Review: CBS All Access: ‘The Stand’ – Where Things Are Three Episodes In

Everyone knows – I’m Gruesome Magazine’s resident Stephen King fan. I have been a fan of his written word – and the projects derived from them – since Carrie and although I love the original Mick Garris directed mini-series, like many fans I have longed for a more elaborate visual retelling of this horror classic.

So obviously the burning question on everyone’s mind is – is this CBS All Access adaptation the answer to our prayers? The short answer is – the jury is still out on that one. I sit here having just viewed the third hour in this nine-hour excursion and I find myself a bit conflicted.

I found the first hour – the pilot episode – to be very disjointed and a bit confusing. This occurs because of the non-linear storytelling style that director Josh Boone embraced to bring the story of how Captain Trips became released upon the land. As a mega-fan of the book – there were certain beats that I personally feel needed to be kept intact to move the story along and keep the train on the track – and while eventually showing themselves, these beats were in odd places that often made no sense – and took away from the power of the story – and in a few instances actually serve us some major spoilers, long before we need to know them. Just an odd choice for laying out the groundwork for this complicated and convoluted story.

Episode one – titled The End, ends up being almost completely about Harold and Frannie, with a little bit of Stu thrown in but we easily spend 75% of our time with Harold and Frannie – with episode one ending in the manner of which the book – and the original mini-series began. As I said, it’s all there, just kind of jumbled up and I ended the pilot episode feeling a bit confused, and a little disappointed.

The second episode is titled Pocket Savior. Any true fan of the book will recognize this as the title to Larry Underwood’s album and serves as a precursor to the point that this episode will be Larry Underwood heavy – and it is. Some liberties are taken with King’s original tale of Underwood as he escapes NYC – and while effective, still not effective or as terrifying as Kings’ original vision. Baby Can You Dig Your Man is still around – and Larry still meets up with and proves that his choice in women leaves something to be desired. Tucker Gates directed this outing, and while the non-linear style is still in place, it is not as noticeable or used as often as the pilot episode. I have to say, I found episode two an improvement over our previous outing.

It seems with episode three that The Stand might be reaching its stride. We get more of King’s classic characters joining the fray. Nick Andros and Tom Cullen make their first appearance (M-O-O-N – that spells Cullen) and are wonderfully cast. Their inclusion in the story adds so much more depth to the happenings. Glen Bateman also makes his first appearance (yeah, three episodes in. I told you things are all jumbled) and he is a welcome addition as well. We also get a terrifying scene where Flagg communicates with Mother Abigail through the body of a drifter that Stu has found alongside the road. A really creepy and well-executed scene. As this third installment ends we have the Boulder Free Zone in place and Flagg is well on his way to doing everything he can to insert himself into the growing resistance. This episode is titled Blank Page – and that seems fitting as for me this series seems to just now be starting – and I’m hopeful for what the next six episodes might bring.

Cast-wise – I think overall we are in good shape. James Mardsen is solid as Stu RedmanGreg Kinnear is pitch-perfect as Glenn – and Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail is just as good as you think it would be. So far though – the stand-out has been Henry Zaga as Nick Andros – an amazing performance.

So – hence my conflict on exactly how I feel about this – to this point – highly uneven representation of what is arguably the best modern horror novel ever written. The good news is – I like it enough to continue to watch – and as the episodes tick along, the good is far outweighing the bad. If that trend continues, we might just be onto something here. I’ll report back after episode six.

The Stand is airing now on CBS All Access – new episodes hit the streaming service every Thursday – M-O-O-N, that spells Thursday – lawd’s yes.

Dave Dreher
Co-Founder / Lead News Reporter at Gruesome Magazine
Dave is co-founder and lead news reporter for Gruesome. Dave has built his resume working for Diabolique Magazine, The Horror Channel,, House of Horrors and Creature Corner. He has worked with Tom Savini on his official site since 1997 and is also co-host of the popular podcast Horror News Radio.