Television/Streaming review: “The Passage – Episode Seven – You Are like the Sun” (2019)
Created by: Liz Heldens based on the novels written by Justin Cronin
Featuring: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Saniyya Sidney, Vincent Piazza, Brianne Howey McKinley Belcher III, Jamie McShane, Caroline Chikezie, Emmanuelle Chriqui
Carter: “I want you to beat Fanning.”
The fifth episode has arrived of the show based on the excellent adult trilogy ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin that charts the world as it passes from a pre apocalyptic period through to an ante period through to the post part which takes place over a one thousand year time period.
The general plot of the “The Passage” (2019) focuses on Project Noah, a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. When a young girl, Amy Bellafonte, is chosen to be a test subject, Federal Agent Brad Wolgast is the man who is tasked with bringing her to Project Noah. Ultimately, however, Wolgast becomes her surrogate father, as he tries to protect her at any cost.
The problems, and make not mistake there are many, again stem from the fact that that the people behind the series have ignored what was great, compelling and original about the initial novel, ‘The Passage’. That is the pacing as well as the offering back stories to only the really important characters, not only that there were revelations about the other subordinate characters made throughout the novels which built up tension. Here there are revelations made whenever new characters are introduced which dulls the impact of the action that is taking place.
Watching this weeks episode I was struck by the absolute pointlessness of the two flashback subplots involving Wolgast’s daughter, who is dead and Amy’s mother who has disappeared from her life. In this narrative both Amy and Wolgast blame themselves for their own losses but of course that is just a simplistic as well as trope laden way to move a plot forward as well as one of the more obvious manipulations that have been made in this series. What was great about the novel was the unsentimental way in which both of these characters were not only treated but in how they were motivated in their own lives.
It is obvious now that the writers of the show have no idea where the plot is going which in turns mean that we see jumps in the narrative that make no sense as above. This episode has been taken to new heights in ridiculousness with not only once again characters making dumb decisions but also coincidences galore. As each episode has unfolded we can see that the writers of the show have been chopped and changed from episode to episode which lends to the jig saw nature and unevenness that this show smacks of, if there is one thing that this show needed it was a unified voice from one person with input on the overall narrative to make sure it made sense, if there is one thing that is obvious about this show it is the unevenness that effects everything from performance to direction.
That brings us to the direction of this episode which is the first time I have really written about this element of the series which has not been bad, just lackluster, if anything it is the editing that has rivaled the storytelling in its shortcoming. This week is a good week to talk about direction as it has been the job of Eduardo Sánchez who is most well known for “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), as well as his failing reputation for all his work following that success. Sanchez has directed a few episodes of other television shows, that experience shows here as he has been asked to direct one episode toward the end of the season, he obviously has a talent, and to be honest it is probably one of the best directed episodes of the season, although that is not honestly saying a lot at all.
As has been present throughout this entire series there is the continuing use of the most overused plot devices that is essentially an artificial way to build tension as well as move the narrative, that is keeping information or a secret away from others when in fact they should know what is going on. We also see a pattern emerging at the end of each episode there is a jarring cliffhanger of sorts which make no sense as we already have that information from earlier episodes.
At this stage the brightest part of the series is still Saniyya Sidney, she shines above all others as Amy, the main character in both novels and series. At this early stage it does seem she might be better than the character that has been written for her, the reasons for her being, the relationship with her mother, the other worldliness of her actual being, the reason she is wanted, her actual attractiveness to Wolgast and finally why the story is centred around her.
After watching over half a season this show is really feeling like hard work, I can only imagine what readers of the novel who are still watching think of this. For people that have not read the novel this show must feel like a retread of so many other horror/fantasy genre pieces that it becomes obvious with each passing moment what is going to happen next, which again is unlike the novel that had no easy answers for readers which in this day and age is a real gift.
The problems with the show are numerous, but the one that stands out for me is that it is exactly no different from a variety of other shows. We are now seeing shadowy figures like the one played by the excellent James LeGros (wasted here) who want to control the virals, while all along a larger plan by those virals is being played out. Again giving the virals themselves personalities as well as actual goals and an ability to mentally manipulate people is something that was not in the novel, they were treated like their origins, that is they were animals a force of nature unleashed onto the world with only one unconscious objective, to kill everyone else and survive. The producers were obviously too scared to do this so we have virals as traditional vampire which is something that is unforgivable: boring.
Episode Seven – “You Are like the Sun”
Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez
Written by: Kate Erickson
Brad and Lila remember their history together as they plan to save Amy; Horace Guilder is given full authority over Project NOAH; Carter prepares Amy for Fanning’s grand plan; Lear fights to help Elizabeth.