Remember last week, when some viewers of The Passage thought that Lacey, the dynamic new supporting character with the intriguing backstory played by Kecia Lewis, was dead, just because we saw her gunned down and Brad screamed “LACEY!” in despair? How silly to think that, much less commit it to print! Turns out Lacey’s not just alive, she’s mostly fine, recovering nicely from [refreshes memory by rewatching the climax of last week’s episode] an obviously fatal gunshot wound while hanging out in a hotel room with Dr. Lila. That’s bad for logical storytelling, but good for the overall story. Lacey’s a keeper, even if she doesn’t get much to do this week beyond cleaning her guns and refusing pain meds.
Lila, on the other hand, makes some major moves, investigating what happened to the death-row inmates who ended up at Project Noah and taking her findings to a skeptical-but-interested reporter. This could really blow up Project Noah, unless the vampire apocalypse or the bird flu hits first.
That’s not a frivolous consideration, either. If this series is headed where the source material goes at this point in the story, the concerns of virtually all its human characters aren’t going to matter for much longer. But there are more than a few signs that the series is determined to be its own thing. See, for instance, its reconceptualization of Lacey. See also the time it’s taking to explore the character of Shauna Babcock, whose backstory gets fleshed out in multiple flashbacks this week.
They’re not pleasant. We learn that Babcock (Brianne Howey) has had a rough childhood, suffering years of abuse at the hands her stepfather while her mother just let it happen. The flashbacks follow her as she dreams of leaving Las Vegas for L.A. and a career as a makeup artist. But first, she has to do some drugs and protect a friend from a gross guy by slashing him with a broken bottle at a warehouse party, then make off with the contents of the party’s cash register — all of which I’m pretty sure qualify as misdemeanors in Las Vegas. Not a misdemeanor: murder. We also learn that Babcock ended up on death row for killing her mother.
The flashbacks serve a dual purpose, revealing the past of a major supporting character while also drawing that character closer to Clark (Vincent Piazza), who cooly approves her execution for killing an abusive guard, then calls it off before she dies. (Or dies again. Whichever.) Will he regret this? Almost certainly. But it plays into one of the most compelling elements of the show so far, the way the virals appear to be merely feral in the real world while maintaining a complicated inner life in the dream world.
If that’s the right term: The human characters meet them in dreams, but the sequence in which Babcock and Fanning talk to one another instead of feeding from the blood trough suggests a kind of parallel reality that the humans can’t tap into on their own. Either way, there’s more to the virals than meets the eye, and whether or nor Clark will regret his act of mercy, he’s right to conclude that executing Babcock would not be as simple as putting down a rabid dog.
As Clark and Babcock grow closer, so do Amy and Carter, her next-door neighbor at Project Noah and a man who’s had buyer’s remorse about signing on for the “drug test” ever since he arrived, even though it meant getting off death row. They pass notes back and forth, even as the specter of Fanning draws closer to both of them. Greg, the goofy lab tech/security guard, warns Brad and Amy that he’s coming their way, and, at the end of the episode, Fanning cuts out the middleman (middle-vampire?) and warns Brad himself, in a super-creepy final shot that suggests the series is heating up fast.
That doesn’t mean that Brad and Amy don’t still have plans to leave. They’re counting steps and memorizing the PIN code to leave. But how far they’ll get, if they escape at all, remains an open question. Project Noah is starting to feel a bit Jurassic Park–y: a carefully controlled environment that’s nonetheless unprepared for an unpredictable element of chaos. And it looks like that chaos will arrive sooner rather than later.
Stakes and Mirrors
• Babcock’s 28 Weeks Later poster is a nice touch, and maybe a clue? The pretty-good sequel to 28 Days Later concerns a military attempt to maintain a zombie-free safe zone in the midst of a viral outbreak that could look a lot like what might be to come in The Passage. It doesn’t go well.
• “You might be the most important little girl in the world,” Nichole tells Amy, and it’s both true and cruel. The scientists at Project Noah have to believe that the ends justify the means, and that the fate of the world hangs in the balance of their experiments, if they want to sleep at night. But testing on death-row inmates is one kind of dubious. Testing on a little girl they can’t know will be okay at the end of it is something else. I’m not sure the series has dealt with this in any depth yet. Will it get to it before things spiral out of control? To be determined.
• Brad, on the other hand, is attempting to reckon with his actions. He’s unexpectedly reunited with Carter, who’s not thrilled to see him, then even more unexpectedly reunited with all his other death-row transports when Lear reveals the lab that houses the virals.
• Project Noah’s use of an old Colorado hotel as its home base is letting the series echo The Shining in some intriguing ways, particularly now that the hallucinations/waking dreams/mesmeric trances/whatever they are have become a major part of the episodes.