Review: In 'The Passage,' the Bloodsuckers Are Vampire-Adjacent

Based on a trilogy of novels by Justin Cronin, “The Passage” posits a scientific cause — experimentation with a rare virus from the Bolivian jungle — for a paranormal consequence, the creation of beasts (don’t call them vampires!)

No, what makes “The Passage” a better-than-average show of its type is the other side of the story, in which Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays Brad, a federal agent who rebels when he’s sent to apprehend a young girl named Amy (for further experiments) and instead goes on the run with her.

It’s a crowd-pleasing, comic-sentimental setup, with the wisecracking but vulnerable child consistently one-upping, and bailing out of trouble, the man who becomes her surrogate father, and Gosselaar does a capable job as a younger version of a Clint Eastwood coot.

She may not have the pure, slightly eerie intensity projected by some other child actors who play supernatural action heroes, like Millie Bobby Brown in “Stranger Things” or Madeleine McGraw in “Outcast.” But her self-possession and charming way with a put-down are the strong points of a show that’s otherwise a blend of familiar elements.

Here, in boiling down the many hundreds of pages of Cronin’s trilogy, she ends up with central elements straight out of the prime-time catalog: the scientist who puts the whole world in danger to save a sick relative, the tortured cop who’s not over his ex, the company-man killer with glimmers of conscience.

For now, “The Passage” should appeal to those who like their popcorn TV less touchy-feely and more action-oriented than NBC’s fall hit, “Manifest.” For those interested in similar vampire-infection material done with more subtlety and menace, the four seasons of “The Strain” can be streamed on Hulu.

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