15th Feb2021

‘The Stand 1×05: Fear & Loathing in New Vegas’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: James Marsden, Odessa Young, Owen Teague, Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgard | Created by Josh Boone, Benjamin Cavell

One of the strongest things about The Stand has always been about the characters. Now we are in the second half of this new adaption of the book it is fair to say that the characters are also the biggest problem the show has. Now we make it to New Vegas does this change?

With spies in New Vegas trying to find out more about Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard), one of them, Dayna (Natalie Martinez) may have been a little too eager to see the Dark Man. Back in Boulder, Stu (Stu Redman) and Frannie (Odessa Young) invite Harold (Owen Teague) over for dinner.

I’ve waited for quite a few episodes for the show to finally hit New Vegas in the hope that things liven up a bit in The Stand. What I found though was exactly what you’d expect New Vegas to be like, there are no surprises. Things are out of control and it’s occupants are promised the ability to do everything they want. It’s pretty much an extreme version of Vegas where anything goes. That is, as long as it makes the Dark Man happy.

Where this episode works is that it gives Skarsgard the chance to shine. His charismatic performances really makes him one of the stand out characters, and what works for him really is that the Dark Man is meant to be a mystery, we don’t know that much about him. This is the problem with the Stand really. It never delves into the characters of the show, and this is its main failing.

Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff) is an example of this problem. In the original mini-series Miguel Ferrer created a character that you empathised with, you felt his inner conflict. The Lloyd in this version is more bland with a fear of his boss that is constantly played on. It’s not the fault of the actor, it’s down to the lack of depth of the character. We just don’t care enough about him.

Another plus point is the conflict and lack of confidence some of the occupants are feeling in Boulder. Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) sees her chosen group of leaders to be making wrong decisions and this makes her look to the voice of God, who she can no longer hear. Goldberg plays this well and is able to show the weakening of the group, which comes at a time when they need strength.

The events around Harold are also interesting this week, and it is interesting that he is one of the few characters who really gets some story to chew in the aftermath of the dinner. The fact it was used to investigate his actions, and we see his preparations with Nadine (Amber Heard) for what is to come make his story much more interesting.

One question I continually find myself asking is what people who haven’t read the book or seen the original mini-series think of the show, and in a way I can’t help but feel they would be missing so much. There is so much to The Stand that it is obvious that things need to be cut, and certain story elements changed to keep the story moving. It’s just a shame that the cost is that the characters lack the depth they need.

It will be interesting to see what Trashcan Man can bring to the story as he makes his debut next week, but is it a little late? The Stand is coming together for the big finale, it just feels like the shows biggest problem is one that can’t be fixed.

*** 3/5

The Stand is available in the UK on Starzplay now.


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