Spoiler for “Pocket Savior” to follow
Though this review will be published after the fact, what better Christmas Eve gift to receive than a depressing, violent and disturbing episode of The Stand? “Pocket Savior”, named after the fictitious debut album of this episode’s main character Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo, Watchmen), once again puts the viewer in a daze, shifting not only timelines and moments from page to screen, but also character moments and motivation to keep even the biggest King diehards guessing.
“Pocket Savior” drops us right back to Pre-Cov…I mean, Captain Trips time, as we see an upstart musician already battling minuscule fame, demons and mommy issues (Hey, it happened to the best of us, okay). Larry Underwood’s album is about to be released, as he plays a small show as a warmup, without a band, as they are all sick (insert shocked face). He is confronted by a childhood friend, sick, dripping mucus and being accused of stealing the music that is about to make him famous. Then BOOM!, we’re back in the Boulder Free Zone, where Larry arrives to meet Stu, Frannie, Harold and a few others we haven’t gotten to know yet, arriving due to a vision he had of Mother Abigail. This all gets juxtaposed with Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff, Mortal), a recently convicted death row murderer who gets stuck in a prison during the madness, receiving visions of one Randall Flagg.
If you’re ready for Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg, don’t get too excited. Whoopi has still yet to get more than five full seconds of screen time. A wise move perhaps during the premiere, but they can’t get away with her coyness for very much longer. Viewers who are already lost on the story and timeline are going to wonder what this lady is all about and demand answers soon.
Flagg, however, gets a nice and powerful moment at the end, detailing his willingness to save Lloyd from surviving on prison rats and inmate flesh, in exchange for his unwavering support and willingness to do whatever he asks. Alexander Skarsgård is already a frightening force, lightly laying out his needs with slyness and vigor. It’s brief, but it is what is needed of the character right now, but it’s necessary to see the good of Abigail portrayed in tandem with Flagg’s evil.
Much of the episode plays out like last week’s, which makes sense for the introduction of a new major character. Larry finds himself in the middle of a deserted Manhattan, finding solace in Heather Graham’s lonely (and rich as Hell) Rita, who has what seems like a week of lovemaking with Larry in her skyscraper apartment. The real horror comes as they venture out onto the streets and run into a small pack of attackers, forcing them into the sewers to escape. If you’re claustrophobic or a germaphobe (and face it, we all should be right now), it’s a hard scene to get through, for both viewer and character.
Nadine Cross (Amber Heard, Aquaman) and Nick Andros (Henry Zaga, New Mutants) are both introduced, though not as expertly as I would have liked. Of course, one hopes they will get more screen time and backstory as the show continues. Stu, Frannie and Henry all have brief moments to introduce the new characters as well, but this really is the Larry and Lloyd show, with a little Randall Flagg thrown in for flavor. While it is enjoyable, however, the show needs to start giving us A LOT more in the next episode to keep the viewer invested.