The Fades 1.01 ReviewA tv review article by: Kelvin Green, Paul Brian McCoy
Paul is haunted by apocalyptic visions as a supernatural creature stalks his home town.
The Fades aired Wednesday nights at 9:00PM on BBC Three and now airs Saturdays at 9:00 on BBC America.
Paul Brian McCoy: So, last week BBC Three premiered a new horror series called The Fades following a teen boy named Paul (Iain De Caestecker) who is haunted by apocalyptic nightmares. But he's not the only one having these visions, and by the end of this first episode Paul has been recruited into a small cell of people, Neil (Johnny Harris) and Helen (Daniela Nardini), determined to save the world from an invasion of, well, the dead.
And I'm on board.
Kelvin Green: It's Buffy meets The Invisibles!
Paul: With a touch of The Sixth Sense as well.
Kelvin: Except, I don't know if I like it yet.
Paul: Well, with the whole Buffy/Invisibles angle, I'm genetically predisposed to love it.
Kelvin: I think I wanted something else from it. When they explained that the monsters were the dead coming back, I was a bit disappointed, as I was hoping for something a bit more eldritch.
Paul: That's understandable.
Kelvin: Ghosts seem -- and this is a bit of an oxymoron, I know -- a bit mundane. Perhaps the similarities to The Invisibles tricked me into expecting more.
Paul: I know what you mean. But there seems to be some sort of creative/financial wall up around the horror TV genre that keeps shows from really moving outside of the familiar. Vampires, ghosts, werewolves. Or demonic possession. That seems to be about the limit of what the suits who finance these things can accept.
Kelvin: Yes, where's the oogly Lovecraftian stuff? The transhumanist horror?
Paul: Supernatural does the best I've seen at breaking through that, but even there, when you have a war in Heaven and angels vs. demons, it's all visualized through human Hosts.
You have the occasional monster, but mostly it's just actors emoting.
Even this new season, with the promise of Leviathan and Old Ones, will be focusing on these beings "riding" humans. It's cheaper that way, I guess.
Kelvin: Yes, it's a shame. There's so much more to it.
Paul: I suppose we have to look at it like the battle scenes in stage productions. They happen off-stage and we circle the narrative around them.
Kelvin: True, but Twin Peaks managed to do something different with its horror, even if it did use SPOILER possession as a device.
Paul: Yeah, and it hemorrhaged viewers during that second season and became more and more nonsensical.
Kelvin: Good point. Although I liked it well enough.
Paul: Oh yeah. Not saying it wasn't impressive and fun. But we're weird. Most viewers aren't in it for the long haul.
Kelvin: That is true.
So that's the barrier for me with The Fades; the threat seems a bit mundane. I liked a great deal of the rest of it, but I'm not interested in the central conflict.
Paul: At least here, with The Fades, the creators are attempting to shift the playing field a little. This isn't a heaven and hell scenario. The ghosts aren't demonic, or anything like that; they're just trapped and angry about it. In fact there's no real morality involved with death. Who ascends to whatever is totally random.
I really liked that.
Kelvin: Yes, that bit I enjoyed too. A bit of nihilism there.
Paul: I'm also comforted by the fact that the Big Bad crawled straight out of the "Come to Daddy" video.
Kelvin: Yes, he'd be the exception, as he's quite the demonic sort.
I wonder if that video was an influence? The first time we see him it's in an urban wasteland, much as in the video.
Paul: It's a classic horror video. I freaked out a class of students I was teaching once, showing them the video and asking them to interpret what was going on.
Paul: It's a great horror setting. It's nice to get some real urban horror on the television.
Kelvin: I liked the look of it. The urban labyrinths, the ash-filled visions, even the strange and almost beautiful way the dead hang about on rooftops.
Paul: Visually, it was very impressive. Beautiful at times. Just about everything on this side of the pond ends up in wooded areas or small towns.
Kelvin: Yes, it certainly didn't look cheap. I believe there's some BBC America money in there. Presumably the money they saved not funding Torchwood this year.
Paul: It's already better spent.
Kelvin: I agree!
Paul: Of course, we're dealing with the co-creator of Cast-offs and co-writer of This is England '86, not to mention some Shameless episodes. Jack Thorne has got some talent to burn.
Kelvin: Yes, so he knows his urban decay.
It's interesting that he's gone from This is England '86, a worthy social drama, to a teen horror.
Paul: Did you see Cast-offs?
Kelvin: I must say I haven't heard of it.
Paul: Now that was some bleak stuff. It's a mockumentary about six disabled people sent to a remote island for a reality TV show.
Kelvin: I'm looking it up now. It does seem a bit on the black side of black comedy.
Paul: Dr. Girlfriend and I watched the first episode, thinking it was going to be more comedy than black, but it was dark. Too dark to be entertaining. For us, anyway.
And that's saying something.
Paul: It was so steadfast in its bleakness. It didn't lean toward the twisted fun of something like Jam. Which is pretty difficult for some people.
Kelvin: Interesting. I should investigate.
Paul: It's rough going. So I'm not surprised at the grounding we get with The Fades.
Kelvin: Oh, it seems as if The Fades started out as a one-off pilot named Touch. Similar to how Being Human started out.
Kelvin: Someone at BBC Three likes their genre shows, it seems. I don't remember them being shown this time around. Although I'd imagine it'll be on the DVD.
