UK TV review: The Fades
Selina Pearson | On 12, Mar 2016
“They are the dead and they’re trapped here. When people die, they go up or stay here. Those that stay here, we call them the Fades… The problem? You imagine being trapped in a world you can’t touch, can’t taste. Hate grows. Those that get left behind get shitty.”
One of the upsides of BBC Three becoming an online channel is that a lot of their old content is now back on BBC iPlayer. Which is fantastic, because it gives everyone a chance to watch The Fades again.
In 2011, Jack Thorne took the grimy realism of Skins and This Is England to a supernatural, tense drama, pitched at the Being Human crowd. BBC Three, well known for its commissioning of groundbreaking original drama, took a risk on this six-part horror. The Fades ended up as a strange combination of supernatural creep-fest and awkward teen drama.
Paul (Iain De Caestecker) is an outsider at school, the lowest of the low on the teenage hierarchy. His best friend is the Star Wars-quoting Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), their geeky awkwardness cementing their status as the ultimate in uncool. Not helping this is Paul’s twin sister, Anna (Lily Loveless), who is the queen bee, a Regina George-class b*tch.
Paul is haunted by apocalyptic dreams of a world covered in ash. The same visions plague Sarah (Natalie Dormer), one of the angelics – people who have special abilities who can see the Fades. The Fades aren’t able to ascend after death, because the ascension points are closing and they are are becoming stuck. And now, people are disappearing. The angelics suspect that they are up against something new. At the start of the first episode, Paul witnesses an encounter between the angelics and the Fades, something he shouldn’t have been able to see. Neil (Johnny Harris), also one of the angelics, realises that Paul is special.
Paul, full of questions, learns what he can from the angelicas. Odd powers emerge, but he fights to juggle this supernatural life-and-death struggle with his friends and family, everything finally coming to a head. Also involved is Paul’s history teacher, Mark (Tom Ellis), who is desperate for answers following his wife’s disappearance.
The show has a quality cast that has gone on to bigger and better things: De Caestecker went on to Agents of S.HI.E.L.D., Natalie Dormer had previously been Anne Boleyn in The Tudors and is currently in Game of Thrones as well as The Hunger Games. Another Game of Thrones regular, Joe Dempsie, plays the mysterious John, seemingly at the centre of events. Tom Ellis can be seen in Amazon’s Lucifer, while Psychoville’s Daniel Kaluuya has made the jump to film in features such as Welcome to the Punch and Sicario.
Iain De Caestecker is a likeable hero as the vulnerable Paul, but it is the full ensemble that pulls you in emotionally. Kaluuya’s Mac is as pop culture savvy as The Flash’s Cisco or Community’s Abed, while Claire Rushbrook is wonderfully mumsy as Paul’s protective mum. These people aren’t the unrealistic cool so often depicted on screen, but rather they are uncool, awkward and flawed; the well-written characters and the gripping plot help to make this a superb piece of television.
Despite the devastating climax, the ending is left open for a second season. This first run was certainly well-received, winning a BAFTA for Best Drama Series, but, due to BBC Three’s budgetary constraints, they chose not to renew the show. Instead, they renewed Being Human for its fifth season. We still would have taken a second season of The Fades.
The Fades is available on BBC iPlayer until September 2021.
Photos: BBC iPlayer