Welcome to episode eight of The Stand – which, not surprisingly, is also called The Stand. In New Vegas, Hard-Case-Walkin’-Dude Randall Flagg (Alexander Skårsgard) plasters his face on every jumbotron on The Strip, whipping his followers into a frenzy. Meanwhile, our heroes from Boulder, aka the Furious Three, sit in a cage in the basement, having traded their clothes for prison orange. Larry (Jovan Adepo) asks Glen (Greg Kinnear) if Vegas was everything he thought it would be. Glen says it’s a familiar scene – “a lot of lost, scared people following someone who makes them feel a little less lost.” Ray (Irene Bedard) isn’t so charitable, calling all of them “f**king evil.” Larry reminds Glen about the poor souls crucified on The Strip, but Glen says that’s actually a show of weakness on Flagg’s part – he can’t trust his own people. But Larry’s scared that they’re next.
Still lying at the bottom of the gorge with a broken leg, Stu’s (James Marsden) in pretty bad shape. The pain’s proving to be too much for him, so he dumps out a bunch of the pain meds Glen gave him. He’s about to take them when Glen’s dog Kojak suddenly whines at him, trying to stop Stu in his own doggie way. Stu thinks twice about it and then puts the pills back in the bottle.
Back in Vegas, Flagg’s followers gather around the jumbotrons and crowd into a courtroom where a pseudo-trial of the Furious Three is underway. Rat Woman’s (Fiona Dourif) playing the judge, and the Fabulous Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff), sporting a nifty powdered wig to go with his gaudy ensemble, plays the prosecutor. He accuses the Furious Three of being spies and says that other spies have already been discovered – and killed. Lloyd offers the Furious Three a chance to save themselves by renouncing Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) and becoming followers of Flagg. Glen asks Lloyd how long they’re going to drag this out and makes fun of all of Flagg’s many names with a Game of Thrones joke, calling him “the mother of dragons and queen of the Andals.”
Lloyd warns Glen that Flagg’s watching and points to the cameras. And of course, Flagg is watching from his penthouse, doing his hovering thing (but he’s also watching a monitor, which I don’t get. Why would he need a monitor? But I digress). Glen gets up and dares Flagg to come down there and face them. Lloyd backhands Glen, but he gets right back up and talks to the crowd, saying that Flagg is nothing without their fear. Rat Woman orders Lloyd to shoot him, but he’s reluctant. She calls him up to the bench and tells him he’s disappointing and embarrassing Flagg.
So Lloyd aims in, but Glen guesses correctly that Lloyd’s never actually killed anybody before. Lloyd keeps warning him to shut up, but Glen keeps pushing, telling Lloyd to out Flagg as the fraud he really is. But Lloyd finally hits his limit and shoots him. Glen falls to the floor, saying that it’s okay – that Lloyd just doesn’t know any better. This infuriates him even more and he empties the magazine into poor Glen. Despite their calls for blood, everyone in the courtroom goes silent in shock as Lloyd walks off. And up in the penthouse, something about the whole action takes the wind out of Flagg’s hovering thing and he lands on the floor, looking confused as to why.
Ray and Larry sit handcuffed in a kitchen, and Ray confesses that she’s a “baby about pain.” She knows Flagg’s going to make a big show of their deaths, and she wonders if that was all they came out there for. Then Nadine (Amber Heard) shows up with one of the guards and has him take Ray out of the room so she can talk to Larry. She asks if anyone else made it after the bombing, and Larry marvels at her planning skills, how she kept the kids – and him – away from the house. Nadine says she didn’t want him getting hurt, but that being Flagg’s queen – and the mother of his child – has always been her destiny, saying Flagg made her “complete.” Larry just keeps telling her to look at herself, and he finds a silver tray and holds it up. And for the first time, Nadine sees the reality instead of the illusion – the ghoul she’s turned into rather than the glamourous queen. Then pain overtakes her, and she screams that the baby’s coming.
