In The Flesh series 2 episode 3 review

Review Louisa Mellor 18 May 2014 - 23:00

In The Flesh impresses this week with the depth of its characterisation and tense climax…

This review contains spoilers.

Last week’s review expressed concern that In The Flesh’s second series was spiralling uncontrollably away from the compact power of the first. Its multiple new characters and plot threads - went the argument - were threatening to replace human truth with shallow allegory and distract the drama from the emotionally shrewd storytelling that made such a success of series one.

Whoever wrote all that must be an idiot. Episode three was a tremendous hour of teen drama, succinct, honest and involving. If In The Flesh is spiralling away from Kieren’s woes to tell stories about new characters as honestly-written and touchingly performed as Freddie and Hayley (Bryan Parry and Linzey Cocker), then more power to it. Keep ‘em coming and let’s have a series three order to add to tonight's Bafta win while we’re about it.

We’d barely met Freddie Preston before this week, but his and Hayley’s characters were so natural and recognisable as the irresponsible, optimistic, hedonistic love affair of your late teens/early twenties, it felt as if we knew them inside out. More importantly, we rooted for them, so when it all began to fall apart we felt the consequences.

In The Flesh’s supernatural premise was used to its best advantage in Freddie and Hayley’s story, not to provide horror-movie thrills, but to magnify a universal truth: you can’t go home again. Put another way, you can’t ever be the person you used to be. What happens then, when someone dead and buried (metaphorically or otherwise) comes back to try to convince you otherwise? Hayley’s choice between Freddie and Amir - one fun but unreliable, the other unexciting but considerate - was the choice between youth and maturity. You don’t need a zombie ex to feel something about that.

Their story’s tense climax was set up efficiently (Freddie’s blue watch, the reminder from poor Henry’s mum that Neurotryptaline can wear off after one missed dose, the stuck garage door…) and executed well. Additionally, In The Flesh’s trigger-happy disposal of Ken Burton, Vicar Oddie, Henry and more gave us no guarantees that Freddie would survive the events inside the lock-up, creating a sense of real unpredictability. Had the missed dosage story belonged to lead Kieren, we’d have been assured the last-minute rescue, but Freddie’s fate could easily have gone either way. Will he be delivered to the tantalisingly referenced ‘Non-Compliant Detention Centre’? Or will Kieren and Simon intervene? My money’s on the latter.

Hayley’s dilemma was mirrored this week by Jem, who was also being pressured to return to the person she once was. Rotter hunter (and now love interest) Gary wanted her back as an uncomplicated soldier and patrol partner. The problem for Jem was that series one’s reconciliation with brother Kieren had shaded in plenty of Undead grey where once she’d seen only black and white.

Jem going back in time and on patrol last week ended in tragedy, so this week she guiltily punished herself for what she’d done. Like brother, like sister.

Harriet Cains’ performance was as natural and likeable as ever in the episode, especially in contrast to Wunmi Mosaku’s arch, moustache-twirling portrayal of MP Maxine Martin, whose hypocrisy (“I assure you everything is being done to locate Henry”) bigotry (“PDS or living?… Well then”) and mystery (“Everything is going to be just perfect”) were developed further.

Maxine and Jem were just one of episode three’s fruitful pairings. The Give Back scheme usefully provided this week’s In The Flesh with two other illuminating combinations: Philip with Amy and the increasingly magnetic Simon with Kieren.

While Amy’s truculence towards Philip was entertaining (“Village of the damned, how may I help you?”), the contrast between his maladroit attempts to make Amy happy and Simon’s pragmatic use of her introduced some pleasing depth to the scenario. Could it be that Philip would actually be good for Amy? As Simon explained to Kieren, she needs to be shown love, which is exactly what Philip, with his soppy DVDs and thermostat-changing, is desperate to do.

Is Simon however, good for Kieren? Their desperate cliff-hanger kiss (hooray! Finally some explicitness. Ren and Rick had no such moment in series one) cemented the burgeoning romance, but is Simon just using Kieren in the same way he’s stringing along Amy? Both the Undead Disciple and the Victus MP are searching for the first of Roarton’s Risen, a position for which Kieren is not yet out of the running...

