Monday, March 18, 2013

In The Flesh: Episode 1 - TVReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"In The Flesh is a human story, looking at tragedy, guilt, acceptance, and both justice and injustice..."

Imagine, a world of zombies, the kind of soulless creatures that rise from their graves to devour human flesh, aimlessly stalking the neighborhood, a ravage hunger and a violent nature for killing. There would be a fight for survival, as those who lived fought the dead, destroying these ghouls in the most traditional of methods - the head! But what if... the state of a zombie could be conditioned with medication, and the deceased returned to society?

In Dominic Mitchell's well-crafted drama for BBC3 we are introduced to a world proceeding a zombie apocalypse; those who were once monsters undergo treatment and rehabilitation, before being released back into the community, where they are returned to families and friends. How will people respond? The unease of knowing what the zombie - now officially recognised as a sufferer of PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) - has done in the time of its untreated state would always sit in the back of anyone's mind.

Eighteen-year-old Kieren Walker (played by Luke Newberry) is one such person. We are introduced to him at a Partially Deceased Treatment Centre in Norfolk. This is the place where he has been prepared for his new life in the remote Northern village of of Roarton, where he lived before his death. Adjustment is key, a chance to exist again. That is, unless the Human Volunteer Force (HVF), a vigilante group, has other ideas...

Sisterly love, Cains as Jem

His sister Jem Walker (excellently portrayed by Harriet Cains), who has been a member of the HVF since the rising, clearly has mixed feelings toward her brother; however it is pleasing to see that her loyalty to the family outweighed any existing apprehensions.

Three-part drama In The Flesh is a human tale, looking at tragedy, guilt, acceptance, and both justice and injustice; a cleansing, the need for some to hunt down and destroy those who had died only to rise again (those who had murdered family, friends and neighbours in the process), and the existence of informers within the village, had my mind visualising the persecution of the Jewish community during the Second World War under German occupation; how people would be dragged out of their hiding places into the street, and shot in front of neighbours and loved ones, or forced to leave due to the constant fear of being caught, always looking over your shoulder, through gaps in curtains, questioning who to trust... It is an uneasy reminder that, given extraordinary circumstances, the unthinkable is possible.

Even the very idea of a PDS sufferer being released back into their old lives, once more interacting with friends and family, medication keeping their condition at bay, reminded this reviewer of someone recently out of a psychiatric hospital, now medicated but memories of their previous imbalanced actions still present in people's minds. Stigma and discrimination, an uneasy sense of suspicion and fear, the doubt of whether this person might just revert back to how they used to be, especially if they had once been violent and dangerous, as these "Rotters" clearly were... The world that Dominic Mitchell has visualised is more than just a story of survival in a zombie apocalypse - In The Flesh portrays the walking dead as victims that must face anger, suspicion, and guilt.

The cast is nicely gathered, with fine performances by Marie Critchley and Steve Cooper (as Kieran's parents Sue and Steve), Ricky Tomlinson (as Ken Burton), Steve Evets (playing HVF leader Bill Macy), and Kenneth Cranham (as Vicar Oddie - he's all about forgiveness, this one!)

Jonny Campbell directs superbly, clearly loving Mitchell's script as he takes every scene, shining such visual depth and haunting bite that, every step of the way, we are drawn into the drama with a sense of our very own apprehension - we want everything to work out, for the past to be forgiven, and these sufferers to be accepted; but we fear the possible, know that any one of these medicated "Rotters" could be held accountable for their "crimes". Or that, without treatment, they are nothing more than mindless killers...