Welcome back to The Stand. Although it may be 2021 now, the apocalypse remains fresh in everyone’s minds. Yet, it feels like the CBS All Access adaptation to Stephen King’s Stephen King story isn’t tapping into this national anxiety. With four episodes in the books, the most memorable traits of The Stand are that it has somewhat controversially centered a dangerous incel type as arguably its main protagonist, and completely dismantled/reconstructed the narrative structure of its source. Although there are some strong scenes, the overall performances are not above average. This episode highlights more flaws than strengths. The use of cross-cutting chronology is more frustrating than anything.
Will Nadine pull Harold’s trigger to kill the witch and five puppets? As everyone prepares for something, Johnny Cash sings “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.” It will be a while before that happens. People are wearing suits and ties, and looking in the mirrors. It’s a town meeting that will discuss the mysterious stranger who stumbled onto Boulder in the last episode. The episode then cuts to the planning of the meeting as the meeting begins. Intercutting here is a way to disorientate the audience and not create confusion. King’s chronology was used in the first two episodes to give a better picture of each character’s story. It was logical — we should be focusing on one or two characters, rather than catching up with them all every hour. The episode’s timeline jumps feel a bit too purposeful and showy.
The gang disagrees about what to say to the people who survived the plague. Glen points out that sometimes the messenger is more important than what comes out of his mouth. Stu, however, is a likable messenger. The Stand is not about the messages received, but how they are delivered and by whom. Stu is struggling to communicate and Larry takes the microphone to thank everyone who helped him, including the body crewmen and teachers. The power will be restored. Everyone cheers and then Stu puts people in charge of reducing danger. Boulder needs to have a security patrol. Harold proposes that the five individuals on stage be made a permanent committee. It feels like it was already a thing, but Harold thanks us.
When he returns home to Nadine, the creepiest man in Boulder, he is given a shock. She is going to use the instructions to “pull his trigger”, as she seduces awkward Harold to her cause. She talks about what they will be able to do together, both in Flagg’s operation and physically. She will be Queen, and Harold will be Prince. But they must kill Mother Abagail’s five soldiers and Mother Abagail. In a Hall of Fame conversation, Nadine tells him, “Just figure how you’re going kill them.”
Flashback to a different time in Harold Lauder’s life. When he tells Frannie he loves her, he’s on the road together with Frannie. It doesn’t work out. They continue on their journey the next day, accompanied by Glen and Stu when they encounter a trucker who is believed to be dead. Garvey (Angus Sampson) is the trucker. He points a gun at Harold, Frannie and forces her to put on handcuffs. Dayna Jurgens (Natalie Martinez) is one of them, and she will be playing a part later.
Here’s where The Stand appears to be actively hindering its success. Because viewers know what Harold’s future holds in Boulder, and what his potential goals are, what should have been a tension-filled scene takes on new energy. Even Frannie and Stu’s relationship grows stronger after the brutal encounter. This story would not have had the same power if it was told directly. Because Frannie has already shared her dream pregnancy with Stu, there is no drama in it. Flashback structures are a great way to enhance what is already revealed in the current timeline. However, these feel like they pull the story back from its urgency rather than deepening the characters.
Garvey pushes Harold to violence and he does manage one punch before things get really ugly. Fortunately, Glen and Stu show up to save the day. Garvey fires at the car and distracts himself long enough to allow one of his victims to grab a pipe so that he can pursue him. The gun is thrown away, but she ends up dead. Garvey attempts to get it but Dayna grabs the pipe and slaps Garvey in the head. Harold does little more than getting brain matter on his face.
Teddy (Eion Bailey), back in Boulder, wants a gun for his patrol route. This is a very poignant request considering his fate at the end. He is chatting with Harold and is looking at Stu as he takes a look at the Boulder Ski Patrol brochure. It’s a sign! The mountains are equipped with explosions to stop avalanches. Harold is a man who loves explosions. As Teddy stares at the Blu-ray of Skyscraper and wonders if The Rock still lives, Harold devises an awful plan.
Glen proposes a strategy to counter what’s coming out of Vegas. Send two to three spies there to find out what’s happening. Stu would like to go, but he is too valuable. Glen points out that this is against Mother Abagail’s instructions, which seems like an awful idea. However, they continue to select their spies: Dayna (Gabrielle Rose), Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke), Nick’s self-described “handicapable” traveling companion. Flagg would not suspect him of being a spy.
Flashback within a flashback to the time Nick and Tom were on the road when they encountered the highly unstable Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara). She is aggressive sexually and violent, mocking Tom’s intellect, and generally being terrible in all aspects. McNamara is very open with Julie. However, it gives the episode some dangerous energy and should make the episode interesting. Fans of the book already know that she will return. Nick and Tom escape her and find an advertisement for Hemingford Home. Here they must get Mother Abagail. They finally get to her and inform her that they are taking her to Boulder.
The episode ends with Tom being sent to the City of Sin. Nadine, Harold, and Harold are assigned a nighttime mission to find the explosives. As they do that, Boulder’s power goes back up. Just as Harold and Nadine unload their explosives, the lights turn on. Larry is playing “America the Beautiful,” Hendrix-style, and Teddy turns the corner to see Nadine. Nadine shoots him even though he seems cool about it. He won’t find out if The Rock survived Captain Trips. Poor guy.