The Passage cancelled? FOX would be loony to bin one of the best vampire shows in recent memory
Rumors abound Fox may decide not to renew The Passage for a 2nd season as ratings aren't quite living up to expectations. That would be a calamitous blow to fans of high quality TV
CBS ('Bull'), NBC ('Manifest') and ABC ('The Good Doctor') took Fox's 'The Passage' to the mat this Monday, earning almost double the number of viewers as compared to the vampire thriller. Needless to say the doom-mongers were out in force claiming that The Passage's rather low numbers sounded the death knell for a show still finding its arc. Far better shows have been cancelled in the past, and industry observers and insiders know that the business of renewals and cancellations is cut-throat. But if 'The Passage' were to be consigned to the vault of TV's almost-theres then we would have lost a show that has the potential to deliver some truly high-quality content.
Talk about vampire shows and you'll either get excited chattering or eyes that roll around sockets in search of an optic nerve with which to strangle themselves. From the time 'True Blood' and 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' truly opened the genre in style, there's been a glut of shows that have ranged from breathtakingly bad, to exhibiting mastery of a mediocre formula. Nothing has had the fangs, as it were, to really chomp down and hold you in its thrall. Sure 'The Vampire Diaries' had its moments, 'Angel' had David Boreanaz and that Buffy whiff, but the offshoots, reboots and sequels to prequels have been mundane and predictable.
But over the last few months two shows have elevated the genre from the undead to the full-of-life. Sky's 'A Discovery of Witches' added a dark cloud full of British gravitas to the eternal battle between witches and vampires and gave us a mature and intelligent — if slightly ponderous — show. But this article is about the second one.
When Fox decided to take the first book of Justin Cronin's 'The Passage Trilogy' and turn it into a TV series, there were shrugs, and a sense of resignation that in the end this would be exactly as advertised, another vampire show. It has been anything but. Founded on excellent source material courtesy Cronin, who also writes the show (along with Liz Heldens), 'The Passage' is a lot more than just fangs and the inability to get a good tan. It's about people and virals (The Passage's term for vampires), it's about a clash of species on more than just a food-chain-climbing level, but more than that, it's about love, resilience, innocence lost and found, and the eternal quest to live forever. But as any good dreamer knows, immortality is only good if there's someone to suffer through it with you. Misery, at the end of the day, loves company. And in The Passage, company is plentiful.
Superb performances by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saniyya Sidney (especially Saniyya), Brianne Howey, and Vincent Piazza elevate an already-strong script that's light on melodrama and heavy on relevance and theme. The story about a young girl, Amy Bellafonte (Sidney), forced into a secret (is there any other kind) government trial to find a cure for all the world's diseases, seems pretty bog standard. Oh and the experiment also turns its subjects into Vampires (virals). Throw a good guy (Gosselaar) and a bad dude (Jamie McShane) into the mix and voila, so far so one season.
But 'The Passage' eschews the norm and opts for a healthy serving of gray in between the black and white. Piazza's character Clark Richards delivers a rollercoaster of emotions like any good antihero should. Deliciously acted and with enough meat on the bones of his character to hold his own with the leads, Piazza forces his way into the centre of the story on presence alone.
But when all is said and done this is Saniyya Sidney's show. The 12-year-old is more than a match for her older castmates, delivering lines and emotion that are both razor-sharp and heart-wrenchingly innocent. Her naïveté cannot be mocked because as the shadows encroach and her guardians fall back against the wall, it shines the light that cuts through the bleak blanket. The fact that it is balanced by her street-smarts and ability to make the audience smile on cue makes her performance even more formidable and the standard for all child actors and those who write for them.
'The Passage' may not come at you like a runaway freight train, nor does it tip-toe towards you on a carpet of idealistic roses and young love. Rather, it drives at you like a rainstorm that refuses to know when it's spent. The brooding edge of evil is always highlighted by the startling fact that one can never truly identify the source. 'The Passage' is not the best vampire show ever made, we'll let 'True Blood' keep that particular gong for now, and it may unfortunately get a stake driven through it after season one, but that does not mean it will be forgotten.
Years from now people may look back on it as a minor miracle — a mature show in an age of young vampire homework and angst. Who knows, it may awaken years anon and continue its saga. After all, one of the show's executive producers knows all about art not being appreciated during its time. Just ask Ridley Scott about a little movie he made back in the day that was panned when it was released and bombed at the box office. Thirty-seven years later Blade Runner is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made.
Is The Passage TV's Blade Runner? Hardly, but we'd rather be a Replicant than a vampire in high school!