“The pandemic parallel makes me a little uncomfortable,” says author Owen King, “Because the suffering of real people is one thing. And artwork is really another thing.” The millions who’ve been hurt by the COVID-19 epidemic are real; the victims of Captain Trips, the viral super flu in his father’s now-classic novel The Stand, are fiction. That story’s dramatically deadly plague, which wipes out more than 99 percent of the American population and leaves bodies filling the streets, is very different from the quieter horror actually unfolding across the nation, where COVID-19 victims die in hospitals pushed to their limits while members of the same communities enjoy meals at restaurants or write articles about television shows.
But while the similarities may be few, the timing is still striking: A new adaptation of the novel, a CBS All Access limited series, is debuting in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century. And the real and fictional plagues have one thing in common. In both the real world and in the post-apocalyptic epic, illness itself isn’t the main story—how human beings manage or mismanage it and cope with our losses is. And Owen King, just a toddler when his father, Stephen King’s novel was published, is one of the writers and producers who’s brought the post-apocalyptic epic to the small screen.
The Stand tells the story of the plague’s survivors, who face a showdown of good versus evil as they congregate in opposing communities led by figures imbued with supernatural abilities. In Boulder, Colorado, the heroes, who include Stu Redman (played in the series by James Marsden) and Larry Underwood (Watchmen’s Jovan Adepo), gather under the guidance of elderly prophet Mother Abigail (Whoopi Goldberg), while the baddies flock to Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), a denim-clad demonic cowboy. The novel finds Boulder residents rebuilding representative government. In Flagg’s Las Vegas, those who violate the malevolent dictator’s rules are literally crucified.
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