The Stand Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The End

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If you never read Stephen King's The Stand, The Stand Season 1 Episode 1 might not be the best place to start into what could be his defining epic.

Having read the initial release and the meatier re-release (with a whopping 345 more pages) of The Stand, it was relatively easy to recognize, if not recall all of what "The End" was driving at.

But even with that added benefit, I still found the premiere confusing and not nearly as compelling as I recall the 1200+ page opus I enjoyed enough to read twice.

Nearing the End - The Stand

Given everything we've been through this year, part of the problem could be seeing the virus unfolds in fits and starts instead of creeping in slowly. Well, as slowly as a virus that kills 99% of the population can creep.

If you recall, early in 2020, people were calling on The Stand as something to grab onto, fiction versus reality.

Frannie is Gobsmacked - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

King even got onto Twitter to share his thoughts on the matter, "No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. It’s not anywhere near as serious. It’s eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions."

The Stand was filming as early as September 2019, so there's not a lot of reason to believe that the series was altered in any way due to our real-life situation.

From what I have read, showrunner Ben Cavell and pilot director, Josh Boone always saw the beginning of the series rolling out just as you saw in the premiere -- beginning somewhere in the middle of the story or in media res.

The novel relishes in the fear of a fast-moving virus that takes loved ones and friends well before the characters that fortify The Stand have a chance to process their new reality. Here, we see what's coming well before, eliminating some of that anxiety.

Following the Lead - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

While they must have a reason for it, it didn't work as well as they might have conceptualized.

After spending ten months in quarantine, capitalizing on our fear and paranoia in a traditional Stephen King setting might have flown a lot better than dealing with it on shows like The Good Doctor where reality was too ever-present to be entertaining.

Very few characters were introduced during this hour, but by the end, we already know they'll wind up in Boulder and that Frannie will be with Stu, presumably pregnant with his child. At the very least, they appear to be planning on raising it together.

We blew through five months of The Walking Dead-style travels to find other survivors in mere minutes.

Leaning On Each Other - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

I haven't watched the other five episodes available for critics due to time constraints, but it seems like it could be difficult to capture the magic or the momentum of the story after putting so much of it into a salad bowl and giving it a toss.

Instead of beginning the story with Campion releasing the contagion that decimates the world, it's the final scene, and in that scene is our first look of Randall Flagg, played by Alexandar Skarsgaard, evil incarnate.

Like Whoopie Goldberg's Mother Abigail, a loving being luring good survivors to Boulder, Flagg was introduced in a dream sequence.

So, in addition to jumping timelines forward and backward in a five-month timeframe, there were also several dream scenes peppered throughout the premiere.

Goodbye Arnette - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

The most notable characters introduced so far are Harold, Frannie, and Stu, who are immune to the virus. Frannie and Stu, seemingly, are your every man and every woman. They loved their families and care about humanity.

Harold, on the other hand, has been bullied and cajoled, taking his frustrations out with written words that have subsequently been deemed unworthy of publication.

His experience allows him to envision a new world as a fresh start, one in which he has been awarded for his suffering and no longer has to try to fit into societal norms because that part of their life is over.

The scariest part of what we just watched comes as Harold shrugs and smirks as the world falls apart around him. He doesn't fully embrace the wickedness such as Cobb, nor does he feel for those he lost as Frannie.

Harold on a Bike - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

While Stu feels for those dying of a disease that won't hurt him whether they're taking their own lives or succumbing to the virus, Harold is rather gleeful, until he sees what it's done to his crush, Frannie.

It's the window of opportunity he's always dreamed of, but within five months, Frannie will be with Stu, and Stu will be on Harold's hit list.

Survivors targeted for Boulder by Mother Abigail were greeted with visions of cornfields and children running and giggling through the stalks, while Flagg's targets met with wolves.

That begs the question of why Stu saw a cornfield and stumbled into a wolf. Will his loyalty be torn?

New Lives in Boulder - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

Frannie's trip through the corn was quite frightening. Giggling, running children are not at all comforting, which throws me a bit since Mother Abigail is powerful but kind. At the same time, I kind of dig wolves, so discovering one in my dreams could compel me to follow in their path.

We already got some stunt casting with The Stand. Daniel Sunjata's Cobb was already struck down, although some believed he would be a central character in the miniseries.

Similarly, the Four-Star General was in the form of J.K. Simmons, who subsequently ended his own life after ensuring Stu would go free.

The scattershot story didn't do a lot to pique my interest in what lies ahead. The survivors' journeys across the US were burned into my brain.

Break Time - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

As a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, surrounded by tunnels into and out, one of the most memorable scenes featured characters moving through though long, dark tunnel on a highway.

I'd hate to think that such seminal scenes of their travels to Boulder will be eliminated. I can only hope they'll be considered essential to the world-building, even if the flashbacks and forwards will likely do a lot to diminish their impact.

Whether you're new to the story or a returning fan, what did you think of The Stand Season 1 premiere?

In light of 2020, did the thought of a virus so similar to Coronavirus as it began put any fear into you?

Dismal Teamwork - The Stand Season 1 Episode 1

Which characters stood out so far?

And did the jumping narrative work for you or did you find yourself confused by the end?

One thing I know we have to look forward to is the end, which King himself wrote after spending decades imagining a better finale for his beloved novel.

For now, hit the comments and share your thoughts. Let's continue this series together.

The End Review

Editor Rating: 2.75 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.1 / 5.0 (23 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Stand Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

As far as we can tell, everyone who comes in contact with this thing gets infected. Everyone but you, and we need to find out why.


Jim: Ralph Hodges and you, you were the only ones who made physical contact with Campion, right?
Stu: Are you telling me they're all dead?
Jim: I am.