'The Passage' season 1 has gifted us with some of the simplest, but most remarkable women characters ever
A murderer that was sexually abused, a mother grieving the loss of her child, a stern authoritative figure, and a 10-year-old who is humanity's last hope. The Passage has it all!
With less than a week to go for the epic two-hour long season finale of 'The Passage,' it is not all that hard to conclude that despite its simplistic storytelling, in an age of binge-worthy shows, the Fox series stands apart as a fun thriller to spend a couple of lazy weekends on. But the paced out action and the show's ability to be interesting aren't the only things working extremely well for the show. Especially when it comes to the characters, because while we have our stereotypical brooding, power-hungry men seeking a dangerous future, the women on 'The Passage' are some of the least complex yet most moving characters ever.
The premise of the show is basically your classic dystopian flick plot; a medical trial aimed at finding 'the cure' to all of humanity's diseases goes wrong and ends up turning its subjects into vampires. However, one particular subject - 10-year-old Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney) is the only one who doesn't bear the side effects of the trial and ends up with telepathic powers instead. So it is now her responsibility to fight back against these 'virals' aka the vampiric monsters who were injected with a bat virus for the trial. But the interesting thing about Amy is that despite her calm and collected exterior, she has braved a lot of storms on her path.
With her mother dying in an accident, and her father stranding her right after, Amy was left orphaned - making her a convenient subject for the medical trial that saw its subjects as 'expendables.' True, from thereon, her journey of survival has been under the protection of agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) but even with him, Amy showed remarkable amounts of confidence for a 10-year-old. She braves her fear of strangers and gives in to the comforts of having a parental figure, but never for once is it lost on her that if there is any remaining hope for humanity after the trial goes wrong, it is her.
In a way, as Amy warms up to the feeling of being protected, she also emerges as the protector - using her better judgment whenever necessary instead of living life like a carefree child as she should at this age. And despite her being robbed of a proper childhood, she does not give up to sneaky manipulation, or even the best-laid plans to bribe her in exchange of her alliance. All of that, at the tender age of just 10! But due credit should also go to the character of Lila (Emmanuelle Chriqui) here as she is finally able to replace the absence of a mother figure in her life, as the show progresses.
Lila happens to be Brad's estranged wife, and also another female character on the show who has been through her share of tragedies in the past. Well, that's a given for 'The Passage', because the show has carefully crafted the storytelling with nuanced backstories being featured for most of its characters. And when time came for Lila's, we were greeted with the tragic death of her young daughter in a liquor store robbery gone wrong. What's even sadder is that the little girl was already suffering from a seemingly chronic illness (thus explaining why Brad would have been eager to be a part of a trial aiming to find 'the cure').
After the death of their child, instead of grieving together and moving on from the trauma, what afflicted Brad was a severe case of depression, which eventually caused his marriage to crumble. So not only was Lila's child taken from her too soon, her husband turned sour and drifted away too - leaving her all alone in her misery and misfortune. But a new ray of hope dawned with Amy entering their lives, and it was remarkable how protective Lila got of her right away. There was no hesitation from the grown woman's side that one would expect from someone who has already lost a child dear to them. She not only took Amy under her wing but also helped Brad understand that there was no need from him to grow so distant and closeted from her. She tells Brad that she could never blame him for their child's death even though it was his job - as a father - to protect her at all costs. And in that, she proves to be the bigger person, a nurturer at her finest.
Sadly, however, for the other most prominent female character of the show - Shauna Babcock - that motherly affection and care was never present. But the reason Shauna (Brianne Howie) stands apart is because of her past. When we meet Shauna, she's just another expendable at Project NOAH. In that, she was an orphaned death row inmate who was charged with the murder of her own mother. Pretty dark, right? But what led to the said murder is even darker. Having suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her mother's boyfriend when she was just 16, later on Shauna finds out that her mother knew about this all along and still chose to stay with her boyfriend.
All of this happens right after Shauna finds out that the boyfriend had stolen all the money she had saved up to run away from the madhouse. This triggers off such an intense emotional trauma in her that Shauna grabs the closest thing to her - sadly, a kitchen knife in this case - and kills her mother. This revelation changes Shauna from just a pretty face with a criminal background as in the latter half of the season, Shauna becomes more of an embodiment of the trauma and impact that sexual abuse has on its victims.
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.
But just like there are no limits to the trauma that a person suffers from a tragedy, the extent of who they become later can get radical too, and Shauna's character brings that out effortlessly. 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 entire series so far.
However, there can be no discourse on the women character and their developments in 'The Passage' without mentioning Dr. Nichole Sykes, played by Caroline Chikezie. And that is because Sykes starts off as everything that encompasses the mission of the medical trial she's a part of, and ends up going absolutely against it. The fact that she is one of the frontrunners of the trial is also significant because in the beginning, Dr. Sykes was just as firm a believer in the trial as the ambitious fools who had started it all. But in the end, she sees the light and for her stern, authoritative character to overcome her own mindset and give the opposition a chance, standing against her seniors and going the extra mile, is really commendable.