Thursday, 6 October 2011


Thursday, 6 October 2011
This show just isn't working for me. I enjoy Iain de Caestecker's introverted performance as Paul, the show's basic idea has appeal because it touches on lots of fantasy staples, but The Fades lacks many things that go into making a compelling supernatural drama. Perhaps the biggest issue with the show is how its two halves (the social life of outcast Paul and his fantastical role as an "Angelic") don't sit well together. You spend half of every episode suffering through Sophie Wu's amateur line readings as Paul's girlfriend Jay, the baffling hatred Paul's sister Anna (Lily Loveless) has towards her brother (explain why she's so difficult and despicable!), and the show's unnatural and outmoded geek references. The opening of every episode has Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) recapping events to a webcam, singing of with an excruciating "nanu-nanu" (a quote from '70s alien sitcom Mork & Mindy). Who references Mork & Mindy in 2011? I feel sorry for Kaluuya, who shows some raw talent, because the scripts continually make his character look idiotic, unrealistic and quite creepy, when he should be none of those things.

This week, what even happened? Paul discovered he sprouts angel-like wings when he ejaculates, but didn't seem especially horrified and concerned by that. Neil (Johnny Harris) gathered a gang of fellow Angelics to fight the Fades, and his severe stomach wounds were healed by Paul. Paul's apocalyptic vision was extended to include the appearance of a handsome man walking through the haze of falling ash. Neil played Whoopi Goldberg to Mark's (Tom Ellis) Demi Moore, passing him a message from his dead wife Sarah (Natalie Dormer), but I'm still perplexed by this storyline. You could remove Mark and Sarah (Natalie Dormer) form the show completely and, right now, it wouldn't matter one jot. Paul also used "magic" to seal Annar's mouth close, Matrix-style, which his sister was implausibly calm about, before losing his virginity to Jay after wooing her with talk of a British-made space satellite. The leader of the Fades (i.e the one they can afford full-body makeup job for) cocooned itself, to emerge as the man from Paul's vision, just as Paul was hit by a car and hospitalized.

As usual, most of the interesting stuff happened in the dying minutes, with tedious and unconvincing drivel coming before it. Three hours. That's how long this show's had to tell its story so far, but there's only been perhaps 80-minutes of plot. Having perused other reviews online, and even browsed Twitter for immediate audience response last night, I'm clearly in the minority here! I'm a champion of good British SF/fantasy on television, but I just don't see what everyone's so excited about with The Fades. (Then again, most sites reviewing it are naturally biased towards the genre.) For me, it's dreary, slow, unconvincing, has few original ideas (maybe they seem fresh to the target demo?), the dual life of reluctant hero Paul doesn't work, and writer Jack Thorne is incapable of capturing contemporary geek-talk. There are undeniably some fun elements, and the climax of every episode usually contains a few eye-opening events to draw you back for more, but none of that excuses how the majority of each hour's a struggle to sit through. It lacks the flair and excitement its excellent opening titles suggest this show is all about:

Am I alone in thinking The Fades is little more than a half-decent idea, poorly told by someone who likes the genre but doesn't "get it"? Maybe the show's resolution will be good, but even if that proves to be the case, a two-part special feels like the better format for what I've seen so far.

written by Jack Thorne · directed by Farren Blackburn · 5 October 2011 · BBC Three