write, and I finally did,” King revealed. “And I’m happy with it.”
But the question is: will fans be happy with it?