It’s always a little troublesome when a show, and especially a series premiere, begins with a voice-over. It’s a choice that lends itself to simply explaining what’s happening rather than allowing the viewer to just jump in and get settled. The pilot for The Passage, Fox’s attempt at a Walking Dead-style post-apocalyptic show, begins in such a way. Amy Bellafonte (a delightful Saniyya Sidney), a 10-year-old girl seemingly on the run, tells us that everything has gone wrong. “So many things led to what happened. It was a perfect storm.” Thus begins an hour of very cliché, mostly dull drama.
After the initial voice-over, the episode moves to Bolivia, where doctors/scientists Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane) and Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) search a cave for a 250-year-old man. They believe this mythical figure could be exactly what the CDC and DOD are looking for. Alas, they get a lot more than they bargained for. As they enter the cave, they find a young man feeding blood to a very old-looking man locked in a cage. Fanning, in the first of many idiotic moves made by characters who can’t seem to make logical decisions, rushes toward the cage, asking if the man is sick and if they can help in any way. Despite the terrified protests of the young man, Fanning continues to the cage, unleashing what seems to be a vampire.
The vampire latches on to Fanning and the episode flashes forward three years to the workings of Project NOAH. NOAH is a largely illegal government operation that came out of Lear’s research and Fanning’s encounter with the vampire, which everyone refuses to call a vampire. After that bite, Fanning became immune to all diseases, but he also turned into a blood-sucking monster, so, all in all, it hasn’t been great. NOAH is trying to use that immunity to create a vaccine to inoculate humanity against all diseases, but the results haven’t been consistent. The test subjects are all prisoners, and so far no one has managed not to transition into a vampire.
NOAH is set up in Telluride, Colorado, where a number of scientists, doctors, and military guys are trying to get the vaccine going before an avian flu makes its way over from China. While the vaccine isn’t working, they’ve realized that the younger the patient, the slower the subject’s regression into a vampiric state. So, one doctor proposes an idea: if they want any chance of isolating a vaccine in the few months they have until the avian flu kills them all, they need to bring in a child as an experimental patient. Every other doctor thinks this is a disgusting idea…and they go along with it anyway.
That leads us back to Amy. She’s chosen as the test subject because she has no family, her mother having died of an overdose (in a cheesy, manipulative slow-motion scene). Agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), along with his partner Agent Doyle, is sent on assignment to retrieve her. Things go wrong immediately, as Amy, who’s staying in some sort of foster home, realizes that these men are lying about why she needs to go with them. She tries to escape, but Doyle chases her down, hits her, and throws her in the back of the car. Wolgast watches it all go down, and you can feel his cold worldview suddenly changing. He recognizes that what they’re doing is wrong, that this is a line too far—apparently he was totally fine bringing in every other “patient”—and that something must be done. (Recap continues on next page)