Have you been watching … The Fades?

After a shaky start, The Fades has raised the bar for what British horror can do – and the series one finale is upon us

At the beginning of every episode of The Fades, goofy comics-nut Mac gives a jolly recap of the gore-fest so far. They're cute little sequences, but they're also pretty essential. There's been a lot of bluster recently about the BBC's cult output getting too complicated – but anyone flummoxed by Doctor Who will surely have given up on BBC3's latest high-concept cult vehicle by now.

The Fades hasn't made things easy for itself. It's closest cousin, Being Human, has an outlandish premise that doesn't really work on paper, but it has centuries of mythology to riff upon – we all know what a vampire is, and a werewolf, and a ghost. But The Fades builds its own mythology from the ground up. In the loosest sense it's about zombies, but try explaining that to anybody who hasn't closely followed the five episodes so far. There's a heaven, but there isn't really a hell; purgatory is the Earth, except it isn't, really; ghosts walk among us, and they're sometimes called Fades; if they eat people's flesh they can become zombies. There are people called angelics who can see them, and the Chosen One among them is a bed-wetting boy named Paul. Are you getting any of this?

Mac's introductions are the only hand-holding that The Fades gives you – which is to its credit. And for those who've stuck with it, the show has turned into something brilliant and compelling. It demands a lot from its audience, but it also gives it back.

The first few episodes jarred somewhat; the endless moody philosophising of the angelics rubbing uncomfortably against what seemed like an attempt to make a zombie Skins. The relentless movie references felt like it was trying far too hard. But as the weeks have gone on, things have fallen into place. Now I'm addicted.

By week three we had a world we could believe and characters we cared about – with Iain de Caestecker wonderful as the haunted Paul, his emo tendencies undercut by his sweet friendship with Mac. Even his nightmare sister was becoming likeable.

Then the rug was pulled from under the audience's feet by his apparent death, and the reveal of a hypnotic Big Bad in the reborn zombie King John. Yet even though certainties have been thrown away at every turn, and a character as great as Daniela Nardina's gun-toting priest dispensed with, by last night's penultimate episode everything was boiling up nicely towards a bloodbath of a conclusion.

Ensuring the finale delivers is going to take some doing, because The Fades has raised the bar for what British horror can do, while remaining totally classy. It raises huge questions but it doesn't preach at you. It's not as good as Being Human – what could be? But it's no pale Buffy imitation either. Here's a show that deserves a second series, and a brilliant send-off to this one.


Dan Martin

The GuardianTramp

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