In The Flesh series 2 episode 4 review

Review Louisa Mellor 25 May 2014 - 23:00

In The Flesh's second series is really motoring now. Suddenly six episodes doesn't seem like enough...

This review contains spoilers.

It was an eventful Sunday in Roarton Valley this week: Philip’s morality was tested, Kieren was found to be the First Risen, and Sue outdid herself on the roast beef. In The Flesh’s winning combination of mythology and banality continued to charm as series two lurched significantly towards its endgame.

The remaining two episodes are ratcheting towards a major confrontation between Roarton’s PDS sympathisers and detractors, a showdown promisingly likely to coincide with the village fête. There’s much to love about a drama that sets an undead rebellion against a backdrop of homemade chutneys and a tombola. To wit: Sue’s line-of-the-episode response to Gary’s vitriolic defence of plans for stalls to commemorate the Rising at the forthcoming fair: a withering “It’s mostly jams”.

The speech of the episode though, goes to Luke Newberry for that vehement account of Kieren’s rising story at the Sunday lunch table. As well as performing the narrative job of perking up Simon’s ears, it was also a blinder of a monologue and a turning point for the character. After weeks of attempting to dial down conflict, Kieren snapped. Between Paris, the locals, Give Back, Simon, and the new-look HVF coming over for tea, Ren was finally pushed over his limits; death by a thousand bigoted pinpricks.

Structurally, episode four was very neatly drawn. Everything was sandwiched tidily between Philip’s fantasy of Amy and the real thing, signifying his character’s leap from dream to reality, and from the back to the foreground.

Condensing the hour’s plots into a single day too, was a deft way to underscore the battle lines drawn in Roarton. The village meeting, brothel protest and Sunday lunch provided public and private arenas on which those battles could take place. Each of the three events had its own climax and its own dramatic fallout, pulling series two’s story tantalisingly forwards.

The character of Maxine Martin, a pillar of evil in a Dorothy Perkins skirt suit, continues to be series two’s only weak link. Her levels of evil moustache-twirling this week were so high that actress Wunmi Mosaku was in danger of pulling the thing clean off. In The Flesh’s series one villains - Vicar Oddie and Bill Macy – were its weakest-drawn characters, and Maxine Martin looks to be continuing that trend.

With two episodes remaining though, all that could change. At the start of this week’s instalment, Philip Wilson was a grey-faced jobsworth even whose sexual fantasies were comically dull (“Oh Philip, you’re so adept!”). By the end of the episode though, he was heroic, sacrificing his public reputation to preach love and tolerance in the face of placards and bigotry. Maxine Martin may lack any sympathetic or redeeming qualities as a character now, but let’s see where we stand on her come the finale.

About six feet above is a likely position. Maxine is surely the odds-on favourite to snuff it by the end of this series, clearing the way for a new baddie in (BBC drama commissioners willing) series three. Of course, following patterns established by ensemble dramas from The Walking Dead onwards, now that Philip's been humanised and given a romance of his own, there’s a target on his head too.

Undead agitator Simon must also be in line for the chop. His demise would be much less popular after this week’s Philip-like transformation from creepy one-note manipulator to lost soul in love, desperate to learn how to be normal and willing to try. Unlikely as it is, I hope Simon makes it, mostly for the soppy romance of lines like “…because there’s what I believe, and then there’s you”.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves. There's a great deal to get through before we tally up series two’s eventual body count: Amy’s physical deterioration, Jem’s psychological deterioration (fingers crossed that’s her last ‘student film hallucination sequence’), Simon and Kieren’s relationship, the dead GP’s receptionist, Sue’s tangled bunting… Three episodes really didn’t feel like enough for the first run, and now that series two is really motoring, neither does six.

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

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The only thing that's bugging me about Kieren supposedly being the first risen is that in Episode 2 on the first series we see Kieren rise and when he does there are clearly others around him rising too. I hope they haven't just forgotten about that or chosen to ignore it.

I was thinking about that during the episode, and I'm wondering if there's some kind of "unreliable narrator" trope at work, or if it really is just a retcon. I hope not.

I still don't trust Simon, so I'm hoping he doesn't make it to the end of the series.
Called it on Maxine Martin wanting to start the second rising so she can see her dead loved one again. Still not clear on why she let the Reverend bite the dust when they wanted the same thing.
What's happening to Amy? Side effects from the home made Neruotrypsoline, or becoming tolerant to the treatment? Or even some combination of both?
You're absolutely right though, six episodes is nowhere near enough.

Well he still could be the first Risen. It may just have taken him a while to crawl out of his coffin. He may have been the First Risen but maybe some others that rose after him managed to climb out of the ground before him. Didn't Dominic Mitchell say he had a massive "bible" for this series? Maybe he could have wrote it like that to confuse us.

I'm still sticking with my theory that Amy is The First and that it's somehow tied into her deterioration.

In the phonebox at the end Simon says, 'you should see him, he's beautiful'...seems unlikely to be Amy.

Yep thats what Simon believes, but Im pretty sure Simon is wrong.

