When The Fades first aired I tried to watch the first episode, but it fell flat for me.
This was almost certainly because I was distracted to start with and pissing about on my PC while it was.
I thought it was shallow, that funny moments weren’t funny and that it was confusing. Well, of course I would, I wasn’t paying attention.
So I’d like to take a moment here to apologise to the cast and crew of The Fades for being inattentive on that first showing. It meant I did not watch the next episodes and was part of the reason their ratings were low.
Having said that, I’d now like to try to put it right.
Because The Fades is brilliant television.
I’d heard this from various sources and was sceptical given my initial reaction, but I decided to get it from LoveFilm and at least give it a second shot.
The first episode still had the same plot I recalled from before, but this time it made sense! Shocking, I know.
Characters which had seemed random before were now quite clearly characters I should be paying attention to.
I had problems with Paul, the main protagonist, both times I saw it. He’s a little whiny, a little unsure of himself. Second time around though the show does a great job of grounding his problems in a recognisable set of situations. His home life, the bad dreams, all these things connect clearly to why he is the way he is.
But the best thing to come out of the rewatch was the character of Mac. On first viewing I thought him nothing but pop culture references and an attempt to introduce some misplaced humour into the show. Instead he became someone I recognise, a person who’s first instinct is to react with a line from a tv show or movie. The kind of geeks I meet online and occasionally get to see in real life. Mac becomes a person I know.
Was the first episode perfect? No, I disliked Paul’s sister as a character and was a little disappointed in it not living up to the hype, but it was good enough to push on to episode 2.
Now, episode 2 is where The Fades really starts to kick into gear. It shows a healthy disdain for the idea that if your name is in the title credits, then you get to live or appear in all the episodes.
Episode 2 appears to follow the first in setting up an episodic show like Being Human where each week we get another case and a little more character development. Again, this was a little disappointing because the central “mystery” of the week, the deaths, felt a little underserved as it focused more on the characters of Paul, Anna, Mac and Jay.
Roll on episode 3 and it becomes clear that this show isn’t episodic at all, it’s a 6 hour story that just happen to be broken up into parts.
Now, Paul is still a little whiny and it’s a personal bugbear of mine where characters are that moany. But in this show it balances Paul’s nervousness about his place in the world with the storyline about Mac’s birthday. In fact Mac’s “I’m tired” speech is quite heartbreaking.
A character that could have been nothing but parody and the stereotypical best friend is suddenly given an incredibly rich back story and lets you reassess all of his behaviour through this new view of him. He’ll spell it out in a later episode where he says he hides behind trivia and facts because he’s scared.
And then episode 3 ends with one of the ballsiest moves I’ve seen from a show in a long time.
Which is then the last episode on Disc 1, so I have to send it back and wait a couple of days to conclude this story. That was very frustrating, I really didn’t want a break from this story.
Episode 4 begins like 2 and 3 with Mac recapping in a vlog style, and it’s the first time I have ever been moved by a recap.
Episode 4 is also when we get to meet the villain of the piece and find out what drives him.
Once he has given his speech about what happened to him and why he is attacking the Angelics, you do feel for him. Which makes Paul’s bad choice so very understandable.
Episode 5 is probably the most pure horror of all of them, familiar tropes but done in an intriguing way.
Episode 6 shows it hasn’t lost any of its balls to shock with a certain death. Unfortunately the last episode felt like it had about 5-10 minutes more running time than it had story. There’s no obvious filler, a lot of good character moments, but somehow I felt it could have been a little snappier.
That’s not much of a major gripe though in a show that was altogether brilliant.
And then we are left with either an ominous ending or a very intriguing start to series 2. Unfortunately, I think it might only be the former.
Now, you may have noticed I danced as far as I could around spoilers, but that’s because I really don’t think that spoiling any part of this show does you any favours. Hopefully I’ve given you a moment’s pause and made you think “Yeah, sounds good.”
Because this show is good and I would dearly love to see what happens next.
If you have seen the show and loved it, may I recommend The Faceless by Simon Bestwick as a good companion piece.
They are both born from a similar idea, the angry dead don’t want to be that way, but tackle them in very different ways.