The BBC has been putting out some great SF/Fantasy shows in
recent years. The new Doctor
Who is one of the best shops on
the air, Torchwood is excellent, and Being
Human is always fun to watch. So I was
excited when I heard that 'the Beeb'
was going to try its hand at a dark fantasy/horror series involving
zombies. Sounds like it could be very
interesting. The result is The Fades a
six-episode series that aired on BBC 3, and is a frustrating show to
watch. It starts off slow and confusing,
gets very good in the middle, and then ends on a low note.
It's too bad that the weak characters, poor
lead actor, and countless plot holes outweigh the genuinely suspenseful
of the show.
Paul Roberts (Iain de Caestecker) and his best friend Mac
(Daniel Kaluuya) are high school students and general outcasts. Nerdy beyond belief, no one at school pays
any attention to them, and even Paul's twin sister Anna (Lily Loveless)
him. Part of the problem that Paul is so
awkward is because he has trouble sleeping at night.
He has horrific dreams of the end of the
world that often cause him to wet himself.
One evening Paul and Mac break into an abandoned shopping
mall to look for props for an amateur horror film they're making. They split up to search and Paul encounters
Valentine (Johnny Harris), a creepy guy with a gun who is looking for
named Sarah. He yells at Mark to run,
but instead of following that sage advice, the idiotic teen tracks the
with a gun and sees him being attacked by an undead 'fade.' With Neil down and the Fade sitting on top of
him, Paul finally realizes that making tracks might be the best thing
to do and
The next day Neil tracks Paul down (the Fade, who ended up
killing Sarah, decided to let Neil live and only poisoned his eye...
doesn't make a lot of sense, I know) and fills him in on what is
happening. It turns out that Paul is
special. He, like Neil and Sarah, can
see dead people, and that means he's an 'Angelic' (whatever that means...
never explained). After someone dies
their spirit has to go to an 'ascension point' where they 'ascend' and
go on to
their justly reward. (When this happens
they turn into birds, and if they don't ascend a bird dies and falls
sky... or something like that. Neil's
always looking at dead birds, but they pretty much drop that whole
the first episode, so don't worry about it.
But then they made the bird thing a cover motif for the Blu-ray
so I'm a bit confused.) Unfortunately
ascension points have been closing, trapping spirits on Earth.
These trapped spirits are Fades. They
can't interact with the world at
all. They can't touch or smell. Oh, but they can hear. And
And talk. And I guess they might
be able to smell. It never really came
up. So when Neil says that they can't
interact at all, what he means is that they can't touch anything or be
or be seen by normal people though they can see us.
This 'touchless' existence has made them a
bit cranky after decades (the oldest one is from the 40's... Neil
something about that's when man started building things with concrete. He's not a great historian that Neil.) They continue to after death too.
(Well, the males do. The females
stay young. After all, old men are creepy
and scary but
young women are hot even, if they're dead.)
Many of them go insane.
That's shouldn't really matter. I mean
they can't touch living people, so who
cares? No one, until one Fade, John,
figures out a way that he can gain the ability to interact with the
world and even become reborn as an immortal.
The trick, it turns out, is to eat human flesh.
(One of the few plot holes they do explain is
how John was able to taste blood for the first time.) Once
one Fade can interact with the living
world, he can grab people and feed them to other Fades, who can
Which brings us back to Paul and Neil. Neil
is convinced that a war is coming
between Angelics and Fades and that Paul has special abilities. He takes the young boy under his wing to
train him, and the first thing he tells him to do is to cut all ties
everyone he knows... including Paul's hot and popular new girlfriend. (All of the popular girls really lust after
the geeky kids who are socially awkward, not the jocks.
That's one of the many truths that this
series is not afraid to reveal.)
Things are moving faster than Neil figures though, and when
people start to go missing at an alarming rate, even the police are
helpless. All of the Angelics gather,
but even their combined strength (and what is it that they do, aside
seeing dead people??) isn't enough to stop John and his army of reborn
This series should have been very good. It
has a lot going for it including some very
surprising twists and some very suspenseful episodes, but in the end it
falls due to the many weaknesses.
The overall story is interesting but it gets all muddled up
in the details. There's one scene in the
fourth episode where Mac and Paul are playing a game:
one of them says the title of a movie and the
other has to shout out a plot hole. This
gets my vote for 'ironic scene of the decade' because there are so very
dumb, unexplained, inconsistent, and plain stupid plot points littered
these six episodes. (And only one person
wrote it.) Aside from some of the silly
things, like the fact that Paul sprouts wings when his masturbates (I
not), there are some basic questions that are left unanswered.
