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Gosselaar provides heart in vampire drama ‘Passage’

January 10, 2019
Saniyya Sidney, left, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar act in a scene from Fox's new drama "The Passage." The show premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14.

After seeing a few promos, I was pretty sure that FOX’s new drama, “The Passage,” was not for me. After all, blood-sucking vampires are really not my thing. But I have a rule. If Mark-Paul Gosselaar is in it, I will watch it—at least for one episode.

But in this case, I watched three episodes, and I’m glad I did. Because after a rocky start, “Passage” turns into a show I will definitely watch.

Although there’s a good chance I’ll be watching a lot of it through my fingers.

In “Passage,” which is based on the best-selling book trilogy, Gosselaar is Brad Wolgast, a federal agent working with a top-secret medical facility committed to eradicating disease called Project Noah.

Its work involves injecting people with the blood of a former project scientist, Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane), who is now impervious to disease after he was attacked by a vampire. The experiments are done on death row inmates, which Brad persuades to participate.

The injections make them immune to disease, but the patients become catatonic vampires.

Faced with a possible disease outbreak in the US, doctors at Project Noah determine their next test subject must be a child and send Brad to get 10-year-old Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney).

But Brad quickly becomes attached to Amy and decides to go on the run with her. Meanwhile, Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick), who helped start Project Noah, begins to realize the test subjects may not be quite as catatonic as they seem.

“Passage” takes a little while to get going as there is a lot to explain in a short period of time. And there are several moments where the show’s desire to show off how creepy it is overwhelms the story development.

However, once the backstories of the patients begin to unfold in the second episode, things become clearer and much more interesting.

But, without a doubt, the main reason to watch is Gosselaar, doing his best work since “NYPD Blue.”

It’s Gosselaar who grounds the show and gives it the humanity it needs to counterbalance the sci-fi elements. His connection with Sidney is incredible and when Brad’s tragic backstory unfolds in the second episode, you can’t help but feel for him, thanks to Gosselaar’s outstanding performance.

I’ve been a fan of Gosselaar for more than 30 years and I’m thrilled to see him in a role that might finally get him the recognition he deserves.

It’s important to note that “Passage” does have its share of icky moments — we are talking about blood-sucking vampires after all — but it also has its share of warm moments and genuinely spooky moments that will keep you guessing and make you want to hang around to see what’s next. In other words, it’s a vampire drama that will definitely suck you in.

“The Passage” premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 on FOX.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.

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