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THE PASSAGE Takes a Leaf From a Video Game Genre With a Complex Father Daughter Narrative

By on January 14, 2019

THE PASSAGE: L-R: Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney. CR: Eliza Morse / FOX

Stories based on the oftentimes complicated relationship between fathers and daughters may be unextraordinary to video game fans (Telltale’s The Walking Dead, the entire Bioshock series from 2K Games, and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us spring readily to mind), but it’s a narrative that is sadly all too often relegated to the sidelines in favor of male bonding on TV. Until now.

The Passage, based loosely on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling trilogy of the same name debuts on Fox tonight, and promises, if not to revolutionize then certainly to overhaul a tired TV trope via a promising character-driven thriller featuring a deadly virus, vampires, and an end-of-the-world apocalypse, all explored through the lens of a father-daughter bond.

The show introduces ‘Project Noah,’ a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but which also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. The facility is home to a number of failed vampire-like test subjects, including Patient Zero, a fellow scientist who first succumbed to the virus after being attacked and bitten by a mysterious patient claimed by some to be the world’s oldest, and healthiest, man.

Noting that virus test results improve in younger subjects, the lab sends Federal Agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Pitch), a bereaved father and federal agent, to retrieve a young orphaned girl, Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney, Fences, Hidden Figures) as an unwitting test subject no one will miss.

Tasked with bringing her in, Wolgast changes his mind and goes on the run with his young charge instead. However, even after making the decision to become her surrogate father and protect her at any cost, Project Noah’s work threatens to accidentally unleash an unimaginable apocalypse on the world, just as Amy discovers she may be a crucial key to curing the virus.

The Passage eschews the book trilogy’s enormous time leaps (at least in the initial episodes we reviewed), and instead, and perhaps wisely, focuses its energy on the creeping dread of an unimaginable vampire apocalypse, and the growing bond between couple of cynical, world-weary survivors who find each other against the odds, and against the backdrop of a radically and violently changing world.

The Passage carries themes on the nature of parenthood, the complex relationship between fathers and daughters, the and just how far parents should go to protect their own, even if their choice flies in the face of what is considered the greater good. These subtle beats, set against an action packed scifi backdrop, make for one of the best pilots we’ve reviewed this season.

The series is written by Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights), executive-produced by Heldens, Emmy Award winner and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Ridley Scott (The Martian, Gladiator) and writer/director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield).

The Passage comes to Fox on Monday, January 14 2019 (9:00-10:00 PM).

Follow @ScreenSpy on Twitter for more scoop on The Passage this season.


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