Previously, on In the Flesh: “Episode 2”
It’s now the morning after the events of episode two, and Kieren has yet to return home. If you’ll recall, he stormed out when he found out his parents hadn’t told him Rick was back. He found Rick at the pub, they ended up in the middle of the woods hunting rotters–even though they’re rotters themselves, which makes it awkward–Kieren talked Rick out of killing a father-daughter pair of rotters, and then they all split up.
Kieren’s parents are worried about him because they don’t know where he is (although, if they knew he was with Bill Macy’s HVF troupe hunting rotters, I’m not sure they’d be much more at ease). They contemplate calling Shirley, the neighborhood PDS Community Officer, but they don’t because they can’t stand the thought of losing Kieren again. This is the untold pain of reanimation: redeath. We’ve already seen it with Ken Burton being forced to lose his wife all over again; the Walkers also saw that, and they don’t want it to happen to themselves.
Bill and Rick pass Kieren walking on the street, whom they’ve left to walk home. The Macys arrive at their house, and Bill is very upset with Rick for “siding with that rotter” and not killing the father-daughter zombies. Rick tries to calm his dad down, but Bill isn’t having it. He says Kieren has to go, and Rick has to be the one to do it. Hmm…
Now we find ourselves in an unfamiliar bedroom. Amy is there, and she’s half-dressed. Who’s with her? Philip! They sexed at each other! Philip starts in on the nonsense you’d expect about how nobody can know he bumped undead uglies with a rotter; that’s when Amy says she doesn’t want anyone knowing she had sex with someone like him, either. I’d say she makes the stronger argument. Just picture Philip as a white guy–which should be easy, since he is one–and Amy as a black girl. Now you see the allusions to racism the series is making. They’re pretty transparent, but it’s good to spell it out, so everyone is sure to get the full picture.
As Philip is leaving, who does he run into? Shirley! His mother! Oh, dip! They go back-and-forth with lies about why each of them is there; she supposedly knew Amy’s nan at the hospice and came to give her some leftover belongings, and he is doing “community outreach” for the church. Sounds legit! Then he realizes his zipper is down, so he shuts his trap–so to speak–and they both go about their morning without bothering with any more questions.
Amy isn’t the only one who had someone else in her mouth last night; you’ll remember that Dean, the scaredy cat HVF officer, was bitten by the father rotter. He thought this meant he was going to turn into a rotter, Kieren assured him he was wrong–because this isn’t the movies–and everyone moved on from the incident, right? Nope. Gary locks Dean in a cage and says he’s “quarantined” because he was bitten. Now, this may have something to do with Dean professing his love for Gary’s fiance Vicky (when he thought he was about to turn into a rotter), but it’s still demonstrative of just how quickly these people are willing to turn on each other.
Instead of heading home, Kieren wanders on over to the supermarket of his flashback; the place where he killed his final human while he was a rabid zombie. While here, he experiences another recovered memory, and this one is heavy, Doc. Within the flashback, we see Jem making her way through the supermarket, picking off rotters left-and-right, when she comes upon Kieren (and Amy) feasting on Lisa, the woman we’ve seen so many times in these flashbacks. It was Jem who recovered Kieren and chose to turn him in instead of killing him. I guess, since she literally saw him chowing down on some flesh, that may excuse a bit of her shitty behavior we’ve seen up to this point.
Kieren leaves the supermarket, rushes home, and goes directly to Jem’s room. She’s asleep and having a nightmare; Kieren walks up to her bedside, she wakes up suddenly and shoots him in the head! The end! No, that doesn’t happen, but it almost does because, remember, Jem is now sleeping with her gun under her pillow. She does wake up and point it directly at Kieren’s head, only lowering it after he explains his flashback and his feelings toward the killing he did as a zombie. He explains to her that he doesn’t think it was “necessary” or that rotters are any kind of “advanced species”. Then she manages to turn the whole thing into a pity party for herself because of the fact that she feels bad that she didn’t kill Kieren to stop him… what? She’s been carrying guilt around about the fact that she lied and told everyone she ran out of bullets (instead of the real reason she didn’t kill him: she didn’t want to). He tells her he’s glad she didn’t kill him–duh!–and Kieren says he’s going to visit Lisa’s parents to try and bring them some peace; Jem goes with him.
