Last’s week’s episode of The Stand concluded with Larry, Glen, and Ray arriving in New Vegas to make a stand against Randall Flagg (hence the redundant episode title). Things got off to a horrifying start when they were greeted by Nadine, who was visibly pregnant with Flagg’s 100%-not-human offspring.
Meanwhile, Trashcan Man found a nuclear warhead, strapped it to an ATV, and began dragging the (highly radioactive) WMD back to New Vegas. Elsewhere, Stu remains stuck with a broken leg at the bottom of a ditch. Thankfully, he’s being guarded and cared for by Kojak, aka the goodest boy ever.
As always, this recap includes spoilers and streamlines some of the non-linear portions of the narrative for clarity.
The episode opens with Ray, Larry, and Glen locked inside a cage. Glen muses that Flagg’s people aren’t so different from Mother Abagail’s; just scared/lost folks following someone who helps them feel a little less afraid.
When Larry points out that Flagg’s people also lined the Vegas strip with crucified bodies, Glen claims that’s actually good sign. Such displays prove that the Dark Man’s power lies in fear rather than actual strength.
Later, the trio is forced to participate in a mock trial conducted by Lloyd and the Rat Woman and observed by a raucous crowd. Lloyd reads their charges before revealing that Flagg has decided to offer the group mercy. All they have to do is renounce their allegiance to Mother Abagail and pledge themselves to him.
After Lloyd struts and taunts the group for a bit, Glen decides he’s had enough and pushes back, unleashing his smug intellectualism in brilliant/hilarious fashion. He eventually looks into the camera where Flagg is watching the proceeds and taunts the Dark Man directly, earning a pistol whip across the face from Lloyd.
Instead of backing down, Glen exhorts Lloyd and the crowd to realize that they’re slaves to their fear of Flagg. He also tells the Rat Woman to go f*** herself, which she responds to by demanding Lloyd shoot him.
Surprisingly, Lloyd is visibly shaken by the request. After quickly deducing that he’s never actually killed someone before, Glen tells him that he doesn’t have to do it. He also refuses to beg for his life, instead ramping up his message to the crowd and insisting they recognize how tenuous Flagg’s power over them is.
Just as Glen’s words begin to connect with a few of the people in the courtroom, Lloyd shoots him in the shoulder. Glen falls back and grimaces in pain, but refuses to lash out. Instead, he offers Lloyd that forgiveness since he “doesn’t know any better.”
Lloyd responds by emptying the rest of his clip into Glen’s chest, causing the audience and and even the Rat Woman to gasp in horror.
*Side Note: I really loved this scene until the crowd’s reaction to it. How in the heck are a group of people who watch and cheer on gladiator battles that feature dismemberment via chainsaw shocked at seeing this?
A visibly upset Lloyd attempts to play it cool, but can barely keep it together as he storms out of the courtroom. Back up in the penthouse, Flagg finds himself floating awkwardly above the ground as his hold over the people of New Vegas (and his powers) begin to fade.
Truth Comes Due
After the trial, Ray and Larry are chained inside one of the kitchens within Flagg’s hotel (The Inferno). Ray tearfully recounts watching their friend get brutally murdered before confessing that despite how tough she seems, she’s actually a “baby” about pain–which understandably has her all types of terrified about what Flagg might have planned for them.
As Larry begins to comfort her, Nadine walks in with one of Flagg’s goons and removes Ray so she can speak to him alone. When he asks why she betrayed them, Nadine simply explains that “he called and I came…and now I’m carrying his prince.” She also says that this is who she’s always been, which Larry counters by pointing out that she made sure he and the children wouldn’t be near the bomb at the vigil when it went off. That alone proves there’s still a good person within the maliciously infected shell she’s become under Flagg’s sway.
He also forces Nadine to look at herself in the reflection of a nearby dinner tray. Just as she’s beginning to realize how messed up her current appearance is, she begins to go into labor.
Lloyd rushes Nadine up to the penthouse, where Flagg smokes a cigar and calmly watches Rat Woman get to work delivering his son.