Cut to Lloyd running and pushing Nadine in a wheelchair to the elevator and up to the penthouse. Then it turns into this goofy scene out of a B-horror movie – Nadine thrashing around on an exam table, Rat Woman dressed up as a goth nurse tending to her, Lloyd squirming in discomfort in the background and a blasé Flagg watching with his glass of milk and a cigar. Nadine jumps off the table and runs toward the window in horrible pain, looking at Flagg and saying he knew she wouldn’t survive delivering the “thing.”
Flagg walks calmly over to her and places a hand on her squirming belly, saying the thing is their prince. She repeats the mantra, “Nadine will be my queen,” and Flagg just walks off with a cold, “That’s my girl.” But then it seems like Nadine suddenly realizes the horrible mistake she’s made and utters her last words – “Larry was right.” She rips the glowing black-and-red stone off her neck and uses it to smash the window. And then she falls out (or jumps, I’m not sure which), all the way down until she smashes into the empty swimming pool. A horrified Flagg screams out his anger and grief – and then calms, telling Lloyd to “cancel the nursery.”
Back in the gorge, Flagg’s wolf comes to attack Stu – but Kojak jumps up and goes after it. All Stu can do is wait and watch as they disappear behind the rocks and listen to the fighting. Then it gets quiet – and a moment later, a victorious Kojak emerges, bloody but alive. And back in Vegas, a spaced-out Lloyd hovers outside the penthouse with Rat Woman, asking her if Flagg’s come out yet. She says he’s still inside with Nadine’s body – or more precisely, “what they could scrape off the floor.” Rat Woman says she’s surprised that Lloyd’s even there, considering that he killed Glen when he wasn’t supposed to. And Lloyd says that Glen’s face haunts him – every time he closes his eyes, he sees the look Glen gave him. To Rat Woman’s horror, Lloyd starts crying. She tells him to keep it together and keep the show going like they’re supposed to.
Flagg emerges from the penthouse, back in his trademark denim instead of his Hefner getup. Lloyd babbles his way through an explanation about shooting Glen, but Flagg doesn’t care. He just asks if the stage is ready, and he and Rat Woman say it’s all ready to go. Lloyd asks if he should get the prisoners, but Flagg says he wants him to do something first. Then we cut to Rat Woman in a bellboy’s outfit, wheeling a room service cart down to Larry, who’s still handcuffed in the kitchen. “Complements of Mr. Flagg,” she says, as she lifts the cover to reveal Nadine’s partially smashed head on a bed of white roses. (Excellent effects work there, by the way, it was really disgusting.)
Then Lloyd and one of the guards come to get Larry, and he’s all smiles. Lloyd asks him what he’s got to smile about – and Larry says sending Nadine’s head to him wasn’t really the message Flagg intended. See, Nadine was his queen – but look how she ended up. Larry asks Lloyd where he thinks Flagg will put his head. They get him up and put a hood on him as they drag him out to the orgy level along with Ray. Larry tells her it’s all over for Flagg’s people and that Nadine’s dead. But Lloyd just denies it as they bring them center stage and take their hoods off.
Ray and Larry look at the huge crowd around them, everyone cheering, “Make them pay!” as the guards drag them down into the empty pool and chain them to the floor. Then Julie Lawry (Katherine McNamara) takes over the mic and introduces Lloyd to the cheering crowd, asking Lloyd to tell the folks how the prisoners are feeling. But Lloyd struggles to answer, still unnerved by Glen’s death. All he manages to say is “scared.” Julie fills in that all those who cross Flagg suffer the consequences. And then Lloyd musters all the fabulousness he has left to give the Walkin’ Dude the proper intro he deserves. He screams Flagg’s name like a maniac – but then he walks away, barely able to hide his tears as Flagg emerges onto one of the balconies.
Flagg tells his people that they’ve “risen from the ashes of Captain Trips,” and are heading toward a glorious future. But that future’s being threatened by Boulder’s traitors and the “old witch” they worship. He orders the party to get started, and Lloyd opens up the water supply to the pool. And then they stop everything for a weird little dance interlude while Larry and Ray watch the water fill in around them.
