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Vampires made their way to the small screen in a brand new way this midseason with The Passage on Fox. The freshman thriller presents the blood-sucking, light-sensitive, quick-healing creatures as "virals" in need of help... but also holding the potential cure to all disease. Unfortunately, lines need to be crossed in order to chase that cure, and a young girl winds up caught in the crosshairs, with only a federal agent on her side to keep her safe.
Now, many shows that lean into the supernatural or sci-fi are ideal for binge-watching, and that can sometimes work against a show staying on the air, as it did with The Expanse on Syfy. The Passage director and executive producer Jason Ensler recently chatted with CinemaBlend, and he explained why the show should be watched on a weekly basis:
You've got this great serialized storytelling where every episode ends in one kind of cliffhanger or another, if not multiple cliffhangers. Because there's a myriad of characters that you can follow and become invested in their story. And the stakes in the stories are so high, they're life or death, world-ending stakes. I feel like you need to come back and find out what happens because the world could end.
Based on the novel trilogy by Justin Cronin, The Passage stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar of the late lamented Pitch as FBI Agent Brad Wolgast, who follows his orders to recruit death row inmates for the mysterious Project NOAH, until he's tasked with delivering a young girl named Amy (Saniyya Sidney) what can only be nefarious purposes. They form a father/daughter dynamic that is touching to behold.
At Project NOAH, scientists and military operatives must make difficult decisions as they work with/on the "virals" to try and find a cure for all human disease. When the need for a cure becomes urgent, Major Sykes (Caroline Chikezie) must make a difficult decision about how far she is willing to go.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) tries to make amends for his actions with Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane) that caused the whole mess. Navy operative Richards (Vincent Piazza) is hardened by his years of service. Throw in Wolgast's ex-wife Lila (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and virals Babcock (Brianne Howey) and Carter (McKinley Belcher III), and there's a lot going on. The fate of the world literally depends on the decisions of very human people who can make emotional decisions... and mistakes.
Basically, The Passage has so many facets that even if it doesn't immediately hook viewers on one plot, there are a number of others already in motion. As much as it's safe to say that the show is based on vampire-like creatures with the virals, it's a show about so much more than monsters that can suck blood.
The characters are more than just evildoers and unambiguously ideal good guys. The Passage is full of shades of gray to the point that fans couldn't help but want to look closer. The episodes that have aired so far made use of the entire hour to tell a story, without padding or filler.
And then there are the cliffhangers. As Jason Ensler said, the storytelling on The Passage is quite serialized, and the episodes to date ended in ways that gave fans plenty to talk and wonder about during the wait for the next episode. The subsequent installments have delivered on those cliffhangers so that they don't feel unfairly sensationalized. This is a show with enough going on that the story can be best appreciated on a weekly basis rather than rushed through.
On top of all this, The Passage isn't aimed at just one demographic of viewers. Jason Ensler went on to elaborate on why The Passage should be watched weekly:
And then in addition to that, I hear a lot from people, 'Thanks for a show where I can watch it with my kids. I can watch it with the whole family.' You've got the speculative fiction and the genre pieces of the vampires and the apocalypse and the end of the world and the government experiment that has unwittingly created a new species that could potentially destroy us and could possibly be smarter than we are. And then you've got the father and daughter relationship with Wolgast and Amy. You've got stories of friendships that have been betrayed between Wolgast and Richards. You've got love stories between Wolgast and Lila, and Richards and Babcock, and Richards and Sykes. I know this sounds generic, but there's something for everyone from a storytelling standpoint to get invested in. And like I said, because there's so many characters, you could easily get invested in a few of the storylines and let the others grow on you.
Shows featuring vampires that follow characters crossing lines to prevent an apocalypse generally don't come across as shows to watch with the whole family, but The Passage has elements that lighten the heaviness that is death, disease, and the looming end of days. For every time a scientist comes across as particularly unfeeling or a viral does something especially unnerving, there's an instance of Wolgast and Amy strengthening their father/daughter bond or Lila chasing down a lead or even the virals getting sympathetic backstories.
The Passage isn't just one thing, and all of its factors make it worthy as appointment television each week. Would it still be enjoyable if binge-watched at the end of the season with no breaks in between other than for sleep and food? Sure. But watching weekly is an experience not to be missed. Also, of course, there's the point that watching weekly is the way to prove to Fox that there's an audience invested in the show.
Ratings and reactions are what can determine the future of a TV show. If a live audience is disappointingly small because people are waiting until the season finale to get into it, then that season finale could end up as the series finale. If a Season 2 is going to happen, folks need to tune in and enjoy the ride as it happens. Why not? It's certainly a ride unlike any other on television these days.