The Stand debuted on CBS All Access Thursday with the premiere episode of the nine-part limited series, "The End", introducing viewers to a handful of the main characters for this dystopian story while also revealing how the world as those characters know it ends. However, while the series is a largely faithful adaptation of Stephen King's epic novel of the same name, there are some key differences from the page to the screen -- and we're breaking down some of the major ones we spotted in this premiere episode.
Warning: spoilers ahead for the first episode of The Stand, "The End", below. If you haven't seen the episode or are unfamiliar with King's novel, now would be a good time to turn back.
In The Stand, a super flu known as Captain Trips wipes out most of the world's population in a terrifyingly short span of time, leaving the very few survivors -- who happen to be immune -- to deal with the aftermath and set up a new civilization. What complicates that is that there are two factions vying for the soul of what remains of humanity, creating a very real showdown between good and evil as those who follow the good Mother Abagail find themselves at odds with the evil Randall Flagg. Ultimately, The Stand is all about choice and that battle and less about the pandemic that drives the characters there.
The series is, generally, a fairly faithful adaptation of King's novel, but there are some major changes from page to screen, including the much talked about structural shift. Even with the changes, series executive producers Benjamin Cavell and Taylor Elmore wanted to ensure that they did right by not just the story, but what the story means to fans.
"Everyone, and I mean Taylor and I, but everyone, you know, the actors, the crew felt a responsibility to do right by this iconic story," Cavell told ComicBook.com. "We all know what this book means to people. We know what it means to us, but we know what it means to people generally and we never lost sight of that. And, you know, every one of the actors and, by the way, not just the actors. People from our crew, I had like, our head electrician wanted to show me the signed first edition that he had of The Stand. This book, it just means things to virtually everybody. It's one of the great American novels of the 20th century. So, yes, as Taylor says, he and I are both confident enough in our ability as showrunners, as filmmakers, that I don't think we doubted whether to take it on, but we certainly felt like once we're doing it, we better get it right."
So how did they change things in the premiere episode, "The End"? Read on for the biggest changes we spotted and be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The story's structure
Perhaps the biggest and most immediately noticeable change between Stephen King's novel and the CBS All Access adaptation of The Stand is its narrative structure. The novel, for the most part, tells the story of the Captain Trips pandemic and the battle of good and evil between Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) and Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) in a linear, chronological fashion spread across the point of view of the story's many characters.
The limited series does not do this. Instead, the premiere episode "The End" opens in the Boulder Free Zone five months into the story before taking us back to when things started to fall apart, introducing readers first to Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) and Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) in Ogunquit, Maine and then, Stu Redman (James Marsden) in Arnett, Texas. While Captain Trips is obviously a significant part of the story -- and indeed, in the premiere we see just how vicious of a disease it really is -- this shift in focus goes a long way in reinforcing the idea that The Stand is more about the characters and less about the pandemic.
"The fact is for both of us, the book's not really about a pandemic," Cavell said. "I mean, there is a pandemic in the book and it kind of creates the circumstances for an empty world, you know, across which our characters can walk to Mordor, but you know the story is not the story of a pandemic. And that's a big part of why we are telling this in a nonlinear way, that we didn't want to just go through this very linear story in which the first three episodes are all about a pandemic and the kind of death of the world. I mean, this book is about what comes after and this elemental struggle between good and evil. And that was going to be the story we were telling whether there was a pandemic or not in the real world."prevnext
Characterizations of Frannie and Harold
Another difference from King's novel to the screen are how Harold and Frannie are portrayed, specifically. In the novel, Frannie is written as being warm, spirited and strong-willed and is frequently seen as being able to handle the horror and trauma of the pandemic almost in a pragmatic stride that is, at times almost caricatures. In contrast, the series' take on Frannie maintains much of her strong-willed personality, though she is more impacted by the pandemic in terms of her emotional state. Instead of Frannie being a bit more centered and practical as she is in the book, The Stand shows Frannie as overwhelmed by the grief of losing her father and everyone else to the point she attempts to take her own life. Also missing at this point in the series is much in the way of Frannie's backstory, particularly that about her pregnancy, though she is revealed to be pregnant in the "present day" portions of the episode.
As for Harold, the series changes his appearance a great deal. In the book, Harold is overweight, unhygienic, and immature. In the series, he's a bit more put together, appearance-wise and perhaps a bit less immature. In terms of personality, the book has Harold being resourceful and intelligent, though perhaps a bit more emotionally impacted by the loss of his family -- though he doesn't exactly grieve for them. In the series, Harold is more overtly calculating, more sinister. Teague's Harold is much more obviously evil -- or at least on the way there -- than he is in the book.prevnext
Atlanta versus Vermont
In the book, Frannie and Harold set out not for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia but the Stovington Plague Center, a CDC facility in the fictional town of Stovington, Vermont. This is also the location where Stu Redman is taken after the CDC in Atlanta is compromised by Captain Trips.
In the series, there is no mention of going to Stovington. Frannie and Harold depart Ogunquit to head to Atlanta in the hope that as apparently immune survivors they will not only be safe there, but potentially of service in helping stop the plague.prevnext
General Starkey and the global spread of Captain Tripps
One of the biggest shifts between the book and the series thus far is how detailed the series gets about Captain Trips -- specifically in how few details are offered. In the novel, readers know from the jump that Captain Trips was created by the military as a bioweapon, something that has a chilling and important impact on the story. Readers see the chilling political side of Captain Trips play out in the book with the government actively trying to suppress and control the media, lie to the public about the severity of the illness, and even the availability of a vaccine. The book also reveals how General Starkey is instrumental in the devastation of the entire world as the officer in charge of Project Blue, the project that developed the super flu virus. When efforts to first suppress the virus and then the media fail, Starkey is relieved of command but orders the release of super flu all over the world to hide the fact that it originated in the United States. It's a decision that effectively ends the world.
In the series, Starkey (played by J.K. Simmons) is a bit more of a sympathetic figure. We get no indication that Starkey is involved in media suppression or that he's ordered the virus released globally. Instead, he's shown as being in charge of the underground bunker Stu is transferred to, watching as things spiral out of control. In the end, he briefly converses with an attempting-to-escape Stu before killing himself. He does read Yeats before his suicide however, a nice nod to book.prevnext
How the end of the world begins
While the beginning of the pandemic isn't where the series starts, viewers don't get out of the "The End" without seeing it. While the release of Captain Trips is the opening of King's novel, it's actually the end of the series' premiere. Viewers watch as Charles Campion, a soldier in the United States Army stationed at the Project Blue research facility in California panics when the lockdown alarm goes off and a researcher dies right in front of him on the other side of a glass wall. Campion flees his post, collects his wife and young child and escapes base, unwittingly taking the lethal virus with them.
While that is largely how it goes down in the book, what's a little different in the series is the mechanism of Campion's escape. When Campion triggers the lockdown, an elevator (or some other structure with an elevator-style door) in his station is supposed to close, sealing him in. However, the door appears to be hung up, giving Campion just that extra second to decide to flee to his family. It's revealed that the reason the door won't close is that a foot -- that of Randall Flagg, though he is unseen save for his distinctive boot -- was holding the door back. The suggestion is that Flagg set the end of the world in motion directly. This scene does not feature in the books, but certainly sets an appropriately chilling tone for everything that's the come.1comments
The first episode of The Stand is now streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes drop every Thursday.prev