In the Flesh is a three-part BBCsupernatural drama series which began airing on BBC Three on 17 March 2013. The show was created and written by Dominic Mitchell. It is set after "The Rising", this show's take on a zombie apocalypse, and focuses on re-animated teenager Kieren Walker as he comes back into the local community.
A second, extended series of the show has been commissioned, to be broadcast in 2014. As yet, it is unknown how many episodes the new series will comprise, but it is believed it will be five or six.
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. There quickly followed 'The Pale Wars' in which the zombies were hunted and killed by armed bands of militia. After months of rehabilitation and medication, the zombies (now referred to as partially deceased syndrome (PDS) patients by the government, but pejoratively known as "rotters") are judged ready to return to society, their homes and families. They are given cosmetics and contact lenses, so they can 'pass,' and to conceal their partially deceased status. They must maintain a strict program of medication to avoid going "rabid" again, which is one injection a day. 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.
Cast[edit source | edit]
Luke Newberry as Kieren "Ren" Walker, the protagonist, is a teenager who was treated and released for his Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) from a treatment center in Norfolk. Just before the outbreak, his partner and lover Rick, a young man in his same class at school, was killed in Afghanistan. Kieren's acute depression, activated by Rick mysteriously abandoning him days before they were to move to London together, and escape their homophobic village, leaves him in a stupor, and keeps him in his village. Ren spends his days isolated in his room, painting pictures of he and Rick together and rereading love letters from him. His partner's death overseas leaves him no hope, and he commits suicide by slashing his wrists. His parents and sister have to deal with the aftermath, and know why he was driven to the extreme measure. Kieren left instructions to be cremated, but the night before The Rising, he was buried in the local cemetery. Back in the village he hated so much, Kieren has to face the almost unbearable combination of guilt for having hurt his parents with his suicide, a hostile sister who is an active member of the local militia avowed to put down "all rotters," medicated or not, the return of all the painful memories of losing Rick, and the fact that he must 'stay in the closet' as a zombie, which means he cannot leave the house so that no one who knows he is dead can see him. In addition, he has frequent flashbacks of when he was untreated, rabid, and attacking the living to feed.
David Walmsley as Rick Macey, Bill's son, and Kieren's boyfriend. Rick's father discovered the boys' love and forced his son to immediately join the military. Rick being weak, and longing for his father's approval, bends to the older man's will, telling himself it would all somehow be better for Ren. Rick was killed in Afghanistan after an IED attack. At the end of the first episode, news come to his parents that he has been found in Afghanistan. "Alive?" his father's asks. "Partially." his mother responds. Rick returns to the village, and his father is put into a bind. He leads the local militia, and decides to treat his son as a 'living hero.' He parades him in the village pub and dares any of his fellow haters to say a word about it. Rick, still dutiful to his father, wants to know what happened to Ren, but is afraid to mention the name before his dad. At the moment that Kieren's sister mentions that Rick is home and down at the pub, he runs out the door. In the pub, the boys' old classmate shows Ren and Amy Dyer a segregated section where they will have to stay. As the classmate is still there, Rick comes out of the restroom, and the boys have an near tear-stained reunion. As they are trying to navigate a bit of privacy, word comes to the pub that rabid rotters have been spotted in the woods. Rick's father demands his son come along for the 'kill,' but Rick insists that Ren come too. The father is incensed, he thought he had 'put down' those feelings in his son. In the woods, sitting in the truck, the boys finally have a moment alone. Rick is surprised to learn that Ren wrote to him every day. His father must have intercepted Kieren's letters at the village post office, as he never received any. Ren wants to know why Rick left him so suddenly, without any word. All Rick can say is he thought it would be best for Ren. Rick wants to know how Kieren died, but is not prepared to learn that the young man killed himself because he learned that Rick had died in the war. Rick is devastated, pounds the steering wheel, he feels overwhelmed and guilty that the man he loves suffered because of his rash actions, because he bowed to pressure from his father to deny his true self and love for Ren. In the forest, Rick is about to again bend to his father's will and murder a man and child with PDS, when Kieren intercedes.
Emily Bevan as Amy Dyer, a PDS sufferer and Kieren's hunting partner prior to treatment. She seems much less affected by what she did in her untreated state than Kieren is, and thinks of it more like a blessing than a punishment. She believes that most people spend their lives with "one eye on the clock" waiting to die, and thinks that she is liberated because she has already died. She leaves to go to London to meet an extremist group led by "The Undead Prophet". She died of leukaemia aged 21.
Harriet Cains as Jem Walker, Kieren Walker's sister and a member of the HVF (Human Volunteer Force), a militia dedicated to exterminating 'the sick.' She has trouble re-accepting Kieren as her brother, but still seems to care for him and is protective of him, hiding him when she suspects the HVF is coming to kill him. She was troubled by Kieren's death as they were extremely close. She, like their parents, have not been able to forgive him for committing suicide. In the end, she begins to accept Kieren again and re-establish their bond.
Ricky Tomlinson as Ken Burton. Ken's wife is also a PDS sufferer. Bill Macey kills her at the end of the first episode, leading Ken to kill Bill at the end of the final episode.
