So, I like Whoopi Goldberg and all, but something about her Mother Abigail isn’t rubbing me right. Mostly, I think despite her gray hair these days, I’m not buying her as an old woman. Or, more specifically, I am not buying her as a frail old woman. She seems fairly capable of getting around on her own.
However, if the first two episodes seemed to tell more in flashback after some scene with some character in Boulder, rest assured that pattern holds for a third time. But, and this is a big but, this episode did feel to me like there was some overall forward plot momentum, mostly in the form of a warning being sent from Flagg to Mother Abigail in the form of a man who had obviously been crucified and then sent to Boulder from Las Vegas as a warning.
It occurs to me that Flagg could have just as easily left Boulder alone and no one would have done anything about him. Or not. He is Stephen King’s big, bad boogeyman in multiple books, especially the Dark Tower series, so it is entirely possible Mother Abigail, speaking for God as she does, might have eventually said something about dealing with Flagg and his followers in Vegas, but Flagg sends some sort of “I’m coming to get you, Barbara,” type of threats by sending his voice through the crucified guy’s mouth, so really, Flagg started any conflict between the two communities that probably weren’t even all that aware the other existed.
In fact, I do have some general questions about Flagg right now and how he even gets followers. Sure, the thing to do in this most allegorical of King works is to simply conclude that good people went to Boulder and bad ones went to Vegas after the Superflu wiped out most of humanity (and a lot of dogs and horses too…man, what did those guys ever do to anybody?). But we see Flagg’s recruitment efforts so far. Most of the characters he approaches turn him down. We can add the deaf-mute Nick Andros to that list here. Much of this episode is about Nick and how he got to Boulder. Sure, other new characters that are important down the road appear for the first time in this episode, but I want to focus on one we’ve met before, and not just Nick even though we got a quick appearance of him in the previous episode.
I want to talk about Nadine, and to a lesser extent, Lloyd from the previous episode.
See, we get Nadine’s backstory here. As a girl, she was in what looked like a juvenile hall or something, playing with a few other girls with a homemade Ouija board. And…it worked. It really worked. Something on the other side contacted the girls, freaking most of them out, but promising young Nadine she would be his (Flagg’s) queen at some point. She agreed to that because…well, she’s still a kid. It looked somewhat inevitable and maybe scary.
So, here’s my question: is free will a factor here? Let’s look at the two recruits of Flagg’s that he’s acquired so far. Sure, he’s set his sights on disgruntled Harold, too, but Harold hasn’t signed on yet. Instead, we have Nadine and Lloyd. Lloyd would have starved to death in that prison had Flagg not showed up and let him out. It wasn’t exactly something where Lloyd had a lot of options if he wanted out, and given how he got into prison in the first place, he was a lot less evil as he was unlucky. Yes, he committed a crime, but he hadn’t, you know, killed anybody yet. I don’t think he even shot his gun off.
Nadine, meanwhile, was told this was her destiny as a small and impressionable child. She was set up as “Flagg’s bride” decades before everything went sour. How is that a fair way for a woman to, you know, make a decision to affect her own destiny? I know King hails from New England, famously the place the Puritans went, and those guys were big believers in predestination. Is that an influence on this series? I am genuinely curious right about now.
Still, it did feel like there was a bit more forward plot momentum, and that’s preferable than the feeling we were just spinning our wheels and waiting for…something.