Jack Thorne, who wrote for the daring and original UK series "Skins," brings teen angst to a whole new level in the supernatural thriller "The Fades." This six part endeavor takes familiar elements from many different genres and cobbles them together in a rather new and inventive way. Someone described the show to me as an updated zombie tale, and while certainly influenced by the undead phenomenon in many ways--this program incorporates a more convoluted mythology. It's what I would essentially describe as everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plotting. In addition to zombie lore, you might see large touches of "The Sixth Sense" and Buffy as easy comparison points. But you've also got apocalyptic drama, awkward teenage comedy, religious undertones, and superhero themes all wrapped up in a hip and pop culture obsessed package. If anything, the show borders on being overstuffed with good ideas and, at the beginning, I wasn't sure that things were going to gel satisfactorily. There is so much to explain, early shows (especially the first episode) sometimes seem to grind to a halt with all the exposition to explain what's going on. But stick with it, this is the quintessential slow burn thriller. Episodic at first, each episodes grows more intense and involving until the momentous and catastrophic season ender.
I'm not going to detail too much of the plot other than the primary set-up, it's best to just let things flow naturally. I literally had no idea what to expect when sitting down to the show, so my expectation level was fairly low. As a basic premise, a typical nerdy youth (Iain De Caestecker) is plagued by troubling dreams that seem to forebode impending doom. Luckily he's got a equally expected movie-quoting comic sidekick (I mean a best friend played by Daniel Kaluuya) to help him figure things out. When our hero starts to be able to see and communicate with a strange spirit world, the duo find themselves in increasingly hot water. Among the restless spirits is at least one with murder and destruction on its mind. It's time to man up, figure things out, and see about saving humanity from ultimate destruction. Just a regular day in the lives of teenage misfits! Though we've seen many of these plot points used repeatedly, I will say that "The Fades" excels in tone and atmosphere. The show looks great, the effects are solid, the humor is crisp, and I liked the story's darkness.
"The Fades" is undoubtedly a show that is primed to be discovered and embraced by a new audience. While certainly not perfect, it has plenty to recommend it. I wish the leads weren't set up as such cliche-ridden figures--but, that said, they do well maintaining the show's tart tone. Kaluuya, especially, takes the standard sidekick role to new heights of amusement. Oftentimes, I wish the show felt a little more focused, but I must admit that I became more and more involved as each episode progressed. Perhaps not as scary as it could be, the show does fulfill the promise of a big bang finale. Dark, humorous, well-produced--if you like this genre, "The Fades" is an easy recommendation. If not, I'm not sure that it will make you a convert. As of now, a second season has not been green-lit so these six epsiodes may be all we get. So enjoy! KGHarris, 1/12.
DVD details: Approximately 6 hours on 2 DVDs with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. Special Features include Behind the scenes footage and deleted scenes and outtakes.