In The Flesh series 2 finale review

In The Flesh’s superb second series bows out on an eventful and emotional finale…

Read our spoiler-filled post-finale discussion with In The Flesh creator, Dominic Mitchell, here.

This review contains spoilers.

As flies to wanton boys are we to TV writers, they kill us for their sport.

Dominic Mitchell should have all his toys taken away for the cruel trick of starting joyful Amy’s heart beating just seconds before it was stabbed into a bloody mess. Move over Joss Whedon, there’s a new writer here to try on your ‘killing fan favourites and causing untold grief’ crown. The only way the In The Flesh creator must be able to live with himself is if he knows that’s not really the end for Amy Dyer. She’s coming back isn’t she? We all saw that plush tiger move. We all heard those Halperin & Weston employees. There’s still time, isn’t there? Tell us there’s still time.

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Amy’s death wouldn’t have been anything like as affecting had Emily Bevan not done such tremendous work throughout the second series, particularly in its final two episodes. Bevan showed us Amy’s vulnerability and fear through the character’s breezy, optimistic front. She let us savour every drop of pathos in the story of a woman who died of cancer thinking her body was giving up on her again, only to be rewarded with a literal new lease of life. It was hugely emotional and rewarding to watch.

And then it was all taken away.

We can’t stay mad at Mitchell of course, not after all he’s given us. In this finale alone there were surprises, capably handled genre scares, relationships that rang true, fear and joy and romance and the gentle wit that’s become standard of In The Flesh.

The scene of Simon, Gary and Maxine, three enemies praying to the same God was a canny comment from the finale on belief structures. Belief had governed the behaviour of series’ extremists, Simon and Maxine, two characters who arrived as the antithesis of one another but ultimately shared a common mania. The difference between them at the end of the series is that Simon shook himself clear of his, and Maxine submitted utterly to hers.

I’ve been critical of the Maxine Martin character this series, as for weeks there seemed no sense of a human being underneath her supercilious looks and patronising rhetoric. All that changed in the finale. From Maxine’s scene at Daniel’s gravestone to her desperate, unhinged speech at the winter fête, Wunmi Mosaku made me care about the character, sympathise even, with her grief-driven madness.

After that eventful village fête, we were left with a budding romance between Simon and Kieren, a re-forged Walker family and no second Rising. Not that that’s going to stop Simon’s band of ex-followers, who’ve hitched their wagon firmly to the Undead Prophet’s teachings and are persisting in their mistaken belief that a second Rising can be brought about. Amy was the First Risen, and her murder didn’t trigger any such thing, but who ever let evidence stand in the way of what people decide to believe.

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After all the character lessons learnt in series two – Simon choosing love over dogma, Kieren deciding not to run away, Philip having the courage to stand up for what’s right, Jem finally seeking the psychological help she needs – that scene in the Legion showed that personal growth will always be challenged by public attitudes. Kieren still lives in an intolerant, parochial town, even if he has finally made peace with who he is.

Or perhaps I should say ‘was’. Having spent six episodes watching Amy’s gradual return to life, the significance of that scene of Kieren getting the shakes in the bathroom was lost on nobody. He’s moving on to the next stage, whatever that means. Having the undead rehumanise was this series’ genius moment, one that opens up so many potential paths for future episodes, if and when they’re commissioned.

From the tantalising cold open at the motorway service station to the mysterious final scene at the graveyard, this was a belter of a finale. In The Flesh’s audience were given things to cheer (Philip declaring Amy valid, his mum’s touching “You’ve done good son”, Steve’s belief in his Rabid son), things to surprise them (the tense, well-directed graveyard scene, the world of Halperin and Weston), things to wail about (poor Amy’s death), and a satisfying amount to ponder. A round of applause to all involved, now let’s have that series three order sharpish.

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

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