Over at the Macys’ residence, Bill is still trying to convince Rick that he has to kill Kieren. Rick relents and says he’ll do it. First, he volunteers to go buy Bill some cigarettes. He’s not going to kill Kieren; instead, he stops at a phone booth and calls Kieren… well, he tries, but the Walkers can’t find their phone, so Rick has to leave a message. He tells Kieren that he’s in danger and that he should run if he sees either Rick or Bill. He starts to say something personal, but the phone starts beeping for more change. He has to leave it at that.
Bill is all kinds of excited that Rick has chosen to “side” with him and “against” Kieren; he calls the vicar to tell him he needs him to give Rick an extra bit of pep talk because he has a “big mission” today. I get the feeling Bill really enjoys playing war, which is a bit sad considering the fact that his son has not only been to actual war but also died there. Outside their house, Philip is painting “PDS” on their garage in big, green letters; a proposal has been voted into effect: all houses with PDS sufferers living inside must be identified. Bill takes this really well–in that he only shoots over Philip’s head, instead of through it. Just then, Rick returns home. Bill tells him to get inside and change into his suit for church.
Kieren and Jem arrive at the Lancasters’ home–parents of Lisa–who were also on their way to church. Jem tells them they should skip church today. The four of them go inside where they sit uncomfortably on plastic-covered couches. Lisa’s mother show’s Kieren and Jem the latest “Missing” posters she’s printed up about Lisa; they’re still convinced she’s alive. That’s when Kieren has to tell them she’s not missing; he attacked her in the supermarket. You’d think this might upset the Lancasters, right? It doesn’t; they’re more relieved than anything. Jem thinks maybe they don’t understand what he’s saying, but they do; they get that he bit her in his “untreated state”. What they want to know is where her body is. That’s when they thank Kieren for what he did for the father-daughter pair, last night. You see, what they think is she woke up after being attacked and is now a rabid rotter. Because of what Kieren did for the father-daughter pair, they think now, if the patrolmen find Lisa, they won’t kill her. What they don’t know is: it doesn’t work that way.
Kieren explains to them that Lisa won’t be coming back. The reason he and others came back is because they died the year before The Rising. Lisa’s parents are also of the mindset that, when you’re bitten, you come back–because of movies. Kieren, again, has to explain that “this isn’t a film”. As a viewer, and someone who has enjoyed this show very much, I’ll overlook this repeated ground; as an honest reviewer, however, I have to say I dislike that the show mentioned the fact that “this isn’t a film” more than once. You don’t have to say it more than the one time in the woods. After that, we get that you’ve established this universe as existing outside of the usual “infection” zombie genre. I get that the show is attempting to have their universe be aware of other universes, which I like; I’d just prefer it if it was done in a way that isn’t Kieren just flatly having to state “This isn’t a movie” because, as a viewer, I know that it is, in fact, a movie (television series).
Kieren continues to argue this point with Lisa’s parents, but Jem is actually the voice of reason–for once–when she interjects that “It could be possible”. She’s trying to spare the Lancasters and not rob them of their hope. Kieren swallows his tongue and goes along with it, even though he has absolutely no belief that Lisa is out there shuffling around.
Dean’s still locked up, and he asks a a passing boy to take some money and go buy him some food. When the boy protests because Dean’s a rotter, Dean says “I’m not a rotter; I’m diabetic!” Which is a line I love because it juxtaposes two diseases that, in this world, should be fairly equal; having PDS should be seen as just as innocuous as having diabetes, but it isn’t. Then the kid protests further, telling Dean that he’s a rotter because he’s been bitten; Dean says it doesn’t work that way, and this is the way I like the show to distance itself from existing ideas of zombies: placing characters in organic situations where they can deliver the exposition, instead of just having a character come right out and say it. Next, an older lady walks by, and Dean tries to get her to help him, too; she spits in his face.
