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The Stand: Fear and Loathing in New Vegas – Review

Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård) flexes his power in New Vegas.
Randall Flagg has an ice cold milk while he makes his pitch to join his side.
(Photo: Robert Falconer / CBS @2020 CBS Interactive, Inc.)
This review contains minor spoilers.

As the saying goes, you can’t con a con. This week we delve into the world of deceit in a fully linear episode of The Stand. We spend time with the spies in both New Vegas and Boulder, and we examine the reach of Flagg’s power.

As the first episode without a time hop, the show is much more fluid and involving. Although I understand the reasoning for using the time hop device for both novelty and pacing, this episode proves that the show would be better served with a more linear version. Even bouncing around between characters, this episode had more tension than past ones. We also finally see a crack in Nadine and Harold’s masks. Nadine begins to doubt her destiny, but Harold is more committed than ever to Flagg now that his only real friend is dead. Both let down their guard with Boulder citizens, and they seal their fate.

One Night in New Vegas

Dayna the spy gets a peek at Randall Flagg's operation.
Lloyd and Julie show Dayna the ropes in New Vegas
(Photo: Robert Falconer / CBS @2020 CBS Interactive, Inc.)

Dayna the spy overplays her hand in Vegas when she asks too many questions.  Though Dayna (Natalie Martinez) is tough and can take care of herself, she is playing in the liars’ big league now, and the New Vegas citizens know when they are being conned. At Flagg’s (Alexander Skarsgård) request, Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff) takes Dayna in for the evening for evaluation.

Unfortunately, Dayna doesn’t know how deep in trouble she is until she sees Flagg’s face on a screen at the local community pool/gladiator pit. When Flagg’s glance chills Dayna to her soul, she knows she is done.  Dayna makes one last effort to save the only other spy she has seen in town.  However, once Dayna is presented to Flagg, her escape is hopeless.  Dayna drops the con.  Defiance is one thing, but keeping secrets from the devil isn’t gonna fly.

Flagg makes his pitch that what he offers is “protection” from the worst of the worst survivors.  Dayna sees right through Flagg’s con too. If you stay in Vegas for safety, you only leave Vegas if you are dead.  With the cards on the table for both Dayna and Flagg, Dayna must make the only choice she has left to fulfill her mission.  Dayna must take her power back from Flagg and deny him a victory.

Power Struggle

Flagg is also busy showing his reach outside Vegas.  In Boulder, Nadine (Amber Heard) no longer needs the planchette to communicate with Flagg.  Flagg explains it is because Mother Abagail’s (Whoopi Goldberg) powers have waned.  Nadine tells Flagg that she is hurt that he gave her away to Harold.  “No, Nadine.  I gave you a purpose.  We’re in this together,” Flagg tells Nadine.  Sated, Nadine agrees that she belongs to Flagg. 

Elsewhere in Boulder, Nick (Henry Zaga) tells Mother Abagail about the committee’s plan to send spies to Vegas.  Furious, Mother Abagail reminds Nick that Flagg can see everything Nick does.  Mother Abagail confesses that she has not heard God lately, and she suspects it is because the committee foolishly acted behind her back.  It seems that Flagg had told the truth when he had said that Mother Abagail’s powers were fading.

When Joe (Gordon Cormier) wanders away from Nadine and ends up at Mother Abagail’s house, a worried Nadine warns him not to run off.  Mother Abagail informs Nadine that she and Joe had been talking.  Confused, Nadine asks what Joe had said.  With a shrug, Mother Abagail notes, “There are other ways to talk.”  Mother Abagail senses both Nadine’s genuine concern for Joe and the conflict within Nadine.  With a smile, Mother Abagail gently advises Nadine that she has a choice to raise Joe.  A choice to stay with him.  Shaken by Mother Abagail’s words, Nadine finally realizes that she does have the power to make a choice.

Desperate to change her fate with Flagg, Nadine begs Larry to sleep with her.  When Nadine notes that sex is the only way to escape “him,” Larry doesn’t understand the implications of what Nadine has confessed to him.  Rejected, Nadine shakes off Mother Abagail’s influence, and she chooses to accept her fate as inevitable. With the last of Nadine’s reservations removed, Flagg celebrates with a visit to Mother Abagail as the wolf.  Flagg’s power is growing, and he uses it to drive Mother Abagail from her flock.

Ulterior Motive Pie

Flagg’s power over Harold (Owen Teague) is also fortified by Teddy’s death.  If Harold had any hope of preserving a friendship with Frannie (Odessa Young), that hope is dashed after dinner with Frannie and Stu (James Marsden).  After repeated offers to invite Harold to “dinner sometime,” Frannie finally invites Harold to dinner.  Though Frannie makes it sound like she is reaching out to a friend having a hard time, her real motive is to investigate Harold.  Frannie confides in Larry about her suspicions, and Larry agrees to search Harold’s house while he is at dinner with Frannie and Stu.  

It is midway through dinner that Harold tells a story from his youth, and he catches Frannie in a lie.  Harold has fully embraced Flagg at this point, so he lets the mask fall fully away.  With a creepy grin, Harold calls Frannie out.  Harold stresses that Frannie has never invited him anywhere in his life.  As Frannie stammers, Harold communicates in a smile that he knows Frannie has an ulterior motive for the invite.  Harold no longer needs his mask because Nadine and Flagg have made him feel powerful.  Harold doesn’t need to con Frannie any more, because he is two steps ahead.  Finally, Harold has power over Frannie.

Worth Watching?

I think this is one of the more interesting episodes of the season so far.  The power struggles within the communities add a little tension to an episode with not a lot of plot movement.  Lloyd Henry and gun-crazy Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara) are the only low point for me.  Though Julie is the exact amount of awful she needs to be, I’m not loving the way Nat Wolff portrayed Lloyd here.  Lloyd is a bit clownish and less thoughtful.  I do not remember Lloyd being quite so powerless in the original story.  In this version of the show, Lloyd has status but does not seem to control anything.

Odds and Eggs

  • “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” also makes its debut – this time it is foreshadowing to a tragedy instead of a soundtrack to one like the 1994 adaptation
  • Rat (Wo)man (Fiona Dourif) makes her debut and is surprisingly more glam than her role as Bart Curlish in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Missed a previous episode?  You can find them here.

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