I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I was thirteen and read Carrie, but I didn’t realize it until a year later when I read The Shinning one night when I was babysitting. I picked it up after my charges were asleep and I was looking for something to read, and I couldn’t put it down. I called my mom and woke her up at four in the morning, because I was too scared to read more, but I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it the next day, and after that, I soaked up anything by Stephen King that I could get my hands on. I’ve read The Stand through three times, including the “Special Edition” version with all the cut chapters and scenes. I’ve seen the original mini-series twice, so it was in great anticipation that I awaited the coming of the new mini-series on CBS All Access. I woke up analyzing this s new version of an old favorite, so I knew I had to write this review.
Let me begin by saying that I think they made a huge mistake by starting this mini-series after Captain Tripps has devoured humanity and placed the survivors into the two camps in Boulder and New Vegas, and only allowing us glimpses of the pre-Captain Tripps world, instead of letting us get to know the characters as the story unfolds, as in the book and the original mini-series. By eliminating what was basically the first half of the book and reducing it to flashbacks, we miss out on vital character development, not to mention many of the very intense scenes that occur there.
Now, I know we shouldn’t judge this version by those that have come before, and I’ve tried not to, but in my defense, I know this story inside and out, and it is very difficult not to draw on previous knowledge. But, I’m on episode 5 and I still don’t feel connected to any of the characters. That connection, the feeling of knowing and relating to the characters, is one of the big appeals of this story. Without it, I doubt anyone would keep turning the pages of this massive novel or continue watching, because without that feeling of connection, readers or viewers have no reason to care. And I have to admit, I’m hard-pressed to keep viewing the 20-21 version for this very reason.
But the method of storytelling is only one problem. I have difficulty buying-in to this new cast. There’s already been controversy over the Randall Flagg of the first mini-series and this one, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard, who doesn’t come off as being evil enough in my opinion, but this could go back to the lack of character developement. Although I could get used to Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Gabreille Rose as Judge Harris, who are opposites of their original counterparts, I feel Whoopi Goldberg misses the mark totally with the character of Mother Abigail.
While I like Whoopi as Guynan on Star Trek Generations, and I loved her as Oda Mea Brown in Ghost, she is not the right actress for this part. Mother Abigail is old and frail and determined to carry out the Lord’s work as long as she is able, and everyone loves her and is devoted to her. Whoopi is none of these things. Goldberg is not old enough, and she’s not frail in any way. In previous versions, Mother Abigail’s strength was established through her determination while she was still alone at Hemmingford Home, (which is now in Boulder instead of Nebraska), which we only see a glimpse of in this version. We don’t see her frailty, or her failing health in the Goldberg character, and it is difficult to buy-in to the character, when I don’t feel as if I know who she is or where she came from in the story.
Overall, I am disappointed in this recent rendition of one of my favorite apocalypse tales. I know Stephen King has writing credits for at least nine episodes, but cutting out half the original story was not a good storytelling decision. Flashbacks don’t offer enough to get to know and connect with the characters. There were also several questionable casting decisions, at least in my mind, which prevent relatabilty of the characters. I honestly don’t know how much more I will watch, because they haven’t made me care about this cast of characters in any meaniful way. I will say that Captain Tripps bears some scary resemblences to the Covid pandemic we’re all living through now, but I don’t know if that is enough to attract viewers, especially without many of the most powerful scenes, such as the journey through the tunnel out of New York, Nick’s time as jailer, and Lloyd’s rat problem, which is alluded to in flashback, but just didn’t carry the same impact. My continued viewing is doubtful. If you don’t already know this apocalyptic story, I recommend the original mini-series, or better yet, get the book.