The Stand

Stephen King’s The Stand never actually appears in Lost, but Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse acknowledged in the season two DVD extras that the writers never brainstorm ideas for the show without a copy of The Stand nearby. In a 2006 interview, Cuse said “our model in many ways [has] been [based on] other things, including Stephen King’sThe Stand, which we acknowledge as kind of a way you can tell a long, sprawling, character-based story.” So yeah, The Stand is a pretty important book for Lost lore.

The Stand and Lost have a ridiculous amount of shared themes and characters. I am going to highlight what I think are the most important of these in this review, but I encourage you to look at Lostpedia’s writeup on the book for a more complete list.

Additionally, this book has so much in common with Lost that one can argue that large parts of the show are simply The Stand re-imagined. If you enjoyed Lost, you probably will enjoy The Stand; if you don’t want to know what happens in the book, feel free to skip this review entirely and take my word that are very, very similar.

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The Stand is divided into three parts. Part I describes a literal apocalypse. The U.S. government has secretly been working on a devastating biological weapon that could wipe out the human race. Like many fictional superbugs, “Project Blue” turns ugly after an accident at an army base. An infected soldier escapes the base before lockdown and becomes patient zero for the disease dubbed “Captain Trips.”

Captain Trips affects 99.4% of the population and has a 100% mortality rate. Throughout Part I, we meet different survivors and how they are handling the deaths of 99.4% of all Americans. Like Lost, each chapter is centric to one character and we learn background information of each character.

These characters may sound familiar – there is Frannie Goldsmith, a pregnant girl; Larry Underwood, a rocker with one hit who now has a bit of a drug problem; Kojak, a helpful labrador; and Leo Rockway, a young black boy who has some sort of psychic powers. Of course, there are plenty of other non-familiar characters – Stu Redman, an East Texas factory worker; Glen Bateman, a sociology professor; Nadine Cross, a teacher; Harold Laudner, an awkward teenager; Nick Andros, a young deaf guy; Tom Cullen, a very large, mentally retarded man; and plenty more.

In Part II, these characters start meeting up through a series of seemingly random coincidences. Stu, Glen, and Kojak meet up and later run into Frannie and Harold; Nick meets Tom Cullen; Larry meets Nadine and Leo. They all start having some variation of the same dream. In the dream, they see a dark man with no face somewhere in the West and an extremely old black woman in Nebraska. Instinctively, they all know that they are supposed to go meet the old black woman and are terrified of the dark man.

It turns out the old woman is a 108-year old lady named Mother Abagail. She has been tasked with rounding up the good people and taking them to Boulder, Colorado. She does this by appearing to the good people in their dreams. Meanwhile, the dark man has his own thing going on. His name is Randall Flagg and he is recruiting his own evil followers to his base in Las Vegas.

Both groups of people function like a city but there is tension in both. In Boulder, Mother Abagail takes a hands-off approach and the residents start a democracy. As in every democracy, there are lazy people that cause trouble. But the biggest trouble comes from the constant dreams that the people have about Flagg. The leaders of the council find it hard to rally people behind things like getting the electricity working again when they all know that there will soon be a war between the two sides.

In Las Vegas, Flagg rules with an iron fist. He crucifies people that dare criticize him. No one is allowed to ask any questions. Things run more smoothly in Vegas – the whole “Mussolini made the trains run on time” thing. But people are constantly on edge, particularly when a pyromaniac named Trashcan Man blows up some people that made fun of him.

Things come to a head in Boulder when Mother Abagail wanders off into the wilderness one day to ask God what she should do next. Harold and Nadine turn evil and secretly plot to join Flagg in Vegas. The Boulder council meets in a secret meeting to determine how to handle Mother Abagail’s disappearance. Harold finds out about this and plants some dynamite to blow up the meeting. Frannie senses something wrong, but it’s too late; although her and Stu get out alive, many of the members of the council die in the blast. Immediately following the blast, a near-death Mother Abagail shows back up. At this point, everyone seems to understand that the final battle is on.

Part III is entitled The Stand. Mother Abagail says that there will be no big battle between good and evil: only Glen, Stu, Larry, and Ralph will go to Vegas to battle Flagg. Once there, God will help them. The four reluctantly accept, as they seem to know that they are probably going to die. They are told to walk the whole way and actually are pleased by this – they figure at least this way they’ll live slightly longer. On the walk, Stu breaks his leg falling down a cliff. The other three can do nothing for him and leave him there with Kojak. Once they are near Vegas, Flagg’s men capture Glen, Larry, and Ralph without a fight.

