For those unaware, The Passage is a new TV adaptation based on a trilogy of dystopian novels written by Justin Cronin (The Passage, The Twelve, The City of Mirrors). However, the movie rights were picked up by Fox 2000 and Scott Free Productions long before the book was finished. It was originally envisioned as three separate films before it was eventually decided that a TV series would be a better medium for this story.
The novel (of the same name) and the first of a trilogy is really a book of two-halves. What has occurred so far in this first half of the season feels very much like the novel’s first half: the depiction of the world on the brink of an apocalyptic event. The more interesting and exciting second half, in the post-apocalyptic world, I assume will unravel in the latter half of the season, or at least held off until the second season – or, indeed, if it gets that far.
An avian flu-like virus outbreak is threatening to wipe out a large part of the population leading to the creation of the covert Project Noah. Using an obscure virus that has been the cause of an extremely long-lived and remarkably healthy individual – who just happens to feed on blood – the scientists playing God attempt to mitigate the spread of the flu virus through their testing. However, their need and the urgency of this testing requires that normal protocols are bypassed and a dozen death-row inmates are enlisted as human guinea-pigs, through the previous work of Agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar – yes him of Saved By The Bell fame).
Unfortunately there are some severe side effects to this saviour-virus, which are developed on and explored throughout the early episodes, and some serious ethical questions around the hypothesis that a child, with their not fully developed immune system would be able to assimilate the saviour-virus better and fend off these devastating, and radical, side-effects.
The Passage centres on Agent Wolgast as he initially goes about finding a 10-year-old orphan called Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney). He ends up trying to protect her from his previous employer, the aforementioned Project Noah, who want to use Amy for testing. And this is by far the best part of this show (and the first part of the novel as well): the interaction and relationship portrayed and developing between Brad and Amy.
There are a few other main characters that have less to do but are still integral to the storytelling, such as: Dr Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane) is patient zero; Project Noah’s scientific leader Dr Major Sykes (Caroline Chikezie); infected inmates Shona Babcock (Brianne Howey) and Anthony Carter (McKinley Belcher III), who is introduced before he succumbs to the saviour-virus; security specialist Clark Richards (Vincent Piazza); and Dr Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick).
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The opening episodes are solid enough and introduce the main characters and their basic personalities but it feels quite disjointed. As events are brought closer together, there is more focus and the story does begin to develop in more interesting ways through to the midway point in the season.
However, the dialogue remains clunky at best and the overall acting across the board, barring Brad and Amy, can be woeful at times. With all this being said I’m still intrigued as to how it is going to handle the big events that I know are coming.