The end is nigh(opens in new tab)
Writer: Jack Thorne
Director: Tom Shankland
The One Where: Paul attempts to fix ascension while Neil causes havoc trying to change his mind.
Verdict: Oh Neil. What the hell, man? In the week that Paul finally came face to face with the apocalypse, it was arguably Johnny Harris’s Neil who made the biggest impact. Fear finally got the better of him, leading down the dark road to fundamentalism. His murder of Jay in front of Paul was such a shock, such a jarring moment, that it almost overshadowed the finale.
Almost, but not quite; as Paul’s visions became reality, you couldn’t help but feel for him. Beginning the episode full of hope, assertive and sure that he could do what needed to be done, it looked for a while like he was going to manage it, somehow. The swerve ball of Jay’s death pushed things into an altogether less predictable direction, and the change in Paul was heartbreaking. The pain, the glassy-eyed shock, the dropped shoulders – he looked like a boy way, way out of his depth, and kudos to Iain De Caestecker for playing it just right, becoming neither hysterical nor too withdrawn, rather determined to get it over with.
The race against time is a well-worn mechanism for ramping up tension, but that didn’t stop it being any less effective here, as Paul attempted to avert the disaster that has been plaguing him all this time. His fistfight with John was brutal, wince-inducing stuff, yet at the same time awkward and about as far away from Hollywood fighting as you can imagine. Whether tripping over trolleys or smashing rocks on each others hands, this was a desperately gripping piece of action. John’s bible-spouting and Paul’s literal spreading of his wings lent the final few minutes a supernatural significance way beyond shopping centres, and underscored the grave significance of the situation.
The ominous red skies that followed Paul’s apparent saving of the world served to set up a second season that, if there is any justice, the BBC won’t think twice about commissioning. Neil, battered and near dead, knows one thing and on thing only: you don’t screw with ascension. The repercussions are massive, and if we don’t get a chance to see what happens next, well, let’s just hope Aunty sees sense on this one.
Of course it wasn’t all about Paul saving the world this week: Mac finally got some quality time with Anna, whose mega-bitch façade finally broke down, although it’s fair to say his chances with her still appear pretty slim. Ever the voice of lightness in even the darkest situations, Mac kept the jokes coming and provided some much-needed respite when things began to get almost overwhelmingly intense.
Mark, after a dose of near-fatal necrophilia, skipped town with his one night stand floozy, which made me wonder what the point of his whole story was, but Sarah’s descent into Fade hunger-madness more than made up for it.
It took a long time for The Fades to come to air, but in the end it has been more than worth the wait. Classy production values and a truly top drawer script by Jack Thorne lifted it way above its relatively humble BBC Three origins. Unafraid to tackle the biggest of themes or tell the smuttiest of jokes, it’s been a genuine highlight of the week. As an example of how witty, intelligent and downright brilliant British TV can be at its best, The Fades can join the likes of Being Human and Misfits as a show to be proud of. The campaign for series two starts now…
Geek off: It’s been the television bromance of the year, and this week we saw just how deep the bond between Mac and Paul is. Their lives have been intrinsically linked since they first dreamt up their own superheroes as kids, and Paul’s powers, far from pushing Mac away, have instead made the ultimate geek swell with pride. He really hits his Paul-lovin’ peak this week, calling his BFF “Spider-Man with balls” and, a personal favourite, “Che Guevara meets Ross Kemp meets Alan Moore”.
Paul: “What’s the point in seeing the future if you can’t change it?”