Thursday, 13 October 2011


Thursday, 13 October 2011
I don't mind admitting it: after two underwhelming hours, episode 4 may have rescued this supernatural series from the brink. It helped that it fixed most of the irritations I think have dragged The Fades down: characters started to behave more realistically in response to the weirdness, irrationally bitchy Anna (Lily Loveless) showed a different side to her character, the overall story started to come together in interesting ways, the hour didn't drag (although, like most BBC shows, it would be improved immeasurably by losing 15-minutes), Jay (Sophie Wu) didn't get much screentime, and there was almost no unconvincing "geek-speak" from Mac (Daniel Kaluuya). It suddenly felt like the show I wanted The Fades to be from the start.

Naturally, it helped that episode 4 started answering questions and explaining the whole situation in a clearer way. The spectral Fades only came into existence around the time of WWII (assumedly because the deaths of so many people "broke the ladder"), and the "Angelic Killer" Polus (Joe Dempsie) only discovered he could grow flesh after the blood of his suicidal mother touched his lips (still makes no sense that blood could touch a ghost, but never mind). Having Polus achieve human form also gave The Fades a much-needed villain to focus on at last, and Dempsie's performance of a man learning how to exist in corporeal form again was fantastic (croaky voice, vomiting goo). It was also very interesting to have Paul (Iain de Caestecker) be pronounced "brain-dead" after his road accident last week, and consequently become a Fade for most of this episode—until the Angelics realized they could revive him with a bizarre woodland ritual involving a mirror and his twin sister. The final moment of Paul dying in hospital when his life-support machine was turned off, only to sit bolt upright and spew countless moths in front of his astonished mother and doctor was one of the most memorable moments of British telefantasy in some time.

So yes, I was much happier with this episode's content and tempo. It's unusual to have a protagonist like Paul who, let's face it, is so na├»ve he's often of a liability to the Angelics (here, good people die because Paul's stupid enough to believe Polus' lies and help him), and this episode took some big steps forward with the narrative. Polus has rescued his lover Natalie (Jenn Murray) from the Angelics' torture, and Sarah (Natalie Dormer) has decided to reacquire physical form by drinking human blood herself—so a reunion with widowed husband Mark (Tom Ellis), now cleared of her murder, appears very likely.

Overall, this was the best hour of The Fades for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it wasn't so clouded and sluggish in its storytelling. Many of the performances were also great this week, especially Kaluuya's shell-shocked response to his friend's situation, best shown with his quiet pleading to Paul's mother about not turning her son's life-support machine off. It wasn't a truly great hour, as there are still some areas of the story I'm not interested in, or don't feel have been written very well, but it was great to finally have a firm handle on this show. The preview of next week's episode looks just as promising, so I hope hindsight will show The Fades to be a good series with an awkward period immediately following its tantalizing premiere.


  • Polus is close to the name "Pollux", one half of the twins from Greek mythology, the other being Castor (Paul?) Theirs is a myth revolving around twins and immortality, which are familiar elements of The Fades.
  • Remember when Neil told Paul that Fades like rooftops because there's less chance of being damaged by touching living people? Turns out they're all just locked outside, as Paul found himself, right?
written by Jack Thorne · directed by Tom Shankland · 12 October 2011 · BBC Three