Fox finally premiered the The Passage, a sci-fi/horror series centering on a government-funded experiment gone wrong. Based on the novel by Justin Cronin, the show examines humans’ God complex and the hierarchy of who is valued in our society. It is also a revolutionary act in motion.
When a scientist’s body defeats death after being bitten by a foreign creature, a government entity known as Project N.O.A.H. seeks to replicate his recovery in hopes of developing a vaccine. Unfortunately each testing subject experiences a blood-thirsty mutation, becoming modern-day vampires.
Mark Paul-Gosselaar (Pitch) is Brad Wolgast, as former special ops soldier. Recruited as detail for the nefarious group, he questions the entity’s intentions when he and his partner are assigned to transport an orphaned girl. Enter Amy Bellafonte, fantastically played by newcomer Saniyya Sidney. Now on the run, Brad and Amy must form an unbreakable bond to survive and save mankind as they know it.
Gosselaar and Sidney’s chemistry jumps off the screen, as if they have been acting together for years. The show mixes great action and special effects with strong, drama segments. The vampires are scary. From their decaying faces and self-uprooting teeth, to the Freddy-esque invading their preys dreams. But what boosts the show to another level is the stronger message underneath the surface.
From The Walking Dead to The Strain, the fight for humanity from our own ills has always been the center of horror lore. It isn’t so much the monsters we should fear, but the insidious actions of our fellow man in times of peril. We see this struggle with Wolgast as he encounters Amy. Previous captives had all been adults who made terrible life decisions. Convicts, addicts, a white supremacist — all traits we would categorize as deplorable. But with Amy, she’s an innocent victim of other adults’ decisions. She doesn’t fit the mold of a typical subject.
But a distinct casting change in the series compared to the novel adds another layer to this common trope. Cronin’s novel depicts Amy as white, while Fox’s adaptation cast Sidney, who is black. While this may seem like a minimal shift, this adjustment speaks volumes in a historical and topical context.
It’s no secret the medical field has sacrificed black bodies in the name of science. From the Tuskegee Experiments to Henrietta Lacks, white minds have prodded, poked, scalped and beaker-burned black people for sport, all to protect themselves from disease. The series pays respect to this history in its efforts to counter that specific trope, making our white hero the protector of our black subject. And our black subject set as a potential savior. A survivor.
In protecting her, we also get the dual message that this black life — this black girl — matters. At one point Sidney’s Amy narrates in her mind that she’s “the girl from nowhere. the one no one will miss.” Sadly this is a truth too apparent in our society. Black women and girls’ suffering goes unheard and unsolved. The fact this little girl is not only valued as the protagonist, but by her white counterpart, is a profound statement in any show in 2019.
I’m all in for The Passage and can’t wait to see where it takes us. Catch is Monday’s at 9 p.m. only on Fox.