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Fox’s The Passage Proves to be Smarter than at First Glance

Ever since AMC was able to take the horror comic The Walking Dead and craft what was, for a time, the best show on television, networks have worked to try and create the next great horror television show. Fox originally purchased the movie rights to the Justin Cronin written series The Passage, which contains a total of 3 books, before the thinking shifted and they saw an opportunity to turn the works into a television show. This year, Fox debuted the show The Passage as a mid-season replacement. And while it would be pretty easy to just write the show off as another attempt at a Walking Dead like show, the reality is there are parts of the show that make it rise from what it could have been and into something even better.

The Cast Carries The Quality

First off, this show is dealing with the cast and the characters they are bringing to life. The jokes abound when you see that Zack from Saved by the Bell is the lead character, but the truth is that Mark-Paul Gosselaar has managed to become a fine actor, especially in the action type role. While he could likely be easily toiling away in straight to video action movies, the part he plays in this show is pretty remarkable.

Especially for the first 3-4 episodes of the show, Brad Wolgast has the most dynamic arc, as we watch his conscious come back to him, after a season where he had been doing some fairly evil things for the government. When he is asked to essentially kidnap a young girl for medical experiments, he is reminded of his own lost daughter and becomes the girl’s protector. And as good as he is, the young girl is portrayed by Saniyya Sidney and she is outstanding, being the perfect near teenager mix of arrogant, self-assured and, in the next scene, deeply vulnerable. These two leads are surrounded with a good enough cast that helps carry the material forward.

World Building

But showrunner Liz Heldens deserves credit for taking the premise from the books and really building a world. Without spoiling too much, the story centers around vampire-like creatures, medical tests, and the government project that oversees them all. And “vampires” in this world have unique abilities; beyond the attacks on the throat and passing on their virus, we also see them infiltrate the dreams of people that are around them. As the story moves forward, we also get some compelling backstories for the convicted murderers who made up the patients in the experiment before they decide to target a young woman. (Spoiler: some of them are NOT the clear cut murderers that the law convicted them to be.) While I have not read the source material, the production crew on this deserves credit for weaving it all into a pretty remarkable story that thus far has been compelling.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some tropes that sneak into the show. Like anything, the audience has to decide how much it is willing to tolerate. Did I roll my eyes at the doctor, soldier, vampire in his head love triangle the first time it showed up? Of course. But it becomes a bit less weird and acceptable as time goes on.

Overall, The Passage isn’t as compelling out of the gate as was The Walking Dead. But the growth of the storyline and some of the plotlines that are established help to elevate this show in a way that makes it definitely worth catching up on. The show currently airs on Fox on Monday nights at 9 PM Eastern and the back catalog of episodes is available on Hulu and other streaming services.

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