Episode 2 of The Passage, "You Owe Me a Unicorn," filled in some of the backstory of how the shady Project Noah program came into existence. The Department of Defense-overseen program, where scientists study a virus that gives its carriers regenerative powers but also turns them into vampire-like creatures called "virals," was the brainchild of Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) and Dr. Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane), the latter of whom became the first test subject after he was bitten by a viral in the Bolivian highlands.
Lear is morally uncomfortable with the human experimentation he does at Project Noah, but he does it anyway because he's still trying to do what inspired him to study the virus in the first place: find a cure for his wife's Alzheimer's. In flashbacks, we saw Lear promise his wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Ferrin) that he would do whatever it took to heal her, even though this is not what she wanted. She just wanted him to stay with her. But instead he reached out to Fanning, an old college friend with whom Elizabeth had a falling out, because Fanning could help secure the funding Lear needed. Fanning was at first skeptical, but he committed when he found out that Elizabeth had early onset Alzheimer's. He secured funding from the Department of Defense, which Lear didn't like because that meant less control and a greater likelihood the virus will be used for nefarious rather than healing purposes. But in the first of his compromises, he went along with with it.
Now, Lear is working under Dr. Nichole Sykes (Caroline Chikezie) from the DoD and convinced that what they're doing is wrong while hoping that Amy Bellafonte (Saniyya Sidney) doesn't get captured and brought to Project Noah headquarters because he doesn't want to experiment on her. He's still caring for his wife, whose disease has progressed to the point that she doesn't know who she is. As Cusick told TV Guide, "His intentions are good, and then he gets slightly sidetracked."
Cusick says he's playing Lear as a character who's living in a moral gray area. "That's always great for actors to play that gray area, and always for the audience to look in and wonder, 'Well, what would you do? What choices would you make there?'"
Cusick says that as The Passage continues, the backstory will get filled in further. If you thought it was odd that Fanning had such a strong emotional reaction to finding out that Elizabeth was sick, especially since Elizabeth doesn't want anything to do with him, you were picking up on something that will be explained later on. "Maybe she doesn't like him now," Cusick says. "Maybe there was a time when she did like him." The relationship between the Lears and Fanning goes deeper than just being classmates and colleagues. "They have a very, very, complicated relationship," Cusick says. "And by Episode 10 you see where they are."
We know virals including Fanning have the power to enter people's dreams, but we haven't seen Lear's dreams yet. As of now, Fanning is trying to send Lear ominous messages through other people's dreams, telling Carter (McKinley Belcher III) to tell Lear "You already changed the world, you just have to wait and see how." Eventually Fanning's going to cut out the middleman. And when he does, it's going to be intense.
The Passage airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.