'The Stand' Ending Explained: Stephen King's new end gives Frannie new depth and the story a hopeful finish
Her confrontation with Flagg in the well gives the story more hope, indicating Stephen King is much less of a cynic now than he used to be
Spoilers for ‘The Stand’ finale
The finale of the CBS All Access limited series, ‘The Stand’, titled ‘The Circle Closes’, promised a different ending from the book courtesy of Stephen King, who always hated the fact that Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) was reduced to a passive role in the third act of the story, and one of the goals of this “coda” was to remedy that.
Benjamin Cavell, the co-creator of the miniseries, said earlier, “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.”
The episode sees a voiceover explaining how Frannie’s baby, named Abagail after Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) of course, came down with Captain Trips -- the plague that killed most people on earth -- shortly after her birth. But she also became the first person ever to overcome it, signifying that there is hope. The episode then sees Stu (James Marsden) and Frannie reunited and he gets to meet his daughter. They then travel across the country to return to Maine.
When Stu goes into a town for supplies, Frannie decides to investigate a pump in the yard. As she leans over an old well to make it work, she hears Randall Flagg’s (Alexander Skarsgård) voice. Flagg says “Hello, b****” into her ear, and she falls back into the well. Suddenly, we see Frannie is in a forest, speaking to Flagg. He shows her visions of her crumpled body in the well and Stu’s burst tire, scaring her to believe that he would never make it in time to save her. As is his modus operandi, Flagg attempts to seduce her to his side with a promise of safety. In exchange for saving her life, her baby’s life, and sparing Stu, all she has to do is give him a kiss and occasionally allow him to possess her.
But Frannie is resolute. She tells him, “Get thee behind me you f***ing bastard!” She then sees a vision of Mother Abagail, who tells her that God will bless her for resisting Flagg’s temptation. Meanwhile, Stu rappels into the well and gets her to safety with the help of a girl from the neighboring cornfield -- for some reason, she knows Stu’s name and wears a familiar cross around her neck. The girl then heals Frannie’s broken bones.
A week later in Maine, we see Frannie and Stu. Finally discussing what happened in Nebraska, Frannie says that she was confronted with two sides of the world, and that “the wheel turns, the struggle continues, and the command is always the same… Be true. Stand.” And just like in the expanded edition of Stephen King’s book, we see Flagg on a beach, approaching a tribe of indigenous people under a new alias -- Russell Faraday. He wants them to worship him.
The show’s co-creator Benjamin Cavell explained the choice Frannie made in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He said, “Flagg certainly implies, ‘I'd like to be able to look through your eyes from time to time.’ And you think of how he groomed Nadine since she was 12 when he first started contacting her. With Flagg, he takes you a little at a time and now he's in your head. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? It's this insidious recruitment. Then if he's ever defeated, you're defeated right along with him. Not to mention any charismatic, authoritarian, strong man in particular, but I think a lot of people can get caught up with somebody they defend or they participate, and then it gets very hard to distance themselves from it.”
According to a Cinema Blend review of the finale, this addition or change “primarily exists to allow the young woman from Maine to have her own moment of moral struggle and resilience, and gives her the opportunity via a horrible accident involving an old, abandoned well,” adding that this interesting story adds a particular extra depth to its central character. And it does. Maybe Stephen King has become less cynical than he used to be. This hopeful ending certainly suggests so.