Review: The Fades (12A) / Directed by: Farren Blackburn / Written By: Jack Thorne / Starring: Lily Loveless, Daniel Kayuula, Ian De Caestecker, Sophy Wu, Johnny Harris / Release Date: Out Now
Let me start by saying that I do not think I am the target audience for this series from ‘yoof’ centric BBC3. Based on that you may wish to disregard my opinion entirely or continue reading but I think it’s clear to make that apparent before starting this review. I would like to think that if I were seventeen years old and everything about The Fades appealed to me, I would still know enough to know I was being patronised and generally talked down to. The Fades doesn’t have an original bone in its body and worse it's crass and lowest common denominator entertainment from the BBC who have brought us Being Human, Sherlock, Luther and Torchwood in recent years and that’s simply not good enough.
The Fades follows teenager Paul (Iain De Caestecker) a sixth form student who after apocalyptic dreams suddenly can see dead people all around him. He is contacted by Neil (Johnny Harris) who speaks in vague terms about dead things and educates Paul that the spirits he is seeing are known as ‘Fades’ and are spirits who have yet to ascend. Neil and his small clan of followers are known as ‘Angelics’ as they can see the Fades and some even have healing abilities although why is never clear. Some fades have been around for a while as there seems to be a problem with ascension; they have grown frustrated and started to rot. They have also discovered that by eating the flesh of the living they can become corporeal once more. An old vengeful fade from the 30s is building an army of resurrected fades and Paul is all that stands in their way as he is a more special angelic than most and is able to heal and kill fades at will. That’s about it for the main plot, there is also some shenanigans about a school teacher who is a bit of a ladies man missing his old wife who is now missing and actually a fade, a half arsed romance between Paul and quirky student Jay (quirky=short hair) and Paul is aided by his best friend Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) who will give you a pop culture reference even in the face of certain death.
The producers of The Fades must have looked at everything that has been popular in mainstream media over the last ten years and just decided to chuck it all into a pot and see what happens. The first few episodes have the vague surreal plotting of Lost. The main plot is similar to any number of Supernatural episodes. The show has True Blood’s gratuitous sex and swearing. It has The Inbetweeners' level of sex references and smutty humour. The acting and characterisation is all right out of Hollyoaks and most insulting of all, the writers have looked up words like Nerd or Geek on Wikipedia and therefore created the Mac character, possibly the most annoying character in TV history. The actual plot and mythology make very little sense and the rules seem to change depending on what mood the director is in. I haven’t even mentioned the unnecessary John Woo impersonation in the last episode or the fact that the Fades' eating habits are right out of a zombie movie.
In the worst thing in a catalogue of disastrous decisions is the casting of Ian De Castecker as our ‘hero’ Paul. The character is such a wet blanket, walking around in his skinny jeans and Christmas jumper delivering lines in a wooden puppet wide eyed way that says more ‘potential serial killer’ than ‘saviour of humanity’. It’s hard to believe that anyone would follow him into battle, let alone a quirky schoolgirl would fall for him. It would be nice if I could say that this was all down to the poor writing but it seems to be partly miscasting as well. Daniel Kaluuya, once so impressive in Chatroom and recently in Black Mirror has pretty much killed his career and any goodwill he bought with genre fans thanks to this character. Mac will spout shoe-horned-in comic and film references in any situation and not even in a charming Seth Coen from The OC kind of way; no, most of the references make no sense in the circumstances or are downright inappropriate. Case in point; there is a part in the final episode where it looks like Mac and Paul’s sister are about to get eaten alive and somehow this seems to be a good idea for Mac to confess his love/profess he learnt life lessons from Spielberg’s E.T. Worst of all this character breaks the fourth wall and gives us series re-caps at the start of each episode. It’s so contrived and utterly pointless that a character that should have been a likeable focal point is rendered worthless. The one character that has an interesting arc is Neil, the jaded angelic, who has a past that is only hinted at, but again the character is saddled with bad dialogue and wooden delivery from Johnny Harris. The interesting things about this character come to the fore towards the end of the series but by then it’s too little too late.
The Fades begins unnecessarily vaguely evoking the storytelling style of many mysterious modern TV shows, around the halfway point it becomes apparent that this is just a pretentious zombie invasion show and becomes a bit more interesting when it starts to rip off The Faculty (itself a rip off of something, see how low this show goes?). I will say that The Fades has a good level of production value and is confidently staged by Tom Shankland and Farren Blackburn. The feel is quite epic when the town is evacuated and it has an explosive finale. Of course like most things in The Fades, this falls apart when you realise that a town has been evacuated due to what amounts to a couple of people exploding at a school and if the police give up that easily then we are truly all doomed and that the effects heavy finale makes no sense at all.
The Fades was partially filmed just down the road from where I am writing now (again just like The Inbetweeners funnily enough). I feel embarrassed for my local community and embarrassed for the BBC spending money on this bloated and dire endeavour and hope to God there will not be a second series.
Extras: Mac Explains (arrrgh!!), Extra Scenes, Deleted Scenes, Behind the Scenes featurette, Outtakes.