Monday, January 14, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Passage' - Brad Tries to Protect Amy from the Experiments at Project Noah in 'Pilot'

FOX's The Passage - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Project Noah is a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. As an imminent flu epidemic threatens the U.S., federal agent Brad Wolgast is tasked with bringing in the experiment's latest chosen test subject, a ten-year-old girl, Amy Bellafonte. But after meeting Amy, Brad's loyalties to Project Noah are tested.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's The Passage.

"Pilot" was written by Liz Heldens and directed by Jason Ensler & Marcos Siega

FOX's The Passage is very loosely based on a series of novels by Justin Cronin. In that form, it's a dystopia tale that tracks the way in which humanity evolves over time due to vampirism. In this version, the show is inherently centered around the concept of a team of scientists trying to cure humanity of all diseases. That's certainly an aspirational ambition. However, it mostly means they have to quickly become morally compromised because of how secretive Project Noah has to be. The scientists involved believe they are doing something good. They just happen to be testing the virus on death row inmates. They don't think through the consequences to see that the side effects of the virus can lead to even more dangerous individuals. That's mostly just a foreboding tease throughout this premiere though. When it comes to the respective vampires, there are really only a couple who are seen in various forms of progression. Dr. Tim Fanning was the first exposed and seemingly has the ability to enter people's dreams. Shauna is the youngest who went the longest without any side effects. She largely maintains her appearance but appears to be just as lethal as the doctor. And finally, Anthony Carter is just making his way to the facility now which teases that Fanning is up to something that the rest of the team is oblivious to. However, the central hook of the series is the team wanting to experiment on a child in order to potentially rid the world of a dangerous epidemic that is sweeping across China. That's what leads Brad Wolgast on a mission to capture Amy Bellafonte. She is only special in that no one will miss her after she is taken by this nefarious and secretive program. Brad doesn't even understand everything that happens in the Project Noah facility. He just makes the pitch to death row inmates and delivers them to the team of doctors. He understands the basic mission. He is even willing to bring Amy in to the program not knowing why they need a child who has done absolutely nothing wrong. The show is hoping that the audience falls in love with the bond between Brad and Amy. And yes, the connection between Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney is incredible. Both are the performers to watch here because they actually embody some humanity. When it comes to them, it doesn't overwhelmingly feel like their actions are being dictated by what's important to the overall plot. Of course, things are still very rushed here. Brad has to quickly go from being supportive of the mission to going rogue to protect Amy in the span of this hour. It means that he is now being hunted by his former friend, Clark Richards. That presents an intense ending here. And yet, it's unclear how a show can be built out from that dynamic. The Department of Defense knows that Brad could be a problem with the little information that he does know. But there's no reason why Amy has to be the child for this experiment. Clark found her easily. He could probably do so again. All of this will eventually tie back to Project Noah with Brad and Amy learning what's going on in the facility. Right now though, there just isn't that much excitement. There is the hope that Brad and Amy can survive whatever is thrown at them. It's just a bunch of disparate threads that are only loosely connected. It's a ton of exposition without a whole lot of substance. That can be so damaging to a show. So hopefully, this one finds a hook that is consistent and entertaining sooner rather than later. It certainly has the actors to make that transition easily.