Apple TV+’s big-budget adaptation of Lisey’s Story by Stephen King is reaching its final chapters but struggling with the same problems as the midsection of the season. After a strong first two episodes on premiere day, the show has increasingly spun its wheels, turning 10-12 minutes of plot into 45-50 minutes of television every week. Once again, “Now You Must Be Still” takes what could have happened in a few scenes and stretches it out. Yes, we finally get Amanda freed from her mental prison and catatonic state, but instead of using that to jump into the action that will end this story, the writing again gets repetitive when it should be urgent. Can it find that urgency in the final two episodes? It seems very possible, but the plot has moved forward so little over the last four episodes that the better question is whether anyone will care?
Jim Dooley is still on Amanda’s bed, looking at papers, shoes still on. Pan to a cop car out front as it turns on and drives away — King doesn’t think highly of the cops in Maine, apparently. The cop who was outside Lisey’s house drives by Amanda’s and Jim avoids detection. It’s another scene that wouldn’t have been nearly as long in the movie version of this story and feels like it’s here just to pad out runtime. The episode could have opened with Jim creepily playing with his yo-yo in the dark (not a euphemism).
Lisey Landon has made it to Boo’ya Moon and makes a brief stop at Sweetheart Hill before reaching the water. She sees Scott on the shore but knows it’s not exactly Scott. She goes to Amanda instead. After all, her sister is still alive in the real world. Amanda is still watching the Hollyhocks, seeing a vision of herself playing pirate with her sisters when they were children. Lisey writes — she knows she can’t talk here or risk being noticed by The Long Boy — “Do you still want to come home?” and “Concentrate on Scott’s study.” Amanda does just that as her sister reveals the cuts on Amanda’s arm again.
Back at home, Darla comes with weapons to fight Jim Dooley. Lisey is quiet and, most notably, healed. And then she disappears. It turns out that not only can she now pretty easily travel to Boo’ya Moon but she can turn it into a parlor trick to impress her sister. She knows that Darla wouldn’t believe without a demonstration. She brings her back a flower.
Lisey calls Dashmiel and threatens a lawsuit if he doesn’t help with her plan. She wants him to tell Jim that she’s changed her mind and to meet in Scott’s study. She records a message for Jim that she’s changed her mind. Lisey is trying to bring Jim into a trap to kill him. Will he fall for it? Can she defeat him?
After some On Writing lines like “Every novel is a struggle between the writer and the story,” Lisey and Darla go to see Amanda at Greenlawn. Can they finally retrieve her? Flashback to Scott talking to Amanda about how she cuts herself to let out the bad. It’s kind of a superficial take on self-harm, no? Anyway, Amanda mutters to her sisters back in the present day that Scott then kissed her, transferring the water from Boo’ya Moon to his sister-in-law, and Lisey does the same. It works! Amanda is back. The sisters hug.
Now to deal with Jim Dooley. “I need you both because somebody is trying to hurt me,” Lisey tells her sisters. First, in another scene totally cut in the film version of this story because it adds about nothing, they need to convince the doctor to let Amanda out. What would Scott have told him?
Flashback to one of the more casual scenes, which is nice, between Scott and Lisey. The writer is unhappy with some notes from the editor about realism and shows Lisey a headline about a dog who traveled miles over years to return home. Novelists are required to explain too much by editors when the world is full of unexplainable weirdness like dogs who still know where they live years after getting lost. And Scott wants to dance with his “babyluv.”
The flashback inspires their approach with Amanda’s doctor. “Don’t analyze, utilize. Accept the gift,” is what Scott would have said. The doctor is apprehensive as Darla keeps commenting on all the showy photos on the wall with him and celebrities like Bruce Springsteen and Al Gore. The sisters are working together again, almost finishing each other’s sentences. It’s a scene designed to evoke unity against a dominant male figure, but they end up quoting Scott Landon a bit too much. It would be so nice (although now seems impossible) if the show gave Lisey Landon a voice that wasn’t just repeating the words of her dead husband, wouldn’t it?
Back near Lisey’s house, the sisters go out in the rain and scream into the downpour, “Let’s fucking kill him!” Well, let’s get to it. They send off the useless cop (justice for Han getting better parts!) as Jim watches that happen from the shadows. The lighthouse turns. Lisey looks into a mirror with growing intensity. There’s a vision of her trusty shovel. Time to do some swinging, Lisey Landon.
• The scene in which Scott Landon rails about editors squashing imagination in favor of realism probably struck a nerve for people who worked in that capacity with Stephen King. For some reason, I pictured editors behind the last few The Dark Tower books watching it and rolling their eyes.
• Two episodes left! If you haven’t read the book, what do you think happens from here? Will it play out predictably with the sisters killing Jim and moving on happily? Will Lisey take him to Boo’ya Moon? Will there be any surprises left?
• On that note, who are the MVPs for you this season? I’ve said how Owen hasn’t really worked for me and the show is really not utilizing the skill sets of Joan Allen and Jennifer Jason Leigh, two of the best actresses alive, who have not been given much to challenge them here in terms of range. Julianne Moore is a phenomenal actress, but the writing has sidelined Lisey in favor of Scott too often. Finally, Dane Dehaan has one register: creepy brooding. Honestly, the most fascinating performance on the show might belong to Michael Pitt, almost unrecognizable in flashbacks as Scott’s dad, but let’s hope the final two episodes give the three powerhouse women at the center of the show the spotlight.