The narrative structure King created is entirely abandoned and spoiled in Episode 1. Its sins are almost numberless.
A noob like Rock8man comes away thinking Harold Lauder is the main protagonist of the tale. He isn’t, of course. He is one of the antagonists. The main protagonist is Stuart Redman - but we don’t really see the End of the World from Stuart’s point of view. Arnette Texas is never shown to us; the Government’s heavy-handed attempt to manage the virus and the infected population is not shown to us either. Instead, in a visual medium like TV in which they have NINE hours to tell the story, they choose to merely talk about it.
Plot points that are ruined in Ep 1:
Frannie is pregnant and survives to get to Boulder;
Stuart and Frannie come together as a couple, leaving Harold, who is one of a handful of people to survive from the state of Maine to LOSE his chance to be romantically involved with the love of his life;
The virus’s release into the world is not an accident, but the work of some mysterious stranger.
After Epi 1, we believe Harold Lauder is a dick. He isn’t shown to us as an intellectual and poet, who is socially awkward but otherwise has many redeeming qualities. No, he’s a guy who will plot to kill Frannie and Stuart out of rage. His choices don’t become a tragic choice aided and abetted by supernatural temptation. He’s just a loser asshole, a pervert peeping-tom and Stalker who is jealous.
I could go on. The plot points and character sabotage that the disruption of the narrative flow creates I could write 4,000 words about in this post. Why bother? There’s a podcast that does this on Spotify (And Apple iTunes and the rest of the usual online suspects wherever you get your podcasts from) called “The Last Men Standing” which reviews Episode 1 in a non-spoilerific way. Two of the podcasters are fans of the book and have also seen the prior miniseries in the 90s. One of the podcast crew is a noob who has not read the book nor seen the 90s miniseries.
Verdict?: They hated the editing choices, too. There are three other podcasts that review Ep 1 as well. I have not listened to those, mainly as I have no reason to suspect the reviews will be any different. The complaints on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are the same: it’s all about the fucked up narrative time-flow.
When the comments about the series arise not out of writing, acting, effects, or music – and all of them focus instead on editing and narrative flow, you can tell the director/show runner has completely fucked this up.
I wonder whether these choices were made in the editing room as a result of pressure from CBS. For those who are not aware, the 2020 version of The Stand was greenlit in late 2018 and all photography was done in the fall of 2019 with some reshoots in Jan of 2020. So this thing was in the can and was being put together for release on CBS All Access for the late spring of 2020 when Covid struck.
Suddenly, the fanciful tale of the End of the World from a virus and the complicity and tragic mismanagement of a public health crisis by the US Government was ready for release just as a once-in-a-century pandemic swept the world. Executives at CBS must have thought: “No. Fucking. Way. Now what do we do?”
Maybe the narrative flow that changed the focus was a choice made post-Covid in a quixotic attempt to change the visceral impact of the story and to minimize the Gov’t Conspiracy angle in The Stand?
I’m not sure. I just have a very hard time believing that anybody but an arrogant asshole could make these time-jump narrative choices in the story with the bona fide belief, unchallenged by his co-workers or network executives that this was a better way to tell the story. It’s so clearly off that I suspect that there may have been another agenda at work here.