Need to catch up on the plot of the previous episode before you watch “Pocket Savior”? You can read The Beat’s recap of the first episode of The Stand on CBS All Access.

The second episode of The Stand, “Pocket Savior,” opens on a man (Jovan Adepo) walking through a big-box hardware store whilst carrying a propane tank over his shoulder, which he connects to a barbecue and uses to cook.

Inside one of the nearby display tents is a woman (Amber Heard) and a child (Gordon Cormier). She’s wearing a necklace with a stone that matches the one Harold received in the previous episode. In the next scene, we see them riding in a car that’s part of a caravan, heading towards Boulder.

Pocket Savior
A car convoy outside Boulder in “Pocket Savior.”

As they approach the city, they’re greeted by Stu Redman (James Mardsen), who welcomes them to the Boulder Free Zone before asking which one of them is Larry Underwood. Just before the cut to The Stand title card, it becomes clear that it is the man who was barbecuing. It’s a neat way to introduce the perspective for the second episode, while clearly communicating to the viewer how these new characters connect to those we met last week.

Baby, Can You Dig Your Man? 

After the title card, we flash back to the “before Captain Trips” times: five months ago in New York City. Underwood is abusing various substances in the dressing room before a scheduled show, telling “Stacy” that he isn’t performing without his band – but naturally, the other members of the outfit have come down ill. Larry is confronted by his mother in the hallway outside, and he assures her that he only had one drink – but there’s clearly some long-standing issues there. As Larry heads to the stage, his mother coughs…

Larry takes to the stage amid sporadic hacking from the audience (“real New Yorkers” who wouldn’t be stopped by “the sniffles”). The stage décor displays the title of the episode, “Pocket Savior,” revealing it to be the name of Larry’s album.

But as Larry prepares to play, Wayne Stuckey, one of Larry’s former band mates, arrives to crash the show, and those of us who watched the first episode can see he’s displaying the visible symptoms of an advanced Captain Trips infection. The wait staff does not seem particularly surprised when the pair succumbs to a fistfight…

I Shot a Man in Phoenix

Pocket Savior
Slouching toward Bethlehem in “Pocket Savior.”

From there we cut to a rowdy prison block. Two guards are leading Lloyd Henreid to a prison cell, where he meets his cellmate. After they introduce themselves, we get a flashback that reveals why Lloyd was incarcerated in the first place: an armed gas station robbery gone awry (thanks to the early stages of a Captain Trips infection, no less) which culminates in a bloody shootout.

Later, in the BFZ

Then we return to Boulder in December 2020. Redman and Underwood are riding in a car and discussing their visions of Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg). Underwood mentions Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) and Frances Goldsmith (Odessa Young), the other two main characters we were introduced to last week, and Redman assures him that they’re both present.

Then we cut to Frannie showing Nadine Cross and Joe, the woman and boy from the opening cold open, around some of the houses in Boulder (which is one of the first scenes in the episode that does actually look like it takes place in Boulder). After discovering (and being delight by) the fact that Nadine was a teacher, Frannie asks Nadine if she would be willing to act as mother to Joe.

Next, we flash to Underwood being spotlighting in dream space. He’s in the same nighttime desert where Harold found himself, with the neon lights of Vegas on the horizon. A sign proclaiming a show by Underwood lights up nearby, and the musician is clearly tempted by the allure of performance. But the sound of the crowd is soon overtaken by the sound of rats…

The city that inspired a casino in Las Vegas

…And Underwood wakes up to the sound of traffic in New York City. The woman he’s sleeping next to is displaying some of the earlier stages of Captain Trips infection, and Underwood quickly flees the scene, making excuses about his mother. As he stumbles into the hallway of the walkup, he answers the persistence calls on his phone: they’re from Bellevue Hospital.

Underwood arrives at Bellevue to find the hallways crammed with patients. As medical staff in masks and faces shields attempt to administer treatment to the coughing patients, Underwood sees police officers stacking bodies of corpses. Then he finds his mother, who is visibly infected by Captain Trips, with snot, sweat, and a swollen neck.

Underwood gets his mother home, where Wayne pulls up and threatens to kill him over the song. As he tucks his sick mother in, a voice over a loudspeaker announces that violation of a curfew and stay-at-home order may be met by force. Underwood holds his mother’s hand as her breathing becomes progressively more belabored, before stopping entirely.

Outside, Underwood finds Wayne dying in the street beside his car. Underwood liberates the stash of drugs from the trunk of Wayne’s car before presumably leaving Wayne there to die.

Back in Boulder

Back in December 2020, Underwood and Redman arrive in a suburb of Boulder, where a crowd of people gather around dozens of parked cars, hanging clothes to dry and tending cooking campfires. As they make their way through the friendly crowd, Redman explains that the houses with X’s on the front door have been so marked because they are cleared of the dead.

Redman introduces Underwood to Ray Bretner (Irene Bedard). Redman excuses himself, saying he needs to ensure there’s sufficient deer meat for dinner and he needs to deal with two additional approaching caravans that have been noticed by the spotters, giving a few tantalizing details into how the Captain Trips survivors in the BFZ live their day-to-day lives and emphasizing that everyone in the community has their responsibilities.

