“I am a partially deceased-syndrome sufferer.”
With the cancellation of the brilliantly written and acted The Fades and the more recent cancellation of the UK Being Human (not to be confused with the Syfy version whatsoever), I was apprehensive about starting another British supernatural show to avoid having an Abed-like breakdown after Britta introduced him to the short-lived Cougarton Abbey. But, because I’m such a sucker for British television, I fell head-first into BBC Three’s In The Flesh.
It’s a show about zombies, but not the kind you would expect. These are rehabilitated zombies, which means they’re no longer roaming around rabid and feasting on humans.
The three-episode series follows the story of Kieran Walker (Luke Newberry), a rehabilitated zombie haunted by memories from his rabid state, who reunites with his human family and returns to a small town that couldn’t be more hostile towards people like him. The cast of characters includes Kieran’s parents, his sister Jem (Harriet Cains) who served with the HVF – a group that protected humanity during the Rising (AKA the zombie apocalypse) – and fellow zombie Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan), who embraces her second life with a bubbly, happy-go-lucky attitude.
Unlike other zombie shows, the action in In The Flesh is kept to a minimum. The show’s emphasis is on the drama, and so the pacing is slower. You become completely absorbed in Kieran’s story, however, and invested in the lives of the various townspeople. The ending is as gut-wrenching as you could possibly imagine, but the payoff is well worth it.
The interesting and unique aspect of the show is that the treatment of zombies is written as a metaphor for oppression, specifically against members of the LGBT community, as demonstrated by Kieran’s sexuality and romantic relationship with best friend Rick Macy (David Walmsley), presumed to have died while serving in the military until the end of episode 1. The writers refrain from spelling things out too explicitly, so everything about the relationship has to be inferred (though it’s fairly obvious), which grants the love story a level of innocence.
The show makes it a point to address the fact that zombies don’t choose to be zombies, and while Kieran’s family clearly loves him, they struggle to accept and understand that he’s the same person underneath after becoming a zombie. This act of “coming home” as a zombie is comparable to members of the LGBT “coming out” to their friends and family, as is the family’s treatment of Kieran.
Kieran’s parents encourage him to act like his pre-zombie self, by having him sit at the dinner table and pretend to eat. There’s even a scene where his Kieran’s father literally pushes him into a closet, in an effort to hide Kieran. You also have Kieran struggle to accept himself and disguise his true identity, by using make-up and contact lenses to appear more human.
The church has a strong presence in the town, and they’re incidentally the most outspoken against zombies. Rick’s dad Bill, the religious head of the HVF, is deep in denial about his son being a zombie. Similarly, some of the most religious people are the most anti-gay.
Given that the show is about three hours, it wasn’t difficult to marathon in a single day, and it gets better with each episode. If In The Flesh were to get a second series, I’d be interested to see where Emily Bevan’s character ends up. Most likely, we won’t hear of this show again until some network executive in Hollywood decides to do an Americanized version. Until then, I’ll be cruising the interwebs on the look out for more British shows, only to have it end in six episodes. At least there’s closure, right?