Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
In the Flesh: Welcome Back to the Land of the Partially Living
the good news: the zombie apocalypse is over and humanity won. Gracious in victory, we have developed
something of a Marshall Plan for the undead.
The proper term is now “Partially Deceased Syndrome.” With proper treatment, those afflicted can
regain their consciousness and eventually be reintegrated into society. At least that is the theory. Reality is a lot trickier for one PDS
teenager in series writer-creator Dominic Mitchell’s three part In the Flesh (promo here), which premieres
this Thursday on BBC America.
small town of Roarton suffered heavy losses during what is now called “the
Rising.” The Human Volunteer Force (HVF)
militias were first founded here and Roarton’s unit has yet to disband. It is the worst place a rehabilitated zombie
to re-enter society, but it is where Kieren Walker’s family lives. His parents are walking on eggshells,
determined to keep his homecoming a secret, but nonetheless overjoyed to have
their son back. His younger sister Jem
is a different story. Active in the
local HVF, she now considers their militant leader Bill Macy a mentor. Kieren Walker already has some complicated
history with the Macy family and it will soon get even thornier.
the lead of George Romero’s Night of the
Living Dead, Flesh employs zombies as a vehicle for social commentary. However, this approach is always limited by
the nature of the genre. We see through
Walker’s flashbacks the terrors he wreaked in his feral state. It was not his fault according to his
doctors, but it still isn’t pretty. With
rumors swirling of rehabbed PDS cases deliberately going off their meds, it is
hard to blame the good citizens of Roarton for being slightly on edge. Nonetheless, Mitchell stacks the deck against
them, casting the fire-and-brimstone Vicar and the unhinged Macy as paranoid
considerably better on the micro level when it focuses on Walker’s guilt for
both his zombie atrocities and the circumstances that led to his initial death. There is also an interesting relationship
that develops between him and Amy Dyer, a more free-spirited PDS teen.
Newberry is adequately morose as Walker, but he is frequently upstaged by other
Walker family members. Harriet Cains shows
potential star power as the forceful Jem, but Steve Cooper really gets to lower
the emotional boom as Kieren’s still reeling father. Unfortunately, Steve Evets (so engaging in
Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric) and
Kenneth Cranham largely portray Macy and the Vicar as crude caricatures. In contrast, lefty comic Ricky Tomlinson
nicely humanizes anti-PDS activist Ken Burton, while Emily Bevan adds some energy
to the dour milieu as Dyer.
Already renewed for a second season in the UK, In the Flesh ends its first outing with
some intriguing avenues open for further exploration. Yet, it faces an obvious dilemma. To satisfy genre fans, eventually the show
must produce the shuffling hordes, but to do so would undercut their peace and
tolerance soap-boxing. Notable as an
original premise, imperfectly executed but showing promise for future
development, the first season of In the
Flesh airs this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (6/6-6/8) on BBC America.
Labels: BBC America, Zombies