Welcome to episode six of The Stand, where we finally get to meet one of the novel’s most famous characters – the pyromaniac of pyromaniacs, Trashcan Man (Ezra Miller). Somewhere around Abilene, Texas, we see him laying complicated-looking explosive devices around a set of silos. He’s dressed like a character from a Mad Max flick, not wearing any clothes per se except for a harness holding all of his pyro tools, knee pads and combat boots. He’s also got some terrible burn scars, which makes sense given his dangerous pastime. Then he gets to minimum safe distance and hits the detonator with his signature “bumpty-bump.” And as the silos explode, he screams and jacks off – something I really could’ve done without seeing for like, my whole life.
Anyway, then we see him in the desert dream with Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), who appears to Trash as a grim reaper-type figure, in a dark cloak hiding his face. He tells Trash where to find him and says that he is the man he wants to “bring the great fire.” And in a grotesque show of fire, death, sex and bugs, Flagg tells Trash that as a reward, he’ll be able to burn everyone who ever made fun of him or put him down. An awestruck Trash answers with his other signature line, “My life for you.”
Meanwhile, back in Boulder, while everyone’s out looking for Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg), Harold (Owen Teague) shows up at Nadine’s (Amber Heard) to tell her the news. Harold asks her if she knew about Mother Abagail’s disappearance or if Flagg had told her anything about it, since she seems to have a special line of communication with him. Nadine says no on both counts. Then Harold says that perhaps Flagg’s hiding things from her. She says no way – he needs her. “He needs us,” Harold corrects. Then she asks how badly this turn of events screws things up. Harold says that actually, it’s created an opportunity. There’s going to be a vigil at Mother Abagail’s house, and everyone will be there. So why just take out the Furious Five when they can take everyone out in one fell swoop? Harold shows Nadine the bomb and she says if he can slim it down a bit, she knows just the place to put it.
Cut to some motel out in the desert, where we see Judge Harris (Gabrielle Rose) camping out, marking days off on a calendar, waiting for her time to infiltrate New Vegas. She hears weird noises outside her room and takes out a gun to sleep with. And speaking of New Vegas, at Flagg’s Inferno resort, Lloyd (Nat Wolff) brings a newly arrived Trash up to see Flagg. Trash helps Flagg fix his dying fireplace by showing him how fire needs air to breathe. And Flagg’s gentle, fatherly treatment of Trash bothers the hell out of Lloyd. He glowers in the background as Flagg and Trash talk about the biggest fire mankind ever created – the Soviet nuclear tests in 1961. Flagg instructs Trash to go back out to the desert and find a particular military facility, and to bring back the fire.
As the guards then haul out a happily squealing Trash, Flagg tells Lloyd to stay. He asks if the airfield will be ready by the time Trash gets back and he says it’s on track. Lloyd then asks if they really need Trash, saying that whatever the pyromaniac can do, he can do better. Flagg says jealousy doesn’t become him and that he needs Lloyd to concentrate on bringing Judge Harris in alive. Lloyd says he isn’t sure that’s a possibility, given that their border guards are big, mean “sh*tkickers” who like to shoot stuff. Flagg snaps at him, angry more at himself for still not being able to see the third spy. Flagg says that all he sees when he tries to focus – is the moon.
Cut to M-O-O-N-That-Spells Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke) trying to figure out what the note says that the late Dayna Jurgens (Natalie Martinez) gave him. He finds the same writing on a machine panel, and when Rat Woman (Fiona Dourif) shows up, telling Tom he needs to get upstairs and clean some puke out of the fountain, Tom asks her what the word is on the panel. “Run,” she says.
Back in Boulder, the Furious Five are hanging out at Mother Abagail’s doing – well, not much. While Glen Bateman’s (Greg Kinnear) writing a speech for the vigil, the rest of them are just kind of laying around. A fact that an exhausted, irate Ray Brentner (Irene Bedard) brings up as she heads out to rejoin the search. She says it’d be nice if the chosen ones would show a little more concern about Mother Abagail’s disappearance. But Nick (Henry Zaga) just reminds Ray about the note she left saying not to look for her.