*Side Note: I’m not sure what Rat Woman did before the apocalypse, but she appears to have an exceptionally wide array of skills.
Unfortunately for Nadine, her son appears to want to rip out of her belly xenomorph style. After screaming in pain, she stands up and accuses Flagg of knowing that the birth of their son would kill her. When he tries to calm Nadine down, she responds by ripping his stone charm from around her neck and shatters the penthouse window.
Flagg watches and wails in agony/anger as his queen flings herself off the ledge and smashes into the ground below, killing both her and his son.
Following Nadine’s suicide, Flagg has some workers scrape whatever they can off the floor and bring it back up to his penthouse. Outside in the hallway, Lloyd and Rat Woman fret over how angry/distraught their supernaturally powerful boss is going to be about what just happened.
Rat Woman then points out that Lloyd might be in even more trouble since he shot Glen at what Flagg had insisted should be a show trial. When Lloyd points out that she ordered him to do it, Rat Woman counters that he shouldn’t have taken her seriously since she was only “acting.”
Lloyd then reveals how he can’t stop thinking about the face of the man he murdered before breaking down in tears. Just as Rat Woman begins insisting they need to keep it together, Flagg walks out into the hallway. Lloyd quickly gathers himself and attempts to apologize for killing Glenn, but the Dark Man barely seems to notice or care.
Instead, he orders them to deliver Nadine’s pulverized head to the room where Larry is being held and leave it with him.
Later, when Lloyd and one of his goons come to retrieve him, they’re surprised to find Larry in a state of complete calm. He explains that instead of causing him to lose hope, Nadine’s death shows that Flagg’s kingdom is beginning to fall apart.
The pair dismisses Larry’s claim while putting a hood over his head and walking him outside along with Ray. After their hoods are removed, they look up and see that they’ve been brought to the gladiator pit (built around a dry pool) and are surrounded by angry New Vegas citizens chanting “Make them pay!”
Once Larry and Ray are shackled into place, Julie comes out and introduces the bloodthirsty crowd to Lloyd, who is uncharacteristically quiet. He quickly calls up his old persona, however, excitedly announcing the arrival of Randall Flagg before retreating back into his shell.
Flagg walks out onto the main balcony and addresses his followers with a speech about how great they are now that his vision of society has been achieved. The only threat to their way of life comes from people like the two Boulder residents imprisoned below them.
After declaring “…we are the predators and they are they prey!” Flagg and his followers begin dancing to U96’s “Feels Like In Heaven,” which is just as bizarre/hilarious as it sounds.
Once he’s gotten his groove on for a bit, Flagg draws the crowd’s attention to a giant projector screen, which shows a live shot of the airfield where a bomber will launch that evening toward Boulder. Rat Woman then cuts over to live drone footage of Trashcan Man rumbling along the Vegas strip with a nuclear warhead in tow.
While all this is happening, Lloyd reluctantly begins filling the pool where Larry and Ray are trapped. As the water begins to rise, he enters the pool with them and whispers to Larry that he always liked his music before asking the pair if they have any last words.
Instead of pleading for his life or making a smugly defiant speech, Larry responds with the same thing Stu told him to say before they left for the last leg of their journey: “I will fear no evil.”
Lloyd tells him to shut up, but Larry continues to repeat the phrase, each time with more force and conviction. Lloyd responds by swiping him across the face repeatedly with a baton.
You’d think a crowd who regularly watches/cheers on people getting cut up by a chainsaw wouldn’t be phased by this, but they collectively cringe and grow quiet. One woman in the crowd also shouts that she will fear no evil, prompting Flagg to command Lloyd to shoot her. When Lloyd refuses, a few more people join in the chant as well, causing others to turn on them.
As Lloyd gets the keys to let Larry and Ray go, the crowd parts as Trashcan Man rides his ATV right through the hotel. They also scream in horror at the sight of the radiation-ravaged body and the giant nuke rumbling behind him. When Flagg demands to know why the mentally unstable man he sent to get a WMD brought it to the hotel instead of the airfield, Trashcan Man responds by insistently declaring “my life for you.”
