This article contains spoilers for episode 4 of The Stand.
The fourth episode of CBS All Access’ miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand, titled “The House of the Dead,” contains two scenes that are surprising to say the least.
Neither one of them turned up in the 1994 ABC miniseries based on King’s post-apocalyptic tale; one of them is taken from — or at least inspired by — the unexpurgated edition of the book that King published in 1990, from which very little was used in the 1994 TV event, while the other is wholly original to this adaptation.
In the first scene, Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) and Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) are riding their motorcycles on their way to Boulder, Colorado in the wake of the Captain Trips pandemic when they come upon a truck blocking the road and what appears at first to be its dead driver.
But the driver is not dead — he’s very much alive, armed and he’s got two women chained up in the truck, including Dayna Jurgens (Natalie Martinez). It becomes clear that he wants to add Frannie to the back of that truck and quickly subdues both her and Harold — beating Harold badly until Stu Redman (James Marsden) and Glen Bateman (Greg Kinnear) show up and distract the driver long enough for Dayna to bash his skull in with a tire iron.
The version of this scene that King wrote in his book made it a group of four men, not one, holding eight women prisoner as their sex slaves. Dayna is among them, as is Susan Stern, a future Boulder Free Zone leader who does not appear in the new miniseries. In the book, the women join Stu, Glen, Harold, and Frannie after the confrontation between the men and Stu’s group allows the women a chance to overpower their captors and kill them.
“We knew that Harold and Frannie needed to have some incident on the road in which he felt humiliated, like he couldn’t do right by her,” says showrunner Benjamin Cavell about the inclusion of the scene. “He couldn’t protect her in the way that he wanted to. I think that’s fairly fundamental to Harold, and his transformation, and why he ends up being willing to do what he does.”
Cavell says that the scene, a nice Easter egg for diehard fans who read the uncut version of the book, also serves an important purpose. “It felt like it was also a wonderful opportunity to have Stu in some way, or at least in some way in Harold’s mind, luck into the chance to be their savior,” he explains. “It just felt like that would really bolster Harold’s complete blind rage at the existence of this guy, and the beginning of (Stu’s) relationship with Frannie. So for all those reasons, it felt really important to have some incident like that.”
While that was one scene from King’s uncut novel that did make it into the miniseries, a long-rumored sequence involving the Trashcan Man (Ezra Miller) and a vile criminal called The Kid was considered but ultimately abandoned. “We thought, ‘Oh, we have nine hours…We’re going to be able to restore The Kid,’” says Cavell. “We wrote the scenes with The Kid, but we came to realize that there’s not a lot of reason for The Kid to exist. I mean, he traumatizes Trashcan Man… (but) the way Ezra Miller is playing Trashcan Man, he doesn’t seem to require any further trauma to do what we need him to do, or what Flagg tasks him with doing.”
Cavell says that meeting Trashcan Man and then encountering The Kid right afterwards — two extremely disturbed individuals — might have been too much for viewers even in a tale as dark as The Stand. “One is less willing to accept a real digression with people that you don’t know,” he explains. “We would have had to meet Trash, and then immediately meet The Kid, and see a guy we’ve never met brutalizing a guy we just met. And it’s kind of like, I don’t really want to sit through that.” (Cavell does confirm that the show’s producers were in talks with Marilyn Manson to play The Kid before the scenes were dropped.)
There is another shocking turn of events at the end of “The House of the Dead” that was created solely for this adaptation. Having teamed up to sabotage the Boulder Free Zone on behalf of Randall Flagg, Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) and Harold break into a storage facility to obtain explosives for a planned terrorist attack. They are confronted by Teddy Weizak (Eion Bailey), ostensibly Harold’s lone friend in the Free Zone, who doesn’t understand what Harold and Nadine are doing there and doesn’t get a chance to figure it out before he is shot in cold blood by Nadine.
Not only does Nadine’s action irrevocably commit Harold and her to their murderous path, but Cavell says it serves as more of an additional jolt to the Boulder section of the story. “The Boulder section in the book is, in some ways, the weakest part. I mean, King has said that he got so bogged down in the Boulder section, that it gave him this terrible writer’s block, and he ended up just having to blow something up in order to shake it up and get himself out of the doldrums.”
Cavell continues, “Given the way that we wanted to tell the story, it felt like the Boulder section was in some way going to require the most invention or most reworking from us. One of the ways in which I think we did that, was to really embrace the idea that in a lot of ways, Harold and Nadine are our protagonists in the Boulder section. They are the ones with a secret mission, they are the ones in constant danger, and they are the ones with something to hide, but that makes a compelling protagonist. It also felt like we needed to have that journey that they take in becoming united, and in trying to pull off this mission together…they reach the point of no return. I mean, before it was talk about, ‘What we might do.’ But now they’ve set off down this road and there’s no real turning back.”
The road that Nadine and Harold — two of The Stand’s most tormented characters — eventually take leads to more death and tragedy as we will see in the weeks ahead.
New episodes of The Stand premiere every Thursday on CBS All Access.