'The Fades: Season One': Teen Angst Amplified by the Paranormal

This new series employs some stunning images that are not only a wonderful realization of the supernatural and apocalyptic, but also visually arresting.

The Fades: Season One

Distributor: BBC
Cast: Iain de Caestecker, Daniel Kaluuya, Lily Loveless, Johnny Harris, Sophie Wu, Joe Dempsie, Claire Rushbrook, Natalie Dormer, Daniela Nardini, Tom Ellis
Network: BBC
Release date: 2012-02-21

The first season of British supernatural drama The Fades is a blend of teen angst, family dynamics, and the paranormal. A mix that may not seem to make much sense on paper, but one that Skins veteran and The Fades creator and writer, Jack Thorne, understand well. Thorne’s experience with both teenagers and their relationships with their families is certainly his strong suit, and by introducing supernatural elements, the series achieves a nice balance that lends all aspects more depth -- and higher stakes.

The premise of the series rests on the concept of Fades, dead souls that have for some reason stayed in a limbo state among the living without being able to interact with them. To play off of the Fades, Angelics are also a key element to the series, as they are those rare people who can actually see Fades. The main conflict revolves around the two sides struggling to understand each other and their efforts do what each side believes is the right thing for both humanity and the spirit world.

Paul (Iain de Caestecker) is 17 years old and an Angelic, and his dramatic introduction into the world of the Fades sets the entire season in motion. As Paul is drawn into this supernatural world, those closest to him are also affected: his best friend, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), a motormouth movie obsessive; his twin sister and polar opposite, Anna (Lily Loveless), popular and embarrassed by Paul’s social ineptitude; his understanding mother, Meg (Claire Rushbrook); and Jay (Sophie Wu), Anna’s best friend and Paul’s crush.

As Paul becomes embroiled in the Angelics/Fades struggle, the world Paul is most familiar with is obviously turned upside down and his attempts to balance the two is an important arc in the series. He's introduced to Neil (Johnny Harris), an Angelic who initiates him into the world of the Fades and their history with Angelics. He’s a sort of mentor to Paul, but with his own difficult past that often clouds the issue and at times puts him directly at odds with Paul’s approach. Neil works with fellow Angelics, Sarah (Natalie Dormer) and Helen (Daniela Nardini), and their established system of dealing with the Fades is immediately thrown into upheaval with the introduction of Paul.

While the concept of a paranormal fight between good and evil is nothing new, The Fades uses its younger cast as a way to add another dimension to the supernatural. Yes, Paul and his friends and family get caught up in and are put in very dangerous situations, but it's in their interactions with each other, particularly Paul and Mac’s friendship, that sets the series apart. The close personal relationships add more weight and in turn offer a way to get the viewer invested in these characters and their attempts to navigate this new world much more quickly.

Kaluuya, in particular, is so charismatic and engaging as Mac that the viewer can’t help but root for him, and in turn for Paul. Paul and Anna’s relationship is one of classic sibling rivalry, but also one rarely depicted for twins. De Caestecker and Loveless play the complex and frequently argumentative relationship believably. Thorne understands the way teenagers interact and the younger cast does a nice job of bringing the characters to life.

The season also involves a series of murders involving the Fades that brings the police to the forefront of the story. The Fades connects various characters and plot points throughout, involving not only the police, as the detective in charge of investigating the murders is also Mac’s father, but also the school and Paul’s therapist are drawn into the larger story. Because Paul’s journey as the “important one” to the Angelic cause is the main arc for the season, those closest to him, both personally and in his everyday life as a student and teenager, are also related to the story.

The depths of Paul’s powers are initially unclear, but gradually it’s revealed that they are significant and integral to the escalating Angelics/Fades war. Throughout the season, The Fades makes frequent use of religious overtones in both terminology (Angelics, ascension, the concept of Heaven), as well as through the mention of Bible stories. In integrating these themes as significant aspects to the story, the series successfully uses familiar imagery and concepts to add more dimension to the season.

The season’s big villain, John (Joe Dempsie), is a compelling character all on his own. A Fade who has been looking for some sort of revenge because of his inability to ascend and escape the limbo of his current state, John is dangerous and desperate. Dempsie, yet another Skins alum in a cast filled with them, is a highlight as he plays John’s transformation into a new kind of Fade, one that is both gross and darkly comic.

The series also employs some stunning images that are not only a wonderful realization of the supernatural and apocalyptic, but also visually arresting. There are dreams and visions repeated throughout the series (a place covered in ash is the most compelling of them all), both decidedly vague and foreboding, that are striking in how well executed they are.

For a season of just six episodes, The Fades builds quite a lot of story, imbued with religious themes, and told through the lens of a teenage supernatural drama that is thoughtful, well paced, and well acted.

The DVD release includes quite a few extras, including deleted scenes, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The deleted scenes are especially well chosen and add to the overall story nicely.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.