The Women of The Passage: Character Analysis


One of the main themes of The Passage, both the TV series and the book trilogy, could be summed up in the title of S1 Ep8 of the series: You Are Not That Girl Anymore. The major female characters of The Passage have all grown this season and had an impact on the main arc of the story.

The future relies on Amy Bellafonte and how she weathers the virus and her relationship with the other virals. It’s Dr Nichole Sykes’ commitment to Jonas Lear’s vision that made Project NOAH what it is, and she is still an important part of the evolving nature of the virus and virals. Dr Lila Wolgast has provided emotional, medical and logistical support for Brad, Amy, Richards, Sykes and Lacey at key moments. Shauna Babcock is Fanning’s second in command. Lacey Antoine rescued Brad and Amy and gave them a hideout from Richards’ pursuit. Elizabeth Lear was the catalyst for the entire endeavor. She was both Jonas’ excuse for pursuing the Bolivian rumors until the end of the world and the voice of reason in his head telling him he was going too far.

Shauna Babcock

Though there are a few female inmates who have become virals, Shauna Babcock is the only one we’ve seen communicate with humans and whose backstory we’ve been given in detail. Shauna has lived a complicated life, and has created a complicated web of relationships within Project NOAH. Manipulation is her specialty, making it difficult to tell when she’s being sincere and when she’s using someone.

In the story she told Clark, she’s a victim with a tragic backstory who finally snapped. Shauna was regularly raped by her stepfather from the ages of 8-16, until she was old enough to stand up to him and make him stop.

When she confronted her mother with the abuse, her mother blamed Shauna, telling her that all she had to do was say “no”, and he would have stopped. It was clear that Shauna’s mother had known about the rapes the entire time, and never tried to make him stop, or showed her daughter how to say “no”. Instead, she was jealous and competitive with her little girl.

Shauna had a plan to get out of her situation, by saving up money to go to makeup school and becoming a special effects makeup artist in the film industry. She saved everything she could toward school, and practiced her makeup technique at home, on herself and friends.

When she came home and discovered that her evil stepfather had stolen the money, then her mother told her she would never be anything other than a failure and a prostitute, something broke in Shauna. She finally told her mother about the rapes, which Shauna had kept as her deep, dark secret, hoping to get her mother to see the truth about her husband. Instead, her mother blamed Shauna and threw out more vicious insults.

That was the last straw. Shauna took a kitchen knife and killed her mother and stepfather. I wouldn’t call those deaths justifiable homicides, but there were certainly extenuating circumstances. The Menendez Brothers were given life without parole for the premeditated murder of their wealthy, abusive parents. Sadly, in the real world, misogyny and classism probably would dictate that Shauna would be given the death sentence for what, it could be argued, was temporary insanity, after a lifetime of having everything she valued stolen or withheld from her.

Shauna is a product of her environment, having learned how to use her looks and her wits to get what she needs and wants. She’s a master of subtle manipulation, in which she lets her target think that her ideas are his own.

Fanning values her so much because he knows that he needs scrappy street fighters who see the world clearly, and who are also used to having to wait and plan for what they want. He’s intelligent, but he’s an academic who’s lived in a cloud of white male privilege for his entire life.

We were shown Shauna’s long-term planning skills, commitment and determination through her goal to go to makeup school and how hard she worked to achieve it. Her response to someone ruining her plans when she’d almost achieved her goal was swift and brutal when she was a human. Fanning probably sees her as perfect for his second in command, as long as she can keep her temper in check and remember their long-term plan.

Shauna has proven that she can get back up after a major loss and keep trying, even when the odds seem hopeless. She’s creative, and will poke away at a problem until she finds the weak spot that she can exploit to solve it.

Shauna’s feelings toward Clark Richards are interesting. He’s her familiar, even though he doesn’t know it. She wanted him to get the entire main cast down on level 4B for the breakout, and he complied, without realizing why. I expect the virals want to use some of them as familiars, such as Guilder, as some as human blood meals, for revenge.

Amy Harper Bellafonte

Amy began the season as the newly orphaned child of a drug addict. Her childhood made her grow up too soon, which has given her the ability to reason as an adult would in many ways, and taught her how to take care of herself and others. A responsible, resilient child from an extremely dysfunctional family seemingly develops superhero powers in the real world. Amy has those powers, and actual superhero powers, thanks to the virus.

Amy has gone from being an orphaned child who had nothing and no one, to being a new species with an extended family who are fighting for her survival. Her own honesty, compassion and loyalty have brought that out in the others. They were all hoping for someone who could bind them together, and Amy has done that through her willingness to be real with the people around her. She has an intuitive sense of who she can trust and which person is the one who can help her in a given situation, which will eventually make her a great leader.

She was randomly chosen by the military as a savior, and that purpose has shifted and morphed over the course of the season. At the time Wolgast and Doyle were sent to get her, there was a deadly strain of avian flu decimating Asia. We haven’t heard anything about the flu lately, which should have reached North America by now, CDC estimates be d–ned. The last thing we heard was from Guilder, who told Nicole that Amy was no longer needed to produce a potential flu treatment, because other agencies were working on it.

