The Passage’s second episode, You Owe Me a Unicorn, slows down the pace a bit from the pilot’s continuous ‘on the run’ vibe. All of the main characters are represented, and many of the recurring ones, as we get to know them all a bit better. Time is still a factor, as it always will be on this show. One of the ‘passages’ referred to by the title is the passage of time, which speeds up and slows down according to our perception of current events.
Another theme which is explored this week is the issue of determining who your real friends and family are, as opposed to the people who are nice to you in order to use you for personal gain. This theme goes in some surprising directions.
Then there is the unicorn, symbolic of Amy and Brad’s dream that they can become each other’s family and live happily ever after. Dreams, visions, hallucinations and predictions are a huge part of this story. Everyone approaches Project NOAH with a dream of their own. Eventually, the dream changes. For some, the dream improves on reality. For others, it becomes a way to deny reality. For larger subset, it becomes a nightmare.
Episode 2 picks up right where the pilot left off, mid car chase, possibly at the same milepost. Amy and Brad are still in a stolen police car, Brad is still bleeding from getting shot in the side, and Richards and his security team are still right behind them. Brad uses the police lights to get through an intersection just as the light turns red. Richards and his men try to follow, but are slowed down by the car accidents they cause in the intersection.
Soon after, Brad sees school kids boarding a school bus in preparation for a field trip. He parks the police car out of sight around a corner, then he and Amy convince the field trip chaperones that he’s a clueless single dad who forgot everything she needed for the outing. They do excellent tag team improv, showing again how immediate and right their connection is.
Once Amy’s on the bus, she goes to the back seat and opens the emergency door to let Brad in. He tries to slouch down and pretend he’s the size of a fourth grader, then takes away the phone of a kid who wants to photograph the moment. I would say that the bus driver should notice these hijinks, but, realistically, they generally don’t.
Grey, the Project NOAH custodian is feeling extra twitchy today, as he makes his way through the compound and down to the level where the virals are held, pausing for a retina scan as he goes. Once he reaches the virals’ cells, he finds another custodian, Simmons, acting like the most obnoxious kid at the zoo, pounding on the glass between himself and Babcock. Grey tries to convince him to stop, but Simmons doesn’t like the way Babcock stares at him.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Simmons that provoking Babcock won’t make her look at him less. He tells Grey that he’s in charge of Babcock. Grey should worry about his own charge, Fanning. Grey moves to stand in front of Fanning, who senses Grey’s presence and looks back at him.
Sykes and Lear go over the latest numbers coming out of the East Asian flu outbreak.
Lear: “Mortality rate’s almost 30%. First few cases have been reported in North Korea. They’ve closed the airports in Beijing.”
Lear asks about Amy and Wolgast. Sykes tells him that they’re still on the run. Jonas is rooting for them to make it, because he doesn’t think any crisis justifies experimentation on a child. Sykes defends her decision, saying she had to make a call, and she chose to try to save as many people as possible. Plus, she’ll make sure Amy’s okay. Jonas thinks the compound is so isolated that they’ve all lost track of what’s right and wrong. All they see is the mission.
Off camera, Brad and Amy have abandoned the field trip and stolen a car. Now they’re driving through a deserted, rural area. With the immediate crisis over, Brad gives in to his injury, barely manages to pull over, and passes out. Amy is slightly freaked out by this.
Richards catches up with the school bus and questions the kid who lost his phone to Brad. It was his sister’s phone, and he doesn’t know any phone numbers, because they’re all in the phone. Welcome to the modern world, Richards.
Richards gives up on the kid and has the security team look for stolen cars on the bus route, especially older cars without a GPS. Sykes calls, so Richards reports the current situation. She asks if they should consider finding another child. Richards votes no, because Brad will talk, and when he does, Project NOAH will be shut down. They need to stop Brad before he gets that far. They might as well also use Amy, since she’ll be with Brad when they neutralize him. Sykes agrees. Richards orders his men to tap Lila’s phone.
Lila is at the hospital, working, when she gets a call from a panicked Amy. Lila takes control of the situation and shows Amy how to check to make sure Brad is still alive, then wake him up. She also helps Amy figure out where she is.
Once he’s awake, Brad hangs up on Lila and smashes his phone. He leaves the remains on the road. He correctly guesses that Lila is being watched, and the phone call is the break Richards is looking for.
