Maybe I’m becoming numb to the time jumps, but this episode felt stronger than the previous two affairs. (EPISODE 1, EPISODE 2). This time, instead of a flash-forward, we start with a flashback!
“Blank Page” gives us a deeper look at Amber Heard’s Nadine Cross. It starts with a young Nadine at what appears to be some type of boarding school or orphanage for girls. Here, Nadine is using a planchette (think ouija board vibes, if you will). This quickly goes south for Nadine and the girls in the room when our show’s big bad, Randall Flagg, uses the device to let Nadine know she will be his with her writing “Nadine will be my queen.”
There are some changes here from the book, making Nadine much younger than she was in the novel. But, honestly? This works better.
Much like the horror used in King’s IT worked better when the focus was on the kids versus when Pennywise tormenting the grownups, Nadine’s first encounter of Flagg plays better here as a younger character versus college-aged like the novel. But again, here the story seems rushed, condensed and confused as it does appear the CBS version has trimmed the entire subplot with Larry and Nadine. In the novel, Nadine was as clearly Team Flagg as she’s presented here. Larry is infatuated with her and is rebuffed early on because of Nadine’s conflicted emotions on the tug of good versus evil.
Here, she uses the planchette again in present-day Boulder to contact Flagg. The Walkin’ Dude tells her she needs to stay in Boulder against her better judgment, because she has a job: to kill the Boulder Free Zone Committee and Mother Abigail. To do it? She needs the help of our resident future school shooter in training, Harold Lauder.
Again, it’s not so much the changes from the novel, as that’s the life blood of bringing content from one media to another. Nadine being fully Team Flagg is a defensible choice, especially when you’re condensing a 1,200-plus page book into roughly 9 hours of television. Though, I can’t help but think the flashing back, forward, and every which way hampered their character choices at every turn.
Knowing Harold and Nadine are fully vested in Flagg’s goals takes away so much of the tragedy that was present in seeing how many different junctures where they could have easily taken a different path. I thought this hurt Larry Underwood last week, as they skipped from near-degenerate Larry to somebody hand-picked by Mother Abigail to serve on their governing committee.
This week, we get more of a feel for Nick Andros. Novel-Nick became the heart of the Boulder Free Zone. After this week’s episode, I’m still not necessarily seeing it as he’s aloof, is dreaming of both Mother Abigail and Flagg, and in a twist from the books, is presented as a gatekeeper to Mother Abigail with no one being able to talk to her and everything having to run through him. If we were able to linearly follow Nick from the midwest to Boulder and the Free Zone, this may work better; but because of the narrative choice, I’m still not sure if a non-book audience would buy Nick yet as a character of goodness.
During this time we see the first shot of Nick’s running buddy, Tom Cullen. Tom is developmentally disabled, and that plays some key roles in the story. Here though, I can’t help but compare Brad William Henke’s portrayal to the 1994 miniseries, where Patrick Star and Dauber himself, Bill Fagerbakke, played Tom. It’s a tough needle to thread having actors portray the developmentally disabled. Henke only had limited screen time in this episode and if his arc follows the book, he’ll have plenty of more chances to win me over. Right now? M-O-O-N and that spells ut oh!
“Blank Page” also gives us our first look at one of my book-favorite characters, Glen Bateman. Greg Kinnear gets to wax philosophical as sociology professor Glen, who, having lost his wife years before, looks at the whole post-Captain Trips world as a giant experiment in rebuilding society.
On hearing the casting, I was wondering why they aged down Glen so drastically. Book-Glen was a senior and his arthritis was mentioned frequently. A Google later? Kinnear is near 60 himself, so not super out of the realm – dude just aged great. I always enjoyed the Glen-centric parts of the book because, while I wouldn’t say he added levity to the story, he did add a different viewpoint compared to the grim realities of the rest of the characters in the book. Looking at it as an academic, Glen brought a different perspective. I think Kinnear can get there as well and if given the storytelling freedom, I look forward to this take on Glen.
This episode again is very light on the Las Vegas side of the equation. Flagg is only shown through dream sequences or Nadine’s planchette ventures. Nothing IN Las Vegas is shown, and they went off book with a character sent as a Trojan horse, fresh off a crucifixion to warn/scare the Boulder Free Zone Committee that Flagg is watching and plans on attacking. In execution, it does come off as a lame Exorcist take. Hopefully, it now propels the story forward.
On the plus side, the arrow does seem to be moving in the right direction. The cuts forward, back, and every which way seemed to be less frequent. The pace seemed better thought out, giving us more time in each setting to get to know these characters.
Of note, Owen King, Stephen King’s second son, gets a co-writing credit this week. Owen is an underrated author in his own right. While less prolific than his brother Joe Hill, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Owen. If there’s somebody I’d trust adapting Stephen’s work outside of the King himself, Owen’s a fine choice. I’m still not in love with Frannie and Harold’s casting but the rest of the cast is doing a solid job with a tough book and tougher story decisions as well. We’ll keep the improvements coming and say 6/10 this week!
Project Blue name drops through week 3? 0!
Hopefully now that most of the main players are in place, the need for flashbacks is seemingly gone or at least not the focal point. Yeah yeah yeah, hope is a dangerous thing!