The Stand TV Series Won’t Start Like the Book

The Stand TV miniseries won't start where you think. Here's how the show is changing Stephen King's pandemic story.

The Stand
Photo: CBS

A new article from Vanity Fair gives fans their first look at the new The Stand TV series, which is set to air on CBS All Access later this year. Among the details revealed in the piece is one interesting tidbit about how the nine-episode miniseries will open. Unlike “The Complete and Uncut” version of the Stephen King novel and the 1994 CBS adaptation, this miniseries won’t begin during the initial outbreak.

Instead, the story starts in media res, with most of the world’s population already dead from the virus known as Captain Trips. The first episode, which was directed by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), “opens with survivors in masks and protective gear cleaning up a neighborhood full of the dead in Boulder, Colorado,” according to Vanity Fair.

This opening scene could be a bit disorienting for fans of the novel who were likely expecting to see patient zero Charles Campion zooming down the highway with his family after escaping the military facility where Captain Trips was developed. While it’s unclear whether Campion is in the series at all, we know that we’ll first meet Stu Redman (James Marsden) after he’s already been locked up in the testing facility, according to showrunners Benjamin Cavell and Taylor Elmore.

“When we find him, he’s in a locked room in which there are people interacting with him with these hazmat suits on, and they’re not telling him what’s going on,” Elmore told Vanity Fair.

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After a run-in with Campion at the beginning of the story, Stu discovers that he’s strangely immune to Captain Trips, which kills off 99 percent of the human population. There are others like him in The Stand, and the novel studies how these characters react to all of the death, the collapse of society, and the lawlessness of the post-apocalypse.

But why did the showrunners decide to forgo the story’s well-known opening prologue and catastrophic early chapters? According to Vanity Fair, Cavell and Elmore “didn’t think it was necessary to repeat Contagion,” the 2011 Steven Soderbergh movie that follows a deadly pandemic from its onset. The showrunners are more interested in focusing on the main characters and what is happening on the ground in specific places, namely Boulder and Las Vegas, where the book’s villain, Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), is amassing his forces of darkness.

“King does this great thing that we made the conscious decision not to do, which is to go to the 10,000-foot view of what’s going on,” Cavell said. “That’s not a luxury that our people have. What does the apocalypse look like from the ground where you can’t see what’s happening other places, you can’t see what’s happening to other people, you can only see your subjective experience?”

This doesn’t mean that the miniseries will completely scrap scenes showing what the characters were up to when the pandemic started. The miniseries will instead flesh out the characters’ backstories through flashbacks to their lives just as Captain Trips hit.

Vanity Fair also shared the first look at some of the characters, including Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail and Skarsgård as Flagg. Check them out below:

The Stand doesn’t have a premiere date as of yet, but we’ll keep you updated as we learn more!