In The Flesh episode 1 review

Review Louisa Mellor 17 Mar 2013 - 23:00

BBC Three’s new supernatural three-parter In The Flesh is clever, tense, and affecting. Here’s our review of episode 1…

This review contains spoilers. Read our spoiler-free version, here.

Like its heart-meltingly vulnerable lead Kieren (Luke Newberry), In the Flesh arrives home with no small amount of baggage. The ink on its commission contract was still wet when the first volley of “More zombies? Yawn” comments arrived on the bottom half of the internet, followed in quick succession by a round of “BBC Three? Meh” shrugs and a string of ungenerous speculative comparisons to other shows, films and comics about the dead, be they Walking or Shaun of.

Add to that the fact it was brought to life by a channel that chose not to resuscitate well-loved predecessor The Fades, and granted a timeslot that has it jumping into Being Human’s grave, and you could say In the Flesh faced reintegrated-Rotter levels of resentment and suspicion from some quarters.

Lucky then, that it's bloody ace.

Not that luck has anything much to do with it. It’s the work of talented playwright Dominic Mitchell, accomplished TV director Johnny Campbell, and a cast and crew that - judging by episode one - know exactly what they’re doing.

What’s that exactly? Telling a tense, engaging human story about guilt, prejudice and acceptance through allegory. With laughs. And gore. And Kenneth Cranham. Told you it was ace.

Taking a longer perspective than most zombie stories, In the Flesh takes place not 28, but 1400-odd days later. Set four years after an unexplained ‘rising’ brought hordes of brain-munching Rotters out of their graves, it asks what would really happen in the UK once a cure was found. NHS rehabilitation centres, post-death group therapy sessions, and a great deal of resentment on both sides of the life/death divide is its answer.

Our protagonist is repentant revenant Kieren Walker, a Partially Dead Syndrome sufferer attempting to fit back into the family and community that buried him years before. Complicating matters for him is the stubborn anti-PDS sentiment in the isolated village of Roarton, which was left by the government to fend for itself during the rising. Further complicating matters is Kieren’s sister’s allegiance to anti-Rotter vigilante group the Human Volunteer Force, and on top of that, the not-small issue of his suicide. 

Thanks to its writer and production team, the world of In the Flesh feels remarkably well-conceived and recognisable. If its make-up and post-uprising story say genre TV, its bleak Northern housing estates and clinical rehab centres say social realism. That the two, along with the script’s warming bolt of contemporary satire, are so well-blended is a credit to its makers.

The look of the reintegrated PDS sufferers is just as well-handled. In the Flesh’s undead pass for the living without putting anyone off their cocoa, but the overall effect is uncanny. With his permanently-dilated pupils and flesh-tone mousse, Luke Newberry’s Kieren looks like an airbrushed, unthreatening boy band member, which makes his transition to veined, white-eyed monster all the more unsettling when it happens.

Speaking of the unsettling, how about that chilling confrontation in the episode’s closing minutes? Taking a shotgun to a kindly faced grandmother in a cul-de-sac is brutal by anyone’s standards, and in this instance, yet another example of In the Flesh turning the tables on genre conventions. Usually it’s an act of mercy when the infected corpse of a neighbour is put down by a bullet to the head, but precisely the opposite was shown here. Roarton’s ‘protectors’ aren’t the heroes of this piece, far from it in fact.

Now that the first of its three instalments has aired, it’s clear that In the Flesh doesn’t so much jump on the zombie bandwagon as flag it down to offer its undead passengers a cuppa, a hug, and some honest insight into community and otherness. With all that, and the matter of The Undead Prophet radicalising a tranche of the Rotter community, underground zom-drug Blue Oblivion, the introduction of fellow PDS sufferer Amy, and the friendship between Kieren and newly recovered soldier Rick to explore, spending only three hours in Roarton just doesn't seem like enough. Brilliant stuff.

In the Flesh continues next Sunday the 24th of March at 10pm on BBC Three.

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Really enjoyed this- are there plans for a second series, or is it just a three-parter?

Yes, I agree. Most impressive. A very interesting take on what I thought was a tired genre.

One the best new TV shows of the last couple of years, this has to get a proper series after this.

The walking dead is better.

Actually I had no problem with anything other than the original description of the series, which read very much like they were doing the whole thing as a comedy.

Luckily the series is a drama/horror and I thought it pretty brilliant. 2013 have been spoiling me so far with some fantastic series, ultopia, Black Mirror, Being Human and now In The Flesh, an I even enjoy death in Paradise.

Of cause I already accepted BBC 3 controller have no intention of renewing the series, despite the writer declaring he wants a second series, so I will afford becoming to attach to the characters.

But good start and completely different to any other Zombie film/series I have watched, looking forward to next week.

The writer has said he has plans and ideas for a second series. BBC 3 controller is on the look out for a new drama, considering that the channel only has the budget for one drama, despite the endless comedies, reality tv shows and documentaries they seem to find the money for, he cant have two dramas, an I am pretty certain he knew what In the Flesh was like months ago and would have made up his mind then whether he would support the show or not, it seems he decided to not.

So all in all it seem unlikely we will be getting a second series given that it usually the controller that wins these sort of arguments and not the writer.

If this dosn't get comitioned for another series then the BBC officaly have enough evidence to declear Zai Bennet a sabotour.

A brilliantly human story. I loved it, and Kieran's character is so likable, and you can almost sympathise with him... which is odd, to say he's partially dead. I'll definitely be tuning in next week.

Enjoyed it immensely. Funny, touching and scary in all the right places. Nice bit of misdirection by the director/writer with the seemingly spying neighbours too.