Lear gives Anthony Carter the serum. Carter notices the list of potential side effects/early symptoms of the illness: fever, vomiting, sensitivity to sunlight, disorientation and seizures. He also realizes that he’s been chipped. Lear explains that the chip will monitor his vitals and track his location. At least Lear was honest about the chip.
Carter has also been thinking the situation through and realizes that he’s part of an illegal government operation. Lear explains that they’re in desperate need of positive results, but he’ll try to keep Carter safe. He notes that Carter was in a desperate situation himself. Carter asks if this is the way Lear saw his career going. Lear answers that he could never have imagined this.
Flashback to Cambridge Massachusetts, 2015. Lear’s wife, Elizabeth, is begging him not to bring his old friend, Tim Fanning, in on his latest project. “He is an egomaniacal, credit-grabbing monster with a substance abuse problem.” Elizabeth has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, and Lear can’t just stand by while she deteriorates. All Elizabeth wants is for him to be with her during the time she has left, but he needs to feel like he’s doing something to save her.
Fanning is speaking to a hall packed full of students, who are soaking up every word he says: “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality. So all those amazing neurons are generating your experience. They’re filling in the gaps. Your sense of self- that’s not real. What we think of as humanity, as our ‘selves’, that’s just a story that our neurons are telling us. Now this is extremely hard for me to swallow, because I have an enormous ego.”
Fanning is saying that our brains take the sensory inputs we receive and manipulate them into coherent stories and identities, but those are just constructs we use to allow us to navigate the world. They aren’t actual reality.
You can see how it would be dangerous for a manipulative, telepathic viral vampire to understand this concept and figure out how to use it against people.
Fanning, who is a neurologist, is at the height of his career, with a successful book tour coming up. He isn’t interested in Lear’s far out theories. But he really is a good friend of Lear’s, and is visibly upset that Elizabeth is ill. Because of her illness, he agrees to give Lear a chance to explain his theory. The theory hinges on a Bolivian blood sample from a 250 year old man, which Jonas insists is a game changer.
Once Brad and Amy are safely under way again, she has a brief meltdown, letting him know how scary it was for her when he pulled over and passed out, then hung up on Lila, then got rid of the phone. Now it doesn’t seem like he has a plan. Plus she hasn’t eaten in a long time, and when she did it was junk food. AND they lost her unicorn.
Brad insists that she had a hotdog at the carnival, which counts as a decent meal. Which makes me question him as a parent, since that was at least 12 hours ago, and it was carnival food. His plan is to go to a friend’s house in Wisconsin. And, to be fair, he couldn’t help passing out after getting shot. He deserves an A+ for getting them as far as he did. But she’s also held it together like a pro, so she can be forgiven for letting loose with her fears for a minute.
The upshot is, they come to an understanding: He owes her a unicorn, and, “You don’t leave me, I don’t leave you.”
They park at a distance and walk into the woods to find the house in Wisconsin. Brad finds the perimeter alarm and purposely sets it off, making sure that his friend, Lacey Antoine, can see them clearly when she comes outside with her gun pointed at them. She’s disappointed in him for getting shot, but invites them in immediately.
Lacey is a homesteader who raises goats and most of her own food, paints, collects old vinyl records and has an armory on a wall rack in her living room. She tells Brad and Amy to get cleaned up, then they’ll sort out the trouble he’s brought to her.
Richards tracks Brad and Amy to the spot where Amy called Lila, as expected. He knows they crossed into Wisconsin, and assumes they’re headed for Canada. He tells his men that Wolgast has skills, so they should shoot to kill.
Less than 5 hours after receiving the serum, Carter’s T and B cell receptors have already enhanced, and the damaged cartilage in his knee from an old football injury has already repaired itself. Sykes is stunned, as always, at the power of the serum. Lear agrees, but tries again to talk her out of using it on Amy.
But Sykes has left reality behind. Her neurons are busy creating a story she can live with, and telling her mind that Amy will be fine, because that’s the only outcome Sykes can live with and retain her own sanity, or what’s left of it. She insists that Jonas started thins, so now he has to help finish it. It’s essential that they use the serum on Amy, so it’s essential that they make sure she come through it okay. All they have to do is try hard enough, and this time, the 13th attempt, it will happen.
Lucky number 13.
Fanning has also reached the moment where he leaves reality behind and creates the story he wants to be true. He’s looking at the Bolivian blood sample under a microscope, and realizes that not only could it be the cure for Elizabeth’s early onset Alzheimer’s, it could be the cure for everything.