At this point, a supernatural storm descends on The Inferno. Lightning begins striking everywhere and ripping people apart, including Julie and the Rat Woman. Despite his last minute attempt at redemption, Lloyd is decapitated by a falling structure.
*Side Note: Novel readers and/or 1994 miniseries fans will recognize this as The Hand of God, sans the literal giant yellow hand.
While all this is happening, the water starts to overtake Larry and Ray. Larry tells Ray not to be afraid as the pair go under. Meanwhile, the lightning coalesces into a singular ball, floats in front of Flagg, and begins hitting him with multiple bolts. The Dark Man briefly reverts to his true form before getting zapped into oblivion.
The lightning ball then strikes Trashcan Man’s warhead, causing the entire area to be leveled in a nuclear blast.
While all this craziness was going down, Stu remained immobilized in a ditch under the watchful eye of Kojak. At one point he nearly downs the entire bottle of pills Glen gave him, but the golden retriever adorably convinces him not to.
Later, Kojak protects Stu by fighting off a wolf. He returns with barely a scratch on him, but that’s 100% forgivable since seeing the dog get injured would have been all types of awful.
When the warhead in Vegas explodes, Stu initially thinks its the sun coming up. As he’s battered by wind and debris, Kojak runs to get help…and finds none other than Tom Cullen.
Back in Boulder, Frannie is walking with Joe when they (and the rest of the town) see the sky light up from the nuclear explosion on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. When she tries to get him inside a nearby building, Joe instead goes very still and declares that the Dark Man is dead.
Frannie tries to ask him if he can also see what happened to Stu and the others, but she’s interrupted by her water breaking.
Even if you knew nothing about the book or the 1994 miniseries, there’s so much about this version of The Stand‘s climatic battle that didn’t work.
For starters, Trashcan Man’s part in the overall story is reduced to nothing more than an inexplicably bad decision by Flagg. Despite things playing out basically the same way in the novel, there’s no driving force/reason behind it. The arrogance of evil is still an obvious theme, but there’s a big difference between that and sending a mentally unhinged person to find and bring back a weapon of mass destruction. The situation was pretty much guaranteed to end in disaster with or without the lightning.
One change from the novel I did like was Flagg’s embrace of hedonism among his people. Unfortunately, that made their reaction to the violence inflicted upon Glen and Larry completely at odds with what we’ve seen before. I can maybe understand the shock over seeing a man shot multiple times at close range, but not getting hit across the face with a baton. These folks saw exponentially worse things every night at the undercard gladiator matches.
I was also excited to see what they would do with Nadine, but her death ended up being almost exactly the same with a small dash of additional agency.
Nat Wolff deserves a ton of credit for the way he portrayed Lloyd’s crisis of conscious, although it was still hard to wrap my head around. I can accept that he never killed anyone during his time as Flagg’s lieutenant, but he’s also casually observed a great deal of death and darkness during his time at the Dark Man’s side.
I also understand that him being a fan of Larry’s music might have been a factor, but it’s still hard to believe that would push him to do a full 180 on Flagg after being commanded to kill him.
Speaking of Larry, Jevon Adepo did a great job carrying an otherwise lackluster narrative. I also loved the relatable vulnerability Irene Bedard gave to Ray’s normally badass persona.
And then you have Glen (Greg Kinnear), who went out with a speech that was by far the best part of the episode. Add in a fantastic interpretation of the infamous Hand of God scene, and there were some genuinely fantastic moments in this one.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save The Stand‘s penultimate chapter from being a muddled mess. Even Alexander Skarsgård’s portrayal of Flagg felt flat compared to what we’ve seen before. I get that his powers were fading, but I had hoped that the resulting desperation would make him even more terrifying instead of less.
Let’s hope that next week’s coda (written by Stephen King) can help salvage this series’ from ending on a complete letdown.
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