‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

Last week’s climatic episode of The Stand ended with the destruction of New Vegas, Stu being rescued by Tom Cullen/Kojak, and Frannie‘s water breaking.

This week, we get a new coda to the story written by the author of the material himself, Stephen King.

Birthing the Future

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

The episode opens with Frannie narrating over her life post-pregnancy. After the birth of her daughter Abagail, she’s begun to wonder how long it will be until society falls back into its old ways again — both good and bad.

We then learn that soon after Abagail was born, she came down with Captain Trips. Her health deteriorated so badly that Frannie actually considered ending her baby’s suffering, but ultimately couldn’t bring herself to do it.

This turned out to be a solid decision when Abagail became the first person to ever recover from the disease. Her survival also pointed to a chance that other children born into the world could potentially survive the plague that nearly destroyed it. Sure enough, the next child after Abagail (born from two immune parents) doesn’t even get sick.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

Later, Norris asks Frannie if she’ll be attending a town ceremony that evening for people to pay respects to those they lost from the time before. He feels it’s important for her to be there, especially since she’s the only link to Mother Abagail they have left. Frannie reminds him that she’s their only link until the others get back, which Norris clearly thinks will never happen.

Despite not wanting to go, Frannie attends the ceremony with Abagail, even placing the Polaroid she took (back in Episode 7) of Stu, Larry, Glen, Ray, and Kojak on the memorial. Just when she appears to begin the process of letting go, Stu appears along with Tom and Kojak.

*Side Note: I expected Stu’s return to get a much bigger reaction from the other people at the memorial than it did.

After the pair share a tearful embrace/kiss, Frannie introduces Stu to the little girl they will be raising together. The beautiful moment is juxtaposed with a look at the ruins of New Vegas, where Randall Flagg‘s smiley face pin indicates that the Dark Man is still alive and kicking.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

Corn Call

Several months later, the town of Boulder holds a Fourth of July party full of more joy than we’ve seen in a very long time. Frannie is enjoying her new life with Stu, but also wants to go back to her home state of Maine–even if it’s just to see it again one last time.

When she tells Stu about her wish to return home, he’s understandably skeptical about leaving, but also understands her desire to strike out on their own. With new people flowing into the Boulder every month, it won’t be long before their little community becomes a much larger one that carries many of the traits (both good and bad) of the world before.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

After charting out their course, the couple packs up an RV (along with Abagail and Kojak) and says goodbye to their fellow townspeople. Before they leave, Frannie promises Tom they’ll return some day. She also assures her worried friends that if they can survive the Captain Tripps and Randall Flagg, then a cross country road trip should be no sweat.

After traveling a few hundred miles, they stop at an abandoned home in Lorton, Nebraska. The house is situated next to a cornfield, which should be a giant red flag to anyone who watches horror movies. Kojak probably hasn’t seen/comprehended any horror movies in his lifetime, but he can immediately sense that something’s off.

While Stu and Frannie relish in the silence around them, he walks up to the cornfield, takes a doll from it, and begins standing guard. After Stu calls him in, a little girl’s hand reaches out and snatches the doll back. That night, Kojak continues to watch the cornfield from the window, where (unbeknownst to Frannie and Stu) the same little girl sings “Jesus Won’t You Come By Here” before hearing Abagail cry and confidently declaring that she’s teething.

Now is the Needed Time

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

The next day, Stu heads into town for supplies while Frannie stays back with Abagail. After putting the baby down in her crib, she decides to see if a nearby water pump…which is sitting on a well covered by rotten wood…still works.

*Side Note: I get that they don’t have any running water, but Frannie is so much smarter than this–especially when Stu was going to return with bottled water soon.

Unbeknownst to her, Stu got a flat tire on the way back. She also left her radio inside, making it impossible for him to call her and creating the perfect set up for something bad to happen.

Sure enough, Frannie is only able to get a little bit of water out before the pump clogs. When she reaches her hand in to unclog it, and apparition of Flagg appears and whispers in her ear. At the same time, a rat that was inside the pump bites down on Frannie’s hand, causing her to fall back and down into the well.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

Kojak begins frantically barking for help while Frannie lays unconscious and badly injured. As her life begins to slip away, her mind takes her to tropical jungle, where she comes face to face with Flagg.

When she declares that he’s supposed to be dead, the Dark Man shrugs off his demise, instead showing her a nearby indigenous tribe. According to him, they are one of the last groups of people to never be touched by modern society. They also were completely unaffected by Captain Tripps, which he finds both fascinating and ironic considering that many other indigenous tribes were wiped out by smallpox from blankets they received from missionaries.

