The Passage

It began in the highlands of Bolivia in 2015, the expedition let by Doctors Tim Fanning and Jonas Lear to locate a mythical two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old man, a quest for the answers to immortality and immunity to all illnesses, to blurring the passage between life and death, but sometimes the cure is worth than the disease and the price to end all sickness is high indeed.

It began in Telluride, Colorado, with Project Noah, Doctor Lear’s continuing research into what they brought back from Bolivia three years earlier, the thing that his best friend had become; and at the Huntsville State Prison where Federal Agent Brad Wolgast recruited death row convicts for medical experiments at Project Noah.

It began with the news that there were 15,000 dead from the avian flu in China and that it was spreading, only a matter of time until it crossed international borders, making the work at Project Noah even more urgent; and it began with Amy Bellafonte, the girl from nowhere, an orphan who could vanish from the care system with no questions asked.

The next subject to be collected by Agent Wolgast, as a former special forces operative tasked with getting the job done he has resisted asking those questions until he meets twelve-year-old Amy, smart, independent, capable, a child who sees through him at their first meeting and makes him feel something for the first time since the death of his own daughter and the subsequent break-up of his marriage.

It began in 2010 with the publication of The Passage, a post-apocalyptic tome of a devastated world where survivors hid behind tall walls and bright lights, the only defence against the virals who overran America, writer Justin Cronin following up that vast and complicated novel with sequels The Twelve and The City of Mirrors.

Initially optioned as a film, the scope and complexity of the epic trilogy is better suited to the extended format of a television series on which Cronin serves as an executive producer, but developed by Liz Heldens who also wrote this pilot episode and directed by Jason Ensler and Marcos Siega, it is unavoidable that there would be significant changes in the structure, the first season of ten episodes focusing on the events which form the prelude to the coming apocalypse.

As the novel was Amy’s story, so the show belongs to her, Hidden Figures‘ Saniyya Sidney portraying heartbreak and resilience in the demanding role around which the narrative is built, Franklin & Bash‘s Mark-Paul Gosselaar sympathetic as the man who first kidnaps her then whose conscience compels him to abandon everything he has worked for to become her protector.

Where the strength of Cronin’s novel was the depth of his myriad characters, in this first episode only Amy and Wolgast are given opportunity to establish themselves and show their rapport, though Bloodline‘s Jamie McShane is every bit as disturbing and terrifying as would be expected as the transformed Fanning, “Patient Zero,” already telepathically reaching out to those of weak will.

Led by The Shannara Chronicles‘ Caroline Chikezie as Doctor Major Nichole Sykes and The 100‘s Henry Ian Cusick as Doctor Lear, so far the staff of Project Noah are little more than functionaries fighting to stop an epidemic of a fast-mutating virus with a high mortality rate which could lead cause the death of millions, but unwitnessed by the viewer that hypothetical threat seems poor justification for their actions.

Competing for the same audience as the ongoing zombie juggernaut The Walking Dead, unlike the novel this adaptation does not shy from the word “vampire,” but while involving this first episode of an insufficient forty-four minutes offers little hint of the possibility of what might follow, a potential which will have to be firmly solidified and built on rapidly if The Passage is to justify the attention of all eyes and arrive at the promised destination.

The Passage is currently broadcasting on Fox




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