Nadine shows up then with Joe (Gordon Comier), bringing a basket of cards that all the kids made for Mother Abagail. She also has the bomb with her, cleverly hidden inside a poster tube which she nonchalantly places beside the piano. Larry (Jovan Adepo) offers to take care of Joe for a while and give Nadine a break. When he suggests meeting up at the vigil, Nadine flips out on him, saying having children at the vigil is totally inappropriate. Of course, we all know that she’s just trying to keep the kids away from the house, but her sudden venting takes everyone by surprise. Frannie (Odessa Young) tries to calm things down by telling Nadine how lucky the kids are to have her. Then Harold shows up to remind Stu (James Marsden) that it’s time for the next shift and he has to watch Stu and Frannie be all kissy-kissy before they head out.
Somewhere out in the woods, Mother Abagail’s wandering and talking to God. Then she hears a wolf growling and looks up to see Flagg perching above her. He says he knows what she fears, and Abagail says it isn’t him. Flagg disagrees, but Abagail says her fears aren’t any greater or different than those of Moses, Noah or even Jesus himself. She tells him the famous line, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” and Flagg says that’s not his name. He is Legion – “for we are many.”
Flagg taunts her, saying that God’s gone quiet on her – and that’s not why she’s really out there anyway. She’s gone out into the wilderness to die, like the death she wishes for every night. Flagg says he can give that to her, “an ocean of endless peace.” Mother Abagail still refuses to listen, saying there’s nowhere Flagg can send her that God can’t find her. And if it’s her time to go, she’ll be gone. Her stubbornness angers him and he creates a windstorm and sends a murder of crows to dive-bomb her as he leaves.
Back in Vegas, while Tom’s loading bodies, he sees Lloyd and Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara) strolling by with their entourage and recognizes her. The posse’s bringing a body in a bag up to the penthouse, along with a biker named Bobby Terry (the awesome Clifton Collins, Jr.). On the elevator ride up, Bobby tells Lloyd that Judge Harris pulled a gun on him and he had no choice but to defend himself and kill her – against Flagg’s orders.
As Flagg sniffs the Judge’s corpse, Lloyd tries to explain things away, but Flagg just holds up a finger. Lloyd apologizes for interrupting. Flagg uses that as an example, saying that Lloyd took responsibility for his behavior and was forgiven. Bobby Terry says he’s sorry, but Flagg says he shouldn’t be sorry for defending himself. But he also asks if there wasn’t a way to handle the situation with the Judge so he didn’t have to shoot her? Is he really sorry? Bobby decides he’s had enough and bravely gives Flagg the finger before running away.
And as he books it for the elevator, Flagg (literally) blasts out of the penthouse and corners poor ol’ Bobby in the elevator – making a bloody, mushy mess out of him as the elevator descends to the orgy level. Flagg appears to his stunned followers covered in blood and holding Bobby’s heart, saying, “My sincere apologies to the housekeeper.” Rat Woman gets on the radio and calls for the cleanup crew, making sure “Mister M-O-O-N” is among them – which catches Flagg’s attention. But before anybody can find him, Tom’s cleverly hidden himself away under a load of corpses in one of the trucks.
Back in Boulder, Harold and Stu search the woods and have a long, meaningful discussion about why things happen the way they do. Of course, what Stu doesn’t see is the gun Harold’s aiming at his back, which he hides as soon as Stu turns around. Meanwhile, Frannie decides to go to Harold’s house and find out what’s in that locked basement. She’s shocked to find the surveillance monitors – and horrified when she finds his manifesto and the bomb-making equipment.
Harold returns before she can get away, and says she wasn’t supposed to find any of that. Well, yeah. He tells her he’s fixing the world that rejected him and treated him so badly. With “one blast of violence, one pointed stroke of cruelty,” he’ll set everything right. And then it will be like it was supposed to be, just himself and Frannie. She says that people do care about him and that it’s their job to survive – together. She gives him a desperate hug and Harold hugs her back, in a brief, sweet show of his inner good guy. But then he shoves her away and locks her in, saying that everyone is heading for the vigil. Frannie pleads with him, but Harold says he’s going to show them all what he’s worth and leaves.
