This review will contain some spoilers.
CBS All Access' nine-episode adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand has now concluded, and despite some bright spots here and there, it will likely be seen as a crushing disappointment to fans of the seminal 1978 novel.
The Stand was (presumably) a bit of a passion project for writer/director Josh Boone, who was the driving force behind all previous attempts to adapt the book. But watching his take on the material play out, one might wonder if he ever actually read the damn thing.
For the most part, this new miniseries is pretty faithful to the original story (the ill-advised flashback structure aside), but makes some genuinely baffling decisions when it comes to which characters and events to focus on. As a result, it soon becomes difficult to fully engage with what we're seeing unfold, as so many key moments are either glossed over or dropped completely.
This may not seem like it would be as big an issue for someone who hasn't read the book, but the uninitiated are likely to be just as frustrated by how rushed the whole thing is. The '90s miniseries may not have aged very well in a lot of respects, but it still managed to do a better job of adapting the story in 4 hours than this version does in 9.
We're not given enough time to get to know certain characters enough to care what happens to them, and even the main players - who we really should be fully invested in - seem to be hamstrung by the script at every turn.
It really is a shame, because the show did manage to assemble an excellent cast, and most of them (not you Ezra Miller) do their best with what they have to work with. Standouts are Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith, Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, and Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen. James Marsden is also on form as Stu Redman, but he's not really stretching any acting muscles playing the "East Texas" everyman.
Henry Zaga is fine as Nick Andros (we'll table the hearing actor playing a deaf character discussion for now), but the character really is given the shaft. Nick is basically the heart and soul of the story, but Boone and co. greatly reduce his role, and his tragic, heroic death - such a powerful moment in the book - is almost treated as an afterthought. Larry (Jovan Adepo) wondering if there's "enough of Nick left to bury" is actually the only time his friends even acknowledge his sacrifice.
Oh, and remember that touching moment towards the end of the novel when Nick's spirit appears to Tom to offer comfort and guidance to his pal? Yeah... you won't be seeing that. Boone evidently felt that showing us Randall Flag dancing like a tool in Vegas was more important.
Speaking of The Walkin' Dude, Alexander Skarsgård's take on the mysterious villain is equal parts menacing and laughable - which, to be fair, is a pretty accurate representation of the character. The finale hints that we may not have seen the last of Mr. Flagg, but, honestly, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting a second season of this.
The cast ensures that The Stand is not a complete disaster, and there are a couple of decent, even pretty good episodes. But overall, this adaptation of what many consider to be King's masterwork is a let-down. Stripping this story of pretty much every shred of dramatic weight and emotional engagement is no easy task, but CBS has accomplished it.