The Stand: How The Showdown With Alexander Skarsgard's Randall Flagg Differs From Stephen King’s Book

After nearly two months of build-up, The Stand against Randall Flagg has been executed. The new CBS All Access adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand has now reached its big climax in its eighth episode, and audiences can now witness what happens with Glen Bateman, Larry Underwood, and Ray Brentner following their arrival in New Vegas. For the most part, like the rest of the series, the translation of the text is faithful, as most of the major beats are hit dead on – but also like the rest of the series, there are also a number of alterations that have been made, and it’s those differences that I am here to spotlight.

In the new episode, titled “The Stand,” we see everything from key characters experiencing different fates to new interpretations of miraculous events – and while some of the changes are understandable, others are quite mysterious. And as I’ve done with all of the episodes thus far, it’s time to dig in and explore the deviations in detail. Going in the order of how things unfold on the show, we’ll start with…

The Stand Glen, Ralph, And Larry Get A “Trial”

Glen, Ray, And Larry Get A “Trial”

Given that Glen Bateman, Larry Underwood, and Ray Brentner are members of the Boulder Free Zone, there is never really any doubt that Randall Flagg plans to kill them once they are captured arriving on the fringes of New Vegas – but one way in which the Stand miniseries differs from Stephen King’s book is the implementation of a kangaroo court. It’s obviously a bullshit display of “justice,” but at the very least it is more than the characters get in the novel, as they go straight from jail cells to execution. Well, two of them do, anyway…

The Stand Greg Kinnear Nat Wolff Glen Bateman Lloyd Henreid

Lloyd Isn’t Directly Ordered By Randall Flagg To Shoot Glen

Like in the book, Glen Bateman doesn’t survive long enough in the story to make it to the showy execution (quite a bit more on that to come), but what is interestingly different about the miniseries version is the origins of the orders for Lloyd Henreid to shoot him. In Stephen King’s original text, Randall Flagg personally shows up at Glen’s jail cell, and it’s there – because of the former professor’s obstinance – that The Walkin Dude demands that his right hand man kill him. With Flagg not present for the “trial” in the new adaptation, Lloyd instead gets the command from Rat-Woman and the citizens of New Vegas. As a result, there is a lingering expectation of punishment that Lloyd experiences, but the consequences never come.

The Stand Nadine Cross Amber Heard

Nadine Starts Going Into Labor

Staying true to the book, Nadine Cross is instantly impregnated by Randall Flagg with some kind of evil spawn following their horrific first sexual encounter, but one new addition to that mini-arc on the CBS All Access adaptation is that we actually get to see her go into labor. Rat-Woman and Lloyd Henreid set up a makeshift hospital setup in the middle of Randall Flagg’s penthouse suite, and there is a moment when you wonder if the new version of The Stand is actually going to feature the birth of The Dark Man’s child. But then…

The Stand Nadine Cross Amber Heard

Nadine Jumps Out The Window Instead Of Being Thrown

One key difference between Alexander Skarsgard’s Randall Flagg and the one in Stephen King’s book is that we never get to see his horrible temper overrule his interests, and here we have a perfect example. In the text, Flagg winds up making the mistake of murdering Nadine by throwing her out of his window after she goads him about the heroes being on their way from the Boulder Free Zone – not realizing until too late that in doing so he is killing his unborn child. In the Stand miniseries, the act of crashing out the paned glass is instead a choice by Nadine, who chooses death over bearing Flagg’s offspring. These moments aren’t admittedly THAT different, as the reason the pre-Captain Trips school teacher pokes at her captor is in hopes that he will kill her, but it’s a big enough change to warrant mention here.

The Stand Larry

Larry Gets A Final Moment With Nadine, Is Taunted With Her Head

As noted in last week’s book-to-show comparison, the timeline in The Stand miniseries is slightly shifted in a way that allows the arrival of Glen Bateman, Larry Underwood, and Ray Brentner in New Vegas to coincide with Nadine Cross’ limited time in the city. In the book Nadine is long dead by the time the Boulder Free Zone members arrive, but that not being the case in the adaptation means that Larry gets some final moments with the woman with whom he traveled across the country. Both their conversation in the kitchen and Larry being presented with her head post-suicide are original creations that didn’t come from Stephen King’s novel.

The Stand Larry and Ray

Larry And Ray Are Set Up To Be Drowned Instead Of Dismembered

With Glen Bateman killed during the trial, Larry Underwood and Ray Brentner are left to face down death together in front of the crowded masses of New Vegas, and while that is taken straight from Stephen King’s The Stand, it’s noteworthy that the new adaptation alters the method of execution orchestrated by Randall Flagg. The CBS All Access series sees the two members of the Boulder Free Zone placed in a pool where they are meant to slowly drown – and while that certainly is a horrible way to go, it’s actually arguably better than what they nearly experience in the book. Rather than slowly asphyxiate, the two characters are chained up to be dismembered with two flatbed trucks and towing chain. The reason for the change is unclear, especially because the end result winds up being the same.

The Stand Mother Abigail Whoopi Goldberg

Randall Flagg Doesn’t Know That Mother Abigail Is Dead

Here we have another mysterious-yet-intriguing change from book, and that reaction comes mostly from the fact that one wonders what it could possibly mean for the final episode of The Stand. While speaking to the citizens of New Vegas during the execution of Larry Underwood and Ray Brentner, Randall Flagg makes it clear that he is still under the impression that Mother Abigail Freemantle is still alive – despite the fact that she passed away immediately after telling Stu, Larry, Glen, and Ray to travel west. The knowledge of Mother Abigail’s death is not something that is hidden from Flagg in Stephen King’s original version, and the fact that Larry directly points out the misconception makes me wonder if it may have some kind of an impact on the finale.

The Stand Alexander Skarsgard as Randall Flagg

The Hand Of God Appears/Operates Differently

In very broad strokes, the new adaptation of The Stand is a faithful take on Stephen King’s source material when it comes to the end of New Vegas: Trashcan Man brings the nuclear warhead directly to Randall Flagg, despite The Man In Black's wishes, and a Hand Of God forms above the public execution that winds up activating the weapon and destroying the city. There are some key details that are changed, however. For starters, the energy that winds up turning into the Hand Of God in the book is actually generated by Flagg – launched from his fingertip at followers who rebel against him (the appearance of the clouds as fingers in the adaptation is basically a substitute for this). Furthermore, the whole bit with lightning strikes killing individuals in the panicked crowd – including Lloyd Henreid and Rat-Woman – is original, as the big “finale” actually plays out very quickly once the miracle shows up.

With Episode 8 now out in the world, that means that The Stand only has its finale remaining – and excitement for it couldn’t be more intense given that it’s based on a script co-written by Stephen King himself. How will it alter the end of the original novel, and what will it add to the story? I can’t wait to find out, and will be back with my final book-to-show comparison next week shortly after “The Circle Closes” arrives on CBS All Access.

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Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.