When the first episode of the new “was standing” CBS All Access The miniseries was developed to make it easier for viewers to enter this global pandemic world Stephen King“It’s the next,”Bag saver“Didn’t get the same memo. This second episode doubles the flashbacks, society breakdown and character introductions, and hits the pedal. And for those who felt like an episode that wasn’t tough enough with the post-apocalyptic energy this all has empty streets, roving rape gangs, and public masturbation talk that anyone can hope for.
Benjamin Cavell, co-creator of “The Stand”, talks about Stephen King’s epic and his love for “The Running Man”. [The Playlist Podcast]
Five months after the outbreak of Captain Trips, “Pocket Savior” will open again with three other main characters: the rock musician Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo), Teacher Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) and young, half wild Joe (Gordon Cormier). Larry, who the episode spends most of its time with, flashes back to reveal his life in New York City at the start of the pandemic. Larry is promoting the release of his upcoming album “Pocket Savior” and snorts coke one minute and women standing one night and faces the collapse of society the next. While Larry reaps the rewards of a lonely, selfish life on the east coast, a petty thief named Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff) is thrown in jail in the West and suffers from the terrible ordeal of being in turmoil when most of the world outside is too dead or indifferent to let out.
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Using these characters and the continued flash forwards five months later to Larry’s arrival in Boulder and Stu’s orientation for him there, the broad sketch that began in Episode 1 gets some shading and definition here. Benjamin Cavell and its writers must have known they didn’t have time to spend two to three episodes just introducing people and their pandemic origin stories, giving the audience fragments of character stories woven into a tapestry that also contains practical information about them what’s going on five months later in Boulder. It’s like mixing vegetables with mashed potatoes: it enables the show to introduce important characters over and over again while expanding the framework and setting of the main conflict.
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Aside from being clever and efficient storytelling, it can be a little annoying at times. In the first episode there were only a few brief glimpses into the Boulder Free Zone, but “Pocket Savior” blows to the wind to emphasize this structure of the world in the post-pandemic period. It’s not confusing, it’s frustrating because just when it gets exciting and interesting with Larry in New York, Boulder cuts it five months ahead and Stu talks about the dreams that got everyone there.
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And that frustration is due in no small part to the fact that the drama in this episode is fantastic and is backed up by the magnetic performances of the actors who carry the scenes. Adepo brings the perfect amount of selfish douchebag energy to the Larry character, allowing early identification with the guy to keep him from getting to a place where salvation is not possible. Wolff is also a revelation as Lloyd, whose desperate, frenzied need for a savior finds the perfect exploiter in Flagg. The scene between Wolff and Alexander Skarsgard imprisonment is one of the best on the series, allowing the latter actor to fully inhabit the seductive, dangerous side of the role for the first time. Like every other appearance in the series, Skarsgård demands the full attention of the audience here and justifies every second of it.
Additionally, Pocket Savior is a no-nonsense apocalypse catnip filled with sweeping shots of motionless cars abandoned on the bridges leading out of Manhattan (using Space Song by Beach house at this moment is transcendent), the talk of hedonistic excess in the form of naked operation of the bases in Yankee Stadium and ejaculation on the home plate and, yes: rape gangs. It is not a writers’ guild statute that every movie or show about the end of the world has a scene threatening sexual assault on a character, but it does seem like something that comes up a lot.
When Larry teams up with a Manhattan celebrity, Rita (Heather Graham) they encounter an armed group of thugs with bad intentions towards the woman on his way out of the Big Apple. Rita’s courage and resilience in the face of this threat is a far cry from that of her bookmate, which makes her suicide more than confusing at the end of the second episode. Pocket Savior shows how Rita holds up better (and without the frequent cocaine blasts) than Larry. Yet after briefly saying that pandemic survival will be the last person to leave a party, she tosses back about two dozen pills and checks out. This outcome corresponds to the book version of the character and is obviously an exciting incident for Larry to straighten up. However, the humanity, sturdiness, and nuance Graham brings to the role doesn’t match the resolution it’s received. It’s one of the few times this new miniseries builds a character better than history allows.
This is one of the few Ls to win Pocket Savior in about an hour. However, this second episode manages to open up the world to get a fuller sense of how Captain Trips toppled society (and what those episodes look like). The frequent flashbacks get annoying at times. Just because the drama and action are so darn exciting, and to be fair, they serve the purpose of answering some practical questions about what’s going on in Boulder five months after the outbreak. There may be a lot of vegetables hidden in this one, but the taste and texture of the mashed potatoes that they hide make it a meal worth enjoying. [B+]