After four decades, Frannie Goldsmith finally gets her showdown. One of the most beloved characters from Stephen King’s The Stand always had a bit of a bittersweet final act in the book in that her pregnancy didn’t allow her to go to New Vegas for that final battle with the Randall Flagg. She went to Maine to rebuild a new community there, but she never really got a definitive climax or conclusion. Consequently, even King himself said he felt a need all these years later to give her the bigger moment that her character deserved. Benjamin Cavell, the co-creator of the miniseries, told Screen Rant, “She can’t walk across the mountains to confront the Dark Man. But it always ate at [King] that she wasn’t there as one of the heroes of the book; she was never given her stand. So what I will say about the coda is that it is his planned attempt of the last 30 years to give her her Stand.”
So what is Frannie’s final stand? It is a temptation. After falling into a well, she is tempted by Flagg himself with a guarantee of safety. He will ensure that she makes it out of the well to her baby and that Stu makes it home to both of them. They can move on from this potential tragedy. The “one little thing” he needs in return? He wants to be able to see through her eyes when he wants. Would you give the devil a window into your world for his protection? And would you trust that’s all he would expect in return? Frannie wouldn’t, and she chooses to believe that a greater power, and the power she holds within, will save her. King’s work has grown a little less cynical in the last 40 years, and it’s telling that he feels the need to not only make sure that Frannie has a happy ending, but that her stand is one that proves the value of faith.
It starts with voiceover explaining how Frannie’s baby, named Abagail, came down with Captain Trips shortly after her birth, but became the first person ever to overcome it. What does this say about the future? A show about a national pandemic never really tapped into current feelings in the world more than in Frannie’s voiceover here: “How long before we go from rebuilding to just living again? Will we do anything different this time? Can we even? Are we capable?” The connection to 2020-21 feels intentional as viewers ask similar questions about our future. And the hope in a child who becomes the first survivor of a plague? It’s the hope viewers hold for what comes next in their lives. It’s also a strong opening monologue for Odessa Young, who hasn’t been given enough to do this season but makes the most of her final episode.
After the prologue, Stu and Frannie are reunited and he gets to meet his daughter. While an ominous shot of the rubble in New Vegas hints that nothing is over, Stu and Frannie plan a trip out of Boulder. She’s uneasy and wants to return to Maine, as a rebuilt society in Colorado means rebuilt problems, too. There’s a strong sequence as they travel across the country, clearing a path, and the couple makes it Lorton, Nebraska. As they scout the area, a POV shot from the cornfield — Stephen King loves cornfields — confirms they aren’t exactly alone.
As Stu goes into town the next morning for supplies, Frannie decides to investigate a pump in the yard. She can tell it’s on a rickety well, but she leans over it to make it work, sticking her hand in the pump only to have it bit by a rat. As she hears Flagg say “Hello, bitch” into her ear, she falls back into the well, not knowing that Stu has blown a tire on the road home and won’t be able to rescue her anytime soon.
Suddenly, Frannie is in a forest, speaking to Flagg himself. He shows her visions of her crumpled body in the well and Stu’s dangerous tire repair. Will Stu make it back in time to save her? And what of the baby on the porch? He offers her safety, but she flees, yelling, “Get thee behind me you fucking bastard!” You tell him, Frannie.
She finds her way to a vision of Mother Abagail, who tells her that God will bless her for resisting Flagg’s temptation. Stu races home to find a worried Kojak in the road, and he rappels into the well with the assistance of a girl from the cornfield. He gets to her, pulling her to safety, and the girl, who knows Stu’s name and wears a familiar cross around her neck, heals Frannie’s broken bones. The stand-in for Mother Abagail tells Frannie, “Now, stand.” Clever move there, King. Frannie resisted the allure of protection and her belief was rewarded. Her stand against evil was one of faith, a fitting coda for this character.
One week later in Ogunquit, Maine, Frannie and Stu are on the Atlantic coast. The command remains the same forever: “Be true. Stand.” And the epilogue from the expanded edition of King’s book returns with Flagg on a beach, approaching a tribe of Indigenous people. One tries to pierce him with an arrow only to have his head blown off by Flagg’s power. Then he rises above them as they kneel, saying, “My name is Russell Faraday! Worship me!” Evil never fully dies.
• You just know Boone and company wanted to use REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” all season, but it had to be saved for the finale.
• Blink and you’ll miss a shot of Mick Garris at the party after Stu returns and before they leave Boulder. He directed the previous version of The Stand along with adaptations of King’s The Shining, Desperation, and Bag of Bones.
• So who’s the MVP? For this episode, it’s definitely Odessa Young, but what about the whole season? Probably Alexander Skarsgard would get a few votes and fans seemed to dig Owen Teague’s approach more than I did. Marsden was solid but underutilized, something that could be said about Greg Kinnear, Whoopi Goldberg, and Amber Heard, too — all very good when they were called on to deliver. Maybe it’s a product of the ensemble nature of the source, but it’s hard to pick a cast standout. Who’s your fave?
• The Stand is over but is this really the final word? It’s fascinating that King himself seems to always be interested in updating this story. Would anyone be surprised if he did it again in a decade?
• Thanks for reading all season!