Jonas wants to make sure that they work quickly to secure funding, but also maintain control of the research and patent process. Fanning handwaves a little, seeming to agree, but telling Jonas that he has to let Fanning work his magic on the funding, without interference. Fanning is ready to change the world.
You can practically see the dollar signs and the lust for a Nobel prize in his eyes.
Lacey and Amy hit it off right away. Lacey tells Amy that she was a nun, then joined the Navy, which is where she met Brad. He was her favorite student in her land warfare class. Brad jokes that God is Lacey’s ex-husband, but she chides him that he doesn’t know if God is a man. Brad corrects himself and says that maybe God is Lacey’s ex-wife. Lacey tells Amy that Brad used to be a hostage negotiator for high-stakes situations.
Lacey and Amy head outside to feed the goats, while Brad eats some of Lacey’s homemade pie. The proximity alarm goes off again, causing Brad to go for the gun he knows Lacey will have strapped to the underside of the table, but it’s just Lila. She figured he only knew one person in Wisconsin, and was worried about his gunshot wound.
Lacey has a guy who got rid of the car Brad and Amy drove to her house, and another guy who’ll get them across the Canadian border. Brads figures if Richards keeps chasing them, they’ll go to Amsterdam.
Lacey doesn’t think that’s enough, because Richards will want to kill Wolgast to shut him up. She rightly assumes that Brad won’t be safe until the public knows about Project NOAH, and that they’ll replace Amy with another child if necessary. Brad doesn’t want to be the one to take the information public. He tried that when he went to turn himself in, and he and Amy were almost killed, plus several other people did die.
Lacey offers to be the whistleblower, since she has things in her own past she wants to atone for. She asks Brad to list the 12 death row inmates he recruited for Project NOAH. He lists: Joseph Morrison, Victor Chavez, Kathy Turrell, David Winston, Julio Martinez, Shauna Babcock, Anthony Carter.
Carter runs on a treadmill and enjoys the feeling of his new health and vigor. He hears music in the distance and follows the sound to the old hotel bar, where a human Shauna Babcock is waiting for him. The music is playing on an old reel to reel tape player. Shauna tells Carter that everything will be okay, if he just does what “he” says.
Fanning is the bartender. He serves Babcock and Carter each a glass of blood as they tell Carter how great he looks, and Carter exclaims over how great he feels. Fanning asks after Jonas, and tells Carter not to trust him. Carter refuses to drink the blood.
The music stops. Shauna tries to convince Carter to drink it, saying the first time is the hardest. Fanning is understanding. He won’t make Carter drink the blood yet, but Carter still has to settle up. In this place, you pay with yourself, not with money. Shauna pulls out one of Carter’s teeth.
Carter gets up to leave. He’s done with these people. Fanning appears in front of him, asking him to give Jonas a message, then whispering in Carter’s ear. When Fanning is done, he makes a giant vampire hiss in Carter’s face.
I get the feeling it’s his signature move.
Carter wakes up in bed. It was all a telepathic dream.
Lila stitches up Brad’s wound, while he complains that real men don’t need their wounds treated. He asks about her plans with her boyfriend, and she asks about Amy in return. He explains that he wants to find someplace where they can live a normal life together. After watching Eva die, he shut down, couldn’t help Lila and didn’t believe in anything. Then he met Amy. She reminds him of Eva and she’s alone in the world. It’s clear to him that he’s supposed to keep her safe.
Later, he finds that Amy is having trouble falling asleep. She asks if he’s an assassin. He tells her no, but she points out that he assassinated some people at the sheriff’s department. He tells her that he was a soldier in Afghanistan, then a federal agent.
Next Amy asks if he believes in God. Because he is the best dad ever (other than providing healthy food on the road), Brad figures out that she’s missing her mom, and offers to read from her copy of “A Wrinkle in Time”, the book her mother gave her, until she falls asleep.
As Brad reads about a dark and stormy night, Richards finds Lacey’s “guy” and coerces him into revealing who paid him to dispose of the stolen car.
Back in 2015, Fanning brings Jonas a lucrative contract with the Department of Defense, which includes a fastracked timetable. They want to research the potential for curing infectious diseases. He thinks they should work with the DoD because if they work with the people who make the rules, then they can break the rules.
Elizabeth understands that what will be lost with the speeded up agenda is normal medical ethics. She begs Jonas, again, to stay with her rather than get involved in a project he’ll profoundly regret.