But yes, Thorne's previous experience shows through in The Fades, although I did find it quite funny at times. Although that was largely through the antics of the lead's comedy sidekick, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) admittedly.
Kelvin: Yes, Tealeaf!
He was my favourite thing about the episode, if I'm honest.
Kelvin: Although the character seemed to have wandered in from the Scream franchise, he played it well.
Paul: That's true.
Kelvin: My favourite performance, I should say.
Paul: He put everything into it, that's for sure.
Kelvin: It was over the top, bordering on annoying, but that seemed deliberate. And it was a good contrast to our moody hero.
Paul: The performance was a little too Xander from Buffy for me. But you're right. The contrast between the characters worked really well. Without him, it may have been too dark.
Kelvin: Yes, if Tealeaf had been the lead, it wouldn't have worked, but nor could I watch the show if Paul had been on his own.
Paul: What did you think of the hint of teen romance we got here?
Kelvin: I'm not sure. The love interest, Jay (Sophie Wu), doesn't seem well-defined yet. I did like the scene on the park bench, with Paul's fumbling attempts at small talk.
Paul: That scene sold me on the concept.
Kelvin: That got across his supposed geeky nature more than anything else did.
Paul: I was hesitant at first. There's already a lot going on for a six-episode series.
Kelvin: The press materials all call him a geek, but it didn't really come through until that scene. On the other hand, I suppose it's a good thing they didn't go with the stereotype of the skinny bespectacled loser.
Paul: I agree. If anything, he just seemed a little off, mentally.
Kelvin: Yes, a couple of the characters seemed undefined. Jay is one, as is "Separated Guy."
Paul: What with the nightmares and the bedwetting and the therapy sessions.
Kelvin: Yes, those aren't geeky traits as such!
Paul: Mark (Tom Ellis) is interesting. That he's also the history teacher made me sit up and take notice. He's not just the other half of our doomed ghostbuster, Sarah (Natalie Dormer).
Kelvin: Yes, that extra link to the rest of the characters made me more interested in him too. Otherwise he seemed a bit peripheral.
Paul: I'm curious to find out just how much he knew about Sarah's extra-curricular activities.
It was another moment that brought The Invisibles to mind. With Mister Six being Dane's teacher, in the beginning.
Kelvin: Yes indeed. I'm reminded that the BBC were planning to make a TV series out of The Invisibles but it never happened.
Paul: That would have made me so very happy. Of course, it probably wouldn't have come together on the screen. Without dumbing it way down, anyway.
Kelvin: It was before the return of Doctor Who, before Being Human and all that. I imagine it would have a better chance of getting made now.
Paul: True. I'd rather see a production of it made today, than one made ten years ago.
Kelvin: Yes, the BBC seem more open to genre stuff now.
There was that thing last year with Karen Gillan and a haunted well. The Well, appropriately enough.
Paul: Ha! If it had gone through it probably would have been more along the lines of Strange than something watchable.
Kelvin: Oh dear, yes it would have been. I think Mark Millar was writing an urban horror series for BBC Scotland too. I don't know if that ever happened.
Paul: I mean, in concept, Strange sounded amazing.
Kelvin: I never saw it.
Paul: But we couldn't get two episodes in.
Paul: It's probably worth another look, if only to see how it could have been improved.
Kelvin: I'll have to track it down and give it a go.
Paul: I hadn't heard about the Millar series. Isn't Morrison also doing something currently?
Kelvin: Ah, it was called Sikeside. Vampires.
Paul: Hmmm. Morrison's new possible project is Bonnyroad with director Paul McGuigan attached, apparently.
Kelvin: Oh. That should be interesting.
Paul: If it ever happens. I have little hope of actually seeing it. Which makes all the more glad to see something like The Fades make it to the screen.
Kelvin: Yes, it may not be The Invisibles, but it's in the same general area. There's a lot to like about it. Good performances and great visuals.
Paul: And I just did a search on the Big Bad's name, Polus, and that's an allusion to the Titans banished to Tartarus by Zeus. Nice touch, that.
Kelvin: Oh, I didn't catch a name.
Paul: I found it online.
Kelvin: Ah yes. They kept referring to "he" and "him", but I didn't think they mentioned a name.
Paul: Polus is also the name given to an associate of Socrates.
Kelvin: Yes, there's more to the main villain than just another ghost, so I have hopes that there will be more to the whole setup than what we've seen so far.
Paul: Lure the viewers in with ghosts and then get them hooked on the eldritch monsters from beyond space and time!
Kelvin: I hope so!
I'll stick with it; there's not much else on at the time -- aside from a new sitcom called Fresh Meat which is getting good reviews -- and there's just enough to keep me interested.
Paul: The cast is strong and I love the visuals and the settings. You're right about the central threat, though. It could be less mundane, but hopefully that's the entry-level version of the threat.
I was excited once it was over, though. I give it without hesitation.
It's nice to have some serious horror on the screen. That's what saved Being Human for me, too. Once they stopped flitting around and started getting serious about the world they'd created.
Kelvin: I remember liking Being Human from the start, but mostly because of the humour; the serious stuff only gripped me later on.
The Fades hasn't grabbed me yet but I'll give it time. for me.
Paul: It was definitely better than it had any right to be. And now that I know its pedigree, I have high hopes for what's to come.
Kelvin: We shall see. There's enough talent involved that I'm going to give it a chance, but I don't want another The Hour!
Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.