Steve Evets as Bill Macey, the head of the HVF regiment in Roarton, which has turned into a militia dedicated to 'protecting' the village from cured partially deceased sufferers, in the fear that they may become rabid again. He orders the garage doors of the homes where the partially deceased live to be painted with "PDS" (this is a clear cinematic reference to the 1961 film "Victim" where a barrister being blackmailed for being Gay has the words: "Farr is Queer" painted on his garage door). Now that The Pale Wars have ended, his importance as a community leader is waning, and his sense of self-importance is severely hurt. Bill is led by the local vicar into a feeling of religiosity concerning 'the afflicted.' He uses religion as a prop to justify his hate. As the first episode progresses, he murders a PDS sufferer in the middle of the cul-de-sac, whilst Kieren watches from his bedroom window. In the great climax of the series, Rick finally stands up to his father. He refuses to kill Ren, despite his dad's direct order. Alone in the house, Rick bares his face without make-up and colored contacts lenses, and goes to father. The man will either accept him, or he will walk out forever. Rick tells him he will not harm the one he love, and slowly his father seems to melt. He rises and embraces his boy. Rick breaks down in sobs, feeling he finally obtained the honest love he always wanted from his dad. Bill asks Rick if he is sure about that. Rick affirms he is, and hold tightly onto his dad. But, Bill takes a knife and stabs his boy in the back of the neck. To punish Ren, as if it were all his fault, Bill takes his son's body to Kieren's house. He paints "PSD" on the garage door, and props Rick's body for his partner to find. Kieren's parents are devastated and racked with fear. In the final scene, they comfort Ren for losing Rick a second time, and relate how their lives would end if Ren killed himself again. The young man is finally able to heal the various riffs in his psychie, and assures them he will not leave them a second time, Rick would not want it that way.
Kenneth Cranham as Vicar Oddie, the local Roarton vicar, who believes that PDS sufferers are evil, and that they should be killed. He persuades Bill Macey to murder Ken's wife in the cul-de-sac; however, he appears to be oblivious to Kieren's arrival in Roarton, and does not directly confront Bill Macey about Rick being a "rotter." He tells Bill that there will be a second rising, in which only the good will rise again, and will be properly restored.
Kieren Walker, one of thousands of individuals affected by Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS), returns home to Roarton. He has been subjected to months of rehabilitation and medication at a special, defended unit, specifically designed to keep the PDS sufferers in. The government that has set an agenda of acceptance and tolerance. However, a cauldron of brutal anti-rotter sentiment exists and is gathering support, especially within the church.
Kieren feels trapped at home and escapes to his grave, where he is reunited with his old hunting partner Amy Dyer - who persuades him to take a dangerous day trip. He discovers that Rick, his lover who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan, is back in town, so he flies to him at his militia-based local pub. After an awkward reunion, he finds himself on a hunting mission in the woods, where the night patrol has reported live rabid rotters roaming free. Kieren persuades them to hand the "rotters" in for a reward rather than kill them.
Kieren visits the supermarket where he used to hunt, which brings back memories of when Jem spared his life. The siblings then confront their past issues and drop in to see the Lancasters, parents of a girl he killed. Kieren begins to feel better, but must say goodbye to Amy, who is leaving Roarton in search of The Undead Prophet. At the end of the episode, tragedy strikes Kieren after Bill kills Rick, claiming he is not the real Rick, leaving the body leaning against Kieren's garage. Kieren storms in to confront Bill, but ultimately leaves. Bill is then shot by Ken Burton, whose PDS-afflicted wife was murdered by Bill at the end of the first episode.
Reception[edit source | edit]
In the Flesh received generally positive reviews, with praise being given to the series' premise. The Daily Telegraph's Simon Horsford praised Mitchell and called the premise "a clever idea", despite having initial misgivings over the continued use of zombies. Morgan Jeffery, writing for Digital Spy, called the idea a "risk". Comparisons were made between the show and previous shows aired on BBC Three: The Fades and Being Human.
The series launched with 668,000 viewers, the highest of all the episodes. The first episode was rated 3 out of 5 stars by Jeffery. Jeffery praised the performance of the actors and the cinematography, particularly highlighting the scene where Ken's wife is shot. However, he noted that there were times when "the two facets of In The Flesh fail to gel effectively". Overall, he believed it may not have "hit its stride" in the first week, but would continue to watch the show for the next two weeks.Den of Geek's Louisa Mellor also highlighted the scene with Ken's wife, and praised the episode. She said the story had a "reflective" feel, which distinguished it from other zombies stories.
The second episode received 392,000 viewers, a significant decrease from the first episode. However, critical response to the episode improved, and Jeffery rated the second episode 4 out of 5. He praised the banter between Kieran and Amy, as well as the appearance of rabid zombies toward the end. Mellor called Amy a "jolt of electricity on screen", and wanted to learn more about the thoughts of Bill Macy. Dave Golder, for SFX, also gave the episode 4 out of 5 episodes, and praised the episode's conclusion and rabid PDS sufferers. Golder felt Amy was occasionally "a little bit too broad", but praised her acting when Kieran reveals he killed himself.
525,000 viewers watched the finale, an increase from the previous episode but still not as high as the first one. Jeffery rated the episode 3.5 out of 5; he praised Cains and her interaction with Newberry, and the death of Rick, but noted that many plots were left unresolved.
Series Two[edit source | edit]
A second, extended series of the show has been commissioned, to be broadcast in 2014. It will take place in Roarton, where a fragile peace has been reached after the shocking events of Series One. While Kieren is hoping to get on with his second life, new, explosive characters could throw those plans into disarray. Battle lines are drawn and all will be judged.