In the present day, Carter runs into Lear in the corridor. Carter admits that he’s been having disturbing dreams and asks for a sleeping pill to help suppress them. Lear asks what the dreams are about. Carter delivers Fanning’s message: “You already changed the world. You just have to wait and see how.”
Fanning believes that events have been set in motion and there’s no going back now. Do his psychic abilities include knowledge of the future, or is he messing with Jonas?
Jonas visits Elizabeth in the nursing home where she now lives. Her Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point where she lives in her own world, and doesn’t respond to his presence. He tells her that she was right about everything.
Grey finds Simmons harassing Babcock again. He’s ramped up the intensity. While he literally rattles her cage, he complains that the compound is too boring, since there’s no cell service or wi-fi. Grey tries to convince him to stop, which further incites Simmons. Babcock stands up and becomes present to the situation, as Simmons manhandles Grey, pressing him up to the bars of the cage and kicking Grey’ phone inside.
Grey slowly reaches into the cage and grabs the phone from the floor. Babcock watches him from inches away, but doesn’t otherwise react to him. This emboldens Simmons, who walks up to the cage and puts his face right up to the bars, as he’s talking. Babcock grabs him and bites his neck, draining his blood in seconds.
Lacey goes over the plan one more time before the group leaves her house, Brad and Amy for the lake and Canada, while she and Lila contact the press to break the Project NOAH story. But before they get out the door, Richards arrives and starts shooting. Lacey is shot in the abdomen in the first few minutes. Richards threatens to burn the house down, with them inside, if they don’t turn themselves over to him.
Brad goes out the front door to turn himself in to Richards and buy some time for Lila and Amy to escape out the back door. Richards prepares to shoot Brad in the head if he doesn’t divulge Amy’s location. Amy can hear Richards counting down.
She makes a decision about her priorities, and goes out the front door to turn herself in and save Brad. When Brad asks what she’s doing, she tells hin, “You don’t leave me, and I don’t leave you.”
Richards’s men take them to their vehicles. One soldier asks if they should sweep Lacey’s house. Richards says, “No. We got what we need.” They move away from the house.
The teachers at the elementary school should have at least looked for Amy’s name on a list, but I guess Brad’s story of forgetting everything, ever, covered that. Plus, they were definitely looking over the hot new single dad and considering his dating potential, so they didn’t want to blow their chances with him right away. Can’t blame them there. Other than his recent history, Wolgast is a catch (so is his portrayer).
Ironically, Sykes makes the same promise to keep Amy safe during the viral test that Lear makes to Carter, even though neither has any control over what happens to the patient once the serum is injected. They are both sincere when they make their promises, but, as Lear says, they’re been doing the wrong thing for so long, and are now so desperate, they have no moral compass left.
It’s not clear if Sykes ever had one, or if she just likes to think she did. Her association with Richards makes her true capacity for empathy questionable. Lear had a moral compass once, but he lost it when Elizabeth was diagnosed. Glimmers of it resurface frequently, but they aren’t enough to spur him to take drastic action. Losing Elizabeth to a limbo state has left him in one as well, unable to take a strong stand or action.
I have to admit, it was satisfying to see Babcock kill Simmons, after he made it clear that he was complete slime.
The virals seem to have an entirely separate reality of their own in the dream plane. I hope we find out more about how it works, such as if they each create their own worlds, or if they just use it for communication. Fanning is obviously the Alpha, but how much does he control the thoughts, actions and dreams of the others? How much and how many regular humans is he in contact with, the way he’s in contact with Grey?
Lacey has a serious injury, but she also has a surgeon on hand who came prepared to treat a serious gunshot wound, and, as far as we know, there’s no reason she can’t go to a hospital once she’s stabilized. I wouldn’t count her out yet.
I think Richards is secretly in love with Lila. He guessed that she’s in the house, and that’s why he didn’t have it swept. He’s possibly also a former student of Lacey’s, but then you’d think he’d also have known her location. He’s too weasely to have been one of her favorites.
I believe we’ve been given the names of eleven of the twelve death row inmates who became test subjects for Project NOAH: Martin Echols, John Baffes, Victor Sosa, Joseph Morrison, Victor Chavez, Kathy Turrell, David Winston, Julio Martinez, Shauna Babcock, Anthony Carter, June Reinhardt.
Dr Tim Fanning is Patient Zero, the first infected and the original, though accidental, Project NOAH subject.
Images courtesy of Fox.