“…instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg. The land of Mordor (“where the shadows lie,” according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.” – Stephen King
In the wake of a plague, survivors band together to fight an evil force.
Frances Goldsmith: the thing I like most about Frannie is even in the darkest time, she can be silly. The best example of this is when they’re in the Boulder Free Zone and Larry is looking for Harold. She sees a dark figure outside her window and instead of being scared, she hits her leg on something and starts to laugh uncontrollably at the situation. She is by far King’s best-realized female character, as you go through an entire journey with Fran. From her discovering she’s pregnant, to losing her entire support network, to be trapped with fedora nerd/Ted Bundy wannabe Harold Lauder, to finding Stu, to finally having her baby, Peter.
Stu Redman is everyone’s favourite Watership Down-loving calculator factory worker. Of all the characters, Stu sees the powerless the old world in light of the superflu epidemic. From being trapped in the Stovington (go Eagles!) facility, he understands the fragile nature of chains of command. This translates into him becoming the eventual leader of the Free Zone. He’s the common man hero who miraculously (for a King book) isn’t a writer. He’s a survivor for himself and eventually for Fran. The entire last fifth of the book is him making it back to her with two broken legs and Tom Cullen in tow. The only thing I don’t like is that he treats Fran like property, making good with Harold saying he won’t “take his girl,” when she’s a human who can make her own choices.
Larry Underwood is my favourite character in the whole damn book because he’s so relatable to me personally. His feelings of insecurity and faking confidence in some situations are really strong that the reader can latch on to. Of all the “chosen” people in this book, Larry feels the most reticent to accept the call. All the way through, the words of his mother haunt him (“You’re a taker, Larry.”), with the dental nurse screaming, “You ain’t no nice guy!” at him. Above all the other characters, except maybe Trashy, the scars of the pre-Captain Tripps world lay heavy on Larry’s shoulders. It starts off with his personality shift upon his first record being a hit, to having Wayne Stookey explain to him that the new world he thinks he’s found in a drug-fuelled party isn’t real. This carries over to Larry constantly hanging on to how things used to be. Even as New York City falls apart under the plague, Larry is searching for that sense of normalcy, which he thinks he has with Rita. When Rita dies, he transposes that on to the other women he meets: Lucy and Nadine.
Nick Andros is the man with the plan and vision for how things should be run in this new society. Despite the fact Nick can’t speak, he’s the most expressive character in the book. We first meet him having the shit beaten out him by some rednecks who he later comes to have domain over in the local jail as society crumbles. It’s his experience here that really shapes Nick, as he sees these me devolve from the superflu. It haunts him right up until the end. He understands how to shape a society and the best ways to achieve it. He was better than most of the Free Zone deserved: at every turn he’s helping people. Tom Cullen, Ralph, Mother Abigail – they all owe something to Nick and his good heart. Even to his very last moment, when the small council find a bomb in their meeting, it’s Nick who tells everyone else to run so he can try and defuse thing. He sacrifices himself for the good of the people and dies a hero. His death above all the others hit me the most, as it could have been avoided if Harold Lauder hadn’t been such a vengeful piece of shit.
Randall Flagg, the Man in Black, the Walkin’ Dude, the leader of Vegas. Flagg is a great villain who runs through so much of King’s work, and it’s easy to see why he’s used so often. He is almost an elemental evil, a thing that always just was and has taken different forms throughout the years. This is explained when he mentions being a Klansman and various other violent, villainous figures throughout history. His influence over people shows how he assumes his place as the king of sin in Vegas, like how he recruits Lloyd Henreid, making him more intelligent and giving him leadership skills. He’s a telephone mast of crazy that Trashcan Man zeroes in on and utterly devotes himself to. He’s almost a romantic evil in that he plays the role of charming psychopath to a tee. He was always involved in Nadine Cross’s life, picking her as his bride from when she was young (which is super creepy). He ensnares Harold Lauder to betray the Free Zone at the mere knowledge that he exists.
Donald Merwin Elbert (Trashcan Man)… I feel so damn sorry for Trashy. Like all the characters in the book he is a prisoner to his past. In his case, it’s much more literal in that he was locked away in various mental health facilities for years, and is now facing the world with a lighter in one hand and no medication in the other. He’s plagued by memories of things that happened to him as a kid, even down to his name. The thing I like the most is his little nonsense sayings clearly have a much deeper meaning the reader won’t get, but it’s there in Trashy’s mixed-up head.