Rat Woman brings up the camera feed from the airport, showing the plane that Flagg announces will carry the “biggest fire mankind has ever seen” over the mountains to Boulder. The crowd cheers, “Burn them down!’ as cameras then cut to the Strip, where we see Trashcan Man (Ezra Miller) on his ATV with the nukes in tow. Then Lloyd wades into the pool with a baton, confiding to Larry that he always liked his music before asking them if they have any last words. Larry just says, “I will fear no evil,” and keeps saying it over and over, louder and louder, even as Lloyd clocks him repeatedly with the baton.
Suddenly, somewhere in the crowd, a woman shouts the same thing. Flagg orders Lloyd to shoot her – but finally, Lloyd gets up the nerve to say no. And then, to Flagg’s shock, another guy in the crowd starts shouting the same thing. And outside, there’s a scary-looking storm brewing over the casino as Trashcan Man pulls up and drives right in.
Cut back to Lloyd dropping the baton and telling the guards to get the keys and let Larry and Ray go, while Trash drives right up to the pool. A horrified Flagg tells him he’s not supposed to be there, but Trash just keeps saying his usual “My life for you,” even though the radiation has pretty much turned him into a talking pile of goo. Then the storm clouds outside (which have a sort-of handshape to them) seep their way inside and lightning starts striking everywhere, destroying the place and making bloody work of Flagg’s followers. Ol’ Julie Lawry’s the first to go (thank god), then Rat Woman and then finally, Lloyd.
As the people stampede their way out of the casino, the ball of lightning inside takes aim on Flagg and strikes him over and over until he transforms back into his true, demonic shape and disappears. Then the lightning takes aim on the nukes, frying them along with Trash. And as the water covers them, Larry just says to Ray, “Don’t be afraid.”
Then the nukes go off in an impressive display of fire – and the shockwave reaches all the way to Stu in the gorge. Kojak runs off, we think because he’s scared – but then out of the dust storm comes Tom Cullen (Brad William Henke), and Kojak leads him back to Stu. And back in Boulder, Frannie (Odessa Young) and Joe (Gordon Comier) see the sudden appearance of a reddish aurora in the sky. Joe tells Frannie that the Dark Man’s gone, and she asks if he knows what’s happened to Stu – and then her water breaks.
Well, I don’t have much to say about this episode that I haven’t already said about this series as a whole. At this point, it feels like they’re just checking off items on a grocery list. Glen’s death? Check. Nadine’s death? Check. The final showdown? Check. Trash bringing the nukes? Check. Big boom? Check. Story-wise, it was all over the place as usual. I honestly couldn’t tell if Nadine meant to go out the window or if she just fell. And her story gets wrapped up way too quickly. We really needed to have more time with her, to see her realization that she can’t go through with having Flagg’s child – but instead of making the realization herself, Larry does it for her.
And as for Lloyd, his turn into a good guy was just lame. The dude didn’t know if he was coming or going – he’s with Flagg, he’s not. He is, he’s not. Scene to scene, hell, second to second, he was just bouncing back and forth instead of remaining the loyal, stalwart servant. And the deaths of Glen, Larry and Ray seem kind of pointless given that the nukes take everything out – although that particular issue goes back to the book. It’s only through reading it that you realize that Glen, Larry and Ray (or Ralph in the book) are sent out there to sacrifice themselves in the same way that Jesus was sent to sacrifice himself. Their deaths aren’t the point – the fact that they go out there to make a stand against evil is. But I’m not sure that that really comes through the way it was done here. And then there’s Flagg, just kind of gawking at everything before he blips out, which isn’t terribly satisfying.
I will say, though, that the visual effects work here was excellent. Anyone who’s watched the ’94 miniseries remembers how awful that hand-of-god thing was. But this time out, the storm, the lightning and the nuke blast were all presented beautifully. As I’ve said before, I only wish the same attention could’ve been given to the story. I really have no idea what the last episode will have in store, but I can’t imagine it’s going to be anything but anticlimactic. But I guess we’ll see – I suppose there’s always a chance of being pleasantly surprised.