The Stand: “Blank Pages” Review

As The Stand begins to settle in on its long term storyline, this third episode “Blank Pages” features less of the plague that wiped out humanity and more of the impending conflict between those that follow Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg.

But once again, it feels more like a series of jumbled up vignettes than a clear and concise narrative.  And it all stems from the primary creative choice that’s proving not to work.

Again with the Timeline
In my previous review of the first episode, I held judgement on the choice to tell the story in nonlinear fashion, because I wanted to see how it would work out.  We’re now almost a third into this miniseries, and it’s not working out.

Because of it, we’re at a point where we should know Mother Abigail much better than we do.

Some have compared this approach to Lost, however that series utilized its timeline far more effectively.  Its formula still allowed for a linear narrative with flashbacks (and later flash-forwards and “flash-sideways”) merely serving as the B plot.  Granted the audience rarely knew what was going on during Lost, but they were never confused about when the “present” was supposed to be.

That right there is the issue with The Stand.  It’s very hard to tell when the “now” is supposed to be.  It jumps from time to time with such frequency that it’s hard to tell when you are in the story, and it leads to disorientation.

Conflict to Come
Aside from the irritating storytelling device, the story and characters are still interesting.  We get a little more backstory on Nick Andros, as well as the moment that Stu Redman meets Frannie and Harold.  Where this series really shines are in its quiet character moments where we feel like they’re just ordinary people, caught up in this massive event.

Greg Kinnear steals every scene he’s in and hopefully, we get more of him.

The emphasis seem be on Nadine, and while Amber Heard does her best, he’s frankly not strong to enough at acting to convey the inner turmoil that this character is meant to struggle with.  She’s torn between her affection for Larry and desire to be on the side of good, but she also holds a negative opinion of herself and inevitably feels drawn to Randall Flagg.

She’s the most “gray area” character in the entire story, and in many ways serves as an audience surrogate, as we ponder which side we would fall on.  Again, the series isn’t giving her enough screen time, or enough of an arc to fully flesh this out and hopefully that changes.  But honestly, Amber Heard has never been a strong performer, and even excluding current personal feelings about her, she probably wasn’t the best choice for such a critical role.

In some ways, Nadine would make a better “main character” than Stu, if developed properly.

Last episode, I was cautiously optimistic.  But even that’s starting to fade.  I have some very deep concerns about where this miniseries is headed.  We had some interesting moments and another fun cast introduction, but the overall episode just felt like setup for what’s to come.

What did you think of “Blank Pages”?  How do you feel about this weird timeline?  Let us know in the comments!

The Stand is streaming exclusively on CBS All Access

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