This review contains spoilers.
1.9 Stay In The Light & 1.10 Last Lesson
When we first met 10-year-old Amy Bellafonte, she truthfully promised in voiceover that this is the tale of how the world ends, but the first season was similarly a 10-hour origin story of a hero. After an uneven premiere, The Passage has consistently delivered weekly as a character-driven genre series that balances elements of horror and sci-fi. Now, with the table set, all hell breaks loose in a thrilling two-hour finale that would serve as a satisfying conclusion to the series (if it is not renewed), but hopefully is just the beginning of this epic tale.
Technically two independent episodes aired together, the finale picks up with a revealing scene from Bolivia, when Fanning was first infected. It is a revealing scene because we already knew Jonas Lear was the man essentially to blame for all this, but it makes him look almost worse because Fanning was begging his friend to kill him. Jonas is an optimist to a fault, but also can’t make the hard choices – yet. Because in the present, he seems pretty ready to detonate the explosives of 4B.
Of course, that’s not a bad idea since the viral vampires loose on 4B, trapped down there with Wolgast and Amy, as things fall apart on the main level. The first hour is a fast-paced two-handed actioner with a lot of guns, a bunch of bloodletting, and an explosion, before the plot moves forward a month as the U.S.A is isolated, and the world appears ready to be done with our vampire-ridden nation (but hey, at least the bird flu has been cured).
Previously we have only seen glimpses of the ferocious threat of the virals, via Shauna Babcock and then Winston. But it’s horrific to see the damage they can do as a horde. And the curse of being turned is conveyed by Grey, a character I’ve had little use for, whose neck is ripped open and laments he’s not dead. The sequence of them coming out of the night to pick off soldiers was brutal, in a 28 Days Later way, but on a television budget. As monsters, the fast-moving zombie/vampire hybrid of the virals is fun, but the constant snarling and growling can feel a little B-movie at times.
Thankfully we have the viral visions/mindscapes for character interactions. And these were used to great effect this week. The Fanning/Amy conversations click because he is smarter, but she’s sharp. The more he tries to intimidate or scare her, the more resolve she gains. But she is still a kid, so it’s powerful to watch her shoulder the torturous task of sacrificing The Agent/Brad (as well as Sykes, and Lila) on 4B to save the world.
Amidst the carnage at Project NOAH, we get a glimpse of the future when Amy feeds a broken Fanning, dying in the sunlight. We don’t immediately understand the vision, but it offers another reason why an egomaniac such as he can’t let her die.
Meanwhile, Fanning is not frightened of Jonas in the least. He mainly shows up to taunt his former friend (as well as reveal that he’s OK with turning all of humanity into virals: “I don’t know, why does anyone have kids?”). But this Jonas, who wants to kill himself yet wants to kill Fanning more, is interesting. He is grizzled, and pissed off. And, like Lacey said, dying is for the innocent, and he is most certainly not innocent.
(Speaking of Lacey, I do think the character seems to only exist to save other people, and although actor Kecia Lewis imbues her with power, she comes dangerously close to the magical black character trope. If she survived the nuclear blast, this show needs to do better with her.)
The Shauna/Sykes scene wasn’t bad, but it didn’t quite live up to the encounter I hoped for. I like the nuance of Babcock, and have been a fan of Brianne Howey’s work on this show, but Sykes has always seemed a character who was written to die. But the Carter/Amy mindscape scene, and then the Carter as a beast, is far more frightening. Unlike Babcock, Carter can’t seem to control his monster, and he shreds through people fast, even as he’s imploring Amy to stop them all.
What I found most impressive about this finale is how it finally made me invested in Clark Richards, and Lila Wolgast.
For Clark, his “death” scene was incredibly sad. As he is bleeding out on the ground, a broken man, Shauna comes to him, but to save him, not eat him. Even her expression is one of sadness, and their mindscape conversation about going back to Vegas, and maybe she could be the girl in the diner again – it all worked. And I really thought he died on the top of that car. The fact he didn’t, and he became an immortal human, who doesn’t feed but is an emotional zombie forced to traffic humans for Babcock to eat (while listening to classic rock) works for him. He doesn’t have a mission, or much of a life. Meanwhile, Babcock shows she wants to be “good,” and she has a point that she was a human before Richards and NOAH killed her. Since Clark can’t die, it will be interesting to see how this couple works out 100 years from now.
In the second hour, Lila also becomes a character I want to watch. I haven’t cared much about her, but now I am intrigued about her post coital mission to assist with a cure. It’s a brief scene, but this post-apocalyptic Lila seems to have more depth. And since she received Sykes’ injection, she may also be immortal. And that likely goes for Jonas and Brad.
Overall, the events of the second half of the finale were stronger, and pushed this show into great TV category. Nuclear destruction notwithstanding, it was not action-oriented, but contained excellent work by this ensemble cast. And I dug the hazy, amber colour palette of the world in decline.
Almost everything worked in the second hour – even if the world seemed pretty quick to nuke us, but it’s not like we would do any different. But even with the world ending, the show’s biggest impact was the relationship between Brad and Amy.
This show brought us back to the beginning, and the father/daughter dynamic has anchored The Passage. A lot of pressure was put on Mark-Paul Gosselaar to be an action hero, and big ol’ softy. But the bigger burden of this series has been on Saniyya Sidney to make Amy’s journey believable.
Both succeeded in spades. I assume Brad survived the nukes, but this was a man knowingly heading to his grave, but trying to spend every minute he had left to train Amy, and prepare her for a life without him. The Agent braiding this girl’s hair, who is already so much older than she was when they met, is tender, and heartbreaking. They talk, and share honestly. And while she still needs him, and he provides guidance, this super powered child is physically so much stronger than him.
Meanwhile, Fanning has also become something of a father figure to Amy. He is literally her viral-dad, but he’s an abusive monster. But since she is the only child of his he cannot control, he “lights the fuse,” and literally brings death to her door, forcing her to kill. Fanning is funny, and charismatic (“I went a little crazy in Nebraska”), but he’s ultimately a manipulative bully. Even if he couldn’t have Amy, he succeeded in tarnishing her.
Finally, Sidney doesn’t just look like a badass as Amy in the final scene, she is a badass actor. She makes you believe she is both a warrior, and a vulnerable girl. Sidney is a standout performer, and she holds her own alongside veteran actors. Her emergence in 2116 as Amy, with more braids, and some killer archery skills, felt like a superhero reveal – almost as if she is the daughter of Blade and Michonne from The Walking Dead.
In fact, the entire first season of The Passage felt like a successful prequel to a Walking Dead-esque apocalypse. Except, instead of simply waking up in the hospital room to a world filled with monsters, The Passage shows that you can build up to it, and make the audience care along the way.
Clearly we don’t know what happens next to Amy as she faces a village, and a world that is largely overrun by virals – and we don’t know if the series will even return to Fox for a second season. But I think The Passage earned its spot as impressive genre programming on network TV, and while distinguishing itself from Justin Cronin’s source material.
I hope we see more of these characters, and of this world. And I hope to see you back for more episode reactions of The Passage. Thanks for following along with me this season.