'The Passage' season 1 episode 3 tackles rape culture with the painful backstory of Shauna Babcock
Shauna's backstory is perhaps the saddest one 'The Passage' has shown so far and Brianne Howey's character really picks up the pace for the show
Spoiler alert for 'The Passage' episode 3: 'That Should Have Never Happened To You'
FOX's 'The Passage' does this remarkable job of bringing together three of the most bestselling genres — science fiction, supernatural, and dystopia — but then strikes the perfect balance to avoid an overly sensationalized fic through its simplistic storytelling and paced-out action. One such brilliant signature style of the show has been showcasing the characters' backstories, while also sprinkling in current time action here and there, thus keeping a very simple story intriguing. And for this week's episode three titled 'That Should Have Never Happened To You', we see the story of 'viral' vampire Shauna Babcock unfold in what can easily be dubbed as one of the saddest pasts we have seen on screen.
A little backstory about these 'virals' first though. 'The Passage', based on Justin Cronin's trilogy of the same name, follows the story of an apocalyptic world where a medical trial gone wrong has led to the creation of monsters with superhuman strength and bloodthirst, akin to vampires. The trial was primarily conducted to find 'the cure' for all diseases that riddle humanity, and to do that, a virus obtained from a certain South American bat — also believed to be the origin of the vampire legend — is injected into test subjects. Things don't go as planned, and the subjects end up turning into vampires, or 'virals', and Shauna — played by the exceptionally talented Brianne Howey — is one of them.
Much like the other test subjects we have seen on the show so far, Shauna also happens to be a criminal and an orphaned young girl leaving her at a lesser risk of being sought if she disappeared. And if that wasn't sad enough, get this: when she was captured and brought to the medical trial aka Project NOAH's premises, Agent Clark Richards (Vincent Piazza) is pretty much the first person to have ever shown her any moiety of kindness in her entire life. Not technically, considering he is handing her over to authorities who do not care in the slightest whether she lives or dies, but he still saves her from getting manhandled by the people dragging her into the premises of Project NOAH and that's saying something about how people have treated Shauna in the past.
The reason Shauna's backstory becomes so strikingly painful is that Shauna was never the deadpan, blank canvas only capable of acting upon her monstrous instincts that viewers have been greeted with ever since her introduction on the show. She was a girl passionate about graphic makeup and modeling, a bold, free-spirited person with her own dreams and aspirations despite something terrible happening to her in her past.
Through portrayals of her backstory, we come to know that Shauna chose to live with her mother and her stepfather while she was saving up to pursue a degree.
And this is where things get gritty because through interactions between her and the said stepfather it's established that the man is a seedy, lecherous scumbag who had done something bad to her in the past. But Shauna's mother is one of those women who chose to completely ignore the flaws in the man in their life because of whatever incomprehensive reason it is.
So it's not very surprising that Shauna's mother wouldn't hesitate to steal the money her own daughter was saving up, only to help her 'man'.
When Shauna confronts her and breaks down about the lost money, her mother's only response is that 'he is a good man'. Shauna then proceeds to tell her mother that the 'good man' is a rapist, and comes clean about him raping her when she was only 16. It is at this point that things take a completely dark turn because Shauna's mother's response to her daughter is that she had always known. Shauna's mother had always known that her boyfriend had raped her own teenage daughter and still chose to live with him, making him the center of her universe.
Shauna's mother also mentions that he is her man as if that's supposed to justify anything, and thus — in its own simplistic manner — 'The Passage' tackles the true issue of several victims of sexual abuse being shut down by their own parent because the abuser is someone from the family. The toxic nature of rape culture comes out vividly through this episode, and also lays down the unfairness in terms of the victims being held accountable for how they retaliate to such scenarios when the people closest to them turn out to be traitors. At the dinner table, with her mother trying to excuse her traumatizing experience with such a shallow response, Shauna — in a fit of rage, sorrow, and despair — drives the knife she was holding straight into her mother's guts and the next thing we know, she's in one of the cells at Project NOAH.
In terms of execution, Howey is effortlessly on point when it came to the heartbreaking past of Shauna. In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, Howey mentioned the confrontation scene being one of the most 'emotionally challenging' ones for her, but portraying the character's emotions to perfection isn't the only thing she excels at in this episode. She also does stunts where Shauna is getting burnt by shock and that's quite the physically grueling scene to enact, but Howey doesn't disappoint. Even as the plain and blank viral, her expression is that of a forlorn child looking for a speck of hope amid all the brutalities life has hurled at her — something that becomes one of the highlights of the episode.