Thursday, December 17, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Stand' - Stu, Frannie and Harold Fight to Survive When a Virus Wipes Out Most of Humanity in 'The End'

CBS All Access' The Stand - Episode 1.01 "The End"

When the "Captain Trips" flu epidemic wipes out more than 99% of the population, the remaining few immune to the disease, including Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith and Harold Lauder, set out in search of other survivors, all the while, experiencing visions of the nurturing Mother Abagail and the menacing figure of The Dark Man.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of CBS All Access' The Stand.

"The End" was written by Josh Boone & Ben Cavell and directed by Josh Boone

This premiere is a jumbled and chaotic mess. It's absolutely baffling. It struggles to maintain any sense of momentum despite its dire premise of the majority of the world dying from a fast-spreading disease. The creative team clearly made the choice to tell this story in a non-linear way. That was evident from the first moment. The action begins with a crew picking up dead bodies and disposing them in mass graveyards. It's disgusting and gruesome to watch. The show earns the visceral reaction from showing the bloated bodies. And then, it bounces around in time to showcase a few stories about people coming to realize they are immune to the disease while everyone around them dies. Now, that can be a compelling story. The execution is severely lacking here. All the power is removed from the sequence of Campion racing to be with his family as the virus breaks free of the facility where he works. That moment is positioned at the end of this premiere. It's meant to infer that nefarious forces conspired for all of this to happen. A dark presence made a door jam that provided Campion with the opportunity to escape this secure facility. That sets off the chain of events that leads to this virus growing widespread. But again, it's suddenly about the mysterious evil lurking around the characters instead of the dramatic doom of what every action means when Campion takes it. A run-in with Stu Redman in Austin sets off the events where his immunity is discovered by the government and he is treated as a lab rat in the hopes of finding a cure. He goes along with so much because his deceased wife was a nurse. That is the only explanation offered as to why Stu goes along with so much. He forms a bond with the doctor who offers him information about what's going on. People still die all around him. Some do it by chance. They don't want to succumb to the brutal effects of this disease. Others go mad. They want to take down as many people with them as possible. Others try to stay alive for as long as they can. It's mostly just a mad dash to ensure the excitement is rising as Stu is thrown directly in the middle of the chaos. He is led around this facility by the four-star general who also feels compelled to take his own life. That is the dark choice presented to so many throughout the world. J.K. Simmons and Hamish Linklater sell the agony of those moments. They are just two scenes in a premiere that has a lot of places to go and see. The drama is more concerned with the action happening up in Maine. That presents two young people with drastically different perspectives of this apocalypse. Frannie mourns the agony of this loss. Everyone she knows is dying. She thinks it's inevitable that she should join them as well. Harold pulls her out of that. He saves her. However, he stalks and has an unrequited crush on her too. He is a young man filled with rage. Surviving this apocalypse can fill him with purpose. He has a sense of direction. He has a plan for where to go. The future depicts him being a part of a new society that has formed. And yet, he has to fake emotions in order to interact with several of the familiar faces. In reality, his dark thoughts are being written on page. He wants to be consumed by hatred. That makes him susceptible to the evil forces of this world. That may signal that all forms of civilization are prone to corruption with the right influence. The sense of good isn't all that present in the fight. It's all doom and gloom at the moment as destruction takes centerstage. It's a devastating experience for so many. And yet, the way the episode is structured just robs every single moment of the potency it is capable of having. It hints at some depth that will become apparent over time. But that lessens the appeal of the show right now. It undercuts the urgency to continue watching. It features recognizable actors who can appeal to fans of their previous work. The ensemble is vast and will continue to grow as well. This premiere sets the template for what the viewer should expect moving forward. As such, it's clearly going to be a muddled message that believes it is providing insight into a select few characters. In reality, it's just a vast emptiness that is hard to keep straight. The jumps around in time don't really inform how the characters will behave in the present day. It's just the details of their stories up to this point. They don't really evolve, which also presents the case that this is simply what humanity is and people shouldn't expect anything more from that. Again, that's just a dire and depressing mood to strike right away with no guarantee that anything will be better or more convincing in the future.