Inside the house, Underwood waits to meet Mother Abagail – but first he meets Nick Andros (a deaf character who is being portrayed by Henry Zaga, who is a hearing actor). Andros ushers Underwood into Mother Abagail’s room, but before we get there, we cut back to Underwood’s dream.

As Underwood flees from the rats in the desert, he stumbles, and the figure of the Walkin’ Dude appears beside an illuminated neon green “$” symbol. The Walkin’ Dude winks at Underwood before he is seemingly rebuked by Mother Abagail. Underwood abruptly awakes on a park bench in Central Park, to the sound of gunfire and screaming. His first thought is to check and ensure his drugs are intact (they are), and then encounters an old naked man eating a bag of potato chips who tells them they’ve been “freed from society’s restraints.”

Underwood wanders around Central Park until he encounters a woman with an umbrella on a bench (Heather Graham). The woman, who is dressed entirely in pristine white (shades of The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin), introduces herself as Rita Blakemoor, and then uses a gun in her purse – which she says was her husband’s – to engage in some target practice. In your face, society’s restraints! She asks Underwood what he did “before all this” and he says that he’ll show her.

Shots Fired

Back in the Arizona prison cell block – which has a real TWD season 3 vibe going for it – corpses are carted out of cells by guards. Lloyd begs for sympathy but the guard just figuratively throws the fact that he’s a cop killer in his face while literally flinging snot from a deceased inmate.

In NYC, Underwood shows a “Pocket Savior” billboard to Blakemoor. Soon, the pair are on the verge of intimacy… and while Underwood’s appetite is somewhat challenged by a crow eating the eyeball of a dead horse, he nevertheless accompanies Blakemoor to her swanky penthouse for some of the pleasures that are reserved for the living (food & sex, natch).

Afterward, Underwood reflects on the fact that they can’t remain in NYC, given the number of corpses and the inevitably of decay. After a very neat time lapse of a post Captain Trips NYC, Underwood and Blakemoor take to the vehicle-packed streets of the City that Only Sleeps When it’s Mostly Dead.

After they turn down a man in a suit who offers a suitcase full of money in exchange for “15 minutes” with Blakemoor, the man is joined by two other men who chase Underwood and Blakemoor through the abandoned city streets… but our protagonists escape through the sewers with the help of a GPS device (“Just pretend we’re Ninja Turtles” says Underwood, but all I can think of is Thomas Pynchon’s V.).

Blakemoor freaks out about the rats and heads back to the surface, taking a gun from Underwood as she goes. Back in the Arizona prison, Lloyd is dealing with some CGI rats himself, attempting to swat one with a rolled-up magazine presumably so he can eat it. His attempt failed, his thoughts turn to a meal made of his late cellmate…

Boulder in December

Back in Boulder, Underwood and Cross put Joe in his room, and the kid begins playing his guitar. Cross asks Underwood what Mother Abagail told him, but Underwood demurs and said he’s going to find Harold, agreeing to bring the child with him.

Then we flash back to Underwood in the sewers of New York, which is going just as well as you’d imagine it would. As the water level gets dangerously high, Underwood has a nightmarish vision of his late mother spewing sewer rats out of her mouth before being attacked by an angry (and possibly symbolic) crow.

Underwood escapes from the sewer, reuniting with Blakemoor at the destination, just in front of the George Washington Bridge (leading to another really cool shot of the apocalyptic New Jersey).

In Boulder, Underwood and Joe arrive at Harold’s house. Harold answers the door with his creepy Tom Cruise grin, and Underwood tells him that the signs Harold left along the way helped him over the course of his journey. Underwood asks if Frannie is there too, and after awkwardly saying she doesn’t live there, Underwood tells Harold that he was also with someone on the road, but it “didn’t work out,” offering to share the story over a drink (another opportunity for Harold to create rather than destroy community in response to his pain).

In flashback, we see Blakemoor crying after Underwood had gone to sleep. She takes a lot of pills, washing them down with alcohol and crying. We cross-cut from Blakemoor crying in the rain to Cross standing alone in her Boulder home. She hears a thudding noise, which is coming from inside a box that has been stashed with the board games… could there be a glowing stone concealed inside?

Deep in the Heart of Arizona

In the prison, Lloyd awakes to the sound of the voice of Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård). The Walkin’ Dude, who is wearing a Scorpio belt buckle and a smiley face button, crouches before Lloyd’s cell and sees evidence that the prisoner has been eating both rats and his cell mate.

Flagg questions Lloyd about the cannibalism, and Lloyd doesn’t take too well to being confronted by this reality. Lloyd says he must be the devil, and Flagg says that isn’t nice before turning one of those glowing stones into a key that has “RF” on it. Flagg tempts Lloyd with the idea of food, telling him that he’ll be his right-hand man and speaking of vengeance.

Flagg makes Lloyd swear fealty before releasing him. He gives him the RF key and it returns to its glowing stone form, telling him that he believes it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

New episodes of The Stand are released Thursdays on CBS All Access.