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If you don’t have BBC America as part of your cable subscription, you’re really missing out on some fine genre offerings from Across the Pond. Who knew the Brits could do genre fare so well? “Sherlock”, “Doctor Who”, and now, “The Fades”. Essentially a teenage version of “The Ghost Whisperer”/”Medium” crossed with “Supernatural”, but minus the network TV restrictions (sex, violence, blood, and all that good stuff), “The Fades” is an intriguing show that doesn’t really do anything new, but does it well enough anyway that it should develop a following. The show’s Season 1 now arrives on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of BBC.
The Fades is a new supernatural horror series by 2011 Royal Television Society Award-winning writer Jack Thorne (the original UK Skins). Iain De Caestecker (Coronation Street) is Paul, a young man who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams that neither his therapist nor his best friend, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya, Skins, Sucker Punch), can provide answers for. Worse still, Paul has started seeing the Fades – the spirits of the dead – all around him. They’re everywhere but normally can’t be seen, heard or touched – until now. An embittered and vengeful Fade has found a way to break the barrier between the dead and the living. and Paul, Mac and their loved ones find themselves in the middle of it all. The worst is only yet to come as the fate of humanity rests in the hands of the two friends who already have enough trouble getting through a day in one piece, let alone saving the world.
You’ve heard this one before: awkward, social outcast teen and his best friend discover that he has a secret, world-saving fate that doesn’t involve landing the hot girl or surviving high school. (Or, er, whatever the High School equivalent is in England or thereabouts.) So yeah, nothing too original there, but then again, it’s hard to do original nowadays. The idea, then, is to take what’s already been done and put enough new spins on it that you can call it your own. “The Fades”, I think, accomplishes that.
Iain De Caestecker stars a Paul, a 17-year old movie geek who spends most of his time reciting movie trivia with his best bud Mac (Daniel Kaluuya). The duo go to school, pine for girlfriends, all the usual teenage stuff. Then one night, Paul discovers that he can see dead spirits. Which in itself is pretty creepy, but it gets better: one of the those spirits (or Fades, in the show’s parlance) has learned that by consuming the blood/flesh of the living, it can become, essentially, reborn. Essentially going from ghosts to demons/vampires. As Paul comes to grips with his newfound powers, a small band of Angelics, basically ghost hunters who, like Paul can see the spirits, try to contain the growing threat. But it looks like they’re going to need Paul’s help, though, and fast.
There’s a lot to like in “The Fades”. De Caestecker and Kaluuya have great chemistry as the close friends, and as an added bonus, viewers get extra Mac goodness because the character sums up the previous episode directly into the camera at the beginning of each new episode, starting with number two. Kaluuya is fantastic in the role, and it’s shocking how close he comes to taking over the show whenever he appears onscreen, even though every cool thing is happening to his best friend. Kaluuya is so ridiculously good in the role that whenever Mac disappears for long stretches of an episode, my mind wanders to what he’s up to.
Set mostly around a small English town, “The Fades'” first season consists of six episodes, each one pivotal to the show’s canon. Whereas with your average American network TV show you’ll get two, maybe three or four (if you’re lucky) game changer episodes per season, British TV consists of very few episodes, which means every single one has to count. Each episode of “The Fades” runs around 55 minutes each, with the first two episodes building up the mythology and growing threat of the Fades, led by the murderous John (Joe Dempsie), a Fade who has assumed human form once again and means to bring about greater destruction to humanity. Unless, of course, uber Angelic-in-the-making Paul can stop him. First, he’ll have to find a way to juggle saving the world and landing a potential girlfriend in Jay (Sophie Wu), his bitch of a sister’s best friend.
Paul gets able assist from Neil (Johnny Harris), a rough and tumble Angelic who has been at this for a while, and is showing the wear and tear of the job. Neil essentially becomes Paul’s handler and mentor, while Natalie Dormer (“The Tudors”) is Sarah, a fallen Angelic who returns as a Fade to stalk her husband, a teacher at Paul’s school. The show probably spends too much time with Sarah and her wholly uninteresting ex-hubby, who eventually becomes a suspect in the rash of murders being committed by John and his Fades. As TV show coincidence would have it, Mac’s father is the cop in charge of investigating those murders. The show’s cop angle is probably taken way too seriously, especially when intercut with scenes of Paul sprouting wings after a bout of, er, self pleasure.
If you’re into shows like “Supernatural”, there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t totally dig “The Fades”. It’s very well-written and acted (in particular, the chemistry between buds Paul and Mac is downright brilliant stuff), and while it doesn’t really go for scares, there’s enough red stuff to please even the gorehounds in the audience. I did mention that “The Fades” features a lot of violence and some sex, not to mention language, right? Because, you know, it does. This is not for the kiddies, so you have been warned.
“The Fades” Season One Blu-ray comes with two discs, each holding three of the season’s six episodes. Special features include bonus footage and deleted scenes that didn’t quite make it for whatever reason (mostly time constraints). Other bonuses include behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew and making-of production featurettes. “Mac Explains” is a series of short mini-featurettes featuring Daniel Kaluuya in his Mac persona explaining the show’s terminology, and you also get some outtakes. It’s basically three and a half minutes of De Caestecker and Kaluuya either flubbing lines or goofing off.