What did Angelics do before John became solid (which had to
be only a short time ago)? Why are they
organized? How did they get
organized? Why did Sarah, who was at an
ascension point, not ascend? Why did Jay not turn into a Fade when she
died? How come Fades can't affect the
but be affected by it? (If you shut a
Fade in a room, he is trapped there until someone opens the door. He can't open it himself, but he can climb
stairs and stand on a roof. They show a
Fade trapped on a roof. Why doesn't he
just jump?) It turns out that Paul is
the only one that can 'kill' a Fade after they've become solid. How is that different from them
ascending? Isn't it the same thing? Why doesn't Paul want to kill them, but he
does want them to ascend? Why Fades trap
a helpless Neil THREE TIMES and let him live each time while killing
other Angelic they encounter? I could go
on and on.
Then there are the really idiotic plot points that are put
in because the writer has to get from point A to point B some how, so
does it. Making a popular girl in school
sleep with Paul is just ludicrous, but what's worse is how Mac's father
acts. He's a (black) cop in charge of
the missing person's investigation. His
boss, a racist, is coming down hard on him and says that he's
his job. So after some people go missing
and a handful of others are kidnapped at a school, he orders the city
evacuated and admits that the police have no idea what's going on but
handle the situation. That's just
insane. No ranking police officer would
do that with any hope of keeping his badge.
Of course, the city is then evacuated.
The worse insult is when Neil, trying to convince Paul to do
what his says, kills his girlfriend. It
works. Paul sees the error of his ways
and goes along with Neil who has just killed the one girl who ever
him. Yeah, right.
End of Spoilers
The characters are pretty poorly crafted too. Paul
is very wooden and for the life of me I
can't see why anyone would want to follow him.
The worst offender is Mac however.
He is easily one of the most irritating characters ever. I can only hypothesize, but my guess is that
he was created after watching Big Band
Theory and a bunch of Kevin Smith films.
In those they have likable characters who spout clever
references in an amusing and endearing fashion.
Mac, on the other hand, just makes movie and TV references
with no real context, wit, or heart.
He's a nerd that nerds would shun.
When he's trapped in a room with a girl and zombies are trying
in to eat them, he asks her which character from ET
she would want to be. He
tries to impress a hot girl by telling her the plot to Star
Wars. That's not
clever, that's moronic. The worst
offense is at the end of ever intro that he does speaking to the
tugs his ears and says "na-noo na-noo."
Dear god. I was a big geek in
high school and even I didn't do that, and Mork and Mindy was on the
air at the
It wasn't all bad, which makes the show worse in an odd sort
of way. If it was just totally horrible
I could write it off as a piece of rubbish and be done with it. As it is, there are some solid sections that
show what the show could have been,
which make the flaws all the more heartbreaking. Once
the plot actually gets moving (at around
the half way point) the story gets pretty good.
The attack on the school eerie, surprising, and well thought out. Some of the other sections are very creepy
too, like the visit to the old orphanage.
There were some plot twists that I didn't see coming too. It's just too bad that the rest of the show
was so poor.
The Blu-ray set:
The six episode series arrives on two Blu-ray discs in a
single-width double case.
The 1080i 16:9 image looks fine overall, though there were
some flaws. Being a recent production,
the level of detail was very good and the image was sharp and clear. The drab color scheme played out well in HD
too, giving the whole production a nice depressing atmosphere that the
were undoubtedly trying to achieve.
Unfortunately there was a fair amount of aliasing through the
program. At one point Paul wears a shirt
with thin horizontal lines and when he runs the lines break and create
step effect. The same happens when the
camera pans across a cityscape scene.
There was a bit of grain in some darker scenes too, but it was
Like this whole production, they come close but don't hit
the mark on the audio. The show does
have a DTS-HD-MA soundtrack, which is great news. Unfortunately
it's only in stereo. I can't imagine why
they didn't splurge for a
full 5.1 audio track, especially since an atmospheric show like this
really benefited from the extra effort.
As it is, the two channel mix is fine, but it's not immersive
should be (the scene where Paul goes to the abandoned orphanage just
out (no pun intended) for some eerie audio effects from the rears). It is hard to understand what some people are
saying when they're talking quickly, but that's mainly due to the
it's rare. Luckily there are optional
subtitles if you really get lost. It is
a good audio track, but it could have been so much better.
The bonus material consists of many short clips scattered
across the two discs. First off there's Mac Explains, where Paul's best friend
fills you in on what going on in the show, just in case you weren't
follow along. There are some scenes that
I assume were supposed to end each episode (*thankfully they were cut)
Mac and Paul chat about trivia, a series of deleted scenes, interviews
cast members Johnny Harris and Natalie Dormer, and some outtakes. Nothing that really got me excited.
Though there are some parts that are truly very good, this
show isn't. It has a plot filled with
inconsistencies and huge plot hole, one of the most irritating
ever grace a TV screen, and way too many silly bits.
Just pass this one by. Skip it.