[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the two-hour Season 1 finale to “The Passage.”]
In the two-hour season finale of “The Passage,” Fox’s newest thriller makes up for its lackadaisical pacing by introducing not one, but two apocalyptic events that spell doom for humanity. It also makes a massive time jump 97 years into the future when Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney), showing no signs of aging except for longer hair, has become a bow-and-arrow-wielding savior. By catapulting the hitherto claustrophobic story to such a grand and desolate scale, the show makes the best case for Fox to order a second season.
In the finale, the dozen Virals — death row inmates who have been infected by a virus that gives them vampire-like qualities — have broken out of the Project Noah facility in Colorado and have massacred and multiplied at an alarming rate. Amy has “turned” also but isn’t like the others; she’s maintained her humanity and has holed up in a cabin with her surrogate dad, Agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and his reconciled ex-wife Dr. Lila Kyle (Emmanuelle Chriqui). But that relative peace doesn’t last long. Without a cure in sight, the Viral-ridden United States has become a threat to the rest of the world. Bombs drop.
The season ends with a glimpse into the future as Amy takes out Virals in Palm Desert in the year 2116. This eventful ending had been foreshadowed all season with Amy’s voiceover declaring, “This is how the world ends,” or, “In the end it was quick. From the moment the cell doors had opened, it only took 52 minutes for one world to end and another to be born.”
For those who haven’t read the novels, how the finale blasts open the action to the outside world and across centuries could come as a shock. Up until the second half of the finale, the show had been confined mainly to the Project Noah facility, with heavy reliance on expository flashbacks and the Virals’ psychic dreamscapes to add variety. While some of these scenes provided much-needed character building, many of them felt like the show spinning its wheels to save the monumental events for the finale. This must have been torture for those who have read Justin Cronin’s source novel because the entire season only accounts for about 40 percent of the book. The rest deals with the post-apocalyptic events, which are left as a cliffhanger in the series.
The qualities that kept the series alive for so long have been the show’s strengths from the start: Sidney’s undeniable talent and the core relationship between Amy and Brad. Created by Liz Heldens of “Friday Night Lights,” the show is shockingly good at emotion and heartbreak, at least when it comes to the scenes with Brad and Amy or Amy solo, making life-or-death decisions. All of their interactions, including their arguments, ring with authentic rhythm, affection, and passion — highlighted by a gorgeous score by Jeff Russo and Jordan Gagne.
Their bond is born from mutual grief and guilt, and if the show continues, this heartfelt relationship will be essential to keep the epic, bloody story grounded. After all, this is broadcast television, which isn’t the most obvious place for the almost mythic proportions of Cronin’s story.
Nevertheless, the Fox series has set into motion many possibilities for the evolution of the story. What has happened to the world and Amy in the intervening 97 is intriguing on its own, as is the deepening mythology of the Virals. Shauna Babcock (Brianne Howey) turned Clark Richards (Vincent Piazza), who now appears to have both Viral and human-like qualities; and since Lila took the antiviral cure after becoming infected, the Virals no longer regard her as a potential victim or snack. It’s possible that since the Virals could withstand the bombs, these human hybrids might also. This would keep more familiar faces in play for Season 2 since Amy also gave Brad the cure, and Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) injected himself with a test vaccine.
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In some ways, “The Passage” appears as if it’s setting up for a “The Walking Dead” scenario, in which the survivors travel from place to place encountering the various post-apocalyptic societies that have sprung up. Fox’s show sets itself apart by being less negative and relentless than “The Walking Dead.” From the start, Amy has been presented as a savior, a figure of hope, and a glimpse far into the future supports this.
When Dr. Tim Fanning, aka Patient Zero (Jamie McShane), escapes the facility and has Amy in his clutches, he spares her because they both share the same vision of precognition. Years, decades, or maybe even centuries into the future, Fanning is about to die, but Amy approaches and gives him some of her blood, saving him. The scene offers no context clues, but it’s clear that this is an act of mercy amidst the bleakness. It also signals a definite and positive end for the elegiac story. Let’s just hope Fox allows viewers to see it.
”The Passage” Season 1 is available on Fox.com (with cable subscription), On Demand, and on Hulu.