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The Fades was a BBC3 supernatural drama-serial which aired in 2011, its original broadcast passed me by when it appeared on the television and I only became aware of it when amazon suggested the title to me. Comprising 6 episodes each running around 60 minutes the series introduces us to and follows a 17 year old boy by the name of Paul who discovers that he can see and interact with the dead or the 'Fades' to give them their collective name . Paul isn't the only person who can see the fades as he soon finds out and whilst the special ability he has been blessed with starts off being rather benign if not extraordinary he concludes that it's a relatively harmless quirk of nature that allows him to see what very few others can't. However, when he begins to dream of the end of the world where there is nothing around him but ashes and discovers that he may also have the power to heal Paul becomes the unwanted focus of both the living and the dead . Are his dreams visions of an apocolyptic future? and are the Fades as harmless as he thinks? What's dead is dead, right?...actually, that might not be the case at all...
The Fades appealed to me as soon as I read about it on amazon's website and whilst it was a rather expensive leap of faith from my part I paid the £9.00 it cost to buy the series and spent a recent afternoon in the company of Paul and The Fades. Whilst the premise of the series isn't terribly unique it quickly hooked me and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen as the storyline prgressed and I got to know the characters involved. The opening episode establishes the character of Paul and the actor playing him, Ian de Caestecker does an excellent job in his portrayal, he's a typical 17 year old, a bit geeky and not part of the in-crowd instead Paul likes to hang out with his best friend Mac who he shares a common interest with and the two rely on each other for support and friendship. The pair know their place amongst their peers, it doesn't help that Paul's sister just so happens to be part of the popular, infuencial crowd though as she is often cruel to her brother and her scorn for him is clearly apparent, by keeping themselves to themselves Paul and Mac try to lead uneventful lives trying their best to avoid trouble and accept their place amongst those around them and for the most part they succeed until Paul becomes aware of his special abilities and finds himself the target of some unwanted attention.
The Fades we learn are the souls of dead people who haven't been able to ascend to Heaven and are now forced to spend eternity stuck in a limbo existence. The 'rules' of them being on Earth are explained early on in the series and we learn why some people, including Paul can see them, the premise is well thought out and cleverly executed onscreen with a compelling storyline that constantly moves and the 6 episodes in this series cover a period of time in Pauls life after it is revealed that the Fades have discovered a way to be reborn by drinking human blood. Simply put The Fades is a "them vs us" battle and whilst the premise isn't all that different from countless other films and TV series that have preceded it the strength of the show for me came down to some great action-filled episodes that cherry-pick the best ideas from other supernatural dramas and include them in one great series.
There are obvious references to a Vampiric lifestyle, the Fades needing to kill to drink blood for sustinance is a nice idea and whilst they're not Vampires in the true sense of the word they don't have to abide by the rules normally associated with these supernatural entities, how they make the 'rebirth' discovery is quite a clever plot twist which I won't discuss too greatly as it forms the heart of the series but what I would say is that it is ingeniously thought out and very cleverly executed. This is what I found good about The Fades as a whole, it's very well written and almost feels like it should have been adapted from a book as it's cleverly plotted with some surprising twists along the way. For the most part it is very well acted, the special effects and cinematograpy are extremely well done and it almost seems a shame that the series was hidden away on BBC3 as it deserved a much wider audience. Given more exposure I do think that this would have made for event-tv along the lines of Doctor Who or Torchwood and is a pity that for the most part it has probably gone unnoticed by the majority of TV viewers, it's not perfect though and whilst my review has been quite positive up to now I do have to mention a couple of aspects that did grate on me and unfortunately the biggest issue I had with this series comes down to Paul's friend Mac who really, really annoyed me.
Mac played by Daniel Kayuula is Pauls best friend and a real film geek, he quotes iconic phrases from films at any available opportunity and generally tags along with Paul whilst getting in the way. The character I presume was written to provide some light relief, he narrates the beginning of each episode with a recap of what happened in the last installment but other than that I couldn't really understand why he was there. He has a back-story which is explained but even after you get to know him he feels surplus to requirements and it would have been no loss to the series had the character not been included. Paul doesn't need a best friend, the pacing of the show allows very little time for us to want to know about his home life or his friends and for me Mac was an irritation who very nearly spoiled my enjoyment of the show.
Another niggle worth mentioning does come down to the pacing of some of the episodes, there are times when too much seems to happen at once and it becomes quite difficult to follow who everyone is, because Paul finds out that there others like him who can also see the Fades it soon becomes very busy and there are times when I couldn't really follow what was happening. Characters are introduced quickly and as the lines between good and bad start to blur as the series goes on some of the epsidoes felt a little too cluttered with different people doing different things, a lot happens in a short period of time and you do have to concentrate on what's happening to be able to follow some of the subplots and for me the series would have benefitted from fewer characters and tighter editing. It's not impossible to follow as Paul's story is the main one that features the most focus but do be aware that there are times when it feels a bit too bogged down with irrelevant subplots that add very little to the main story however it is well worth sticking with as there is a clear resolution at the end and the story does have a definte conclusion that is well worth seeing.
Overall there's enough here for me to recommend The Fades to other people. It should definitely appeal to those who like stories about the supernatural and it is quite grisly and gory in places. It's well acted and features some memorable characters and at only 6 episodes in length it tells its story quickly without feeling overly padded. The story does conclude at the end of the sixth episode although is left open for another series to follow should it be recommisioned and I do think it's well worth taking a chance on if you missed it when it was on the television. For £8.47 as it's currently available for on amazon I do think it's well worth the money to buy, there some extras worth seeing which include a couple of behind the scenes features and commentaries and subtitle options are available to those who need them. All in all I'm glad I took the risk on seeing this and amazon did a good job in recommending it to me.
Four stars as a rating seems fair basing this on everything mentioned in this review, thanks for reading.