‘The Stand’ Boss on the Different Versions of Randall Flagg, Stephen King’s Ending & More
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the finale of The Stand, “The Circle Closes.”]
Stephen King gives his Stand the ending he’s wanted for decades with the CBS All Access miniseries.
The author wrote the finale that allows Frannie (Odessa Young), who couldn’t trek to Las Vegas with the others since she was eight months pregnant, to make her stand against Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård) and reject his attempt to lure her in. But he’s not completely gone, with the series ending the same way as King’s expanded version of the novel: Flagg, calling himself Russell Faraday, finds a new group of followers.
Unless King wants to continue this story, that is the end of The Stand series, executive producer Benjamin Cavell tells TV Insider, nor will fans see any more footage because they made the decision not to release deleted scenes on the Blu-ray. “We made the show in the most compelling way we thought we could,” he explains. “Some of those scenes that people are really attached to from the book, I’m not sure they’re going to play the same way onscreen.”
Here, Cavell takes us inside The Stand.
Some people will surely wonder about a Season 2, possibly as an anthology, with Randall Flagg at the center.
Benjamin Cavell: Totally. As you know, King has been inspired by that character many times over the years. I never say never. We made a real decision in telling this story to not have the viewers’ enjoyment depend on their knowing anything about Flagg from the larger King universe but we wanted to at least allow for the possibility that that universe and those other versions of Flagg could exist. It’s so much a part of who that character is and what he means for the readers.
It looked like Alexander was having so much fun.
He loved it. He ate it up — the finale and also in Episode 8, where he danced in front of the crowd, which was completely his instinct. He pitched it to us. I don’t even think he said dance. He said, “Flagg starts to move to the music,” and he chose the song. It was so much fun to watch. He’s just brilliant in the part.
Is that girl in the finale Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) or do they both represent the same entity?
Very clearly Mother Abagail and Flagg are two sides of a coin, mirror characters in some way. She bears the same kind of resemblance or relation to Mother Abagail that Russell Faraday bears to Randall Flagg. I’ve always loved the last scene of the extended edition, which is where we end the series, of Flagg on the beach. Yes, it’s Flagg in some way, except he really doesn’t exactly know that, what he’s doing here, or how he got here. He’s reborn with a similar level of power and ambition but he’s really starting from scratch in some way and remembering who he is and what he does. The girl is a Mother Abagail version of that.
Was there anything King wanted done or not done to set up the finale?
No. When he decided he did indeed want to write the coda, our response was, “What do you need from us to make that happen?” He said, “I just need to know where you’re ending the story of the book.” We had always said we want Stu [James Marsden] reunited with Fran and thought we would end the entire series with that last scene, from the expanded edition of Flagg presenting himself to a new group of people and then levitating. We wanted the suggestion, as is in the book, that there is no final defeat of evil. That’s not King’s style. The wheel keeps turning. It’s a constant struggle against the forces like Flagg that would exploit our worst and most base instincts and desires. You defeat it for the moment and know it’s going to raise its head again.
Did having a Frannie-Flagg scene in the finale affect plans for previous characters’ interactions with him?
[King] had been thinking about [writing the coda because] he felt Frannie never got her stand. It felt like something he needed to fix, that maybe his most beloved character in the entire story and one of the protagonists doesn’t get to participate in the climactic action.
We had the episode before we started shooting anything in the entire series, so if we had found that the interaction he wrote for Flagg and Frannie was somehow too close or it stepped on anything, we would’ve been able to change it. But once we saw how different it felt, in a wonderful way, from the interactions we had with Flagg, there wasn’t any disagreement between the way Flagg and Frannie interact and the way he has with others or any redundancy. We loved the notion of Flagg lying against the tree, almost relaxed, almost relieved to be free of the responsibility of having to actually run a place and have all these followers he’s concerned about and keeping in line. When we meet him in the finale, he’s so at ease. We liked seeing that different color on Flagg we had never really seen in the series before.
What are you proud you were able to bring to the screen?
In terms of our crafting of the structure and our repurposing things in the book, I’m very proud of a lot of what we did in Episode 8 to make the climax feel as though it’s at least allowed by or even touched off by the actions of our characters. We were able to directly link the adulation Flagg gets from his followers to his power. The moment in court when Glen [Greg Kinnear] gets killed in front of everybody, we constructed from a couple different scenes in the book, in which Glen is killed in private, just facing off with Flagg with Lloyd [Nat Wolff] in the room. Isn’t the thing Flagg is really worried about being made to look weak or foolish in front of his people? We see him in the wake of Glen’s death unexpectedly float down to the floor when he’s been levitating.
The Stand, Streaming Now, CBS All Access