Thursday, 27 October 2011

THE FADES, 1.6 - series finale

"In the beginning there was the word, and the word was shit." -- Mac

Now The Fades has come to a close, I feel happier about its existence, but I still don't think it was close to as thrilling and intelligent as most people believe. It recovered well from a post-premiere slump, ending with a finale that had an entertaining mix of dilemma, drama, action and a few surprises. But was I on the edge of my seat? Not really. One of the indubitable strengths of the show has been its grey areas, as the heroes and villains aren't so delineated, and that's led to Paul (Ian De Caestecker) being more of a mediator between the forces of Good and Evil. In this finale, estranged mentor Neil (Johnny Harris) became the principal villain in many ways; kidnapping Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) and Anna (Lily Loveless) to use as leverage and force Paul into becoming a one-man exterminator of the reborn Fades.

One annoyance with the finale was how it separated Paul and Mac, who've been the show's dynamic duo all these weeks. It made sense to put Mac in danger and have Paul trying to save the day without his friend around to help (well, comment on the situation), but it still felt like the show missed their chemistry together, and ultimately wasted Kaluuya by keeping him in a shipping container for an hour. Nevertheless, I really liked Mac's story about how he and Paul would create superheroes as kids, now realizing they were imagining replacements for their fathers—whose absences they excused by believing they were busy saving the world elsewhere.

Paul instead teamed up with Alice (Ruth Gemmell) to try and reopen the woodland Ascension point, hoping that doing so will drag all the reborn Fades into the afterlife before they overrun the planet as "zombies" who can only survive by eating human flesh. Elsewhere, the newly-resurrected Sarah (Natalie Dormer) was reunited with her husband Mark (Tom Ellis) but started to feel a compulsion to kill, and John (Joe Dempsie) made the mayor's office his base of operations as he plotted a global takeover.

I don't have too much to say about this episode, strangely. It resolved some things, or appeared to, but left the door open for a second series I can't see being refused. One of the most shocking moments was when Neil callously shot Paul's girlfriend Kay (Sophie Wu) in the head, to make it clear he's not fooling around, and in some ways that moment overshadowed the rest of the episode, because no amount of special effects could best it. Even though we're dealing with a world where ghosts exist and resurrection's possible (meaning Jay's probably due some form of comeback if series 2 gets commissioned), the moment still felt very final and unexpected.

The actual finale was a slight cheat, considering we'd been led to believe that Paul and Sarah's visions were truly apocalyptic, when it turns out they were just seeing the abandoned shopping centre covered in ash from a reopened Ascension point. But it provided a decent final brawl between Paul and John, now the latter's decided he wants to live more than he wants to ascend. The chintzy special effects for a winged Paul hovering aboard the Ascension point's geyser and shooting energy into its abyss didn't unravel the tension too badly, and I was pleased by the denouement... with something very bad happening in the atmosphere over the city, as the defeated Neil remarked "I told him... you don't fuck with ascension". It seems that Paul's plan to save the day has backfired in ways yet to be explained, and I rather like how The Fades appears to have let its hero do more damage than good. Paul may have good and noble intentions, but he's ultimately a naïve teenage boy with incredible powers and no clue what he's doing. To be fair, he's in good company with the Angelics, who are a dysfunctional bunch of idiots.

Overall, The Fades ended on a high and I'm not reluctant to see more. Over its six episodes I was pleased to see a few problem areas were ironed out as the writing and focus improved (Anna's unwarranted bitchiness, the bludgeoning geek-speak, less Sophie Wu), its trump card was how it blurred the lines between good and evil, and in De Caestecker they found a great actor who brought a lot of humanity and sensitivity to Paul. It definitely had its moments, but there was something about The Fades that just didn't connect with me deeply; possibly because it bit off more than it could chew, and too many irritations got in the way of the good stuff in my head. The Sarah/Mark storyline was so shortchanged it needn't have existed to begin with.

What's your abiding feeling about The Fades? Are you one of the many people championing the show as a worthy companion to the likes of Being Human, or was it just a load of hogwash knitted together from a variety of sources?

Asides

  • John's retelling of the Bible story about Lot dissuading some townsfolk from gang-raping angels, by offering them his own daughters to abuse, is a story I've heard before... and it remains an astonishingly sick and morally-bankrupt piece of scripture.
  • I had to wonder if director Tom Shankland was paying homage to Quentin Tarantino with the "trunk shot" when Neil opened the boot of his car to reveal Mac inside.
  • Another influence on The Fades appears to be Night Watch, which itself is a pick n' mix of other movies. The use of birds is prominent in both.
written by Jack Thorne / directed by Tom Shankland / 26 October 2011 / BBC Three
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