Overall, this was a cracker of an episode. Putting Freddie and Hayley centre stage showed a new slant on the difficulties of life after death and provided some useful breathing space for the other stories while binding them together under a common theme. It was like all the best supernatural dramas: involving, tense and altogether human.

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

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Disqus - noscript

Finally some actual confirmation of Kieren's sexuality! Although I do hope Rick finds some way of coming back (not going to happen, but I can dream okay?). I have a feeling that one of the main three characters may die by the end of this series, and right now I'm gravitating towards that person being Amy. Really hope not though!

This really is television at it's best and I'm so proud of In The Flesh for winning that Bafta, although it still deserves more recognition. Hopefully the ratings for this series will be strong enough to convince the BBC to move this show to one of their other channels once BBC Three has ended.

That garage scene was tremendous. The actors did an amazing job showing the conflicts within and between the characters. I hope the final three episodes can deliver on the promise shown so far, it feels like there is a big reveal coming and I hope it's satisfying

This show does not need a main gay character. Over-represented in media way over their share of the population. Have we seen a zombie heterosexual couple yet?

Amy and Simon (and pretty much every other zombie in the show has been heterosexual / had a living opposite sex spouse). I'm no expert but I don't know if coming back from the dead would change your sexuality, someone should do a study.

Well thank you Pablo for illustrating what the principle theme of In The Flesh is. That would be bigotry and prejudice if you hadn't realised.

I can only wonder what you thought of series one.

Oh & in case you didn't notice, episode 3 was mostly about a heterosexual love triangle!

...did you miss the first series where it was stated that Kieren got banned from Rick's house by his dad because of the whole gay thing? And that he committed suicide when he got the news Rick had been killed? He's been gay from episode 1, so in the words of the ad campaign: 'Some zombies are gay. get over it.'

I knew it when Simon touched his arm from episode 2! I hope there would be some "scene" between the two and hope it would not ruin Amy and Kieren's relationship. I would love to see Amy and Philip get together and have "scene" just like from the season 1. :3

I’ve enjoyed watching this series much more than the last. However the pedant in me has an issue with its ‘world building’ in as much as you have a scenario where schools are open, the NHS is running (and well resourced with drugs to treat those affected) and most living and dead people for that matter seem to be going about their normal day to day lives, and yet there appears to be no police force (other
than a local militia of literally one or two people), no apparent wider military
presence or all the other things that you need to support schools been
open, a health service, people going to work and everything else.

Troll.

Wow, go back 70 years, replace 'gay' with 'jew' and Der Furher would've given you a commendation!

he must be one of those self-hating types, like Freddie, lol

I am not a troll. I simply find the whole "gay" thing dated, unnecessary and pandering. Class issues should be a lot more important, but shhhh, we don`t talk about class, don`t we? Also,the Anglo sphere, specially the US,is getting very intolerant of those that do not agree with the "mainstream liberal thinking". I am a Marxist,to the left of almost any American, and I get shunned and banned just because I support the role of the nuclear heterosexual family in the economy (which represents -by far- the vast majority of the population).

Well, being a Jew myself if I got that I guess it would command a really high price in Ebay.

Of course I realize. I just disagree to using "gay" as the main blunt issue.

Oy vey!

95% of people are. However we have already 3 gay characters in the show, Rick, our hero, and the new guy.

Yes and straight people on the show outnumber them by far. Seems you have a problem with ANY characters being gay, and a gay protagonist....heaven forbid.
Just a thought but this show really is lost on you.

It's not. The whole "dead" thing is the main blunt issue (which is itself an allegory, of course).
I think you should stick to The Walking Dead....oh wait, there's a (solitary) lesbian character on there.

Lol were are all these gay characters taking over every storyline? Oh wait there aren't.

Just watched it (finally) and I thought it was pretty good. Maybe not as good as the previous 2 episodes, but it was very character driven and interesting.

By the way, pretty ironic about how the guy off Hollyoaks is playing another gay/bisexual character.

Oh, do f*** off.

Go away. Bigoted moron.

Nope, 4th episode is pretty good. I still think that the metaphor to be used could have been something more interesting.

Simon is at least bi-sexual.

it sounds like you need to reëxamine why exactly you demand that these issues and the support for them need to be mutually exclusive.

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