This review contains spoilers.
1.5 How You Gonna Outrun The Rest Of The World?
In the first episode of The Passage, Amy Bellafonte told us this is a story of how the world ends. But I didn’t expect it to be happening so quickly.
The Passage has the unenviable task of being a weekly genre series competing with binge-able streaming programming, while abiding by network limitations for horror. Still, it has become a solid show. It’s not doing anything especially new, but it is doing a lot of things right. It is an economical hour of television that’s inviting enough to bring me back each week.
Plus, it has hit a stride of balancing its genre elements with engaging character interactions (and realizing the strength of its leads). It also helps the series doesn’t take itself too seriously, and can toss off lines like “brain waves syncing,” while including pretty fun primetime gore.
Five episodes in, The Passage has momentum to it, and each week it has been moving the plot forward at a fast clip. With How You Gonna Outrun The End Of The World?, we’re getting ever closer to Amy’s promise, and things are heating up.
And the viral menace has been amped with some vicious action.
To recap where things currently stand at Project NOAH, Sykes sums it up: “We used science we didn’t understand to create a lethal species with super powers we can’t control who seem hell bent on destroying us. Oops.”
Oh, and now Jonas is saying vampires.
Speaking of vampires, we don’t see any of Babcock this week. She is missed. And we only got the one scene of Carter with Wolgast. But it’s a good scene, one with the Texas porch of Carter’s grandmother in his mindscape. I like this glimpse of an independent, but vaguely menacing version of him. He says he won’t play Fanning’s game, and isn’t there to be chummy with Wolgast, but cares about Amy. He also clues him into the threat of the government wanting to turn the girl into a weapon – and warns him about the coming end of the world.
But what we lack in Babcock or Carter, we get in Winston, who has his time in the sun (not literally, because that’s bad for virals).
Pet was established from the beginning as an unethical, arrogant character destined to do evil. Well, with the always-compelling character actor James Le Gros arriving as Horace Guilder, Pet gets to show his sycophantic side as well.
Let us set aside how quickly Pet goes from joking about the myth of cell phones giving you cancer to hatching a plot for vampire mind control. Still, here we are. And with the revelation that the Department of Defense wants to turn Amy, and the virals, into advanced weapons, Pet is more than willing to help.
Getting played by Winston, who is the stereotypical dumb redneck in the mindscape, is fun to watch. Of course Pet thinks he’s the puppet master, and Winston does as he’s told. So it’s incredibly satisfying, and scary, to see Winston turn the tables.
Winston is an interesting choice to break loose. So far, we’ve yet to spend time with one of The Twelve who was a truly evil person in their human form. Fanning is a mastermind, but he wasn’t really a villain in his previous life; Babcock committed murder when she snapped after years of abuse; Carter was innocent. But Winston is an unrepentant serial killer.
It would also appear Fanning can’t necessarily control the virals, as he seems somewhat annoyed when Winston kills Pet, and goes on a rampage (“Well, this is a curveball; bad for you, bad for me.”)
Thankfully Amy’s powers manifest, and it’s revealed she can repel the virals. The display of power itself wasn’t the most thrilling since it was basically just a power-scream. But the scene worked because of how creepy it got. Wolgast the protector leading Amy down the corridor, and her warning him “Not through there” was effectively creepy. And I liked seeing that Wolgast was willing to give his life for the girl, even as he was about to get eaten by Winston (and apparently the virals went to the 28 Days Later school for monster movements).
In this scary new world, Wolgast needs Amy as a protector as much as she needs him.
On that note, I like how casually her telepathic powers manifest. Brad doesn’t freak out, and he quickly dispels any notion that he’ll reject Amy for changing. It is a refreshing quality of The Passage. They aren’t spinning wheels for episodes at a time with overwrought drama.
Last week Babcock got in Amy’s head, and said the agent would be scared of her, and that the girl needs to join Fanning. This week, it’s like, nope, moving on. Even the fact that Wolgast and Amy only arrived at NOAH in episode three, and they were talking about escaping. And now, they are escaping. Amy first showed signs of powers last week, and they are full on this week.
I think the show has figured out it cannot waste time to connect with viewers, so it delivers fast.
Consistently the best characters on this show have Wolgast and Amy. There is an honesty, and ease, between Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney. It hasn’t gotten too cutesy, despite lines like “And miss Escape Night? Never,” which actually land. Wolgast sharing with Amy some of his own history, without painfully reliving every moment, is touching.
Another highlight this week was the Fanning/Jonas time. We haven’t seen much of Fanning’s motivation for gathering power and hatching escape beyond wanting freedom. But it comes down to him hating Jonas because he loved his wife Elizabeth. In episode two, we saw the look on Fanning’s face when he learned Elizabeth had Alzheimer’s (that’s was the catalyst to joining Jonas’ cure quest, remember). Now we know that Fanning and Elizabeth cheated on Jonas one night.
Fanning’s broken heart/wounded ego means he never got over losing to Jonas. In his first appearance in Lear’s mind, Fanning torments his former partner, wondering how it must be in the mind for his Alzheimer’s-suffering wife.
The back and forth between actors Henry Ian Cusick and Jamie McShane is tasty stuff, and each of their characters gets digs in on the other. It is believable Fanning and Jonas were friends, but also opposites of one another. Yet Fanning seems to ultimately win because he has Grey inject Elizabeth with viral blood. She appears healed, which is both a blessing and curse. Jonas has his wife back, but for how long?
The scenes with Elizabeth lost in her foggy mindscape are tragic, and I almost sympathised with Fanning’s motives. But now the lead viral has something to fight for, not just against. If he busts out, he can finally be with his lost love.
The show gave Sykes more to do this week, and it was good to see her step up, and take a stand. She confronts Richards, pushes back against Guilder, comforts Amy, and springs Wolgast loose. Her moral GPS appears to be back online. However, her goodbye to Amy must foreshadow her death soon. I don’t think there is a whole lot more that she needs to do now.
On the Richards front, the character is little more than an elevated goon. His Babcock interactions a couple weeks back was engaging, but he is so dedicated to being a good soldier, and to rejecting the notion of the events happening around him, that he’s become a waste of a character.
The Lila/Lacey roadtrip subplot still feels out of place, even though I suspect we’ll be getting them together with Brad and Amy shortly. There hasn’t been enough development of Lacey to justify her “Book of Revelations bad” visionary moment. And she only spent like an hour with Amy four episodes ago, so it is a little fast to move right to “Amy is my calling.”
But hey, this show is clearly in love with The Shining, so I guess Lacey will be the Halloran to Amy’s Danny.
Final thought: I have been down with the cunning human form of the virals in the mindscape, while they are feral in the real world. But can that last once Fanning and his pals aren’t trapped behind glass? The human stuff is far more compelling than the dead eye viral gaze, and I am curious how this will be merged soon.
On that note, we are off and running (away from virals). The Passage has settled into the show it wants to be, and I am digging it.