Harold Lauder, motherfucking fuck this guy. Seriously, this neck bearded, fedora-wearing, mens’ rights twat is maybe the character I hate most in literature. At least Flagg has an ethos and is outright in his cackling villainy. Harold is fucking coward who displays everything wrong with the male psyche. He is possessive of Frannie and when she doesn’t want a relationship with him, he becomes a fucking supervillain. It’s the shittest origin for a villain since Crazy Quilt. We see Harold devolve into an alpha male prick when the male population consists of just him. He becomes threatened when Stu Redman joins the group because Stu’s a functioning adult male and Harold is a fucking man-boy. Harold then proceeds to develop a serial killer-esque mask while all the time plotting the downfall of society because he was spurned by the woman he claims to have loved (but treated her poorly and she wasn’t interested in him). The biggest fuck you of all of this is when Harold has killed Nick Andros, in a move that made me put down the book for the rest of the day because if was so affecting. He runs away with Nadine in tow and starts grandstanding about how Flagg will reward him, only to suffer a motorbike accident (sidenote: Every character in the book LOVES motorbikes. Everywhere they go, they get on a bike and unless I missed something as to why they can’t use cars. This is a really odd quirk.) and be mortally wounded and abandoned by Nadine. When Harold is in his final moments, he writes an apology letter for all the wrong he did and signs it with the nickname some of the guys he worked with gave him: Hawk. The fact King allows Lauder to have such a cheap, last-second character reversal rings so false to me. Harold’s death frankly wasn’t brutal enough for all the terrible things he did throughout the story, and giving him a second second reprieve is some bullshit, Mr. King.
IT – They pass a certain bar called The Red Wheel, which is a favourite of Mr. Ben “Haystack” Hanscom and his bartender friend Ricky-Lee. Coins change hands there.
So I started this thing with some trepidation. Having tried several times to watch it before, this was the moment to do it. For science! Rather than got through what I thought of the entire thing, I’ll list things that occurred to me during each episode.
- The opening is pretty good. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is well-used over the shots of people dying and Campion is running for his life. Just like the book. This might not be too ba….
- At the garage….oh boy. This is meant to be Texas right? There are more accents at play here than a CNN roundtable.
- The military stuff is really strong. Ed Harris is wonderful as the commander and really sells the guy trying to get a grip on something. Even when he knows the horse has long bolted.
- Introduction of Frannie. I don’t how you could fuck up a two-minute scene so badly, but they managed it. #NotMyFrannie (She will now be referred to as Breakfast Club.)
- Introduction of Larry. He’s not humble enough. They got King’s idea of his being very Springsteen-esque in terms of looks, but this Larry has too much ego. He’s proud of the song instead of mildly ashamed.
- Introduction of Nick, passable. Not great.
- The dreams of Mother Abigail are trouble. That corn set is so horrifically fake you feel like these people either have pretty crappy imaginations or the force guiding them really ran out of money for its mystic sequences.
- Stu’s Texan accent (or lack there of) is really troubling. It’s like rather than have an accent, they have him use southern idioms like “hoss,” but that fades away after a scene. So we’re left with Gary Sinise (who shall be referred to as CSI New York from this point forward).
- Larry running around New York being this seedy but charming guy works, but they miss a critical scene of him being thrown out after a one night stand to a woman screaming, “You ain’t no nice guy!” This is the crux of his entire character.
- Nick using his notepad is a nice touch.
- CSI New York does a good job of engaging in a battle of wits with the interior designer from Beetlejuice.
- Breakfast Club is back again for another pointless scene of her whining.
- Larry caring for his sick mother is done great visually. Her make up is very affecting, but she doesn’t say her line (“You’re a taker, Larry.”), another key part of who Larry is throughout the rest of the book.
- CSI New York escapes the lab in a fight scene that would embarrass Bruce Campbell’s later work (sorry, Bruce).
- Breakfast Club is making a death throe to bury Peter Motherfucking Goldsmith in a grave that looks to be 3 inches deep. This might be a way of keeping him around. When Harold enters he still looks like a character from Mad Men in casual weekend attire.
- Nadine is played way too broad. She’s supposed to be a tightly wound and nervous character. An insular weird, not an always laughing psychopath.
- Lloyd is pretty dead on to the book, in this part and the first part. His hooting and hollering is reminiscent of Wild Bill from The Green Mile.
- Enter Trashcan Man. He remains my favourite character in the whole damn thing, even though here he’s a bit more wild than I’d like and his homemade bomb seems to complex. I like the voices in his head and the little mutterings that are the perfect level of indecipherable from the book.
- Oh boy Tom Cullen just showed up… the less said about this the better.
- So CSI NY has met Breakfast Club and Mad Men. Mad Men is sporting a truly unique biker attire he must have lift from a Village People Tribute Act.
- Thank fuck they’re all where they should be. Nick is with Mother Abigail and Trashy is in Vegas. I’m sad they didn’t include The Kid in Trashy’s story, but I still really like the portrayal of him. Would’ve liked a flashback to give us more, but I just feel really sorry for the guy.