Glen is killed when he refuses to beg Flagg for his life. Larry and Ralph are kept to be crucified in front of all of Flagg’s followers. Just as they are about to be crucified, Trashcan Man shows back up with a nuclear warhead in tow. A bright light shines and a large hand – the Hand of God – comes down from the heavens and blows up the weapon, killing everyone in the vicinity, except Flagg, who turns into a puff of smoke and fades away.

Meanwhile, Tom Cullen is heading back to Boulder from Vegas (the council sent him there on a spy mission). He finds Stu and Kojak, and the three finally make it back to Boulder after a long winter of travelling. Stu and Frannie fall in love and head on back to Maine, and the Boulder Free Zone slowly fades away, its mission accomplished.

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The book was over 1,100 pages long and that was a whirlwind recap that probably didn’t do it justice. However, it will do for our purposes of comparing the work to Lost. It’s tough to figure out where to begin and end on all the shared similarities, so I’ll try something a little different for this review: just a bunch of random, unconnected thoughts.

Both Lost and The Stand are the stories of groups of people that come together in a semi-society (there’s that “live together, die alone” thing again). In the end, the groups fight in a battle of good vs. evil. The good goes to Boulder and the evil goes to Vegas (hm…what kinda value judgment is King trying to make?!?) This is similar to the setup in season six, when Ilana, Richard, and the “good” followers head to the beach camp while Locke, Sawyer, and the “evil” followers head to Hydra Island.

Both works also deal with the theme of starting a society from scratch. As I mentioned in a previous review, the Oceanic survivors follow a Watership Down-like model of society. The Boulder folks follow a similar model. In the same review, I compared the Tallies model of society to Lord of the Flies. This is somewhat similar to Flagg’s style of management.

I’ve already pointed out a few characters that are similar. I’d also add that Damon Lindelof himself said he based the character of Charlie on Larry Underwood. It shows, right down to the final sacrifice each made on behalf of the community. Frannie is a version of Claire, and even has dreams in which the dark man takes her baby. Stu Redman reminded me a lot of Jack too – not necessarily in background, but the fact that each was reluctantly thrust into the leader role; neither one really wanted to be a leader, but everyone listened to them regardless. Stu did have some Sawyer in him though, at least in the fact that Watership Down is both’s favorite book.

Allow me to be the millionth person to compare the Man in Black to Randall Flagg. Seriously, google “John Locke and Randall Flagg.” Both represent evil incarnate; both try to recruit followers; and both have the same ruling style. Questions are strictly verboten for their followers and, even when they are allowed to ask questions, they won’t get straight answers.

One of Flagg’s main followers was Lloyd Henreid. Henreid happened to be trapped in a jail cell when everyone died of Captain Trips. He slowly wasted away to nothing before Flagg came an offered to let him free in return for his devotion. This is mirrored in the season six episode Ab Aeterno, when the Man in Black approaches a shackled Richard on the Black Rock and offers him freedom if he will go kill Jacob.

Mother Abagail – who is coincidentally 108 years old – reminds me somewhat of Jacob. They are certainly different characters, but they have a similar management style. They are both hands-off and leave their followers to figure things out for themselves. Finally, after Jacob dies, he has the final fireside chat in What They Died For with Jack, Sawyer, Hurley, and Kate, saying that one of them must replace him because when the fire goes out, he will be gone forever. This is similar to Mother Abagail’s last instructions to Stu, Glen, Ralph, and Larry while on her deathbed.

On the way back from Vegas, Stu and Tom Cullen try to find a car that will start. Eventually they find a Plymouth that appears to be in okay condition. They close their eyes and will it to work. This probably served as the inspiration for the scene in Tricia Tanaka is Dead when Hurley and Charlie start the DHARMA van. Speaking of which, Tom Cullen finds Stu because a dead Nick guides him to him by appearing in his dreams, similar to the way Hurley speaks with dead people.

I didn’t really think of this comparison until Lostpedia pointed it out, but Harold Lauder’s defection to Flagg’s side is reminiscent of Ben Linus joining the Others from DHARMA. Ben lived with DHARMA for several years while secretly pledging allegiance to the Others. Eventually, like Harold, Ben plotted against DHARMA before officially defecting. Harold set off a bomb, while Ben helped with the Purge.

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I’m sure there’s a ton more that I missed, but those are the ones I can think of now. It was a very enjoyable, if somewhat long, read and I may come back to it in the future. For now, I encourage anyone who likes Lost that is looking for reading material to pick up The Stand.

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