Stephen King Almost Saved 2020’s The Stand Miniseries – Screen Rant

“The Circle Closes,” The Stand’s superb season finale, saw Stephen King almost manage to salvage the otherwise deeply flawed 2020 miniseries remake.
Although The Stand’s 2020 remake flopped with critics and fans alike, the miniseries had one saving grace—its only contribution from original novel author Stephen King. Stephen King has been a horror legend for decades, but his work’s history of screen adaptation has been a very mixed bag. For every huge hit like 2017’s blockbuster horror adaptation It, there is a middling release like Lisey’s Story or an outright flop.
Unfortunately for fans who spent years awaiting the miniseries remake, 2020’s The Stand ended up falling into the latter category. 2020’s The Stand had big shoes to fill, as the miniseries was a remake of Mick Garris’ popular 1994 adaptation and the book it was based on was one of King’s most beloved novels. The COVID-19 pandemic did the miniseries no favors but ultimately, 2020’s The Stand was doomed by divisive subplots, a confusing story structure, and an interminably slow pace more than unfortunate timing.
Related: Every Way The 2020 Stand Miniseries Original Plan Changed
Admittedly, even die-hard King fans were not enthused for a story about a killer pandemic wiping out much of America when The Stand premiered in December 2020. However, as reviews proved, it soon became clear that bad timing was the most minor issue faced by the miniseries. Creator and showrunner Josh Boone’s strange decision to tell its already overstuffed plot in non-linear order was one major mistake, while the profound misunderstanding of numerous key figures in the text didn’t help the reception of the miniseries. The Stand ruined some of Stephen King’s best villains and left the heroes with little to do, which makes it surprising that the writer himself almost saved the series in a single episode. King penned the final episode of The Stand, a new epilogue that takes place after the action of the story proper, and it’s tense, terrifying, thoughtful, and hopeful—everything 2020’s The Stand failed to be until its finale.
The anachronic narrative structure made The Stand’s fairly simple but sprawling story (two bands of survivors battle after the apocalypse) almost impossible for uninitiated viewers to follow. For those familiar with the novel, though, everyone from Alexander Skarsgård’s neutered Randall Flagg to Amber Heard’s miscast Nadine Cross underwent massive character changes, most of which made the heroes more one-note and the villains less scary. Outside of a few bright spots like Owen Teague’s engaging, genuinely unnerving take on Harold Lauder, The Stand failed because the miniseries remake made Randall Flagg’s villainy more conventional, the morality of the characters more clear-cut, and the individual arcs of characters like Frannie less engaging. As such, some viewers were understandably surprised when The Stand‘s final episode managed to show what might have been, focusing on one character, telling a straightforward story, and providing a satisfying conclusion in the process.
Proving that he should adapt more of his own books, Stephen King penned the season finale, an original epilogue not based on his source novel. The episode, “The Circle Closes,” is the strongest of the season by far, fleshing out Frannie’s character, bringing back Randall Flagg and making him an effectively seductive villain for the first time, and even injecting some real stakes into proceedings. For a lot of the episode’s runtime, the risk of Frannie and her baby dying seems very real as Frannie lies in the bottom of a well and awaits rescue, resisting Flagg’s alluring offer to save her life in exchange for a favor. This constant tension makes “The Circle Closes” both a strong hour of genre storytelling and a necessary corrective after the flat, lifeless preceding season, but the episode is not without its fun moments too.
A POV shot from Flagg following Frannie and Stu to their new home in Maine references King’s earlier story Children of the Corn, and long-time fans of the writer will be delighted to see proof that Flagg is (as was often theorized) He Who Walks Among The Rows. Meanwhile, the fact that Frannie’s test comes in the form of a test of her faith rather than a literal test of physical strength shows that King’s idea of fortitude has matured in the decades since he authored the original novel. For a story so concerned with God, the Devil, and existential questions, even the acclaimed 1994 miniseries struggled with the fact that The Stand’s climax essentially consists of Las Vegas being nuked via divine intervention. It is an ending that co-signs the use of extreme violence while preaching peace, and the nuclear blast that destroys the city is a bombastic, corny close to an otherwise complex and thoughtful text.
Related: Every Stephen King Book & Story That’s Been His Favorite (& Why)
2020’s The Stand miniseries ruined Flagg’s Las Vegas, and this major misstep made it refreshing that the ending of the series was not a triumphant nuclear explosion wiping out every antagonist at once. Instead, The Stand’s final image is of a woman in dire circumstances choosing to trust that her enduring faith will take care of her and her family, rather than succumbing to evil. It’s a far more thematically fitting and moving ending, and one that does justice to Frannie in a way even the original novel failed to.
It’s unlikely that The Stand will receive a second season as, like director Josh Boone’s earlier, equally badly-reviewed effort New Mutants, its critical failure and delayed release outshined the saving graces of the miniseries. However, this is no bad thing as, while King’s script for the final episode went a long way to fixing The Stand’s problems, this alone was not enough to warrant another season fleshing out unlikable characters and their convoluted stories. The image of Frannie and Stu surviving to face the new world with their baby was a compelling image to end on after the many disappointments of the miniseries, while the highly amusing sight of the nude villain attempting to woo new followers was the sort of campy villainy that Skargaard’s Randall Flagg deserved far more of. As such, The Stand’s ending proves the miniseries could have been better, but the finale does not show that a second season would improve its reception or fix its myriad issues.
More: Everything The Stand 2020 Should Have Done Differently
Cathal Gunning has been writing about movies and TV online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He has spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he has never seen a Star War.


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