The Stand: “The Circle Closes”

Wrapping up a massive narrative like The Stand is certainly no easy task.  Following the explosive (literally) climax from last week, many were curious to see what the series had in store for its final episode.  The result is varied at best, unnecessary at worst.

(Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned)

A New Hope
Following the cliffhanger at the end of last week. Frannie goes into labor and births a beautiful baby girl named Abigail.  While the child initially shows symptoms of the Captain Tripps virus, she becomes the very first person in the world to have recovered from it.

We then see that Stu and Tom did make it back to Boulder, but instead of showing the harrowing journey of how they survived and how Tom rescued Stu in the desert, we just get a brief voiceover by Frannie.

Stu’s thrilled to meet his daughter, who is more than just their child, but rather hope for the future of humanity.  It’s the only way the world will rebuild.  And while it seems like this is where the episode is going during the first act, it quickly abandons this them in favor of a random road trip.

In a world like that, a baby is huge hope for the future.

Road Trip
Missing her old home in Maine, and wanting to spread out from Boulder, Frannie and Stu journey across the country.  With Flagg and his followers gone, they don’t suspect that there will be any threats, other than the natural ones for survival.

This comes into play when Frannie falls into a well and Stu gets a flat tire.  Despite being “dead” Flagg emerges once again to tempt Frannie (who manages to resist).  It’s clearly meant to be allegorical of Christ’s own temptation by the devil when wandering through the desert, but its execution just seems contrived and campy.

He definitely had potential for this character, the series just never really used him right.

However, it should be noted that, Alexander Skarsgård himself is better in this scene than he’s been in the last few episodes.  He has a quiet and creepy presence that didn’t translate well to being the charismatic cult leader in New Vegas.

But he’s always been effective as the subtle and quiet source of temptation.  He comes across much more naturally and threatening when he’s recruiting a single person than whole scores of them.

When he fails to tempt Frannie, Flagg travels to the Amazon and presents himself to an uncontacted tribe who wasn’t affected by the worldwide plague at all.  He demonstrates his powers and demands they worship him like a god.  The point is clearly that the devil never really goes away, but the scene itself does come off as cheesy and borderline offensive with respect to indigenous peoples.

It’s definitely the most bizarre scene in the entire miniseries.

Too Much Ending?
Stephen King always called “The Stand” his own version of “Lord of the Rings”, and much like that Tolkien classic, the adaptation’s ending dragged on longer than it needed to.  One of the most common criticisms of The Return of the King was that after the climax, it went on for another 30-40 minutes and just lost all sense of pacing.

And that’s sort of what this finale to The Stand feels like as well.  The episode itself could have been reduced down to 10-15 minutes added on to the last episode, and it would have felt more like an epilogue.

But the way it’s presented, last week felt like an ending, and this just felt unnecessary.  But then that’s sort of the perfect finale for everything this miniseries has been.  When it came to pacing and creative choices, it rarely succeeded in what it was trying to do.

It botched both its beginning and its end.  And while it did have some good episodes in the middle, the miniseries itself will largely be forgotten, with the 1994 adaptation still being considered the “definitive” one.

The director of the 1994 version, Mick Garris even got a cameo in this episode.

What did you think of this finale, and of the miniseries as a whole?  Let us know in the comments!

The Stand is streaming exclusively on CBS All Access (soon to be Paramount+)

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