- Why is this thing only half over?
- We’ve opened on the docks so this may be an episode of Remmington Steele by mistake…..oh wait it’s a failed surgery scene. Because still water is exactly what you want near open wounds.
- I think CSI NY and Breakfast Club are meant to be together at this point but that’s purely based on knowing the book. The acting is giving me literally nothing. They could be plotting to have sex or a murder-murder-suicide. Then there’s Mad Men. They’re boning as he tries to fix a motorcycle with a screwdriver. Why does he shake CSI NY’s hand? He doesn’t fucking own Breakfast Club, she’s her owning fucking person. It’s 1994, guys.
- Let’s see what Breakfast Club has been up to lately, I think she was in that Twin Peaks-looking, sexed up Archie show….
- …She was. Seems to be doing guest spots on various sitcoms, which is probably right for someone of her calibre, especially with this last decade’s obsession with 80’s pop culture. Hasn’t been on The Goldbergs yet, which is way better than this piece of crap I’m watching.
- Wait, shit, I wasn’t paying attention. Well I’m not rewinding this in it’s 4th fucking hour of this sci-fi porno with all the sex scenes taken out…
- Shit I was waiting for a King cameo. Always “interesting” when they give him a speaking role in his own stuff.
- I don’t like that Mother Abigail knows that Nadine is a double agent, because at her core Nadine is fighting that destiny Flagg has set before her.
- We are blistering through the middle portion of this book. Feels like we langished in the first section for 3 hours but the writers realised they had 3 hours to cover another 1000 pages.
- Ok miniseries, just when I thought you couldn’t fuck up anymore, you completely screwed up the death of Nick. In the book, the death of Nick made me so upset I had to put down the book for a day because I was so drained by it. Here, it’s barely 10 seconds of screentime. Nick died a hero and you didn’t reflect that. So, miniseries, prepare to get ‘Cujo’-ed
- So Mad Men goes flying of his bike and that’s it? Wow. You managed to fuck up his death more than King, and giving him that psychic connection to CSI NY is some bullshit. At least they didn’t trying to have him make a last moment repentance.
- EDIT: You did give him that cop out. Fuck you, miniseries, fuck you.
- What is the crow budget on this thing? More crows than the Tower of London around this piece.
- Why the fuck won’t this thing end? It’s in sight but it’s never felt further away. Having a Martin Sheen in that hotel room in Apocalypse Now moment.
- Trashy remains my one shining light in this thing. Him being taunted by his past is wonderfully done and the only salvageable thing from this piece of crap.
- They squandered Nadine’s entire character. She’s barely in this thing, barely speaks, and jumps off a balcony. We lost her inner turmoil, her struggle with the darkness throughout her life. None of that, just a barely verbal character who gets a death speech and then fucks off.
- Also, they definitley got a deal on that Flagg turning to a demon effect, in my mind I picutred him as always remaining human, but having an ethereal quality. Here is feels like the person who developed that effect kept shoving in the horned Flagg at every opporuntiy.
- Glenn died a hero in the book laughing at Flagg and showed Randall for the coward he is, terrified of an old man laughing at him. Here it’s just anger, Flagg as falling dictator rather than this mythical creature who is somehow hurt by laughter in the face of death. While on the subject…. Flagg’s mullet…. Why?
- See, this what happens when you skim on character. The death of Larry means nothing. In the book, Larry has hated himself the entire book and at the very end he decideds to forgive himself and go out screaming. Here he makes a few comments and then goes silent. They miss the core of the character.
- Let’s take a moment to appreciate how crappy Flagg’s lightning powers are. They’re somewhere between that ghost S Superman throws in Superman 2 and the Return of the Jedi lightning. The giant hand of Force Spirit Mother Abigail looks equally like something from the “Money for Nothing” video.
- The final insult is them cutting short Stu and Tom’s trip back to the Free Zone. In the book it’s a massive ordeal, taking months and so much struggle. Here’s it’s barely 10 minutes of screen time.
- Wait, this is the final insul. Why is the baby called Abigail and not Peter? The whole point is Peter Motherfucking Goldsmith taught Frannie all about the world, so she wanted to impart that on to the next generation. Here’s the baby’s named after some old woman Frannie barely spoke to. (Editor’s note: for that matter, why the fuck was the baby changed from a boy to a girl? For the cutesy naming thing? And what the hell was with the busted ass special effect of Mother Abigail watching over the baby and talking to her and not even facing the same fucking direction as the kid? IS THIS OLAN MILLS?!)
In conclusion, I fucking hated every moment of this miniseries. It took something I loved and… well you read my condensed and cleaned up ramblings.
The book made me want to adapt it i to a series of movies because I loved it so much. The miniseries made me lose the will to live.
Next Time: We all float.