At the church, the vicar is doing his best to be as loud and angry as possible. He’s yelling about how the treated PDS sufferers are basically wolves in sheep’s clothing. While he’s doing this, Bill keeps looking over at Rick. You think maybe he’s feeling uncomfortable for Rick–because he’s a treated PDS sufferer–and that might be true if it was Kieren with his dad, but this is Bill we’re talking about. Bill isn’t feeling anything more than shame. He wants Rick to feel it, too; Bill thinks this is the “pep talk” he asked the vicar to give Rick but, as they’re leaving, the vicar stops Bill to spit some more hate game into his ear. He tells Bill there will be a “Second Rising”. He says the Second Rising will be of those PDS sufferers who’ve been killed; they will return as their “true” selves. Basically, all of the added aggression the vicar put into his “sermon” wasn’t for Rick; it was for Bill, and the vicar is trying to convince Bill that Rick needs to die, just as Bill is trying to convince Rick that Kieren needs to die. See how that works? When we judge, we only condemn that which does not reflect back on ourselves.
At Amy’s house, she’s watching a video of The Undead Prophet, when Gary–beardy HVF officer–shows up to mark her house. Once he’s done that, he lets himself in. He says Amy walking around without cover-up on is a slap in the face to “war heroes like me”. There’s his problem; anyone who refers to themselves as a “war hero” is not walking around with a war hero’s mentality. This is further evidenced by the fact that he attacks Amy and forcefully applies makeup on her face. He leaves her lying in the floor. These HVF assholes are good at that.
On their walk home from the Lancasters, Jem and Kieren actually bond some more. She thanks him for “not taking away [the Lancasters] hope”, see? In their discussion, they mention another interesting bit of information. He tells her she’ll always be his little sister, but she corrects him in saying she’s his big sister now, since he’s still technically 18–his age at death–and she’s almost 19. That was just a nice, naturally flowing conversation.
They spot Amy, and Jem leave Kieren alone, so he can talk to her. She’s sitting at the train station; Kieren asks if she’s going on a daytrip without him, but she’s not going on a daytrip; she’s leaving. She’s going to try and find The Undead Prophet. Apparently, The Undead Prophet has a supposed commune where PDS sufferers can live free. Hmm, I wonder if this commune will be like the Human Project of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, to which Hope literally flees; or like Genosha, Magneto’s perpetually failed attempt at a mutant Utopia, which ultimately became a mutant army, in X-Men. I suppose we’ll see in the future which way, if either, this commune goes. Amy asks Kieren to go with her, but he says he can’t. She understands because he has a family; something she doesn’t have. She boards the train, and Kieren waves at her as she leaves his life.
Shirley has organized a support group for family members of PDS sufferers; she seems to be getting better at this. One of the group’s members whose son has PDS says he is receiving fan mail from “perverts” who find PDS arousing. Well, that’s to be expected, right? Rule 34. Then she reads one of the letters, which provides a pretty hearty laugh for everyone. Shirley quickly moves on to Kieren’s mother, who describes how she’s not dealing with things very well; it’s mostly due to the fact that he killed himself. She relays feelings that are all too common among those who’ve had a child commit suicide. She describes how she involuntarily hated him for what his death did to her family. That’s when Rick’s mother chimes in that she knows the feeling; she felt it, and she reveals that she was also fearful of Rick when he came back.
Smash cut to Rick and Bill in their living room; Bill is “teaching” Rick how to surprise attack someone–namely, Kieren–with a knife and how to kill a rotter, apparently the “stab them in the brain to kill them“ thing from movies is true. As Rick has no interest in killing Kieren, I’d imagine he’s mostly just going along with Bill’s lesson, so as not to upset him. Rick excuses himself to the bathroom where he does some self-reflection, literally and figuratively. This is one of the absolute best scenes of the series, even though it only lasts about twenty seconds. Rick uses his hand to cover the right side of this face–the side with all the scars–and this leaves him looking like there’s nothing wrong; it’s as if, for only a moment, he is back to the Rick he was before he died. Then Bill interrupts this by yelling for Rick to hurry up. That’s when Rick removes the hand from his face and finally accepts his condition; he begins to remove his cover-up.
