Martin Carr reviews the second episode of The Stand…
Apathy after episode one has been replaced with a new found curiosity as The Stand finds its feet. After the tedious opener which felt protracted and lacking in drama, ‘Pocket Saviour’ establishes context as pieces begin falling into place. Much of this comes from a clarity of structure which uses each episode to introduce pivotal characters onto a broader canvas alongside fantastical elements.
Amber Heard, Alexander Skarsgard and Jovan Adepo form the central backbone of this second foray into Stephen King territory. Drip feeding audiences with tantalising titbits which fill in back story and plant initial plot threads. Jovan Adepo’s Larry Underwood is a musician on the cusp of global adulation held together with drink and drugs. It is through the overtly human and contradictory nature of his characterisation that this actor ups the ante overall. Playing hedonistic rule breaker and reformed protector in differing time periods, allows him a great deal of latitude within his performance. Jovan Adepo makes more of an impression than James Marsden managed last week, yet as actors together they share an innate chemistry which grounds everything.
Elsewhere snippets of Amber Heard’s Nadine Cross hint at a gentler soul sharing a connection with Larry Underwood that remains unexplained. Outside of big screen blockbusters and UK court rooms, it is evident that small intimate drama fits her like a glove. Nadine possesses a fragility and maternal compassion which is effortless and lacking in affectation. In the few scenes they share both Jovan Adepo and Amber Heard imbue this fictional world with a recognisable sense of time and place. Despite the ambiguity of her past experiences Nadine Cross remains intriguingly impenetrable yet infinitely engaging.
This world gains in credence with each passing episode and the fate of these people will never be easily resolved. Symbolism is now seeping through the pores of this show and infiltrating story through visual metaphor. Guilt, ambition and self-interest will play their part before the end, but how that pans out remains unclear. As COVID continues to run rampant and Americans go native The Stand feels unnervingly prescient. Hospitals are overrun, public unrest is rife and mercenary tactics are superseding diplomatic process. There will be some who consider this dramatisation too close to home, prophesising as it does a global extinction event with minimal survivors. Hopefully where things differ is in the clarity of good and evil, where diametrically opposing forces clash over something intangible.
Belief is one topic that divides, disrupts and destabilises without weaponry. All it requires is some carefully chosen rhetoric and the strength of public opinion to be effective. More than anything The Stand addresses this by exploring individual reactions to a dismantling of social structure. It intentionally challenges people to stand together against a tangible threat, yet does so by asking them to believe in an intangible adversary. Unfortunately, everyone is co-existing within their own personal Stephen King novella right now, making the drama not only less dramatic but too close for comfort.