“Blank Pages” maintains the established structure, just, but the sense of a much bigger, more connected world is beginning to emerge.
This recap of The Stand season 1, episode 3, “Blank Pages”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
While I mentioned last week that The Stand seems to be replicating a pretty obvious structure each week, “Blank Pages” almost made me look a bit silly. I’d lament that, but it only makes sense, since such an expansive narrative full of so many interesting characters deserves to expand a bit rather than being hamstrung by a single pairing in each installment – especially when it’s playing so fast and loose with chronology as to make interactions with other important figures basically unavoidable. The same idea remains true here if you consider Nadine Cross and Nick Andros, both of whom have briefly appeared already, to be the focal characters of the episode, and you can definitely make a case for that. But for the first time, there’s a lot more cohesion and interaction; we can only hope that sooner rather than later The Stand drops all the timey-wimey stuff altogether and just runs chronologically.
Not this week, though. Nadine and Nick, two very different characters, take center stage, even if they’re sharing space with Stu and Larry running into the recently-crucified Heck Drogan (TJ Kayama), a messenger for Randall Flagg, as well as Stu first running into Frannie and Harold and Nadine and Joe hooking up with Larry. That sentence alone is enough to prove that The Stand’s structure is just too unnecessarily convoluted, but if it isn’t going to abandon it, letting so many characters and plot strands really bed in will at least take the edge off.
Nadine is a double-agent for Flagg, and has some kind of nebulous power that we first see in a long-ago flashback to her playing Ouija with some other kids, referring to herself as a queen, which is a sentiment echoed again later from Flagg’s perspective. It’s obviously just coincidence to have cast Amber Heard, of all people, as the beau of the devil incarnate, rather complicated relationships being something of her forte it seems, but it makes for a meta flourish all the same. Flagg looms large in the margins of this episode, a persistent source of far-away but nearing tension, especially after Drogan warns of his coming.
Flashing all the way back to Stu first introducing himself to Frannie and Harold seems somewhat out of place here, especially since the show doesn’t seem to know how to write Harold as anything other than a pathetic, jealous incel. We stay with Stu on his way to Boulder when he runs into Glen Bateman and his dog, Kojak, which is just as well since their conversation is one of the best aspects of the episode. They discuss the seemingly random way immunity against the plague works, even across species, and Glen reveals his prognosticating paintings, including one of both Mother Abagail and a pregnant Frannie.
But along with Nadine, it’s really Nick Andros who gets the lion’s share of the attention in “Blank Pages”. Nick is deaf and mute, which in a five-months-earlier flashback we see get him into bother in a bar. Flagg, who communes with Nick while he’s recovering in hospital after the beating, believes that these perceived disabilities make him a viable candidate for “fixing”, and the miracle healing would come with the low, low price of blind devotion. Nick understandably isn’t keen on the idea, and when we later see him minister to the man who assaulted him, hospitalized with the plague, we get a sense of why – he’s selfless, and doesn’t have the resentment in his heart that you’d expect of someone who has suffered through no fault of their own.
This is probably what leads him to Mother Abagail, to whom he can be both ears and voice, despite his physical limitations. It isn’t a particularly complex idea that the benevolent, angelic figure would push one to embrace their uniqueness whereas her dark, sinister counterpart would seek to exploit it in exchange for loyalty, but these kinds of simplistic moral dynamics form the bedrock of stories such as this. It works as well as it needs to, and if nothing else, The Stand is good at contrasting and paralleling the opposing ends of the spectrum.
“Blank Pages” also gives a sense of Flagg’s endgame, or at least the next objective, which is to have Nadine kill the other main characters in Boulder using Harold as the prearranged scapegoat. With everything beginning to come together, some of The Stand’s limitations are proving less of a hindrance. Hopefully, that becomes truer as the season progresses.