Monday, June 17, 2013

In the Flesh

Leave it to the Brits to shake up the zombie genre. I don't know why I'm surprised, after all, it was Brits that brought us Shawn of the Dead, which is arguably responsible for the re-popularity of the genre as a whole. It also seems that British television is just....well, better. But I confess that I was doubtful about another zombie show. Was there really anything interesting left to say about zombies??

Turns out, yes. Yes, there is.

In the Flesh, a three episode series that recently aired on BBC America, tells a very different story than your typical zombie show. There's no rag-tag group of survivors fighting their way through an apocalyptic landscape, trying to survive in a world gone mad. This also isn't the story of one brave man (or woman) living in a world dealing with a zombie outbreak.

Instead, In the Flesh deals with what happens after. And guess what guys? We won! Zombies didn't overrun the world and eat everyone! Instead, we found a way to treat the disease that caused the dead to rise and are now working to integrate them back into their previous lives so they can become useful members of society. Go Team Living!

(record scratch)

Yes, you read that right. We beat the zombies. There's no real apocalypse in this story. Sure lots of people died, but luckily in the universe, the bite of a zombie doesn't turn you into one. Instead, you just die. And now, with regular doses of a drug that stops you from turning into a rabid fleshhound, your undead life goes on. But if you happen to be one of the reanimated dead that has to return to the community you once feasted upon....things get a bit dicey.

And you thought YOUR teenage years were awkward.

From wikipedia:
In the Flesh is set in the fictional village of Roarton (Lancashire, England) after The Rising, in which teenager Kieren Walker was re-animated along with thousands of people who died in the year 2009. After months of rehabilitation and medication, the zombies (now referred to as partially deceased syndrome (PDS) patients by the government, but commonly known as "rotters") are judged ready to return to their homes and families. They are given cosmetics and contact lenses to conceal their decayed appearance, and must maintain a strict programme of medication to avoid going "rabid" again. Many are haunted by returning memories of the atrocities they committed while rabid. In the extremist village of Roarton, PDS sufferers face prejudice from the villagers upon their return.
In the Flesh has a lot of heavy themes. There is, of course, the idea of Kieren as an "other" separate from the traditional English village society. There are obvious parallels between the PDS patients and minority groups that have traditionally been subject to hate and bigotry. Things are a bit more complicated in this circumstance though, since the PDS peeps did actually feast on the flesh of their neighbors when they were untreated. So, you know, the fear is not entirely unfounded.

Kieren is also dealing with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame from his prior brain-crazed state. I won't give you any big spoilers, but suffice it to say he killed people and now has to deal with the trauma. Finally, there's a lot of people lying to themselves in this show and refusing to acknowledge the reality of the current situation. It's a normal human reaction...but it never ends well.

In the Flesh is a gripping human drama. Which is pretty amazing considering it deals with zombies. You really care about the characters and what will happen to them, and I have to give props to Luke Newberry for really infusing Kieren with life and pathos--despite the fact that most of his interactions with others are quiet and uncomfortable. Oh, and that he's a freakin zombie. He does a lot of soulful staring...which could have gotten really boring really fast, except you always know there is some turmoil under the surface. There is also a lot to his character that you discover gradually throughout the series; I can think of two gasp-worthy revelations right off the bat.

There's no release date for the DVDs of series 1 that I can find, but be sure to check this one out from Netflix or on DVD when you get the chance. Oh, and there will be a second series, hurray!


Tim May said...

Question: Your final paragraph confused me. You say it IS out on Netflix, or I should be ready for it to BE out on Netflix? I would like to watch it. How did you see it?

Maggie Cats said...

I saw it when it aired on BBC America. When I said to check it out "when you get the chance" I meant when it is released on DVD and therefore available on Netflix. It is currently NOT available, I'm not sure where you could find it right now (legally anyway).

The BBC America website has some clips up though to give you a taste:

Beware of spoilers!