This week’s episode of The Stand is about choices. Do these characters have choices or are they stuck on a pre-destined path? Does one’s past choices mean that their path is set? Or can you change who you are by making choices that you may not have made in your old life? This episode looks at the various points of view of characters struggling with these decisions. One is going with the current, fearful that they do not have a choice. One is making all decisions based on fairness. One makes decisions on logic. One fights his past and makes a choice to be a better person. They each make choices, and in doing so, they set their fates in this post-apocalyptic world.
Nadine Choo Choo Chooses Destiny
As we saw in the previous episode, Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) already has a Team Flagg stone around her neck. This time we see how Nadine got her mark. We start in the past this episode, in Nadine’s childhood with a game of planchette (similar to a Ouija board but with just a pencil pressed against paper). The planchette quickly spells out Nadine’s name, then scratches the worst love note of all time into the floorboards. While the other girls run screaming from the room, Nadine stares at the words, “Nadine will be my Queen.” The Flagg stone appears around Nadine’s neck, and she wakes up from the nightmare of her childhood, in Boulder as an adult.
From that pivotal moment as a child, Nadine was set on a path toward Flagg. Nadine has grown into a strong woman, but the stone around her neck is a reminder that she does not have a choice. What Nadine fails to see is that she does have one. If Nadine did not have a choice, Joe (Gordon Cormier) would never have trusted her. Joe would have run from her the way he runs from Harold Lauder.
Destiny has not set Nadine on a path. Flagg did. Heard plays Nadine with less of a struggle than the character should show. In fact, Heard feels more like she does not have many doubts about Flagg. By the time Nadine dreams of Flagg, all we see from her is an obsessive desire to be with Flagg. It is a bit disappointing that the only emotion we get from Heard in this role so far is someone that “digs their man.” Nadine has forfeited making a choice at all.
The Dangerous Dimples
Stu Redman (James Marsden) continues his journey West, and he runs across Harold (Owen Teague) and Frannie (Odessa Young) on the road. As Stu attempts to be friendly, Harold is immediately put off by Stu’s charm. Stu is the first alive person Frannie and Harold have met on their journey, and Frannie wants to talk to Stu. Out of jealousy, Harold tells Frannie that she has to make a choice.
“You either stay with the guy that kept you alive the last couple weeks…or you can throw in with the happy asshole and his fucking dimples with no way to know for sure that he is not Jeffrey Dahmer,” Harold barks at Frannie. Phrased as a choice, it really is not. Harold uses guilt and uncertainty to make Frannie choose him.
Caviar and Potato Chips
Alone again, Stu wanders on and happens across a golden retriever, Kojak and his human, Glen Bateman (Greg Kinnear). Bateman is a pleasant, smart fellow. Glen is smart enough to know that Stu is no threat, so he opens his home to Stu. Over a dinner that includes potato chips dipped in caviar, Stu and Glen discuss the future. Glen thinks the time of civilization is done, and man should cede the spotlight. But when Stu finds a painting of Mother Abagail, the coincidence is too much for them both.
“Are we in the same dream?” Stu asks. Ever the man of logic, Glen clings to the idea that it is a coincidence. When Stu finds a painting of a pregnant Frannie, it is too much for them to ignore. Glen is not willing to accept anything mystical is afoot, but he will not deny evidence that he and Stu share a connection. Glen makes a choice to seek the truth.
When Stu and Glen arrive in Boulder, Mother Abagail chooses them for the council along with three others. Stu makes decisions based on what is right. Glen makes decisions by examining all sides of the situation. Two kinds of processes, but neither man is willing to accept destiny as an answer. Stu and Glen will ask questions, and they will make a choice based on what they learn.
Moon Spells Nick and Tom
After an unfortunate run-in in a bar, a hot-headed guy beats the mute and deaf Nick Andros (Henry Zaga) unconscious. In his dreams, Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård) offers Nick the chance to hear and speak. To be Flagg’s voice. Quick to see Flagg for what he is, Nick has no interest in Flagg’s deal. Flagg warns Nick about his ruined eye, but Nick flips Flagg off, and he wakes up alone in a hospital sans one eye. Everyone in the hospital appears to be dead.
As Nick wanders the hospital, he comes face to face with his assailant, handcuffed to a bed. The man is furious and barely alive. The man expects Nick to attack him, because violence is what his man knows. Nick has a choice to walk away, but he doesn’t. Without hesitation, Nick tends to the man. Nick makes a choice. In that choice, Nick has closed the door on Flagg. Nick has no need to be “made whole.” Nick is exactly who he needs to be, and he has no desire to be anything else. Nick reacts on instinct, and his instinct tells him to do good in the world despite all the ways the world has failed him.
In a dream, Mother Abagail also asks Nick to be her voice. “The world is now a blank page, and unless we are all working together, we’re not going to be able to rewrite it,” Mother Abagail says. Mother Abagail tips Nick off to Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke), and when Nick awakes, Tom Cullen is standing in front of him. Though Tom is developmentally disabled and Nick cannot clearly communicate with him, they have an obvious bond. These are two people who are innately good, and they choose to act in a manner true to their nature.
Ferals and Flights from Flagg
The last characters we examine this episode are Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) and Joe. When Larry first meets Joe, Joe attacks him with a knife. Almost feral, Joe is afraid of Larry. Larry has chosen to follow Harold’s signs out West, but his ultimate path is unclear. Joe may sense that. It is only when Larry shares his guitar with Joe, that Joe begins to trust him. As Larry dreams of both Flagg and Mother Abagail, he must choose what path to take. Larry wants to be better. Larry chooses to be better.
“I got out of New York with a woman that killed herself. Maybe I’m meant to be alone,” Larry tells Nadine after he meets her and Joe. After two steps, Larry stops. In the past Larry let things unfold without choosing much beyond whether to get high. In this moment, Larry chooses not to leave things up to fate. Larry chooses to make his own way.
When Larry gets to Boulder, he is confronted with what could have been. A refugee from Vegas drives into town. Badly tortured, the refugee explains that he had wanted to seek out Mother Abagail, but he had stayed put in Vegas instead. By the time the man had decided to run, Flagg’s people had caught him and sent him along with a message. The refugee had decided to stay in Vegas because he was already there. Larry might have ended up in Vegas if he had let himself be carried along by circumstance like the refugee.
For a story about a battle of good versus evil, I’ve always loved that so many people in the story had to choose which side to be on in the fight. People always have a choice of who they want to be. The past does not define you. Though I like that sentiment, the idea was not as well executed as the previous episodes. It might be because there were too many characters this time, but it felt both slow and disjointed.
That said, the episode does move along character arcs, and it sets us up for the coming fight. There is some good humor and acting, but this one still felt a bit like filler. We see a little more slickness from Flagg this episode, and it is nice to see him tilt his hand as something a little more than just a man in Vegas.
Although I think the updates to Tom Cullen’s character were needed, it would have been better still to cast an actor who is developmentally disabled. Likewise, the casting of a hearing actor in the role of Nick is disappointing as well. Though the casting of this new adaptation has been great overall, these are two roles that are a miss.
Odds & Eggs
- Despite a deadly flu epidemic, none of the bodies in Nick’s hospital, including the nurses, are wearing a face mask. I would think that scenario is impossible, but then we did see a lot of this in 2020.
- The closing credits have props from the series including the playing cards from Nick’s dream