I checked back in that episode...Kieren pushes through the ground and stops to stare at his own tombstone..the clock strikes (midnight?) the background we see fuzzy people pushing up out of the ground and standing up. The camera pulls back to show Kieren half out of his grave. It looks to me like he was the first..although it was only by seconds, and others were fully out of the ground before he was.

Strikes me as rather curious all the same. Ren should have risen as a rabid, but the rising scenes were done as flashbacks with him remembering. He wasn't groaning like the other risers were and there seemed to be enough intelligence for him to be reading the tombstone. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how the show plays it.

Honestly, I thought that was the best of the series so far.

I think she's slowly returning to life

That would be cool, I hope it is that

I'm sorry but the best line of the show went to Simon [talking about Kieren]: " I liked the way he 'gave back' ".

I really liked Philip's development in this episode - too often with these sorts of dramas is the temptation to show that selfish, darker motives always prevail. Philip stepped up - and is now deserving of Amy.

My concern with Kieron's speech - that he "couldn't wait to get started" suggests that as a rabid he made a choice to kill people - I thought they were little more than instinctive predators, without the brain capacity to think.

Nailed on it's that.

I nearly spilled my coffee at that one. Makes it pretty clear there's been more than a bit of kissing going on.

"Called it on Maxine Martin wanting to start the second rising so she can see her dead loved one again. Still not clear on why she let the Reverend bite the dust when they wanted the same thing."

I don't think so. Her hated and disgust for 'rotters' seems genuine. Maxine has lost someone close during the rising, I reckon, and is after revenge for having him/her munched on, by having all PDS sufferers locked up/ put down. She thinks they should be made to 'pay' for whatever crimes they committed after they rose, and as she said last week doesn't see why they get a free pass for their actions just because they were in a rabid state.

She's out to ensure the second rising never happens by finding the 'first risen' (Kieron) and dispatching him, because he's supposedly integral to that second rising, so without him it won't happen. Just as Simon's friends want to find and control Kieren to make sure it does.

I suspect Simon will have to choose between them and betraying Kieren, and will choose his new lover, probably at the cost of his own 'life' .So, leaving Kieren back where he started - hopelessly mourning the loss of someone he loved, and choosing either death, or finding the courage to carry on alone.

I didn't spot that line but it suggests one of two things. Either Kieren was making a throwaway comment as a reaction to the others at the table, or he rose with some intelligence. When I looked at the rising flashback again he did stop to stare at his name on the gravestone, and that puzzles me. Maybe its significant, maybe not.

I think he just said that to shock - echoing Gary's appetite for rotter killing, and implying rabids were no worse than the 'heroic' volunteers who gloried in destroying them.

Oh, and I think the reason the she let the Rev. Oddy die was that she saw the parish records on his desk, that she knew revealed her relationship to whoever it was she lost (a parent/ grandparent, I am guessing).

When she realised he and she were NOT on the same side, or seeking the same outcome, she didn't want to risk him revealing her personal agenda in getting rid of rotters. She believed his knowledge gave him the power to jeopardise her credibility as someone impartially motivated by the public good.

The bus stop conversation at the end reminded me painfully of
my stupidity in blowing things (by not saying what was in my heart) with a wonderful
girl I’d met at the student union of Salford College when challenged by the
same (circa 1988). She walked away and with it a future I’ll never know.

Or it could be a third option: he meant he couldn't wait to get started in a purely instinctive way. I do agree he seemed to be at least slightly aware on rising though, so it may be he rose with some intelligence.

I'm rather hoping Simon sticks around after this episode; he seems genuinely interested in Kieran and I'm curious as to whether he'll put that ahead of his place in the ULA. You're right though, I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him at this stage, but I'm looking forward too seeing if he justifies my gut reaction.

What if they're all wrong and the first risen isn't actually significant, just people desperately trying to attach meanings and symbols to a tragic event for their own validation/profit?

I wouldn't take the word bible too seriously, it's an industry term, and sounds like it should have more connotations in a show like this

I think everyone is hoping it's something good - she is such a wonderful and warm character. I'm not optimistic though...

Not only is that possible, it's entirely likely. It'd be typical of this show to reach the end with a message of "You were all fighting for nothing"

I'm not certain on this but I don't think in the first rising that bites from the risen would turn you, I think the zombies just wanted to eat your brains, I'm thinking that with the homebrew that she's been injecting then she could be mutating which means a bite from her could turn you. Then again, I could be totally wrong and she could be returning to life :)

I think it's just a pun. We'd probably see anything like that :)

So what's up with Kieren being the first risen? Where's that going to go?

Does he love Kieren? Or does he love the idea of him being the first risen?

So does anyone else think that Simon is the undead prophet? Does he have some kind of multiple personality disorder?

This series is getting better and better - I'm gripped. Anyone else wondering whether the drug company behind Neurotryptaline are going to turn out to be in some way responsible for the Rising? There have been quite a few references to them in adverts etc. Perhaps that's a bit too much of a conspiracy theory though :-)

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