In The Flesh episode 2 review

Review Louisa Mellor 24 Mar 2013 - 23:00

In the Flesh continues its tale of small-town prejudice and undead guilt. Here’s Louisa’s review of episode two…

This review contains spoilers.

This week’s In the Flesh staged act two of Kieren Walker’s fraught homecoming by introducing a pair of new characters, a conflicted romance, and a redemptive mission. It was the episode in which the narrative gears proper began to turn, and In the Flesh demonstrated whether or not it had the mettle to outlive its three-part lifespan. Yes, is the answer to that, though it won’t necessarily be the supernatural premise that sees it through.

What floated to the surface of part two, past the Rotters and shotgun stuff, was a sensitive soap storyline about love. As soon as Kieren and Rick were together on screen, it was easy to ignore their partially dead status (something Rick and his dad Bill were at pains to do anyway), and become caught up in their affecting relationship story.

As In the Flesh hasn’t yet made it explicit that Kieren and Rick are more than friends I could be jumping the gun here, but it would seem an awkward dodge at this point were they not revealed to have been in love. Penning hand-written letters to one another in the age of MSN Messenger is one tell, not to mention the many portraits of Rick on Kieren’s walls, his suicidal reaction to Rick’s demise, and prehistoric Bill Macy’s as-yet unexplained animosity towards his son’s “weakling” best friend.

Denial was the theme of the episode, from the Walker family’s awkward breakfast scene the morning after the night before, to the Bill/Rick sexuality/death hypocrisy. Will Bill come to accept his partially dead, probably gay son for who he is and not the macho construct of guns, booze and birds he’s hiding behind? Something tells me it won’t be all hugs and smiles by this time next week. At least Kieren’s dad only shoved him in a literal closet.

The Kieren and Rick plot is heightened by In the Flesh’s PDS context, but it’s in no way fundamental to their story. If the pair had been reunited after a failed suicide attempt and a war injury rather than the mass resurrection of the dead, things would play out the same between them, only with lower stakes and fewer available metaphors for their outsider status in regressive Roarton. Kieren would still be an arty misfit in a macho parochial town, Rick would still be struggling to reconcile the person he is with the image his proud but unreconstructed dad has of him.

Conversely, being partially dead is intrinsic to Kieren and Amy’s double act. She’s the likeably vivacious foil to his guilt-plagued returnee, embracing her after-life with a joie de vivre only the once-dead can muster. Emily Bevan is a jolt of electricity on screen, brightening up Roarton’s desaturated palette with her character’s determination to enjoy a second stab at life, prejudice be damned. The latter was seen in her unfazed trip to the rural, flat-roofed British Legion - those places are terrifying enough for outsiders without having returned from the grave.

Amy’s decision to go “au naturel” is an effective restatement of In the Flesh’s allegorical race, sexuality and disability readings too. She’s a walking Lady Gaga track with a Yorkshire accent, empowered by her otherness; partially dead and loving it.

(To return to the pub scene, is it deliberate that parish council stooge Philip looks more zombie-ish than any of the actual PDS-sufferers? Perhaps it's too silly to consider whether or not the wonderful Shirley and son are harbouring a secret of their own…).

Touching young love and empowerment stories aside, part two also gave us a little more on the Z-word front. It may not be the first on-screen in-coffin moment (Buffy, Kill Bill: Vol II, Being Human and so on), but Kieren’s flashback was a smart perspective reversal on the hand-out-of-the-grave trope and indicative of In the Flesh’s whole ‘whose trauma is this anyway?’ approach to zombie uprisings.

The appearance of a family of untreated Rotters eking out a sheep-based existence in the woods put us once more on recognisable zombie ground, yet nicely complicated matters by showing so-called 'Rabids' providing and caring for each other. While that was a provocative twist, the location, for me, was an over-familiar one. I can’t say exactly how much of The Walking Dead’s second season (which, incidentally, I loved) was taken up with the gang stalking through the woods on the trail of a Walker, but I’d estimate somewhere in the ninety per cent range. Part of the gut-punch from In the Flesh’s episode one execution came from it taking place against a banal cul-de-sac backdrop, and so transporting the action to a more traditional zombie-hunting spot didn’t achieve the same brutality or tension.

With just three episodes to play with, In the Flesh couldn’t afford not to hit the ground running character-wise, which explains the broad strokes some of Roarton’s inhabitants have been painted with. I’m itching to see another side to Kenneth Cranham’s vicar, who’s so far little more than a pull-the-string talking toy angrily spouting Revelations whenever the camera falls upon him. Most of all though, I want to know what’s really going on inside Bill Macy’s head.

Because while Roarton is moving on, as seen in The Legion’s removal of those Abu Ghraib-style triumphalist shots of grinning HVF members atop piles of Rotter bodies, Rick’s arrival seems to have made Bill no less trenchant in his opposition to integration. How all this is going to be resolved in a single episode I can’t imagine. Luckily, that job is down to Dominic Mitchell and co. All we have to do is watch and enjoy.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

Disqus - noscript

I really enjoyed the fact that the more traditional zombie tropes (partially deceased rising from the grave, getting bitten by one) were used for the sake of character beats (the trauma of being buried alive) and ideas of near superstitious prejudice (infection by bite), as well as both distancing the piece from traditional zombie lore AND giving us a bit of said lore which, lets be honest, we all want a bit of in a zombie-related drama. Somebody's obviously had a good sit down/pace around and actually thought about this in terms of genre context and potential drama. Seriously, THIS is what a 'fringe' channel like BBC3 should be doing more of. If they had the budget. And the ratings.

