The finale of CBS All Access's adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand arrived on Thursday with "The Circle Closes", a "coda" to the iconic story written by King himself. The episode was billed as being a new ending to the saga, a version of the story that King had been wanting to tell for three decades so, even going into things fans expected a unique experience. However, with a few details of the main story left after last week's "The Stand", there are still enough elements of the novel to compare to how they're approached in the episode -- and the overall ending requires a little bit of explanation as well for what it changes and does not change from King's classic. Let's break it down.
Warning: spoilers ahead for the series finale of The Stand, "The Circle Closes". If you haven't seen the episode or are unfamiliar with King's novel, now would be a good time to turn back.
"The Circle Closes," tells the story of what happened after The Hand of God brought down justice on New Vegas. In the penultimate "The Stand", Ray (Irene Bedard), Larry (Jovan Adepo), and Glen (Greg Kinnear) are put on a show trial for their "crimes" against Vegas with Ray shot and killed by Lloyd (Nat Wolff) in the courtroom. Ray and Larry are sent to be drowned in a public execution witnessed by Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) personally, but all of Vegas is wiped out when a mysterious storm -- the Hand of God -- ultimately detonates a nuclear weapon brought to Flagg by Trashcan Man (Ezra Miller). Back in Boulder, Frannie (Odessa Young) goes into labor and that's where the episode leaves off.
In "The Circle Closes", we end up catching up with Frannie a bit later with a voice-over narrating some of the events. Frannie gives birth to her baby, but the child soon catches Captain Trips. However, despite being ill for a time, the baby manages to fight off the virus and recover -- something that's never happened before, offering hope that humanity will continue. Months later, Stu (James Marsden), Tom (Brad Michael Henke), and Kojack return to Boulder, though after a while Frannie and Stu decided to head back east to start a new life there.
It's after that decision to return east that the bulk of the differences from the book happen. Some of the events will be familiar to readers of The Complete and Uncut Edition of the novel which we are using for our baseline comparison, but there are quite a few differences from even that version as well. Read on to see just what those differences are.
In the novel, Fran gives birth to a little boy who she names Peter after her own father. His birth is portrayed as being a little complicated -- Frannie has to have a Caesarian as the baby is breech -- and soon after birth he contracts Captain Trips, though he ends up surviving thanks to his inherited partial immunity from Fran.
In the episode, Fran gives birth to a little girl she names Abagail, which is the only substantive difference (in the 1994 miniseries Fran also has a daughter she names Abagail). Like the book, the baby contracts Captain Trips but survives in part to having inherited partial immunity from Fran.prevnext
Stu and Tom's return
In the book, Stu and Tom's trek back to Boulder from Vegas plays out over roughly two chapters with Stu climbing out of the canyon and starting to hike back to Boulder on his own before Tom finds him a few days later and the pair find a car. The book also has a plot in which Stu gets very ill with pneumonia and the ghost of Nick Andros tells Tom to get Stu medication. Stu recovers and after a long journey returns to Boulder.
The episode has none of that journey. Viewers get no presentation of the challenges Stu and Tom faced in making it back home. They also arrive back in Boulder during a memorial, whereas in the book Fran is asleep and thinks she's dreaming when Stu returns.prevnext
In the book, after deciding to leave Boulder and head back east one of the stops on the journey is Hemmingford Home, Nebraska, and specifically Mother Abagail's house. The stay is uneventful and it's here that the main part of the novel ends with Stu, Fran, and baby Peter on the porch of Mother Abagail's home, Stu worrying about the future. Fran is pregnant again as well, this time with Stu's child.
In the episode, Stu and Fran decide to leave Boulder and do stop at a farmhouse in Nebraska but it's never said to be Mother Abagail's home -- in the series, we meet her in a residential facility in Colorado. Other than the geographical location, nearly everything that happens next is original to the episode. While Stu goes into a nearby town to collect supplies from a grocery store, Fran tries to get water from a well and falls into it, suffering grave injuries in the process.prevnext
This entire part of the episode is unique to the series. An unconscious Fran "wakes up" and finds herself in a jungle with Flagg who has seemingly survived Vegas. He tries to tempt her, telling her that she is dying but that he will ensure that she returns to her daughter safely if she will just give into him. He tells her that all he wants is a kiss and to sometimes look through her eyes. Fran ultimately rebukes him and flees and ends up finding the spirit of Mother Abagail. Mother Abagail comforts Fran, explaining to her that Flagg was trying to tempt her but that she'd done well. Mother Abagail also tells Fran that she will have five children and will live a long life, long enough to see some of her great-grandchildren as they repopulate the world.prevnext
The spirit of Mother Abagail
Another invention for the series is the spirit of Mother Abagail, but it's not just the old woman that we see, there's a young girl as well. She's shown to be in the cornfield when Stu and Fran arrive, but when Stu returns from his shopping and finds Fran in the well, the girl appears again seemingly deeply knowledgable about the situation and even knows Stu by name. She helps him get Fran from the well and then heals her injuries before vanishing, leaving behind only her doll with the baby. In the episode, it's only implied that the girl is the spirit of Mother Abagail, but showrunner Ben Cavell confirmed it in an interview with Vanity Fair.
"It's very clear, I think, that she is supposed to be some manifestation of Abagail," Cavell said. "We don't say her name, and the script doesn't have her called by her name. But, yes, it's clearly supposed to be that spirit."prevnext
The end of the journey
The episode ends with Fran and Stu in Maine, sitting on the beach in Ogunquit pondering their future In the book, we never see Fran and Stu make it to Maine and, beyond that, their initial destination isn't Ogunquit as it would be too painful for Fran at that point, too many memories.
One thing that the episode maintains from the book is the epilogue which sees Flagg on a tropical beach where he exerts his powers over a group of fearful natives, declaring himself to be "Russell Faraday" and that they will worship him as their god -- which they do.prev