The CBS All Access series The Stand, based on Stephen King’s epic novel of the same name, wound up its nine-episode season in two episodes: A penultimate effects-heavy showstopper named “The Stand,” and a calmer epilogue including mostly new material titled “The Circle Closes.” Given the series’ vast ensemble cast and the lengthy nature of the plot ends, there’s a lot crammed into the two episodes – leaving a lot to absorb.
While some of the events in The Stand’s conclusion are quite obvious, many are not, and some are simply perplexing. Even if you’ve read King’s novel, the miniseries made enough alterations to the original material that it’s reasonable if you got lost. From prophetic instructions to fatal cosmic battles and Biblical allegories playing out in a subconscious vision, here are some of the most perplexing parts of The Stand’s finale addressed.
The Stand | Official Trailer
What was the deal with the lightning ball?
Glen (Greg Kinnear), Ray (Irene Bedard), and Larry (Jovan Adepo) are imprisoned and placed on trial when they eventually make it to Randall Flagg’s (Alexander Skarsgrd) decadence empire in Las Vegas to make their final stand against the forces of evil. Ray and Larry are condemned to death by drowning after Glen provokes Flagg’s underling Lloyd (Nat Wolff) into killing him on the spot in the courtroom. In front of a boisterous audience, the duo is dragged into an empty pool and shackled to the bottom as the pool slowly fills with water.
However, before Larry and Ray can meet their watery demise, all hell breaks loose as heavy clouds gather over the building’s central atrium and begin zapping people with lightning bolts. Soon after, the lightning forms a hovering ball that appears to deliberately target Flagg’s henchmen before zapping Flagg repeatedly and killing everything with a nuclear weapon (and putting Ray and Larry out of their misery in the process).
That was not your average bolt of lightning. Although the circumstances are different in the book, the warhead is detonated by a “Hand of God,” portrayed as a huge, luminous hand in the sky. If you look attentively when the clouds wrap over Flagg’s structure, you may see that they resemble fingers, implying that the lightning was a supernatural intervention. Given the series’ heavy spiritual undertones, it’s only right that an act of God would eventually take down Flagg… at least for the time being.
How did Stu make his way back to Boulder?
Although four people set out on foot from Boulder to Las Vegas in response to Mother Abigail’s (Whoopi Goldberg) instructions/prophecy, only three arrive, exactly as she prophesied. Stu Redman (James Marsden) fractures his leg on the way and is left behind with Glen’s dog Kojak, some travel supplies, and enough pain medication to either take the edge off for a few days… or assist Stu with a quick and painless death.
Tom’s attention is lured back by Kojak, whom he enthusiastically follows. While we never witness Tom and Stu reunite, we may conclude that it occurs when Stu returns to Boulder with Tom and Kojak, informing Frannie (Odessa Young) that Tom saved his life. By the time they return, Stu is walking (although with a limp), and Frannie’s narrative indicates that at least a few weeks, if not several months, have passed. This time gap is explained in the novel by Tom bringing Stu back to health at a hunting lodge with the help of Nick Andros’ ghost (Henry Zaga).
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What happened to Nadine’s baby?
Nadine’s (Amber Heard) otherworldly pregnancy, fathered by the disembodied ghost of Randall Flagg, was one of the creepier subplots in a miniseries loaded to the brim with creepiness. You see, while crossing the desert to go to Las Vegas, Nadine contacted Flagg in what looked to be a hallucination, and they eventually completed their bizarre romance, with him morphing into a hideous monster mid-act. He immediately dispatched a car to drive her the rest of the way, and it didn’t take her long to realize she was pregnant with his… child?
Who or what was growing within Nadine’s womb will always be a mystery, but we can at least speculate that it wasn’t a healthy bouncing baby human. For one thing, Nadine went from virgin to nearly nine months pregnant in a matter of days. For another, Nadine’s corpse-like look and the sharp motions beneath her skin made it evident that whatever was within her was devouring her from the inside out.
Nadine eventually understood she was never meant to survive the birth and committed herself by jumping from Flagg’s penthouse balcony. We might infer from Flagg’s heartbroken response to the death of his progeny that whatever Nadine was about to give birth to was crucial to his scheme, and was most likely supposed to be the demonic successor to Flagg himself. Fortunately for everyone, the plan never materialized.
Randall Flagg, who was he?
Despite the presence of human protagonists, The Stand is fundamentally about a conflict between cosmic forces of good and evil. Mother Abigail is on the good side, representing God’s will, and Randall Flagg is on the bad side. Flagg, on the other hand, is… something different. Unlike Mother Abigail, who is exceedingly ancient and extraordinarily skilled but unquestionably human. He can not only fly and impregnate humans from hundreds of kilometers away, but he can also regenerate after being hit by lightning and then incinerated by a nuclear bomb.
Calling Flagg “the Devil” is both the correct response and an oversimplification. During her talk with Frannie in “The Circle Closes,” Mother Abigail alludes to the thought that he is the son of the Devil, making an obvious connection between Flagg and the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God. Flagg appears in Stephen King’s writings as an immortal, terrible magician who continually appears to urge individuals toward darkness. So, in the context of King’s novels, Flagg is both a living Devil and something a bit more human.
What prompted the Trashcan Man to deliver the explosives to the hotel?
The unidentified Trashcan Man (Ezra Miller) is one of The Stand’s most enigmatic characters, distinguished primarily by his pyromania and unpredictable conduct, which suggests some type of neurodivergence. He appears early in the series and is charged by Flagg with retrieving a nuclear bomb that Flagg plans to drop on the Boulder Free Zone, wiping out Mother Abigail and her supporters. Instead, the Trashcan Man (whose skin practically melts off his body as a result of the warhead’s radiation) drives the warhead into Flagg’s hotel, where it is detonated by the Hand of God.
There is no explanation for the Trashcan Man’s peculiar conduct in the miniseries other than, well, he’s odd. He appears to believe he is doing Flagg a favor, but we never learn why. It’s a bit more fleshed out in the novel; the Trashcan Man is sending Flagg a bomb to make up for mistakenly wiping out a large portion of his air force. Because the event never occurs in the miniseries, the Trashcan Man’s reasons are much hazier. Taking him at his word, he just misunderstands what Flagg wants him to do with the warhead and believes it is best to carry it directly to his commander.