After seeing thisvepisode with the rick/kieron episode I'm starting to think the whole PDS thing and story as a whole could relate to views on sexuality or even sex offenders being allowed in society (because of hostility of some n others saying they deserve another chance etc)

have they not made it explicit that kieran and rick are/were more than friends? didn't kieran say they "messed around" the night before rick left?

how do you get from "zombies" having loved each other before and after death to sex offenders being allowed in society? Ya, and it was a "nice touch" to put homosexuality and sex offence in the same context. And by the way, it certainly is a very romantic almost love story being showen on tv since a long time.

Great review in every single respect - except the comparison to The Walking Dead. Let this series stand alone. The zombies in the woods bit was perfectly realised, and reversed the brainless flesh-eating trope by having the undead care for each other in a primitive, ape-like yet recognisably human way. The fact that the previous season of an unrelated zombie series also involved woods is irrelevant. Over-familiar? Your only choices are trees or concrete anyway (OK a sea-side zombie scene would be amazing!).

Sorry for the negative, otherwise a spot on review!

I don't think there was any intention on David's part to connect homosexuality to sex offenders directly - fact is you could draw conclusions about PDS suffering being a metaphor for either, or maybe mental health issues, or various other things. That's the beauty of this series, for me - it's about outcasts, not monsters

Agree with Simon, you knee jerked a bit there Bill.

If you look at the first episode when the town met with the bumbling boris type politician there are clear parallels to 'not in my backyard' release of sex offenders into the community.

This show is not explicitly about homosexuality, it is a zombie tale doing what zombie tales do best, social commentary and metaphor. The irrational fear during the Aids crisis, homophobia, immigration, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the release of the mental health patients into the community, the release of time served sex offenders, general small town prejudice... stacks.

It's a very dense and well crafted work.

yes, it's obvious to anyone not named Bill that his son & Kieren were gay. i suspect that kieren's family knew about their relationship (their reaction to rick being alive makes that obvious also, now that i mention it). The town of Roarton seems to be suppressed/oppressed in more ways than one

When I watched the first episode I found myself trying to decide what PDS was meant to be an allegory for. In various articles, reviews & posted comments I've seen it interpreted as an allegory for reformed criminals, sex offenders, drug addicts, people living with HIV, and now with the rather obvious relationship between Kieran and Rick, homosexuality in general. I thought as the show progressed the intent of the writers would become more clear. But having now seen the 2/3 of the series I've come to the conclusion that the allegorical reference is "all of the above", meaning that it is intentionally left open to interpretation and PDS can stand for any and all things people fear and discriminate against. In the case of Amy, she reminds me very much of people I have known who were living with a terminal diagnosis and who were determined to, as the famous quote Amy chose for her tombstone, "not go gently". She's determined not to hide her condition, or to avoid subjects by using polite metaphors because her situation makes others uncomfortable. But in the case of Rick, it seems to me that PDS is symbolic of his inability to accept his own sexuality. He obviously cared/cares for Kieran quite deeply, but at the same time seems to be in denial, with posters of bikini clad girls on his bedroom walls. Rick won't allow Kieran to be relegated to a sequestered room, but at the same time can't bring himself to admit that he too is a "rotter" and even has to be talked out of killing the two feral zombies in the woods. When Kieran confronts Rick and sees that Rick won't accept the premise "they're just like us", Kieran rephrases it as "they're just like me", allowing Rick to remain in denial about himself. I'm really sad that this is only a three part series. But at the same time, if the third episode brings the story to a fitting conclusion, I do hope they don't try to revive the series with further episodes, as it rarely works out when a successful series is extended beyond the original vision.

Seriously though who WOULDN'T want to sit in the gay area of the pub? Everyone would have a fabulous time.

I did not mean it like that I meant that in relation to Kieran/Rick the issue definitely seems to be a sexuality one, but on a larger scale PDS could be seen to be about sex offenders (or a number of other things) due to the way people see them as outcasts once they know who/ what they used to b and what they did. As I'm a gay man myself I would never make the connection you thought I had and hate it when people make that connection myself so thank you for raising it and thanks to those who knew what I meant for replying too

Great review of a fantastic show.

The portrayal of Kieren's Dad as a well intentioned and kind but lost parent is a highlight for me; panicking and shoving his son into a cupboard. There's a great distance between them without their relationship being at all cold, which must be difficult to get right on screen, but I think is the case for lots of parent/child relationships in real life.

One of the funniest moments for me was Kieren saying "hi" to Phil, which flagged up how surreal the situation in the pub was. And his response to Amy's question, "what is everybody scared of?": "Us?"

I actually thought the same about Phil - he does indeed look pretty zombie-esh.

As soon as Kieran and Rick met it was quite obvious that they have been lovers and that his suicide was connected to Ricks death (imo). Beautiful series, I really like the way they treat the topic and try to give it a different view. Top notch!

Was Kieran's running style meant to be Zombie-like or was it instead 100% ultra nerd steps.

Yes, rick, listen &the feel rotters scene was quietly powerful. 2 good actors acting

That was more akin to the 'coloured' section of a restaurant in The South in the 50s in The States. Anyone who was obviously gay back then would've just been kicked out.

Exactly, just like the x-men were originally about outcasts and later used as a metaphor for various marginalized groups in modern western society.

Yeah' my first thought was, "Bill, you've got one hiding in plain sight."

What is the video game Jem is playing while zombie-boy is apologizing to her?

Read More About:

Sponsored Links