“Pocket Saviour” solidifies the show’s style and format by introducing Larry Underwood and Lloyd Henreid in both past and present.
This recap of The Stand season 1, episode 2, “Pocket Saviour”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
With its second episode, “Pocket Saviour”, The Stand has basically solidified its on-going structure after a deliberately back-and-forth premiere. Characters are coming two by two – hurrah! – from opposing sides of the moral divide, and time is divided almost evenly between past and present, doling out both backstory and wider world-building. It’s still a bit clumsy, but at least there’s a pattern emerging; a clearer sense of how Josh Boone intends to adapt the sprawling, beloved material for a new format.
Getting the limelight this week is addict musician Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) and creepy small-scale stick-up man Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff). Both are troubled souls in need of a fresh start, but both also see the rapidly-encroaching plague as an excuse to fulfil two very different destinies. Larry is on his way to meet Mother Abagail, summoned by her in dreams, and eventually arrives at her community with a mute boy named Joe (Gordon Cormier) and a beautiful woman named Nadine (Amber Heard) after having been told by Stu that he’s among the chosen leaders of a new civilization. Lloyd, meanwhile, is rotting in a prison cell after a bungled robbery that left several people dead, forced to eat both rats and the bloated calf of his dead cellmate – naturally, the “beautiful friendship” he begins at the climax of this episode is with Randall Flagg.
Larry dreamed of Flagg too, a prophetic scurrying of rats that pays off later during an extended sewer escape where “Pocket Saviour” plays up the horror visuals but can’t seem to get out of its own way even after the tension has long since dissipated. Before that, though, we get a sense of Larry’s drug-addled lifestyle snorting coke, having one-night stands, throwing tantrums in green rooms, and refusing the meet the eyes of his disapproving mother, who he later has to drag from a crowded hospital back home to die while his former college roommate, also a musician and also infected, pulls a gun on him for stealing one of his songs. When he eventually succumbs to the plague, Larry steals a duffel bag full of his cocaine, presumably for safekeeping.
At this point The Stand episode 2 is chewing through plot at quite a clip, being sure to show off characters – Ray Brentner (Irene Bedard), Nick Andros (Henry Zaga) – who’ll be important later but aren’t so much here. With current global goings-on, the flashbacks showing the rapid decline of civilization are pretty stark, but there’s a schlocky silliness to it all that helps to take the edge off a little. This is particularly apparent during Larry’s brief adventures with Rita Blakemoor (Heather Graham), which leads him up to her apartment and down into the sewers, where rats claw and wriggle from his dead mother’s chattering mouth.
Some of this stuff is fittingly grim, but The Stand enjoys this sequence so much it doesn’t realize it’s starting to drag. If you hadn’t read the book and didn’t know who to look out for, a lot of this episode – and indeed the premiere – would feel a bit incoherent, since it relies so heavily on an existing familiarity with the material to fill in the blanks. I’m still not totally sold on the structure or indeed the easiness with which the show seems to shift between timelines without always making it clear where we are in the chronology, but I could live with it were the individual moments a bit tighter. There’s still plenty of time, though, and there’s no reason to panic since the talent is on-board and the production is pulling its weight. If the actual storytelling is able to cohere, there’s no reason to believe that The Stand can’t impress a lot more going forwards than its first two episodes have managed to.