Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In The Flesh: Episode 2 - TVReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Second part manages to be more than just a zombie outing - even the Rotters in the woods show their Human quality...

The debut of new BBC Three drama In The Flesh had Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) returning home after undergoing rehabilitation, medicated and his true nature disguised, only to find a hostile and suspicious community preparing for the arrival of any PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers who dare to return to the remote Northern village of Roarton. A shock ending saw the heartless killing of Ken Burton's wife, Maggie, who had, until treated and medicated, been a "Rotter", one of the walking dead. As Bill Macy had put it, "I seem to recall, Ken, last time I saw yer wife, she were in a casket." Actor Ricky Tomlinson portrayed the role excellently, as a man forced to watch his wife die, for a second time.

It is therefore ironic that Bill (played by Steve Evets), leader of the Human Volunteer Force vigilante group, is forced to face his own demons in the form of his soldier son, Rick Macy (David Walmsley), who was believed to be dead until recently. Quite clearly this is a man who hates "Rotters" with every fiber of his being and yet... acknowledging the truth about his own grown-up child is going to be painful and soul searching; and how hypocritical that he leaves neighbour Ken without a wife but choices to ignore the reality of his own situation. He is not alone either - Rick is also in denial, it seems.

Emily Bevan in the flesh

There is also a question to be asked concerning the close relationship between Kieren and Rick; are they simply friends, or is there more to it? This is where In The Flesh works extremely well, focusing less on the traditional zombie elements and instead piecing together the lives of the residents. There is love, hate, suspicion, guilt and so much more where the series demonstrates its true power. For example, though Jem Walker (Harriet Cains) is a member of the HVF, her loyalty to her family is obvious, even if she does make it known that her actions were not born out of any concern for her brother.

And when Kieren finally steps through the doors of the local British Legion, there is far less hostility than expected; instead these are people who simply feel uncomfortable around a reanimated friend or neighbour, not eager zombie killers who might be seen in more traditional tales (In The Flesh may have its footing in the wake of American filmmaker George A. Romero's movies but its own focus reflects an intriguing side not touched upon before in this way: what happens if a zombie can be treated?) - this is a close community and their reaction to events not so predictable.

Emily Bevan wonderfully portrays Kieren's old "Rotter" hunting partner, Amy Dyer, as the two are reunited while Kieren visits his own grave (it becomes clear that his wishes to be cremated were ignored by his parents). Amy remembers him, and soon a new uneasy friendship is formed. They are on opposite ends of emotion, as it becomes apparent that Amy feels no regret whatsoever for her actions during an untreated state, "Back then, we were in survival mode, out of our minds".

We are also treated to a touching scene between Kieren and Amy as the two share something about their deaths; Amy had died of Leukemia, Kieren sucide. Amy undoubtedly brings both humour and warmth with her vivacious personality, and is easily the perfect foil to Kieren - whereas he is full of guilt, she has been given a second chance at life and will damn well make the most of it! Her decision to go "au naturale" by rejecting both makeup and contact lenses is a perfect example of Amy's nonconformity, even if the rules were set in place to both keep her safe and the public from panicking.

On a last note, the sighting of a rabid Rotter in the woods leads to one of the most astonishing moments in television history - a grown male zombie demonstrating primitive and yet clear paternal instincts toward a zombie female child, both untreated and still in a feral state of being. Though Bill urges his son to shoot these two Rotters, it is Kieren who steps up, persuading both his friend and the others in the group to capture the Rotters instead. This is where we realise just how possible it was to treat the infected in the first place, for they never truly lost "themselves"...

If the 'rising' is a metamorphosis, are the "Rotters" a moth or butterfly? In Amy's case, I would say the latter. And if "Zombie theology" suggests that the soul is separated from the body at the point of death prior to it being reanimated, then what of Dominic Mitchell's creations? They have souls, they remember. That is where In The Flesh sets new ground; to die is to be reborn, albeit in an unprecedented new world.