This review contains spoilers. But not the first paragraph, and it’s a really important first paragraph, too.
Ladies and gentlemen of the discerning Den Of Geek audience, something special is happening on BBC Three on Wednesday nights. Something unique. Something rare. Something well worth an hour of your precious viewing time. That something is The Fades, possibly the first great, home-grown(ish) horror series of the 21st century’s awkward pre-teen years.
Having established its ‘interesting and engaging’ credentials in the first two episodes, the latest instalment of the supernatural drama took that ‘interesting and engaging’ and raised it to compelling.
Utilising the same slow burning, darkly atmospheric tack that has been so successful so far, episode three ramped up the tension, revealing answers and asking questions in the same measure, and generally revelled in being a near perfect hour of television.
From the beautifully balanced relationship and character development, to the increasingly effective horror elements, and the shocking final scene twist, the writing team have created a universe that is completely believable, with likeable, yes actual likeable characters, buffeted by what has now turned into an utterly absorbing supernatural tale.
With his newly acquired wings and scarily literal magical powers, nerdy teen Paul, played with aplomb by Iain De Caestecker, continues to be a great lead character, treading that fine line between nerdy and sensitive, and whiny and self involved, and generally succeeding. His scenes with BFF Mac were particularly convincing, driving home just how weirdly nice these kids are.
Aside from the jarring idea that any teenage boy bothers to open his curtains, episode three took great pains to establish Paul’s place in the audience’s affections, making the final scene all the more devastating. Deftly handled, it was a genuine shock to see the winged ejaculator lying in a hospital bed.
Of course, the only problem with the twist being so effective is that it’s in danger of eclipsing the rest of the episode, which would be a shame. Aside from Mark’s (predictable) entry at number one on the suspects list, we discovered that there are other Angelics, that Mac’s general good humour is not in fact down to his lovable personality, but a cough medicine habit, (even his addictions are nerdy) we witnessed an Ascension (okay, Helen was to be trusted – Daniella Nardini just has that look about her) and we saw the big bad made flesh, thanks to the sacrifice of the teenage bullies and some time chrysalising in a damp tunnel.
While the fades left the town’s population alone this week, the same cannot be said for the Angelics, who have taken an altogether darker path than previously seen. With the end of days allegedly fast approaching, the rag tag band of warriors has taken to torturing any fades they can capture – namely, Natalie, Paul’s ghostly stalker. Suddenly, the Angelics are running Guantanamo Bay, UK and it’s a little disconcerting. And possibly futile – with the big bad wandering around in a meatsuit, it’s probably already too late.
One of the biggest questions raised by the arrival of the final stage fade during Paul’s incapacity is whether or not the final showdown was always meant to go down on another plane of existence, or if, to paraphrase Kevin Smith, the problem with being a hero is that you generally have to die?
Whatever the answer, The Fades once again provided the week’s most interesting, well written and, for the most part, brilliantly acted hour of television. Essentially, this show has become pretty much unmissable, and anyone who is in any doubt that the BBC can make eminently watchable, well made and smart TV should look no further.
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