The Stand S1E3: Blank Page

by thethreepennyguignol

I’m sorry, what the fuck is this?

After the first two episodes of The Stand, I felt as though I had a good grasp on what the show was trying to do. I might not have loved it, but at least I seemed to somewhat get it. Each episode would be set around a few characters, tracing out the stories that led them to Boulder or otherwise, and that’s…fine. It’s not the most inventive, it’s not the most well-told, frankly, but it’s fine.

And then, enter this episode. Blank Pages, to cut to the chase, is an script that would have been better off sticking to its title and not being written at all. I understand that the show is trying to move things on, push towards the inevitable confrontation between the Big Bad and the Big Good, and that’s going to require some forward movement to get there – but damn, does it really have to be as artless as this?

I think what frustrates me most about this episode is that the scenes that make it up are, occasionally, really good. We finally get to meet Glenn Bateman (an excellent Greg Kinnear), as he and Stu convene in his woodland cabin for some quality man-on-man bonding; seeing the two of them chat it out has a natural, easy feel that so much of the person-on-person stuff has been lacking this season. A small glimpse of Larry and Nadine’s charge Joe provides the groundwork for the almost familial intimacy between them; the introduction to Nick Andros (Henry Zaga, who I recently watched in The New Mutants and who is virtually unrecognizable here compared to that performance) uses sound and silence in a really interesting way that I enjoy. Tom Cullen (Brad Willian Henke) finally gets his (brief) introduction, and it’s a pretty-much perfect capturing of the book’s version of his character (though, as some people have pointed out, not exactly the most accurate or useful portrayal of an adult with developmental disabilities, especially since the show has been moved up to the present day in terms of setting).

But Christ, Blank Page manages to fuck these all the way up. To call this episode chaos would be too polite – these are basically random, unconnected scenes jammed on top of one another in a great big wobbly Jenga tower of storytelling that left me trying to figure out just what the connective tissue between them all might have been, apart from the fact that they probably needed to happen at some point for the story to move forward. But the way they crash into each other here makes it hard for any of them to take a breathe long enough to stand out – for all the good stuff that there is here, it’s buried under a pummelling cascade of non-stop plot-jumping that makes it hard to take it in.

I get it – The Stand is a huge story, a huge book, with a huge cast and a huge tale of good and evil to tell. There isn’t much time for sitting around and pondering here, and I’m fine with that. But my problem comes when the storytelling feels as random and disconnected as this – it’s hard to say if there’s anything that holds these plots together. Yes, the episode begins and ends with Nadine and her planchette, with Randy declaring her his wife-to-be, but those sequences are just bookends to what is essentially unrelated scenes that happen to be based on characters from the book, The Stand. If this was a demo reel to give a potential producer an idea of what the show might look like, I would get it – but it’s not. This is the actual storytelling they’ve gone with, a mushy gloop of some good moments, but nobody’s best.

I’m not sure why the show started out with such a specific method of storytelling and then just seemed to drop that for Blank Page. I’m interested to see if this is how they continue, or if they intend to go back on themselves and pick up with more character-driven plots again – but honestly, I can only hope that this episode is a blip, not an indicator of what’s to come. This approach to the plot is messy, ugly, and gives nobody their chance to really shine, and with a cast of characters and actors as good as this one, that would be a damn shame.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out some of my other recapping projects as well – the Fifty Shades of Grey book seriesStephen King’s Carrie, the first Harry Potter book, LostGame of ThronesThe Mandalorian, and American Horror Story, to name a few – and support me on Patreon if you’d like to see more of my work!

(header image via TVLine)