DVD Review: The Fades: Season One
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Distributor: BBC Warner
· Farren Blackburn
· Tom Shankland
· Daniel Kaluuya
· Iain De Caestecker
· Johnny Harris
· Natalie Dormer
· Lily Loveless
· Sophie Wu
· Daniela Nardini
· Clair Rushbrook
· Joe Dempsie
· Visit The Fades website.
by Dennis Russo
Published: April 17, 2012
Let me say right off the bat, this is not your mama's SyFy.
This series is in some ways formulaic, and in some ways ground breaking. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. If hearing F-bombs, S-Bombs, seeing boobs, and butts, and deciphering English slang and accents is too much for you, turn away now. If really good science fiction writing and acting is your above all priority, this show may just what you’re looking for.
The Fades opens almost to horror film formula: A woman walking along a deserted road in a seedy area talking on a cell phone hears a noise off in an alley. Instead of walking away, she walks over to investigate, asks “what’s the matter?” There’s a growl; a leaping lunge; the opening credits begin.
The show centers around two friends, Paul (Iain De Caestecker) and Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), your typical high school losers who cannot seem to get girls to like them. They both quote lines from way too many science fiction and adventure movies. Paul has a twin sister Anna (Lily Loveless), who is the “popular” girl in school that cannot stand him. Mac wants to have Paul’s sister as his girlfriend, but she can’t stand him either. Paul has a thing for for Jay (Sophie Wu), a girl in Anna’s clique, and vice-versa.
Paul, Mac and their unknowing friends get caught up in an escalating battle between two different factions. One of these is the “Fades,” which are dead people who walk the Earth and who have not ascended up to heaven, not because they are essentially evil but because the “ascension points” are broken. (If the dead person does not find a working ascension point before their prescribed time they become trapped here on Earth.)
The other faction is the “Angelics,” a gang of humans with special powers who can see the dead people (I know – “I see dead people” comes roaring to mind) who fight the Fades while trying to figure out why ascension points are broken. They also have an ability that enables them to heal others (and when they do for some reason a moth flies out of their mouth).
When the show isn’t involved in the Fade/Angelic goings on, it follows the path of teen angst along the veins of divorced parents, hateful siblings, nerd-dom and blossoming lust, throwing in some quick witted humor along the way that helps make light of the situations.
Some Fades are angry that they are trapped on Earth, and have learned through the help of a rogue Fade, John (Joe Dempsie), that if they eat human flesh they can become living people again. What the Fades don’t realize is that after they do become living again, they must continue to eat human flesh to survive. (Dead people eating flesh... where have I seen this before?) The twist here that I find interesting is that they are not dead humans doing the eating but the dead humans ghosts that are doing the eating to become alive again. This is something that I have not seen played out before in the myriad of flesh eating zombie moves I have seen in my lifetime.
Paul, who we also discover has been having apocalyptic dreams, becomes entwined with the Angelics, and in particular one named Neil (Johnny Harris). The Angelics realize that Paul is one of them, and could be the key to fixing the ascension points, even though Neil does not feel they should be fixed. Meanwhile, Paul deals with the war between the Angelics and the Fades, led by John. As the confrontations escalate, he also comes to realize he has even more abilities than the other Angelics, and understands that if he can’t fix ascension and the Fades take over, it will mean the end of the world for everyone -- including the Fades.
Paul also realizes that neither Neil nor John wants the ascension points fixed. In a real twist that I don’t think would ever have been done in an American show, Neil -- a good guy, an Angelic, a “hero” figure -- shoots and kills Jay (Paul’s girlfriend) in front of him when Paul refuses to help him, in order to get him to change his mind. I would have bet money he would not have pulled the trigger. I mean, a good guy blatantly killing an innocent teenage girl to get his way? What a cutting edge plot twist! As the first season comes to a head, Paul is caught between John and Neil, each telling him how bad the other one was. He stands up and tells them both he is not going to choose either, that he knows how to fix the ascension points, and is going to do it.
This is great Sci-Fi writing in my opinion! I can’t wait for next season to find out what happened to Jay. (I hope it is not the last we see of her as I really liked her character. She is a wonderful young actress.)
The series really grew on me as the season progressed. At first it was a little hard to get into, as many scenes early on are filmed very dark (dark in the sense of a lot of the action is filmed at night or in dark or dimly lit buildings and tunnels). Coupled with the heavy English accents and slang, it was difficult to get an understanding of what is going on at times. Until I got use to their vernacular it made the pace seem sluggish at times. The series really picked up from the second episode on, and never looked back. It doesn’t make any excuses for itself and it doesn’t have to; it is what it is.
I really enjoyed the actors as well; they really got into the characters they portrayed in such a way that I never felt they were acting. I also “felt” for all of the Fades and Angelics alike.
Another very good thing that the show benefits from is a recap at the start of each episode by Mac. He gives a quick rundown of not only what happened on the previous episode, but about who the Fades are, who the Angelics are, why they are stuck on earth, Paul’s involvement, and other things. It gives you a chance to start the next episode with a more solid understanding of the series, and helps you understand something you may have missed.
I did not talk too much about the coarse language and nudity (although never what I would call obscene) but it is most definitely there. That said, I don’t know if the show would have had the same impact and effect if what it did have wasn’t there. What I mean to say is that if the US networks, such as SyFy or Chiller remade this to the US “style,” I don’t think it would work as well. I don’t know if bleeping out, overdubbing and blurring images would fare any better. Fortunately we have DVD here and do not have to be limited by such constraints and can enjoy it to its fullest -- the way it was intended. I’m a fan of the show now, and look forward to the next season on DVD; however I am also a bona-fide Anglophile when it comes to television, so I can be more understanding.
The accents and vernacular could pose a problem for some viewers if they are not familiar with English television, so they could see that as a negative instead of a positive. For that reason, and the minor others I have mentioned, I rate The Fades first season on DVD as a solid B -- if you’re an Anglophile like me add a 1/2 grade.