In 2010 my wife feverishly tore through a book she picked up called The Passage by Justin Cronin. As everyday passed she recounted to me what she had read, and it was quite fascinating. The book took place over multiple timelines — one in “present day” when experiments on an immunity-boosting drug which unintentionally causes an outbreak of people turning into vampiric monsters; the second 93 years after the outbreak as humans try to survive post-apocalypse.
The book (and its subsequent sequels) sounded like great source material for a film, or better yet a television series. After years of film development hell, in 2016 it was announced the books were to be adapted to a series. I was excited. This was great, gritty, bloody source material that would fit perfectly on a channel like HBO or Showtime, or an ambitious streaming service.
I forgot about the series’ existence for the next two years until the trailer popped up during a football game one Sunday afternoon.
That game was on FOX.
And my heart sunk.
The trailer reminded me of every single big budget, high gloss FOX sci-fi/horror/action series that met with an ignominious end. Thoughts of Almost Human, Minority Report, Alcatraz, and Terra Nova bounced around in my head.
How could this “Hard R” novel really work on the small screen, and on a network no less? Oh, and Zack Morris was the lead actor. Seriously, Zak Morris in a show about vampires.
Well somehow FOX made it work, and the main reason it works is largely due to the series’ lead Mark Paul Gosselaar.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Mark Paul Gosselaar absolutely carries a sci-fi/horror series on network television where he’s required to do a lot of action sequences, and be fairly humorless. He absolutely delivers in his role as hardened former special ops soldier turned government heavy turned man with a conscience, Brad Wolgast. Gosselaar is able to play the stern tough guy, but imbues him with this fatherly ease and compassion that makes him so utterly likable.
It doesn’t hurt that he has terrific chemistry with his co-star Saniyya Sidney (AHS: Roanoke, Hidden Figures). Sidney is able to do the thing most difficult in a series like this. She is able to take a lead role as a child, but never make her character too smart, too witty, or too adult for her own her good. Sidney’s Amy Bellafonte is a smart kid, but she’s still a kid, and that makes her way more of a well-rounded character, than a TV caricature.
The rest of the cast is introduced rather quickly, but Boardwalk Empire alum Vincent Piazza gets some quality screen time as the government heavy with a potential crisis of conscience.
As for the plot, the premiere does a good job of establishing the ground rules — the government is essentially and accidentally breeding vampires to develop an immunity-boosting drug. They need Amy to test the drug because a worldwide flu epidemic could potentially wipe out half the population. Of course no one wants to admit that these vampires have crazy mind control powers, and will probably wipe out the world.
The Passage’s premiere leaves you wanting to see more. If it stays true to the book (as best it can) the story is going to get really interesting — both because it’s just a good plot, and I want to see how on earth FOX is going to pull some of it off. The character are very relatable, the acting is quality, and the action is perfectly fine.
For a show that looked at it was dead on arrival in the trailers, it certainly is a major surprise.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10