The Stand: Inside Episode 6’s Explosive Confrontation

With three episodes left, The Stand brings a long-simmering conflict to a deadly boiling point.

Owen Teague and Odessa Young in The Stand
Photo: Robert Falconoer/CBS

This article contains spoilers for the sixth episode of The Stand.

In episode 6 of the CBS All Access limited series The Stand, “The Vigil,” several critical things happen: Mother Abigail (Whoopi Goldberg), out on her spiritual quest in the wilderness to communicate with God, has an unexpected confrontation with Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) instead before she retreats, physically depleted, to the Boulder Free Zone.

Her return, however, coincides with Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) and Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) successfully pulling off their plan to stage a terrorist attack in the Free Zone, detonating a bomb in Abigail’s house that results in the death of Boulder leader and Abigail’s “voice,” the deaf, mute and partially blind Nick Andros (Henry Zaga).

In the previous week’s episode, “Fear and Loathing in New Vegas,” Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) sent Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) to break into Harold’s house and see what he could learn, while Fran had Harold over for dinner with her and Stu (James Marsden). When Larry comes up empty-handed — although Harold knows through his surveillance cameras that Larry has been there — Frannie takes it upon herself in “The Vigil” to go on her own.

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Unfortunately, Harold arrives while Frannie is still there, setting off a long-simmering confrontation between the two that is not actually in Stephen King’s novel but is one of the additions to this miniseries that successfully works in many ways.

Harold’s bitterness over having Frannie reject him in favor of Stu has curdled into the murderous rage that is fueling his plot against the Free Zone. It now sends him into paroxysms of fury as all his pent-up feelings spill out and Frannie tries to defuse the situation — now knowing that Harold is not only capable of killing her but has set his destructive plans against the Boulder community in motion.

“It was hugely important,” says showrunner Benjamin Cavell about adding the almost unbearably tense scene between Harold and Frannie in the Chris Fisher-directed episode. “It felt, in some way, like that’s what we’ve been building to in that relationship.”

Cavell continues, “We’ve seen Harold hiding his real face from her from the very first episode. He’s at such great pains to put on a show for her at various times. I mean, both in Ogunquit (Maine) and then later in Boulder, he rehearses before going to see her. So it felt like we needed to get to the moment where all of that is pulled away. There’s no subterfuge, they’re just sort of naked in front of each other.”

The scene is not only a catharsis of sorts for Harold, but a moment of realization for Frannie as well. “She has to come face-to-face with the stuff that she’s been denying, that she somewhere has known about him,” says Cavell. “About how crazy he is, perhaps, or what he’s capable of. She’s had these nagging doubts that she never really wanted to fully embrace. But now he actually justifies himself to her, and admits that, yes, he’s doing this awful thing that he’s been at such great pains to hide.”

Cavell adds that he feels the scene is “one of the best in the show,” explaining, “I love what those guys did in it, because that is such an interesting relationship. It’s such a central relationship, especially in the way that we’re telling the story. But yeah, there’s just so much to explore in there.”

While King himself didn’t write a final face-to-face confrontation between Frannie and Harold before the latter takes off for Vegas, Cavell does note that the tortured relationship between the two was expressed in the book through the diaries that both characters keep — a format that probably would not translate well to the screen.

“Some of that stuff about the diaries in the book also feels a little flimsy to me if you start to really go through it,” says Cavell. “I mean, I’ve never understood why they find Harold’s diary and then they don’t confront him about it. That just seems to me to be almost insane. He’s talking about these terrible things that he is going to do to people in Boulder, and not only is there no follow-up with it, they don’t even really seem to keep an eye on him.

“So yeah, the dueling diaries just didn’t seem like something that would lend itself to the screen,” Cavell adds. “I mean, we did a little bit in the show of each of them writing a diary, but it felt like that was going to be a stand-in for a real confrontation scene between them, and I’m so happy we did one.”

The scene ends with Harold imprisoning Frannie in his basement while he heads out to enact his terrible plan — and although Frannie escapes, she’s too late to stop it. The ramifications of that act of terrorism, along with the death of Nick and the return of Mother Abigail, will play out in The Stand’s final trilogy of episodes as the largest confrontation of all — between the Free Zone and Flagg — draws closer.

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New episodes of The Stand premiere every Thursday on CBS All Access.

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