This review contains spoilers.
Having never been a show that shies away from the darker side of prime time drama, this final episode of The Fades‘ first series was far lighter on the human body count scale, but infinitely darker than its siblings.
There was just the one human death, but it was as shocking as they come. Not shocking that the hero’s girlfriend bit the dust, more the manner in which she bit said dust – summarily executed by a fanatic. As a show that so far has made almost every visible human death count, Jay’s murder was amazingly effective, and worth more than a dozen shouty-John scenes. Neil’s cold-blooded actions proved just how far into cuckooland he’d gone, placing him on a par with the reborns themselves – sadly, irony isn’t one of his strong points. Although why Paul didn’t just kill Neil is anyone’s guess.
A measure of a show’s success – how well it achieves its aims, as opposed to how many people watch it – is how willing the team are to take risks and make hard choices. Killing off 90 per cent of the cast is pretty hardcore, as is having Mark secretly ditch his reborn wife while she’s off snacking on some entrails.
For Jack Thorne and his team, harsh times equals great TV, and how right they are. The reality of The Fades is grim as all hell, and it’s only right that the characters decisions should reflect that all-consuming grimness.
And grim it was. While many genre shows save up and pull out all the stops for the finale, The Fades resisted the temptation to throw the VFX/stunt manual at us, and instead went with some infinitely more effective, if less visually affecting, explosions.
The cast cursed up a storm during the episode, quite possibly uttering more expletives in 55 minutes than in the preceding five episodes put together. To paraphrase consummate curser Ade Edmondson, this is how real people talk – they quote movies, ask dumb question and they swear. Any show purporting to even have a hint of reality should really reflect that, and while it might not be the most cultured of a script’s high points, it’s a high point nonetheless.
While the reborns’ time on earth was always going to be limited – Paul and his fiery hands were never in any danger of losing – as with all great stories, it’s the journey that’s important, and this was a great story. Familiar enough to be instantly recognisable, but unique enough to be interesting, engaging, and at times, plain gripping, Paul’s journey from bed-wetting nerd to winged saviour has been an absolute pleasure from start to finish. From the wittily written script, to the fantastic and entirely believable performances, particularly from Iain De Caestecker, even the slightly boxy BBC direction and occasionally ropey VFX can do nothing to detract from the show’s obvious quality.
Predictable endings aside, the finale episode still held plenty of surprises, chief among them being that Neil, somehow, hasn’t died. Fanatical, unfeeling and mostly a bloody awful shot, he’s the most irritating human in a 50 mile radius, and that includes Anna. Perhaps by the time season two rolls around, he’ll have finally bled to death…
And no, your eyes do not deceive you. Having sent the reborns packing via a massive ascension event, The Fades left us with one final surprise. Paul messed with ascension, and now it seems ascension might be about to mess back.
Leaving us with a cliffhanger was a spot on choice, as was keeping Mac and Anna the best of enemies. Clearly Jack Thorne et al know their stuff. The visual references in this episode alone prove that, and to be fair, they’ve been proving it for the last five weeks. Horror TV made by horror fans, for horror fans – a rare and beautiful thing. If Paul and Mac don’t make a welcome return to the Beeb next year, something has gone very wrong indeed.
Check out our review of episode five, here.