So Amy has been treated as a possession to be fought over multiple times already. She’s been punted through various departments and supervisors, none of whom are on site at Project NOAH. She and Shauna, along with the rest of the virals, have that dehumanization in common. They are a research project, not humans with legal rights. The difference is, most of the virals signed off on the research, even if they were coerced, and they were all adults. Even Fanning was part of the research team, and knew what the risks were. He had to have signed a waiver or consent form at some point.

Amy, on the other hand, is a child who was chosen because no one would miss her, which also means that she has no one to give consent for her. She was kidnapped, hunted down and shot at. People who were with her were murdered, such as the small town sheriff. People who were helping her were gunned down, such as Lacy and Brad. Now she has no choice but to trust her former enemies, because she has no one else.

What does that do to a child? Brad realized that he was wrong very quickly, and is clearly the most steadfast guy around. I don’t think she has doubts about him at all. Carter, Lila and Lacey have also always been on her side, so I think she trusts them, too. But Richards, Sykes, Lear, Fanning, Guilder, and Shauna all want Amy to trust them and to follow very different instructions from them. Some of those people have the power of mind control. Amy can’t trust any of them.

I think, in the long run, the machinations of the military won’t matter to Amy, because she’s had Brad through all of it. Whatever issues her mother had, she was also able to give Amy enough love and security to make her able to love and trust others, and have confidence in herself, three of the most important things a parent can give a child. Those qualities allowed her to attach to Brad, and make her pact with him, which also gives her Lila and Lacey.

Amy is smart and thinks quickly under pressure. She’s held her own with the other virals, the FBI and the Project NOAH staff. She’s still very young, so she gets scared and gives in to her fear and exhaustion sometimes, but that’s where her ability to form and maintain a loyal team, also known as a family, around her comes in. She told Brad, “I don’t leave you and you don’t leave me,” and she hasn’t, even when she’s had the opportunity. She also holds onto the memory of her mother’s love, symbolized by her book.

Lacey Antoine

Lacey started the season as a loner. Now she has an extended family and a purpose in life.  Her faith in something larger than herself has grown. She refuses to choose death or capitulation, no matter how dire the situation appears. Amy has become her anchor to this world, as part of the spiritual reawakening the former nun has experienced this season. Lacey also has a connection to Wolgast and Lila (and probably Richards). She has a loving, caretaking side that few are allowed to see.

At the beginning of the season she was in semi-hiding, waiting for something to draw her back to the world. She was living a very grounded life, close to the earth, that shows what a realist she is, but she also has a mystic, psychic sense that tells her what’s coming and what her part is. Her years away from the church seem to have provided important preparation for the war and apocalypse that’s coming, preparations which she wouldn’t have gotten as a nun. That time away, when she was learning to survive without modern conveniences and to fight formidable enemies, was actually part of her calling.

Lacey accepts who she is and what the world is, though she’s had moments of doubt.  She understands that she needs to let go of her worldly concerns and let divine intervention take over her life. She’s an unusual combination of a warm heart, practicality and mysticism. She is fiercely devoted to Amy as her new calling.

Lila Wolgast

Lila started the season separated from Brad and engaged to another man because the loss of their daughter, Eva, drove her and Brad apart. She didn’t lose herself in her grief the way that Brad did, but she was still devastated by Eva’s death, compounded by Brad’s abandonment. Both of them have now come to terms with the loss and found new purpose in helping Amy, plus stopping Project NOAH.

Lila has also already given up her day-to-day life, in an effort to help Amy and to stop the viral outbreak. Lila has joined Brad, Lacey and Amy on their cross-country treks, broken into the compound, and has become a prisoner of Project NOAH. Now she’s spent time helping Sykes create the final treatment which will hopefully lock the viral cells out of human cells. Maybe this will give her the emotional completion she needs to feel like a whole person again.

Lila is a caring, compassionate person who is also intelligent and diligent. She dug up the evidence needed to prove Project NOAH was real and dangerous and got it to Sierra Thompson. Then she went into hiding when Sierra was murdered. She also frequently acts as caretaker and peacemaker. As a doctor, she cared for the emotional needs of her patients, as well as the physical needs. She is quickly becoming the mother of Project NOAH.

There is a catch with Lila, though, because, at the end of episode 8, she’s out in the hall with the virals, and Grey took a good, long look at her. Fanning mentioned world-building twice in this episode, and that he’s grieving Elizabeth. He and Grey might decide that they need her as part of their team, to be the soft, nurturing feminine type that Fanning saw in Elizabeth.

So Lila could be captured and turned by the virals as their next attempt at a twelfth, especially if they feel that Amy is a total loss.

Doctor Major Nichole Sykes

We don’t know much about Sykes’s background, except that she’s a medical doctor in the military. She’s devoted to her work, and will labor tirelessly to achieve a goal. She tries to be fair-minded and to keep the kind of open mind that the scientific method requires, but her biases sometimes get in the way.

