Stephen King’s The Stand episode “The End” is about the beginning of the end of this world. To begin, it starts with a biblical plague and a nightmarish biotech disaster. Not only that, we see a constitutional crisis during “The End.” Basically, “The End” focuses on “the last days” of “the last days.”
This segment unfolds with a comment by Mother Abagail, a religious leader. She says, “There is better days ahead… This is what God wants of you.”
In the next scene, we learn that there has been a terrible pandemic. A former EMT, from the future, tells us: “Seven billion people dead.”
However, before the deadly pandemic, people thought it was just an ordinary flu. The news reports: “Bad news, Ogunquit. The governor is now considering a ban on all public gatherings following the CDC’s announcement that flu season’s come early this year. Well, I don’t know about you folks, but I’d never let fear of the sniffles keep me from…” Just like the biblical flood in Noah’s day, similarly, people pay no attention.
Later, disturbing internet reports appear about a super-flu virus. One internet radio host tells us: “Tonight’s show will focus on the news coming out or not coming out of Arnett, Texas. The CDC has quarantined the area. The US army uniforms are refusing to let anyone in, including credentialed media. Cell service inside the parameter has apparently been jammed, as all phone and internet service. That’s right folks, the good people of Arnett are completely cut off from the rest of the world. Just let that sink in.”
Now, the scene changes and we see Stu Redman, a virus survivor and main character, being questioned by a desperate CDC epidemiologist, Jim Ellis. Stu asks Jim: “He[Champion] was military?”
Jim Ellis responds all information is on a need-to-know basis. “Sorry, that is classified,” Jim states to Stu.
Taken back by Jim’s answer, Stu starts to discuss the violation of his civil rights with the CDC official. “I woke up three days ago to men wearing mop suits holding M4s saying ‘Come with us. No need to be alarmed sir.'”
The Stand goes on to look at the suspension of basic constitutional rights like habeas corpus. Stu says to Jim Ellis: “You kept me prisoner here for 3 days. No lawyer, no phone calls, you can call me whatever you want.” Often, in a time of a national emergency, constitutional rights are suspended as well as the law.
Additionally, The Stand gets into who created the fatal virus- the United States as seen at the beginning of this airing. The news reports about a politician making a false public statement:
My fellow Americans, we cannot afford to jump at shadows like children in the dark, but neither can we afford to take this serious outbreak lightly. There is no truth to the rumor that this strain of influenza is universally fatal. Furthermore, there is absolutely no truth to the vicious rumors started and spread via social media that it was engineered by this government. Let me be clear. We have never, never engaged in the clandestine manufacture of substances outlawed by the Geneva Conventions or the Biological Weapons Convention. My fellow Americans, I ask you to do your part by remaining calm and following the instructions of your emergency response personnel. To maintain order and alleviate mass hysteria, I have authorized…”
The Stand also mentions the inability of any known vaccines to stop the virus aka Captain Trips. “I thought I was gonna be the one that was gonna stop this thing. You know? The most important vaccine in the history of man. And get the magazine covers and the Nobel Prize,” Jim sighs.
As “The End” continues, Stu is detained, blind-folded, and hauled off to a secret government facility like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Stu tells Jim: “You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this is one of those blackout hoods they put on Gitmo prisoners. You know, keep ’em disoriented. We’re headed to a classified facility.”
When at the secret government facility, military General Starkey explains military protocol to Stu. “My guess, Cobb was following a checklist. Contingencies. If ‘X,’ then ‘Y,'” replies General Starkey to Stu.
General Starkey has more to say about the personality of Cobb. “Men like Cobb don’t stop following orders just because the orders stop making sense,” says a stern-faced General Starkey.
Given these facts, Stu is shocked to learn that murder is government protocol. “You’re telling me he was ready to kill me to keep a secret?” an astonished Stu Redman comments.
Armed with this knowledge, Stu wants to know Cobb’s superior; however, military General Starkey has no clue. Stu says, “You’re a fucking 4-Star general.” General Starkey responds: “Would you believe i don’t know.” Apparently, Cobb, a wolf, is a rogue operative appointed outside the executive branch of government, which suggests a violation of the constitution’s separation of powers.
During this time, General Starkey explains to Stu extrapolation statistical techniques and linear regression done on soldiers to calculate the world’s end. “I was proud of our soldiers. All the units maintained discipline much longer than the predictive models told us we can expect.” It seems frequency distributions serve a purpose when it comes down to the apocalypse, but models miscalculated the end of the world.
At this point, Stu realizes the strategy behind the government’s moves. “You gamed the apocalypse,” Stu comments to military General Starkey about the Yale game theory behind the government’s moves.
Finally, General Starkey mentions top government officials will be saved first from the virus, according to government protocol. General Starkey says to Stu: “Of course. in the event of a global level extinction event every effort will be made to maintain continuity of national government. And if you think everyone else were not planning all the same lines, you are very much mistaken.” Everyday people everywhere and the poor are out of luck for getting vaccinated.
At the end of “The End,” General Starkey recites a W. B Yeats poem, which was given to him by his daughter who died of the virus:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand. Surely the Second Coming is at hand. Somewhere in sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man, a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun is moving its slow thighs. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
In summary, “The End” is the first of The Stand miniseries. It looks at the origin of the virus that killed most of the world. And it examines life after. I enjoyed this episode.