Back in Shirley’s support group, Rick’s mother is still talking, and she’s acknowledging that she doesn’t see him as a monster; she just sees her son. She’s also coming to a point of acceptance with Rick’s condition.
Rick exit’s the bathroom, and he’s now completely au natural; no cover-up and no contacts. This is the first time we see him, and this is the first time Bill is really seeing him, too. Rick tells his father that he doesn’t want to hurt Kieren; “If ‘Ren’s evil, dad; then so am I.” Everyone is going to accept Rick’s condition! Happy endings and lollipops!… Right?
Dean is still locked up outside, and this time the person who’s walking by is Ken Burton. Dean actually has the nerve to stop him and ask him to help him. Nobody else has, but Ken agrees to; the one guy who should absolutely not care if Dean lives or dies, and he is going to help him. Why? Because Ken knows better than anyone how it feels to have everyone turn on you and leave you for dead. Dean apologizes to him. Dean’s coming around, too? Could this really be a happy ending?
Jem removes her HVF armband, empties the bullets from her gun, and has finally moved on from The Rising. Looks like sunshine and puppies for everyone. When she takes her gun out to the shed–where her dad said he wanted it kept–she finds the missing phone. You remember that message Rick left about Kieren being in danger? She hears that and panics, but it’s fine, right? Bill is okay, now. Rick fixed him; he’s painted over the “PDS” on his garage and everything. Jem runs back to the train station and all over the place looking for Kieren but can’t find him; he’s just hanging out on a bridge. Bill even drives by him without paying any notice. See? Everything’s totally cool.
Back at the Macy’s, Rick’s mom returns home to an oddly quiet Bill. She asks where Rick is, and Bill gives her a soul crushing answer: “Rick? I haven’t seen Rick for five years.” She doesn’t know what he means, but we know; he’s given in to the vicar’s insanity and doesn’t accept Rick anymore.
Kieren comes meandering up the street to his house and, for a second, it’s as if he’s just a teenager walking home. That ends, though, when Kieren sees something and runs up to his garage door; it’s Rick. Rick is fucking dead… again. Bill has killed him–we know this because Kieren sees the knife Bill was using earlier to teach Rick how to kill rotters–and left him laying there like the week’s garbage pickup. Kieren is obliterated by this, at first, but then he just gets mad. He pulls the knife from Rick’s head and leaves–with Ken Burton watching the whole thing… just as Kieren watched Ken’s wife Maggie be killed.
Back at the Macy’s, Rick’s mom is still confused as fuck. Kieren comes banging on the door, and she lets him in. He urges Bill to stand up, stabs his knife in Bill’s chair, and Bill just sits there like an asshole. He says Kieren is banned from there. Kieren lets us know that this is because he gave Rick a mixed CD. Okay, two quick notes: this is the second place from which we’ve learned Kieren was banned (the pub) and the second mixed CD we’ve learned he gave someone (Jem). Back to the show, Bill tells Kieren he’ll still be banned from there when Rick comes back. Kieren doesn’t know what “next time” Bill is referring to because there isn’t going to be a “next time”. Of course, Bill is referring to the Second Rising the vicar mentioned. Bill is convinced that Rick was an imposter; that he was a “thing” that won’t come back “next time”. “Next time”, the real Rick will come back. I don’t like Bill, but he’s really just a moron who lost his son and was puppeted by the vicar; this is the kind of manipulation you get from truly evil individuals in situations like this. They seize upon those in depressed states and use them to further their own agenda.
Meanwhile, Rick’s mom realizes what has happened and promptly loses her shit. Kieren tells Bill that it was a one-time shot; a gift, and he ruined it. Rick’s mom grabs the knife and starts swinging it at Bill; telling him he killed Rick. Bill puts his hands up in defense, and the knife cuts them up. He looks down and literally sees the blood that is on his hands, and he realizes that he killed his son. He walks outside, crying, and directly into a shotgun blast from Ken Burton. Bill is fucking dead, too. As Ken walks away, Dean says “I didn’t see nothin’”; all Ken can do is shake his head and walk away, sparing Dean.
