In the seventh and eighth episodes of CBS All Access' The Stand, readers of the original Stephen King book likely spotted some key differences in the treatment of Nadine Cross – played by Amber Heard. Specifically, in the text the character winds up going insane and all but comatose after she has sex with the demonic Randall Flagg, but that's not how things play out for her on the show. Sure, she undergoes some massive physical changes, as her pale skin, gaunt features, and white hair make her appear practically dead by the time she gets to New Vegas, but her faith in Flagg holds firm, and up until the end she is excited to be bearing his child.
It's a curious deviation from the text, and showrunner Benjamin Cavell recently broke down why it was that he made the alteration. Asked about it during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the filmmaker explained that he wanted to use the end of Nadine's arc as a fuller illustration of her cult-like mentality following The Dark Man, which couldn't even be broken by seeing Jovan Adepo's Larry Underwood handcuffed to a stove and being prepped for execution. Cavell explained,
Amber and I talked a lot about that. We talked a lot about people in cults who have this sort of false peace where they're just so certain in the rightness of their cause. That scene with Larry where she's almost disappointed that he doesn't see the truth as she understands it. I felt like it resonated with so many things that we're watching where people have accepted a crazy mythology and are disappointed that the rest of us don't seem to be smart enough to get it.
In the adaptation of The Stand it's established that Nadine Cross was first contacted by Randall Flagg when she was a young girl living in an orphanage shortly after the death of her parents. This is another change from the book, as Stephen King's text didn't see The Walking Dude's influence start until Nadine's teenage years, but what the change adds on the show is establishing that Flagg has had his claws in her for even longer. So even though she sees his horrific true form when he takes her virginity, her brain is able to move past it and only imagine their bright future together (illustrated with their dreamy ride to New Vegas following their time in the desert).
Of course, Nadine does eventually figure out exactly what Randall Flagg is/represents – but by then it's too late for her to be saved. It's not until she recognizes that she is preparing to give birth to a monster that she comes to terms with being nothing more than a womb to sire evil's child. In Stephen King's epic novel, Nadine goads her lover into killing her by taunting him about the members of the Boulder Free Zone making their way to Vegas, but the adaptation arguably gives her more agency as she uses the glowing stone Flagg gave her to smash a window in the hotel penthouse suite and leap out. Both stories essentially end the same way, though the CBS All Access version does rub some extra salt in the wound by having the scene where Nadine's severed head is presented to Larry on a platter.
From an acting standpoint, it's certainly not difficult to understand why Amber Heard would have advocated for the show taking a different direction than the book. The idea of acting catatonic versus as a fully bought-in cult member doesn't exactly seem like it would be a hard choice for a performer, and Heard does play it well in her final episodes of The Stand.
With its Stephen King-scripted finale having launched last week, The Stand miniseries is now available in its entirety on CBS All Access (which will transforming into Paramount+ in the early days of next March), and as you watch be sure to check out my set of episode-by-episode features detailing the changes that the show has made compared to Stephen King's book.