Like everyone at the Project NOAH compound, she has a tendency to tilt heavily toward voices that tell her what she wants to hear. As Jonas told her once, this is an issue with working in an isolated group, with no one to offer an outside opinion as a reality check.

Though Nichole’s heart was in the right place, she so badly wanted Project NOAH to accomplish something, to make the literal human sacrifices worth it, that she listened to people like Dr Pet until it was too late to turn back. She didn’t pay attention to evidence that was right in front of her, because she didn’t want it to be true. It’s a common, but deadly, scientific mistake.

She started the season romantically involved with Richards, and involved in an odd sort of love triangle between herself, Clark and Shauna. Shauna developed close friendships with Nichole and Clark before the virus took hold of her. Both rejected her when she turned, giving Shauna good reason to be angry with them. We don’t know yet what Shauna’s plans are for Sykes, other than wanting to taste her. She could mean that she wants to kill Sykes, or she could mean that she’s going to make Sykes one of her thralls.

In most ways, Sykes has changed the least out of the all of the female characters over the course of the season, since she’s still willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. She started out following orders and adhering to the stated goals of the program. She was excited by its daring, new potential. When a danger to humans arose, she was willing to bend rules and ethics to allow experimentation with a deadly virus on a young girl. Over the course of the season, we’ve seen her work up to disobeying direct orders and subverting the purposes of the command structure she’s employed by. She’s also still creating experimental drugs to use on Amy, and was doing the same for Elizabeth right up until the end.

So, on the one hand, Sykes appears to have switched sides and to now understand that Project NOAH is deeply sinister and never had any beneficial potential. On the other hand, by switching sides, she’s still making experimental drugs with the virus. She’s able to think of herself as a good guy while she gives in to her ambition, and she tries to make her work appear beneficial if possible.

I believe that the issue here is that Nichole works for not one, but two different organizations who expect her to put aside her own moral judgement and do what she’s told. Both the military and the medical/scientific community require the people who are on the ground in those fields to suspend their own moral judgement and do what’s necessary in the moment: following orders, treating a medical condition, or approaching a scientific question in an unbiased way. Usually, that’s for the best.

But in this case, where a unique situation has made it necessary for people to stop looking at the research purely as data, and to start listening to their instincts and emotions, the way Jonas eventually did, highly trained individuals can be overqualified and forget to pay attention to the severity of the situation. When people don’t allow intellectual curiosity and adherence to rules to give way to human emotion, you end up with apocalypse, genocide, and horror stories.

Nichole didn’t really switch sides so much as follow the data in a new direction. She’s still the same person who would kidnap a child to give her a dangerous, disfiguring virus; the same virus which hadn’t even come close to fulfilling its promise in any of its other trial uses.

At the end of episode 8, she’s still sitting in the lab, looking at her machines, putting all of her confidence in data and expertism, and not paying attention to what’s going on around her. It’s the exact same behavior that got Dr Pet killed and disastrously allowed Martinez to convince Guilder to let him revamp the security system. It gets Sykes locked in her lab. We’ll see what condition she’s in at the end of episode 10.

Elizabeth Lear

Before Amy, Elizabeth was the only person to refuse the “gifts” of the virus and choose death. From the moment Elizabeth heard of the virus, before anyone even knew if it was real, she recoiled at the thought of it. She told Jonas that it was his own greed and ambition causing him to pursue the virus, not his love for her, and that it would bring out those same sides of Fanning. She was right.

Elizabeth has been caught in a decades long love triangle with her husband, Jonas, who loves her but gets distracted by his work, and Tim Fanning, one of Jonas’ best friends, who’s obsessed with her as the perfect woman, and who thinks she stayed with an inferior man (in his opinion). She apparently only acted on the attraction once, and confessed it to her husband not long after it happened. It was a mistake, so she and Jonas were able to work through the pain and save their marriage. Tim seems to have hoped that she’d eventually leave Jonas for him, right up to the moment of her death.

Elizabeth and Jonas were soulmates, but they didn’t have a perfect relationship. She was the more practical, ethical and devoted of the two, who, as a writer, was as imaginative as him, but also remembered that the bills needed to be paid. He had a need to wander the globe and immerse himself in his research, which left her alone for long stretches of time.

Elizabeth’s defining characteristic is her solidness. She knows who she is, what she wants, what is enough for her, and she won’t be swayed from her path. She can’t be tempted to compromise herself with more of whatever seems exciting at the moment, whether it’s time on earth or another drink. She eventually came to despise Tim because she realized that he always wanted more, no matter how much he had, and because he plied her with drinks then encouraged her to cheat on her husband.

She chooses death over Tim, her integrity over a half-life, and her human life, which she made with Jonas through her own choices, over everything that living for 1,000 years as a viral might have given her. She’d already lived the life she wanted and made her peace with death. All that the virus gave her and Jonas was a chance to say a proper goodbye. Elizabeth was smart enough to know that being a viral wouldn’t be that great, if Tim Fanning was in charge.


Image courtesy of Fox.





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