Kieren and Mrs. Macy come outside to see Bill’s dead body. Kieren leaves, and Mrs. Macy seems conflicted as to whether or not she should care that Bill is dead. You really have to feel terrible for her–I think her name’s Janet; I know I haven’t said it, but that’s because I’m not sure. She lost her son, had her son returned to her, finally accepted him, her husband killed him, and now her husband is dead. She’s alone. I wouldn’t be surprised if she and Ken Burton got together, actually.
Kieren is out wandering in the middle of nowhere–again, this would seem to be a metaphor–when he arrives at the cave from earlier. He goes inside, and we see “Ren + Rick 4ever” scratched onto the wall. Just then, a rustling comes from the dark. We hear “Kieren”, in an undead voice. You remember how Kieren thought he saw Lisa go into the cave? Well, Kieren thinks this is Lisa, but it isn’t; it’s his mom. She almost gave him a heart attack, and me, too. She asks why he’s there, and he says he just came to the place where Rick and he used to… and he trails off. I’d assume they sexed it up in there.
Kieren blames himself for Rick’s death–again–and things are becoming exactly how they were before–when he killed himself. His mother, though, being all great, tells him it’s not his fault, and tells him the way to change it is to live; to stay. He asks why she wants him to stay “like this”, and she tells him that she’d love him even if he came back as a goldfish. Then she tells him about a time when she was dating an RAF pilot who dumped her for her best friend. This upset her so much that she decided to “end it all”. She went to a late-night chemist (pharmacist), who refused to serve her; instead, he listened to her, all night. That was Kieren’s dad, whom she says would have come with her, but he “can’t come down here”.
They go home, and Kieren apologizes for leaving. His dad says it’s fine, but Kieren won’t accept that because, even though he’s apologizing for leaving today, he’s really apologizing for “leaving” when he killed himself. He wants his dad to tell him off. Dad gets a little mad, but Kieren wants more; he keeps pushing him until we hear about how Dad went looking for Kieren and found him in the cave, slumped over–much like how Kieren found Rick–and dad describes how he realized Kieren had killed himself with a Swiss Army knife. So, when I was finished crying grown-ass man tears, I saw the two of them had embraced. Happy ending? Yes.
The finale ends with the melancholy scene of Rick’s funeral.
Okay, I fucking loved this series. Even with its faults, and sure it’s a bit transparent with its allusions to homophobia, especially with Kieren and Rick actually being sexually involved, but it’s just really well done and sometimes things just need to be hit directly on the head. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, the way exposition was handled is almost perfect (save for the “This isn’t a film” problem). Luke Newberry was fantastic as Kieren. This was the first thing I’ve seen that had him in a substantial role; he was in the Sherlock episode “A Scandal in Belgravia”, but it wasn’t much; and he is in Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet, which I haven’t seen but will remember to keep a keen eye out for him when I do. With his translucent smile and wide eyes, he has a bit of a younger Elijah Wood quality about him, and I like that. Steve Evets’ Bill Macy is delightfully hateable, and Ricky Tomlinson, who plays Ken Burton, has an unexplainable air about him that makes him likeable. Emily Bevan (Amy) and Harriet Cains (Jem) play two abrasive characters who begin as utterly annoying but inexplicably grow on you a shocking amount for a three episode series. Everyone else was great, but Newberry rightfully stands out.
In May, a second series/season of In the Flesh was ordered, so we’ll definitely be revisiting the village of Roarton and all of its citizens–living and dead. It hasn’t been disclosed how many episodes will be in the second series/season; frankly, I think 3-5 would be perfect. Keep it compact, but that also means they can’t open too many cans of worms and have to hurriedly tie them up, which was my biggest issue with another BBC series Five Days. The second series/season of In the Flesh will air on BBC Three in 2014, and presumably on BBC America a few months after that.