I hate endings, and leading up to this episode I worried about what was going to happen, who would die (namely, Paul) and how John could be stopped, and would that mean the end of Fades. Theoretically, I figured even with the title we could still see Paul fighting his way through creatures of the season – it didn’t have to be Fades, per se, right? I sympathized with Mac’s opening assessment: “In the beginning there was the word, and the word was Shit.” He says this while locked in the trunk of Neil’s car, and I’d probably feel the same way, because everything is going the way of shit.
Paul is still having visions of his demise and falling ash while trying to track down John and figure out how to open ascension. He has Alice’s help, at least, and he’s asked his mother, Jay and Anna to leave town though Mum refuses. John’s also refusing to leave town until they kill Paul, regardless of their ‘food supply’ diminishing (since everyone is leaving town). As Paul says later, they have passed the tipping point, and there are more Fades than live humans
abound. Some circle Paul’s house but they don’t aggressively try to get in.
Paul and Alice are in the woods and arguing because he cares about his “distractions.” He calls himself an “angelic Swiss army knife” but is attempts to open the Ascension point are for naught – the light comes up, but the birds fall dead and the hole closes.
Sarah is having awful dreams, and wakes up next to Mark. She’s denying the means with which she took to get to him, even though soon after when they make love she fights visions of guts and tries to suffocate him with a pillow. She doesn’t explain who and what she has become. After, Mark leaves with his lover to get out of town. Sarah’s sacrifice of love to death to Fade is again, fraught with no point. (unfortunately, this is a theme for the episode). She goes and attacks John, who waxes on about how ever nation has bloody beginnings and every revolution has blood on its hands. She lets him go (it’s useless after all, since she can’t kill him) and refuses “food” and manages to seize, having a vision of John stabbing Paul in the midst of falling ash – much like Paul’s vision. She affirms that he will win, and kill Paul, and there’s no point. She takes the flesh he offers her.
Neil is losing it, manhandling Mac while trying to get Paul on the phone. He then goes to the house, holds Anna, Jay and Mum at gunpoint and snaps a picture to send to Paul. He leaves with woods with Alice at his heels and they meet in the square where Neil holds Jay with a gun pointed to her head – he has the rest of his family but Jay is expendable, he says, and that there is no point in opening Ascension – they just need to cut the Hydra at the head and kill John and then kill all the others. And then, to capitalize his point, he shoots Jay in the head.
I – along with Paul – shriek but I can’t run to her and try and save her. Neil tells him he can’t save the dead, while Alice gets in Neil’s face about killing an innocent. Paul makes the decision that he has to do Neil’s bidding to save his family.
Mac’s father finds Paul’s mum in the house bound and gagged. Neil’s left Anna and Mac in an abandoned shipping container chained up, and now Fades – including Paul’s therapist – are outside trying to get in. Mac reminisces about how he and Paul would pretend t be superheroes to emulate their fathers who abandoned them (either physically, or emotionally), but now Paul is an actual hero, even though he hasn’t come to save them yet.
Neil and Paul head to John and Sarah tries to stop them; luckily, Alice comes round to help and they fight. Neil and John shoot at each other with Paul behind. I’m disappointed as it’s not a very strategic plan, and in the process John taunts them, and learns that Neil has killed Jay. We also learnt that the original Ascension point was that the abandoned shopping mall, where Paul and Mac originally run into Neil, and where Sarah died. Paul realizes he still has the option to open the Ascension point and do things the way he’s been trying – and he holds Neil and John at bay while he tells them that they are both as selfish as his father was and that he will have to choose and not let them make his choice for him. He blasts at the ceiling and runs into Alice and Sarah, who tells him that she’s seen his future and he dies and he poignantly says “What’s the point of seeing the future if you can’t change it?”
Mac’s father and Paul’s mum find Jay and she screams for her son. The town is fully abandoned. Mac goes on and on hitting on Anna is his nerdy, adorable way only to confess that he’s been in love with her since he was 10 – after all, the Fades are closer to getting in the container – better to confess while about to die, right?
Sarah and Alice find Neil who is injured (John did get a shot on him) who is yammering about the war and Alice bites back: “You were losing the wrong war.” Sarah tells him he’s as much of a Fade as she is, for all he’s done to try and win.
Paul is at the shopping center, and his watch clicks the time he’s destined to die. I desperately want Paul to succeed, and I’m waiting for John to get around the corner and get him. He blasts at the center plaza with his light and something happens, but he realizes that he needs to get higher to get it to really open. He also realizes that he has created the ash from his vision. John does appear, and Paul appeals to him to “make it right” but it is 70 years of pain John has endured, so he shoots at Paul (he only has one bullet left) then goes to pummel him. Paul is injured but runs off, getting away as best he can between being hit.
They get to the 2nd floor of the shopping center and John beats him against the wall. He grabs a shard of glass and goes to stab Paul but Sarah steps in-between. Sarah appeals to John and Paul throws himself off the landing, but comes up wings open and shoots his light at the Ascension point, succeeding in opening it. As the fades at Mac’s container breach the door, they dissolve into light, as if Paul has shot them with his light. Sarah smiles as she is consumed with light, bursting into birds in flight. As John gets consumed, it looks painful for him (I’m glad for that) before he, too, comes apart in birds. Paul falls to the ground and his watch ticks past 4:20pm. His vision doesn’t come true.
Mac and Anna find Paul, with Mac telling him the “bad news” that he will be his brother in law (Anna scoffs him for remotely suggesting it). Strom clouds darken into fiery smoke, and Neil looks up, knowingly, and mutters that he warned Paul not to fuck with Ascension. Anna asks about Jay, and Paul burst into wails of tears.
I was horrified by Jay’s death, senseless as it was, though I’m always one to appreciate those types of deaths in shows and films, because death IS arbitrary in the real world and anyone can die. I came away this season hating Neil and wanting him to hurt, his history of loneliness no longer a point of compassion for him from me but a checkpoint for his lack of empathy. I agree with Sarah that he is his own version of a Fade: dead inside, functioning for a mission that no longer makes sense in a war that is ever evolving but he refuses to change with.
Next season brings less of the original cast (unless there are ways for Helen, Sarah and Jay to come back ghostly, and so could John, I suppose, with this break in Ascension). I fleetingly wonder if there is a romantic future for Anna and Mac. But, mostly, I feel desperately for Paul, whose mission is no longer over, who lies with Jay’s blood on his hands (literally) and for which his innocence is as Ascended as the Fades he sent into the light.