TV REVIEW: IN THE FLESH SERIES 1 EPISODE 2
Writer: Dominic Mitchell
Director: Jonny Campbell
RECAP: Luke escapes from the confines of his house where he meets Amy by his graveside who helps him rediscover life but gets him recognised in the process. Meanwhile Rick returns from Afghanistan and his father Bill ignores his undead status and takes him to celebrate in the pub, but when Luke and Rick meet again, they have to face their past.
REVIEW: In last week’s series premiere, not all the elements gelled together effectively. There were solid performances, effective tension but a seemingly unclear direction and little to break up the persistent bleakness. In this second episode, everything comes strongly into focus with the introduction of two new characters bringing humour and emotional depth.
The introduction of Amy Dyer, (Emily Bevan) as a happy go lucky zombie and Luke’s old hunting partner is a welcome contrast to the guilt-ridden Luke and the permanently on edge townsfolk of Roarton. You get the distinct impression here that Luke was probably about as much fun as he is now when he was still alive.
The first encounter with her at the graveyard is a smart piece of world building, with the scene having been cordoned off as the dead come back to life. While they are in the graveyard, there’s a highly effective flashback of Luke clawing out of his grave. It’s claustrophobic and somewhat vampiric but you are getting the sense that these PDS sufferers retain a lot more of the zombie than perhaps they might.
The other big arrival, as intimated last week, is Rick, son of Human Volunteer Force leader Bill and war hero, killed by an IED. While this seemed like the most soap operatic of plot devices, it’s also highly effective in moving the narrative forward. Bill proudly introducing his son into the town means the zombie haters are forced to acknowledge and reintegrate the undead into the town. The readjustment is perfectly demonstrated in the pub with the removal of triumphant killing photos and the creation of a new PDS room.
It’s a nice take on segregation and while what the zombie metaphor wasn’t quite used to its full effect in the first episode, here with Rick and Luke, it’s used as beautifully as Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever managed.
Although the relationship between Luke and Rick is never quite explicitly stated, their shared looks and chemistry make it abundantly clear along with lines telling how the small town people didn’t like Luke even when he was alive due to him being “different”.
This conflict all comes to a head with the discovery of some good old fashioned zombies and a typical dark hunt in the woods. Will Rick choose to shoot his own kind like his father wants or will he spare them and Luke who stands between them? “They’re disgusting and evil” claims rick in a rather unsubtle but still effective line.
These characters are clearly a stronger focus than the wider context of the town politics and some elements from the first episode, such as the undead prophet and town council politics are dropped here, making it a more focussed and relatable show. However it does seem to leave rather a lot of plots open without much hope of resolution.
This show feels like it has found it’s voice. It is balancing kitchen sink melodrama, soap opera and zombie movie with just the right amount of emotional depth and could be onto a longer term winning formula.
With just one episode remaining it doesn’t feel like there will be any form of neat resolution,rather that this is a world that we have only just begun exploring.
EPITAPH ONE: Luke’s gravestone features the first two lines of this memorial verse:
Gone is the face we loved so
Silent is the voice we loved to hear,
Too far away for sight or speech,
But not too far for thought to reach,
Sweet to remember him who once was here,
And who, though absent, is just as dear.
EPITAPH TWO: Amy’s is “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas featuring the line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” which seems zombie appropriate
RELIGION: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes for when they shall rise from the dead, they are as angels which are in heaven.” – Amy quotes Revelation 21:4 mixing in Matthew 22:30. It’s a nice mix.