The Fades Episode 1 Review

THE FADES: Wednesday 21st September, BBC3, 9pm

Comparing every new half-decent-looking BBC3 supernatural drama to Being Human will be something of an inevitability for many years to come, but while all the pre-hype surrounding Jack Thorne’s The Fades will be concerned with whether it can match up to its freeview forerunner, the post-debut chat could well be about whether this is a different – and potentially darker – beast to Toby Whithouse’s cult classic. Either way, the Beeb could have a new slick, witty and stylish hit on their hands.

Unlike Being Human (which has become more macabre and moved away from the ‘sitcom’ label – with which it flirted in its opening series) this new offering hits the ground darkly and threatens to go pitch-black as the series progresses. Yet while this is represents an evolution from supernatural drama to fantasy horror, neither the human side nor the comic element of this tale has been sacrificed.

Producers have intentionally limited the terrifying fades to a couple of scenes in this first episode, letting us get a handle on lead characters Paul (Iain De Caestecker), Mac (Daniel Kaluuya) and Neil (Johnny Harris). Paul is troubled teenager with a predictable incompetence with girls, Mac is his geeky but chirpy best mate and Neil is an old bloke who lives in a caravan. Quite why he lives in a caravan isn’t clear at this stage, but when Paul sees him fighting off a malevolent spirit in the opening sequences he finds himself pulled into a world that only a few others have ever witnessed.

These ‘Fades’ are actually dead humans who linger on invisibly in a world they are unable to interact with, looking for a way to ‘ascend’ (“some do some don’t” advises fades-vet Neil “death can be shit just like life can be shit..”) However when one nasty fade finds a way of breaking into the living world, Neil realises that he and young Paul might be able to help each other.

We are then introduced to a string of secondary characters whose connections should be filled in as the series continues. The girl who is attacked in the first scene is the ex-wife of the teacher at Paul’s school. He looks a tiny bit like the woman dressed as a priest who frequents Neil’s caravan, so he could potentially be her sister? (Not a spoiler, just plain old guesswork) She meets a nasty end in the final scene, which would spell the end for her in any other type of drama. Maybe she’ll be back at some point and in some other form..

If we are left to ponder some of this series’ players, there are also a string of themes here which have only just been touched on: The light that bursts from ascending fades’ chests, the dead birds, issues of heaven, earth, mortality and judgement (why is it that some souls are left behind and others pass on?) ..Not to mention the ash-ridden space-between-spaces that haunts Paul’s dreams.

Critics might argue that the directors are playing a slightly risky game by asking many more questions than they answer in this opening episode and there are other niggling questions that may or may not get answered (Is it just youngsters who turn into fades when they die and if not – where are all the OAP ghosts?) but there should be enough intrigue here to make them come back next week for seconds. I certainly will be..