The Stand S1E6: The Vigil

by thethreepennyguignol

Everything that is happening in this show is wrong.

(small side note: my next book is available for pre-order right now! Please consider grabbing a copy at a pre-release discount right here!)

As I indicated last week, any last vestiges of goodwill I might have had towards this The Stand adaptation are now gone. And with that clear-headedness, I can firmly say that there is not a single thing that this episode does right.

The Vigil (which is also the exact name of a genuinely great horror film that will reward your attention much more than this episode) is, from top to bottom, abject shittery. Let’s just take this from the top: we finally get to meet Trash Can Man (Ezra Miller, noted actor and throttler of women) as he arrives in New Vegas, and Jesus, this is probably one of the most stinkingly dreadful things the show has done to date. I don’t think Miller is a bad actor or anything, but this is a truly downright shocking performance. I guess the show is attempting to depict someone with some sort of psychosis along with a variety of tics and intrusive thoughts, but it’s all so very “read the intro paragraph to the Wikipedia page and assumed they knew enough to diagnose their cousins with it at family gatherings”.

As a part-time nutjob myself, it’s almost shocking to remember how some people still view those dealing with mental illness; this is every single symptom that the writers could remember from skimming their textbooks in Psych 101 crammed on to one person with apparently no real understanding of how it might impact his movement in the world at large. Miller is fucking unwatachably cringe here, though I can only hold him partly responsible, because nobody could make this version of Trash Can Man so completely devoid of anything that feels remotely human in a way that serves to undercut his future importance. I am offended both as a person with mental health issues and as a person who enjoys good television.

If I hadn’t read the books and didn’t understand the significance of this character to come, warty Ezradiatied Miller dropping out of the clear blue sky to whine and squeal like my cat when she’s got her claw hooked into my jumper would be downright baffling; even with that context, I was watching it through my fingers. I’ve had issues with the representation of both Nick and Tom in this more modernized version of the story, but Trash Can Man is a whole new level – ironically, the only way to fix this is to burn his character to the ground and start over. This is the first time the show has reached the point where I’m embarrassed for everyone involved, so, you know – progress?

Elsewhere, The Stand just continues to squander the goodwill it had started to brew earlier in the season. Frannie finally gets some juicy screentime, and fuck me, Odessa Young is doing her best here, but she literally just turns up to explain a bit more of Harold’s character arc to us before being locked up for the rest of the episode and having no impact at all on the plot. Nick dies in an explosion orchestrated by Nadine and Harold, and it’s a crying shame that the show didn’t do more to explore Nick Andros in this season, because Henry Zaga brought a lot to the role; instead of an arc, we got a start, and then a nail bomb to the face. Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgard are the highlight of this episode, in dreamlike sequence they share together, but fundamentally, it’s still very simple good-versus-evil work that doesn’t require much from these two very talented actors.

Over in New Vegas, things are still as horny and as boring as ever. There’s the crumb of an interesting scene between Clifford Collinns and Alexander Skarsgard, but the show’s complete lack of restraint and inability to moderate excessive, needless operatics strips it of all actual menace and renders it silly in the process. Whenever the talented actors (and also Nat Wolff) come close to finding some nuance and some depth to this story, the writers and directors manage to send it sailing clean off a cliff with this relentlessly punishing Beginner’s Guide to Building Tension style of doing everything they can think of. The dutch tilt camera, the screeching soundtrack, the overzealous dialogue – there’s no confidence in the audience here, no confidence that they’ll get it without having it jammed down our throats.

There is not a single thing in this episode that I like, except that it brings us one step closer to the end of this whole mess. If they can pull it back from this point, I’ll be stunned – but I’d love to see them try. And if they can’t, well, at least there’s only two episodes left.

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 Cinema Blend)