Nadine goes to pick up Joe at Larry’s house, and they awkwardly try to apologize to each other for how things have been between them. Nadine says Larry’s a good man and heads out – but before Joe leaves with her he actually talks, whispering to Larry that “Nadine and Mommy Nadine are two different people.” You’d think maybe the kid could’ve been a little more specific. But Larry gets the hint and tries calling out on the radio – but then he finds the battery’s gone. He tries going after Nadine on his motorcycle, but she’s managed to screw that up too so he can’t chase her.
Back in Vegas, as some of Flagg’s guys drive the corpse truck out of town, Tom looks up and sees the full moon – his cue to come back home. And back in Boulder, Nadine sends her helper to the vigil, saying she’ll stay with the kids. After she leaves, Nadine says she’ll be back, sending Joe to watch Time Bandits (cool) with the other kids. He tries to get her to stay (though not very hard), but she insists she’ll be right back. And while Frannie busts her way out of the basement through a window and goes running, yelling for help, Joe hears Mother Abagail’s voice and goes looking for her. When he finds her lying lifeless in the woods, he goes full-on pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, pointing and screaming.
Nadine meets Harold at the amphitheater overlooking the town. Harold tells her that Larry broke into his house but that he didn’t tell her because he needed her to “hold it together.” And while everyone’s gathering at Mother Abagail’s, Stu and Glen are worried about Frannie and Larry, unable to find either of them. Then Norris (Nicholas Lea) radios in that they found Mother Abagail and Stu tells him to get her to the infirmary. Ray Brentner goes in the house and tells Nick that they found her. And while Harold radios out, “This is Harold Emery Lauder, I do this of my own free will,” Nick discovers the bomb inside the piano – but it’s too late, as both Harold and Nadine press the button – and the house explodes.
Well, as usual, this episode’s all over the place – though it does seem to have a bit more focus on Harold and Nadine’s impending attack. And also, as usual, characters are introduced and then immediately booted out. We get only the briefest glimpse of Trashcan Man’s totally unique form of insanity and then poof! He’s gone. And honestly, I’m not sure what to think of Ezra Miller’s portrayal. I don’t remember Trash’s pyromania being quite so sexually charged in the book, but okay, fine, whatever. And Miller says all the right things – although I would argue that if you haven’t read the book, you can’t understand anything he’s saying.
But the main problem is that we only get to see Trash for a total of maybe a couple of minutes of screen time before he’s literally dragged out of the picture. He blows up a silo in Texas, then bam, he’s suddenly in Vegas. He visits with Flagg for a minute, and then bam, he’s out. And my guess is we probably won’t see him again until he’s dragging that nuke back and he’s pretty much dead from radiation poisoning. So there’s another waste of a great character.
And as for Mother Abagail and her disappearance – well, in the book, she’s gone long enough to be starving to death and so weak that she can’t even move. But in this version, on top of not having had enough time with her character to really care about her, she disappears in one episode and is found in the next. That pretty much negates any real sense of peril. And her little chinwag with Mr. Hard Case-Walkin’ Dude, while interesting, didn’t accomplish much of anything.
Then there’s Tom Cullen. He’s figuring out what the note said and smuggling himself out – well, that was nice and everything, but it was also totally unnecessary. All Tom is supposed to do is to see the full moon, signaling when he needs to leave. So all of that was just changing stuff for the sake of changing stuff, which is wasted time and effort. And the bombing seems like a terribly unceremonious end for Nick, since we hardly got to know him.
You know, that scene of the Furious Five laying around at Mother Abagail’s seems to be representative of this version’s whole problem. This entire thing’s being handled not as the grand epic that it should be, but as this casual drama – like a procedural, that’s been on for ten seasons already and is just going through the motions.
One good thing I’ll say, at least in this episode, is that we got to see more of Randall Flagg doing his thing. You definitely get more of an understanding of his character, and he feels more like the big bad that he should be. And I’m a broken record on this, I know, but again, the only other positive is Owen Teague’s Harold. He carries the emotional weight of this story and does it beautifully. The scene with Frannie was a nice back-and-forth that had some depth to it for both characters. But other than Flagg and Harold, everyone else in this version feels like a bunch of scattered, minor characters instead of a true ensemble. And that’s just not right.