I won’t lie. I didn’t want to watch the first season of In the Flesh. I was still hurting from the cancellation of my favorite new show of 2012, The Fades, and when the BBC Three/BBC America announced a zombie show was “taking its place” in 2013 (I know, I know, it wasn’t really “replacing” The Fades, but it hurt that a new supernatural show was debuting when one I loved was taken away). Anyway, I checked out the first episode and then didn’t bother tuning in the other two of Season One. Yes, it was a three episode season. That added to the sting of my missing Fades. But then as I was doing my year-end wrap-up of the Best TV Shows of 2013, I went back and binge watched that three-hour first season and damn if I wasn’t impressed. It easily made its way into my Top Ten list and now that Season Two has wrapped it looks like it will be hitting this year’s list too. For those who haven’t been keeping up with UK TV, In the Flesh is the debut television series by British playwright Dominic Mitchell and tells the story of reanimated teen Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry). The show takes place in the aftermath of “The Rising” when thousands of people returned from the dead as rabid, flesh-eating zombies. During the following “Pale Wars” the countryside was protected by armed militias until researchers discovered a medication that would return the undead to consciousness. So these sufferers of Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) were rounded up, medicated, rehabilitated, and are now being reintroduced into society with contact lenses and makeup to make them look as though they are alive. Needless to say this doesn’t go over well for many people who lost friends and family to the undead monsters. And there are some of the returned who aren’t happy with their new second-class citizen status. Season One was a moving exploration of prejudice, depression, homophobia, and guilt that I really wasn’t expecting. It walked a delicate line between the nightmare violence and gore of The Walking Dead and the emotional devastation of France’s Les Revenants. Season Two walks that same line to perfection while expanding the world to explore more complex emotional and political relationships in six hour-long episodes. The heart of the show, however, continues to revolve around Kieren’s reintegration and his family – particularly his little sister Jem (Harriet Cains), who was a hero during the “Pale Wars” and is now suffering from PTSD while trying to also reintegrate; this time back into high school, a 19 year-old among 16 year-olds. Meanwhile, outside of the tiny village of Roarton, Lancashire, tensions are escalating between the radical pro-living political party, Victus, and the Undead Liberation Army (ULA), who are tied to a series of terrorist attacks – which in this world translates to PDS sufferers taking a drug that cancels the effects of their re-humanizing treatment, turning them back into black bile spewing undead monsters who murder and eat their victims. That external conflict shifts directly to Roarton with the simultaneous arrivals of Victus MP Maxine Martin (Wunmi Mosaku) on one side and the return of Kieren’s best undead friend, Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan) and her significant other, Simon (Emmett Scanlan) – a member of the ULA and one of the twelve disciples of the Undead Prophet – on the other. Both MP Martin and Simon are searching for the same information: the identity of the First Risen. If there’s anything that feels at times like a misstep this season, it’s the inclusion of a mysterious prophecy regarding the First Risen and his or her role in bringing about a Second Rising – which means different things to different people. For the human faction anticipating it, the Second Rising is straight from the bible, where only the pure and righteous will return from the dead this time. For the frustrated undead, though, it’s Round Two of the zombie apocalypse and a chance to finish what they started. While all that is bubbling, In the Flesh takes the expanded season to explore other characters and how they’re handling the return to “ordinary” life. Needless to say there’s a lot of angst, heartbreak, and the occasional near-murder when treatments are missed. Episode 2.03 is especially sad, as new restrictions on the activities of PDS sufferers (thanks to the MP Martin) cause Freddie Preston (Bryan Parry) to give up on starting his own business and helps push him into trying to talk his wife Haley (Linzey Cocker) into running away with him. The problem there is he’s back from the dead and his wife moved on in the meantime. It’s all terribly awkward as Freddie is in a state of suspended emotional development, but Haley has grown up in the five years since his death. Meanwhile, Philip (Stephen Thompson) has moved up in the world, going from being an assistant to the town council to actually a part of it (after the surprise heart attack of the fanatical Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), but Philip has a bit of the old Hoyt Fortenberry about him. To say that he’s sympathetic to the PSD cause is a bit of an understatement, and his crush on the undead Amy is both sweet and sad. There’s just not a lot of happiness in this world and at least he gets a small taste of love. As with the first season, Emily Bevan is a delight as Amy. She’s more alive than anyone else in the show and brightens up every single scene she’s in. And once she starts suffering tremors and memory loss, I almost wanted to stop watching. If there’s anyone in this show that you want to see good things happen to, it’s Amy. Luckily, Dominic Mitchell has a few tricks up his sleeve and what I thought was going to break my heart turned out to be a wonderfully magical twist. And watching Amy and Philip walk around holding hands and being all lovey, actually made my black, shriveled little heart get the feels. A character that I wasn’t expecting to really care much for was Amy’s ULA faux-boyfriend (his tastes run more along the Kieren lines), Simon. Initially, he’s kind of a dick and he instigates trouble wherever he goes, but before long — mainly thanks to the influence of Kieren — his façade breaks and he becomes more than just the uber-cool religious zealot/patriotic freedom fighter he seemed to be. He’s actually a good guy and while I didn’t believe him for a minute during the first half of the series, before everything was said and done, it turns out he really does love Kieren. Again with the heart feels. Crazy, eh? It’s a show about zombies, after all. Plus, we get a glimpse at his back story — which ties into the whole disturbed discovery of a treatment for zombieism — and it’s actually pretty brilliant. The season wraps up on a high note, with a shaky peace between the humans and the undead in the village, Kieren and Simon together, and a creepy government conspiracy sneaking in under cover of night and robbing graves. Well, not graves, but one grave in particular. There’s death, undeath, and death again. There’s love, loss, and actual character growth. There’s a touch of madness, a dollop of fear, and a slight sense that things might actually turn out okay if there’s a third season. A slight sense. Enough doors are closed by the end of the sixth hour that if there’s not another go around, it won’t be devastating. There are other stories to tell, but at least it’s not on the magnitude of The Fades ending its season with the skies turning black and hell and horror ready to rain down on all humanity. Yeah, I’m just never going to let that go, I guess. But with that said, I certainly hope we get a third season. These characters are too good to leave behind and Mitchell clearly has more stories to tell. And I, for one, can’t wait to watch them come shambling to life. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response EZMM 2015 Day 6.2: The Returned (2013) - Psycho Drive-In April 4, 2015 […] an idea that is very similar to a UK TV series that recently ran for two seasons called In the Flesh, where the undead are treated and integrated back into society. The main difference being that in […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.