Double-crosses, shoot-outs and odd couple-bonding ensue – all standard broadcast pilot fare – but the show really hinges on the burgeoning father-daughter dynamic between Brad and Amy, and it’s here that The Passage proves it’s worth sticking with. Gosselaar is instantly engaging as a company man who only needs the gentlest nudge to do the right thing, and he pulls off the action hero routine with convincing swagger. (It’s nice to see that FOX wants to keep Gosselaar in the family, considering he was one of the most compelling parts of the network’s tragically shortlived baseball drama Pitch last season.)
Sidney matches him with the confidence of a performer twice her age; Amy has been through the wringer even before Brad crashes into her life, and the precocious actress makes all the right choices in portraying Amy’s watchful cynicism and guarded vulnerability. Unfortunately, at least in the pilot, The Passage is far less compelling when exploring the Project NOAH side of the equation – while it’s clear that attempts have been made to humanize the scientists who are probably going to doom us all, it’s here that the show seems to be checking off the standard sci-fi boxes, and the creature design of the infected humans can’t help but seem a little cheap when measured against the prosthetics seen in The Walking Dead and The Strain (an unfortunate comparison, considering those shows are probably working with a higher budget, but somewhat unavoidable).
What’s most promising about the series – at least if it stays faithful to Cronin’s novels – is its storytelling potential. Without getting into spoilers, if the show actually resonates with viewers, it’s got the type of scope that could spawn a franchise to rival The Walking Dead. Of course, between Minority Report, Almost Human, and the recently-cancelled Lucifer (which was revived at Netflix – a far more reliable home for serialized sci-fi), high-concept genre shows have had a hard time establishing a foothold on Fox over the past few years unless they feature young Batman or various X-Men, so it remains to be seen whether The Passage can buck that trend, no matter how ambitious it is.
But if the show is given the time to evolve, its future could be bright – even if the same can’t be said for some of its characters.