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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Fades scares up Blu-ray and DVD

The Fades, a new British sci-fi / horror series, recently completed its first season run on BBC America, and is already available in stores. This show is the story of 17-year-old Paul (Iain De Caestecker, Coronation Street, The Little Vampire), who is suddenly drawn into the supernatural. The Fades are ghosts who cannot cross over to the other side, and are fighting a war with the Angelics, humans with special powers. The Fades have found a way to gain substance in the real world by feeding on people. Paul realizes that he has more powers than any of the Angelics, and they begin to argue over whether he could be the savior who ends their war. Death, destruction, and the possible end of mankind make the stakes high in this six episode adventure.

While not yet renewed for a second series, The Fades does not end with a neat tying up. Nor should it. It is a bold, innovative show that is not afraid to kill off main characters and take big chances. In fact, The Fades advances more plot, twists, and major game changers than most American shows do in a full, twenty-two episode season. It should be praised for that.

In the first episode, Paul is merely having dreams, but thinks he is a normal boy. By episode six, he has not only faced down death and come back from it, but is poised to become the hero who saves the world. The character changes fundamentally, as do so many of those around him.

Not everyone survives series one, and should a second be commissioned, as it must, they will be missed. Unless the show finds a way to bring them back, which it very well could, given the material. Death is an obstacle here, and though total annihilation is possible, it doesn't touch everyone.

The Fades is filled with engrossing characters. There's Sarah (Natalie Dormer, The Tudors, Captain America: The First Avenger), an Angelic killed in the first episode, who can't let go of the love that she has for her ex-husband, Mark (Tom Ellis, EastEnders, Miranda), whom she is still living with when she dies. She resists the draw of John (Joe Dempsie, Skins), the leader of the reborn Fades, who is an alluring trickster bent on world domination.

There are other Angelics, too. The most important one in The Fades is Neil (Johnny Harris, Atonement, Whitechapel), who first approaches Paul to help them. But as time goes on, Neil doesn't always agree with Paul's decisions, nor that of the other Angelics. Neil is headstrong and battle weary, and isn't willing to rely on any possible savior if that means he needs to give up trying to win the battle himself. He also takes the approach of a desperate man, which doesn't always serve him well, from a moral stand point.

Paul's family both grounds him, and complicates matters, as they can easily become pawns in the game. Paul has a mother, Meg (Claire Rushbrook, Whitechapel, Linda Green), and a twin sister, Anna (Lily Loveless, Skins), who are quite helpless against the baddies. Paul's best friend, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya, Psychoville, Skins), isn't much more capable, but at least he loyally stands by his pal through everything. And Anna's best friend Jay (Sophie Wu, Kick-Ass) further distracts the hero, as she becomes a love interest for Paul. So it's a little hard for Paul to keep his mind just on the matters at hand.

The many layers and stories interwoven together are what makes The Fades so great. It could have picked a couple of elements, and made a wonderful story. But by packing all of these and more into six hours of television, the result is a busy, enticing, exciting mess of an apocalyptic showdown, the likes of which have rarely been seen on the small screen. This is definitely a must-see British series.

It's rewarding to see The Fades on disc because BBC America censors the language and nudity. For those who are offended by such things, cable is the way to see this show. But for fans who think these elements enhance the series, this release fixes those things toned down by the network.

The Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, as one would expect with such a special effects-laden story, though the audio is sadly not presented in surround sound. But the discs themselves leave a bit to be desired. For one thing, the menus blare creepy music at a much louder volume than the episodes or extras, which makes them a pain every time one must navigate them. For another, the extras are mostly short bits of two minutes or less, grouped together by categories such as 'Extra Scenes,' 'Deleted Scenes,' and 'Mac Explains.' Now the lengths in themselves aren't the problem, as they add up to a satisfactory amount, and it's great that extra and deleted scenes are included for each episode. However, there is no 'Play All' button, even within the subcategories, so every minute or two one has to go back through the noisy menus. I recommend muting during these times.

That's really a minor complaint, though. The extras, including interviews with Johnny Harris and Natalie Dormer, are good, if not particularly deep. And the series is plenty awesome enough to make up for any inconvenience built into the discs. Seriously. It's unlike anything else on television.

Buy The Fades Season One today.

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