The beginning of The Fades

The first episode of The Fades recently aired on the BBC Three. It’s a supernatural mystery series which focuses on a young man, Paul, who can see into the world of the dead.

Of course, he has normal, awkward, teenage problems as well.

In the mythology of this world, when people perish, their spirits either ascend and disappear, or they stay, and after a time, become mean and embittered, forced to wander a world which they cannot feel.

Only a few special people can see into the world of these “fades.” Paul is one, and so was Sarah, a now-deceased member of a Fades investigation team, killed by a Fade who should not have been able to interact with the living world.

Paul witnessed the attack in an abandoned shopping mall, and her partner, Neil, notices that he seems to have the gift, not just of seeing the fades, but of frequent dreams and visions which are at least partly prophetic.

He’s apparently always had the dreams (which only sometimes come true), but never an explanation about his abilities. They also cause Paul the embarrassing issue of nightly incontinence, making him enjoy the prospect of dreaming even less.

Neil begins showing up and trying to explain to Paul about his abilities, seemingly trying to recruit him to replace Sarah on his monster hunting team. To complicate things just a bit, Sarah’s ex-husband is Paul’s history teacher, hinting that some further connection between them will be drawn.

The show’s visuals are freaky and well-crafted; one more piece of evidence that a television budget is now plenty to make a good fantasy show. The effects may be minimal, but what there is comes across effectively.

The writing is also excellent. The tale is creepy, engaging, and cleverly funny all at once, and it strikes a certain cord that will be familiar to fans of some of the best supernatural fantasy shows. The weight feels like it falls somewhere between the general levity of Supernatural and the melodrama of Torchwood, finding a good balance, which is surprising considering that this is the pilot, which we usually have to give concessions to, and tell ourselves that it will likely get better. 

The cast, though mostly unknowns, also excels. Iain De Caestecker plays well the awkward teenager  who is reluctant to understand his destiny. Johnny Harris plays Neil, the grizzly monster hunter, and Daniel Kaluuya is perfect as the comic relief best-friend of the protagonist. 

If this pilot, like most, is only a mediocre example of how the show will continue, than this is definitely a show to keep watching. Also, since it’s a BBC production, it’s not going to flux with the whims of the ratings the way American shows do.

The Fades airs Wednesday nights on BBC Three.