Monday, 17 October 2011

TV review: The Fades

At the risk of hyperbole, BBC 3’s new supernatural drama The Fades is just about the most amazing piece of British television I’ve ever seen.

Quite an assertion, I think my reader will agree.

Here’s my supporting statement:


When awkward teen, 17-year-old Paul (Iain de Caestecker) stumbles across a zombie-like creature attacking two humans in an abandoned shopping centre, he soon realises that the survivor, Neil (Johnny Harris), holds the answers to the apocalyptic dreams he’s been having. Neil tells Paul he’s an Angelic like him: a person who can see the fades, i.e., dead people. Paul’s apocalyptic dreams were visions of the future. Angelic Sarah (Natalie Dormer) also experienced them before she was killed by the Angelic Killer, a corpse-like fade. Sarah now haunts her husband, Mark (Tom Ellis), because she, like so many others, was unable to ‘Ascend’ to death (which, like life, isn’t easy). The mysterious blockage to ascension that began nearly 100 years ago has left countless angry fades trapped on earth. The dead continue to grow old and rot, unable to open doors, or interact with their loved ones without intense pain. However, the Angelic Killer has found a way to take on physical form once more and reverse the rot by first drinking human blood, and then chowing down on human flesh. The fade is determined to wreak revenge on the Angelics, and the human race in general. He starts by recruiting an undead army, taking his first steps towards creating the ash-filled wasteland in Paul’s dreams.

Finding out he’s an Angelic is only the start of Paul’s problems. His ability to heal people, which causes moths to crawl from his mouth, makes the tiny band of Angelics believe he is the only one who can save the world. There’s also the inconvenient thing that happens to him when he ejaculates. After confiding with his best friend, the pop culture referencing Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), much to Neil’s irritation Paul becomes determined to live a normal teenager’s life. Particularly because, despite risking the wrath of his caustic non-identical twin, Anna (Lilly Loveless), he has found illicit love in the shape of the elfin Jay (Sophie Wu), his sister’s best friend.

Here’s why you could love it too:

It’s slick, funny, powerful, disgusting, true, heart wrenching, heart-warming, at times terrifying, unique and even beautiful stuff. The script is sharp, and neat, and tight.

With Loveless, Kaluuya and, in later episodes (spoilers), Joe Dempsie, The Fades is a bit of a Skins fest. But that’s because the producers know how to mine the best young talent (and possibly, regarding Skins, the only talent).

Here’s why you should really love it:

Iain de Caestecker’s performance as Paul is a nuanced phenomenon. You really believe his struggle to stay sane against the odds, and to understand his place in the world. But what’s more incredible, is the relationship between Paul and Mac. Kaluuya shone as Tealeaf in Psychoville, and in The Fades he positively gleams. His Mac is a heartbreaking bundle of idiosyncrasies, fragility and fierce loyalty for his best friend. His tendency to reel off trivia in the face of danger masks deeper emotions, like love and grief, which brim to the surface in all the right places. His ability to wrench your heart is as flawless as his comic timing. Together, the pair are a beautiful thing to watch.

There might be some negatives, but they’re minor. Paul isn’t always on the ball when it comes to asking the important questions, such as ‘How do the moths get into my throat, and why are they crawling out of it?’ However, this is probably something to do with the mystery that writer and creator Jack Thorne clearly loves frustrating his viewers with. And, let’s face it, it’s what keeps us coming back for more.

BBC iPlayer currently has it on series catch up. The rest of us (adults and teens alike) are on episode 5 of 6 this Wednesday at 10 pm on BBC 3. And if you’re not yet fully convinced, it references, of all things, this. What’s not to love?

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