Thursday, 20 October 2011


Thursday, 20 October 2011
The Fades rattled along with episode 5, buoyed by an impressive set-piece in a school, with Paul (Iain De Caesecker) helping mentor Neil (Johnny Harris) slay "reborns"—ghosts who've regained corporeal form by eating human flesh, led by Jason Bateman-alike Polus (Joe Dempsie). Not much happened to push the story forward, so I'm still conviced there's only perhaps three hours of story stretched across six weeks here, but the hour was thick with incident and enjoyable to watch. It helps that the show's awkwardly-written comedy and cringemaking geeky references have been reduced in recent weeks (although those "nanu-nanu's" still make me squirm with embarrassment), and I find Paul to be an interesting and believable character in terms of how he behaves and operates.

It's a shame that the story has no clear idea what to do with Sarah (Natalie Dormer), who's spent most of this series as the "fade" ghost of husband Mark (Tom Ellis), only to now come back in physical form after drinking blood and spinning a bathtub cocoon for herself. And Mac's father, DCI Armstrong (Robbie Gee) literally gave up on his investigation here, telling everyone to just leave town because the police have no clue what's going on with all the murders. But for every mistake that still remains, a few have been rectified: like Anna's (Lily Loveless) evolution away from one-note bitch to a member of the ghostbusting team. It was also a nice touch this week to have Paul realize that the Angelics and the Fades are almost as bad as each other, so it's up to him to come up with a plan that will please everyone. I just wish we knew why the Fades are villains (can't they just hang out peacefully as ghosts?), and why the Angelics started to believe the Fades were bad news (they can be killed so easily in their natural form, after all). I guess these are just nitpicks with the underlying mythology of the show, which doesn't make total sense to me.

I'm still not totally in love with The Fades, which I feel many people are (judging from other reviews), but it's certainly a worthwhile enterprise for BBC Three and there are moments that leap off the screen, or have some intelligence to them. (This week's allusions to the Columbine tragedy, for example.) But there's also a lot that drags with the story, not every character's been given good material, the grungy amber-black atmosphere can get tiresome, and witer Jack Thorne's attempts to lighten the mood (usually with Mac's geeky asides) rarely work for me. A simple thing like noticing Paul and Mac are wearing identical pajamas is funnier than any amount of lame Matrix and Lord Of The Rings references. Still, next week's finale will hopefully bring the story to a conclusion that makes sense of Paul's apocalyptic visions and leave us wanting a second series, provided the team take a critical look at what worked and what didn't.

written by Jack Thorne / directed by Tom Shankland / 19 October 2011 / BBC Three