With that history lesson out of the way, Flagg makes a well appear behind them, which he uses to show Frannie just how severe her injuries are along with Abagail alone and crying. He then shows her a vision of Stu changing their RV’s tire on a very unstable jack.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

Flagg then makes Frannie an offer: He’ll heal her and make sure Stu returns unharmed in exchange for a kiss…along with the ability to see the world through her eyes once in a while.

She initially rebuffs his offer outright, but the Dark Man is able to make her rethink things by reminding Frannie that little Abagail will die without her and Stu around. Just as she is about to kiss him, however, Frannie bites down on his lip instead. She then tells Flagg to “get thee behind me” before fleeing into the jungle.

As the Dark Man gives chase, Frannie falls out of her current surroundings and into a cornfield. She hears someone singing “Jesus Won’t You Come By Here” and follows the voice to find Mother Abagail on the steps in front of a house.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

When Frannie frantically tries to tell her how dire things are, Mother A responds that Flagg is “his father’s son” and that he simply showed Frannie whatever he needed to tempt her.

*Side Note: In case you haven’t caught on yet, Mother Abagail is the little girl from before. Also, Flagg is Satan’s kid. 

She goes on to explain that since Frannie made a stand against Flagg’s temptation, God would bless her. She will have a total a five children, who will have twenty children, who will have seventy children and begin to repopulate the earth. She will also grow old enough to see many of her grandchildren have families of their own.

New Beginnings

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

Stu races back to the house, where Kojak leads him to the well. As he’s getting ready to drop a line down into it, the little girl from before appears out of nowhere and begins confidently giving instructions on what to do. Stu is understandably baffled, but agrees to ride the cable down while she lays it out from the RV.

After Stu grabs Frannie and brings her back up, the little girl heals her injuries. She then helps Frannie to sit up and instructs her to “stand” (GET IT?) before vanishing into thin air. As the couple runs over to baby Abagail and rejoices, Stu reaches down into her crib and finds the doll that the little girl was playing with back in the cornfield.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

One week later, Frannie, Stu, Abagail, and Kojak find themselves staring out at the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Maine. Stu balks a bit at the thought of having four more children, causing Frannie to smile and think upon what Mother Abagail told her.

She then tells Stu that her time in the well forced her to choose between good and evil. Although evil tempted her to give in, she remained faithful and made a stand (GET IT?) for what was right.

Elsewhere, Randall Flagg (for real this time) walks toward an indigenous tribe like the one he showed to Frannie wearing nothing but his leather boots. When one of the tribe members tries to kill him, he snatches their arrow out of the air and crushes the man’s skull simply by pointing his finger.

As the rest of the tribe members bow down following his display of power, Flagg levitates and introduces himself as Russell Faraday, their new god.

*Side Note: This is the same ending King added to his 1990 revision of the original novel.

The Verdict

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

This episode wasn’t enough to make up for last week’s mess of a climax, but it was still pretty good.

Although I wasn’t on board with Frannie’s reasons for leaving Boulder, I like that it gave her character the big moment/confrontation she deserved. That being said, it didn’t feel nearly as consequential as I’d hoped. Don’t get me wrong–Odessa Young and Alexander Skarsgård were great. But things only felt tense/unsure for the very briefest of moments.

Also, the sequence of events that led to Frannie falling into the well was a bit absurd. I can understand not getting supplies when you pass a town and you’re tired, but Frannie’s way too smart go out on those rotten boards or forget her radio in an unfamiliar home–especially with her baby’s safety at stake.

‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review

The Stand (CBS All Access)

On the positive side of things, this was the most genuine/easy that the chemistry between Stu and Frannie has ever felt. It was also the best portrayal we’ve had of Mother Abagail, which unfortunately served as a reminder of how much better her character could have been.

Maybe that’s part of why I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I thought I should. Despite some great scenes and dialogue, it’s still ultimately brought down by narrative missteps and squandered potential — which honestly could work as a microcosm for the entire series.

It’s very unlikely that The Stand will ever be adapted in a way that faithfully captures all the key components of the novel. The only possibility of that ever happening would be if it was made into a multi-season television series.

Still, I actually liked this adaptation better than most folks. It had incredible talent behind it and took chances I wasn’t expecting — some of which worked really well (like changing how Flagg ran New Vegas). In the end, however, its attempt to distill the best parts of the novel cut away key parts of the narrative while clinging to its weakest aspects.

I’ll still defend this version of The Stand as being pretty good, but not nearly as great as it could have been.

 

 ‘The Stand’ episode 9 ‘The Circle Closes’ recap/review