I have a lot to say about the first episode of The Passage. First of all, I really enjoyed this. I found myself really liking the characters and their relationships, and I was really feeling the whole thing. I’m definitely going to be watching this for the entirety of the season. I even got Mom to watch the Pilot, and I’ll ask what her opinion is later. *(She is really enjoying it, and will be tuning in every week, because she is totally in love with Amy. I suspect Amy reminds her of her Granddaughter, The Potato, because they are both around the same age, and they sort of look alike, and The Potato is her favorite Grandbaby.)
The show is based on a trilogy by Justin Cronin, and is about a vampire plague that destroys most of humanity, killing some, turning others, and forcing the humans who are left to fight for survival. Amy , the little girl in the show, is both a part of, separate from, and above all of this. Technically she’s a vampire too, but a special kind, with all of the vampire’s powers, and none of their weaknesses (like a tiny female Blade, with no Kung Fu skills). The vampires who break out of the lab are called The Twelve, and the leader is the military man we saw get infected in the first episode by a real vampire. At some point, this is all going to come down to a face off between him and Amy, both of them at opposite ends of the vampire spectrum.
In the pilot, we meet Amy Bellafonte, who is the daughter of a drug addict, who dies in the first few moments of the show, and she is now on her own, with no family, except Brad, the government agent tasked with procuring Amy for human experiments. He is told by his superiors that they need a child, an orphan who isn’t yet in the system, and so won’t be missed, and Amy just happens to fit that description right away.
Amy is White in the books, so it is very interesting that they cast Amy as a Black girl for the show. Along with Amy are a number of other people who have been experimented on. One of them is a Black man, and the other is a female ex-con. All of them are death row inmates except for the initial patient. In other words, these are people who won’t be missed, and who the government discounts as being important. Amy herself was specifically chosen because she is someone no one will miss, just like the hundreds of little girls of color, who go missing on reservations, and in Black neighborhoods yearly, that the authorities don’t bother to make an effort to look for.
This is Anthony, He also begins to form a relationship with Amy after she is taken to the institution and injected with Fanning’s more refined DNA. Amy and Anthony are the furthest on the spectrum from Fanning, who is called Patient Zero.
There are some strong parallels in the storyline to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments of 1932, where the government experimented on a group of Black men, charting the course of the disease by not treating them. There is also another parallel in the gynecological experiments on Black slaves by Dr. J. Marion Sims, who is credited as the father of modern gynecology.
But there is also a parallel to the story of Henrietta Lacks:
These parallels also give us some idea of Amy’s level of importance to this story, because like Henrietta Lacks, it’s Amy’s destiny to save the human race. Its interesting to note that just by race bending a single character, you can bring a great deal of historical depth to a story that would have only been “just okay” with a White actress.
Brad Wolgast is the agent who is chosen to bring Amy in, but he has an attack of conscience, partly because he is trying to be a good person, and also because he’s still suffering from the loss of his own little girl, which has estranged him from his wife. He decides to take Amy and run, and the first episode is spent watching the two of them bond with each other, and learn to trust each other. For some people, this is all a bit slow, but I didn’t have a problem with it because Amy’s relationship with Brad is important to the kind of person she will become, and I appreciated the writers taking the time to establish their relationship. In fact, their relationship is one of the highlights of the show, and around which much of the opening episodes will be centered.
One of the most touching moments for me is when Brad pep talks Amy, giving her the kind of affirmation she so desperately needs. He champions her when no one else does. He kills for her, and would (probably will) die for her. There’s another scene where he helps give her closure for the loss of her mother, by encouraging her to eulogize her, and I appreciated that the show took time out from the car chases to show the two of them bonding like any father and daughter. At first, Brad is treating her the way he would have treated his daughter, had she lived, and there’s an element of guilt and atonement in his actions, but after a while he starts to see her as an individual, and not just a replacement for his lost child. He starts to love her for her. She is the daughter of his heart, and its overwhelmingly touching to watch their devotion to each other. That chemistry is there.
In the second episode, the two of them make a pact (well Amy makes it) where they vow to never leave each other. She enacts promises from Brad, but she also abides by what she asks of him, which is key to how the government finally catches up to the two of them. She sacrifices her freedom to save his life, which is why it was so important to show scenes of the two of them bonding. You would not have been able to buy her sacrifice if the writer’s had not already established their relationship.
It’s clear that Amy is very much the star of the show, and the creators take great effort in humanizing and empathizing with her, and her emotions. We are meant to identify closely with this little girl, through closeups of her face in different situations, and her voiceover, which recounts what we’re seeing in flashback (which is an important thing, as this is being told to us from far in the future).
When Amy is happy, we’re meant to be happy. When she is sad, so are we. But more importantly, we are meant to feel her terror when she is frightened, and not just look at, in a form of titillation. In a lot of scenes with her, we see the situations from her point of view. During one scene, Brad is engaged in a shootout with other agents, and we don’t just dwell on the action.In fact, there are moments where we don’t see what Brad is doing, (gunning down fellow agents on her behalf), but are meant to feel Amy’s terror during those scenes, as we focus on her facial expressions, to the sounds of guns in the background. The way the scene is shot, we are not focused on her just for spectacle. We are meant to empathize with her feelings.
The show has other PoC in it besides Amy. The doctor who wants to experiment on her is a Black woman, who is very obviously conflicted about what she is doing, but we are meant to sympathize with her wanting to save the world from an epidemic of Bird Flu, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. I kind of feel for her ,as she is in a very desperate position, but I still don’t sympathize completely, and she should feel bad about what she’s doing, because it’s just wrong to experiment on children.
When (Fanning) is infected, he is experimented on to find cures for various diseases, and different strains of vampirism are the result, with the last patient, Anthony being the one least like him and more likely to break away from the other vampires. The doctors find that above a certain age, the victims they experimented on just become true vampires. They theorize that by using a child, they can bypass all the strange stuff, and reach a cure faster. In the second episode we get a sympathetic view of Babcock, her backstory, and how she ended up on death row. (She killed her rapey stepfather, and her knowingly unhelpful mother.) Its interesting how these characters have been fleshed out with both good and bad traits. Fanning was an honorable man when he was alive, and Babcock was a thief, who had been sexually victimized.
This show is turning out to be what The Strain should have been, with better acting, better written characters, and a more well thought out plot, but that could be because the source material was better written, and the writers are being more faithful to it, although I don’t want to cast aspersions on Guillermo Del Toro’s written trilogy, which was pretty good. On the other hand, it is taking place on Fox which is notorious for fucking over fans of shows it refuses to renew, or fucking over the actors on the show, so that they leave. So far, the actress playing Amy (Saniyya Sidney) has been allowed to be front and center in the promotional material, and allowed to talk about her character, and what she means, in her own words.
I’ll come back and talk some more about this show later. I think its really good though, and deserves to be given some amount of respect by Fox. I’ve been burned by Fox several times, so I’m always wary when they have a good show on their hands.
As with Star Trek Discovery, I’m just making up my own mind about how I feel about this show, and not reading any reviews, unless they’re written by women or PoC. In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten exceptionally weary of White men’s opinions on (a lot of things) TV shows which prominently star PoC, (and its not like I need their affirmation to like or dislike anything). *(Don’t let me get started on a rant here!)*
‘Til Next Time!