It was also refreshing to see an undead drama which does not actually shy away from using, to quote SOTD, 'The Z-Word'.

The whole premise of this show just leaves me completely cold. OK, zombie show/films etc are ridiculous but a cure for being dead is just a step too far for me to buy into it. It's probably a show I'll look into in the summer when American tv goes on hiatus

That's kind of a short sighted statement, isn't it? The two are massively different creatures, not least in terms of budget and scale. Whilst TWD is hugely enjoyable, it's following well-worn tropes and fits a certain template when it comes to the whole zombie genre. Saying simply that that it's better is like comparing Snyder's remake of 'Dawn of the Dead' to McDonald's 'Pontypool'. Yes, they're both Zombie flicks, but with very different takes on the idea, and I would suggest, aimed at separate demographics. Obviously you're entitled to you're opinion, but look at ITF for what it is rather than as just another addition to an increasingly-weary genre and it's hugely impressive. Massive props to all concerned, I for one can't wait to see where this goes.

I was a little apprehensive about this, the main trailers didn't look great outside of the central premise and the best thing I'd seen of it was the (fantastic) Protect and Survive parody short. I was worried it might be one of those cases where the supporting material was much better than the thing itself (I dub thee Prometheus syndrome). Thankfully though, it's great, just the right humour balance so it's neither farce nor miserable. If I have a nit pick it's that the priest character seems a little bit one note, but judging by it so far I fully expect him to be (*ahem*) fleshed out in the coming two weeks.

For the first half an hour or so I really wasn't sure what to make of it. It was in danger of dabbling into teen angst supernatural bollocks, But the last 10 mins... just when you thought is was going all Twilight you get a sister with serious balls, chainsaws, swords and big freakin guns. I don't mean that in a glorified violence shocker way just for the sake of it - It just worked

it's not a cure for being dead, rather a drug to retake control of the brain, so they regain their memories and emotions. they have to take the drugs daily to prevent them going feral and eating brains. they're still dead though, they can't eat food etc, they use makeup and contact lenses to pass for being living.

The only thing that annoyed me was the aspect ratio. TVs are 16x9. Why have black bars on a TV show.

It was alright.However for me In The Flesh barely broke the skin and missed so many opportunities to rip apart at the stringy muscle inside. It's clear from the timing and current 'zombomania' boom in western culture that this was an attempt at jumping on the zombie-cash-bandwagon and creating a British Zombie drama; it shuffled, moaned and groaned its way to the last fifteen minutes but when it got there, it bit down hard and ripped apart every emotion I had

The walking dead is a different cup of tea entirely!

you guys must not get Breaking Bad or Sons of anarchy if this is your best

...uuummmmm. by your post i'll just assume that you close your eyes & ears when Andrea from TWD is on the tube.

El Oh El. Bringing the undead back to life (partially) is a step too far but reanimating the dead is o.k. you are the reason why we can't have nice things

the chainsaw was ridiculous. and funny!

I agree. There were some aspects of the show that were intelligently handled and really well done and the last 15 min was very good. But I was continually pushed out of the story by the very poor writing of the supporting characters. Every actor with a recognisable name is portraying a one dimensional, shouty, angry cliche. The scene with the politician and the shouty-mob of recognisable faces was so bad I cancelled out of iPlayer. Took me two more attempts to get to the end of the show. Some real promise and heart let down by some truly appalling writing of secondary material and characters. Pity.

FWP! Knob.

Watched it last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The live sister/dead brother relationship was really well handled, as was the suicide issue you mentioned in the article. Glad it's only a mini-series though, I doubt the premise could survive more than half a dozen episodes.

Interesting social commentary, as the granny being blasted could have easily been the UDA/UDF/IRA doing a knee capping or any other sectarian killings around the world. This is a pretty deep show I watch a lot of this kind of thing and this is the only one I have found a disturbing watch, now that's a good thing.

Ricky Tomlinson's character had so much hypocrisy. I imagine the HVF guy will show this too.

I thought replacing the Being Human timeslot so quickly with another fantasy/horror genre was very gutsy. Before watching "In The Flesh" I knew I was going to judge it harshly and most likely biased, but I was very happy with the way it turned out. Good writing, great acting, now I'm looking forward to next weeks episode. My only hope is that it gets a chance to bloom before it gets cut off.

Considering i'm still raw over the loss of being human, i just couldn't enjoy this as much as i wanted to.

It was OK, but I didnt enjoy watching it, yes it was somewhat political, yes, it had some narrative depth, but broadly it is was uncomfortable, and not an appealing programme.

Being Human yes had a dark side, but it was such a wonderful, humorous, engaging, friendly show. It feels like BBC Three has cancelled the supernatural equivalent of Cheers and given us the supernatural equivalent of a politically correct government propaganda film. On an intellectual level, there is probably somewhat more depth in this, however I really wonder how long these undead can keep walking before people get bored with the concept. I think I can last out three episodes out of curiosity, but I am not enjoying it.

It is no criticism of the actors, they are fine actors giving good performances. It is just that it doesnt have the warmth that Being Human had.

I am not going be looking forward all year with excitement to the next series of In the Flesh, whereas I did with Being Human.

BBC Three - OK you have tried another format, you have seen the backlash, the new programme is not as good. Time to realise your mistake and commission the next series of Being Human.

There is only one thing worse than being wrong. That is refusing to admit your mistake and do what you can to rectify it.

I just don't like either of them.... and before you say, i have tried to watch them. And besides, i said 'one of' not 'the', there are shows i like more than this.

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