The Stand: Why Las Vegas Differs So Much From the Book

In last week's episode of The Stand, "Fear and Loathing in New Vegas", viewers finally head into Randall Flagg's take on Sin City, getting to see how the other half lives in the Dark Man's stronghold far from Mother Abagail's Boulder Free Zone. But for fans of Stephen King's book, this take on Vegas was one that was strikingly different. Instead of a deeply authoritarian state in which even the slightest infraction is punishable by crucifixion, the series' Vegas is a hedonistic wonderland full of sex and drugs and glitter and glitz. While the difference from the source material may be striking for some, however, series executive producer Benjamin Cavell said that the more strict version in King's novel just didn't quite make sense, at least in terms of showing why some people would willingly choose the dark side.

Speaking with Den of Geek, Cavell explained that the shift in how Vegas is presented was part of how the series approached making Flagg seem like "a viable alternative to Mother Abagail."

"It's funny, the 'no drugs in Vegas' thing never made a lot of sense to us," Cavell said. "I mean, just from Flagg's general ethos, it never made a lot of sense to us. And we wanted to really dig in on what somebody like Flagg is genuinely offering. It was very important to us that Flagg never be evil with a capital E. That he really seems, at least initially, like a viable alternative to Mother Abagail."

In the book, Flagg's Vegas is an extremely tightly run ship with very little room for personal freedom or debauchery. Everyone has a specific job toward the greater "good" and the use of recreational drugs is strictly prohibited -- a character who does indulge in the book is soon crucified for the transgression. For Cavell, changing that up to make Vegas a bit more seductive helps explain why so many people would be persuaded to his world.

"He claims to have a real handle on what's going on, and what it's all for and what it all means that we've had to live through all this horror," Cavell said. "I think that would be very attractive. We wanted to use Flagg to get at some of the genuine appeal of these charismatic, authoritarian strongmen that have been on the ascendancy in all sorts of places around the world, and what those guys might be offering. So it was very important to us that yes, our Vegas is more permissive in a lot of ways than the Vegas in the book. But it was also important to us to show that it functions, as does the Vegas in the book, and that in some ways it gets back up and running more quickly even than Boulder."

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The first five episodes of The Stand are now streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes are released each Thursday.