Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the Flesh: Season 1, episode 2

Let’s begin with lots of scene setting camera work – which this show already has shown itself to rather like, but at least they’re rather good at it. Kieren wakes up and looks out his window to see Kenneth sat in his house looking out the front window to the spot where his wife was killed.

Kieren goes to see his sister who is playing a nice zombie killing shoot ‘em up computer game (stay classy) to thank her for warning him. She doesn’t tale the thanks say it was all for her parents and when Kieren tries to talk about Bill Masey, the HVF leader, she drives him out of the room.

Down to the kitchen where the parents are trying to be as aggressively normal as possible until Jem comes down to reveal that there’s a ceremony she’s going to that she’s been expressly told not to mention to Kieren. It’s a ceremony commemorating the victims of the rising – the people whose brains Kieren ate, as she puts it.

At Bill Masey’s, Shirley the health visitor, is explaining to Janet about their son, Rick being one of the zombies and talking her through it. She offers help from a therapist to help them adjust and Bill explodes, storming upstairs yelling that they’re “not fucking tapped.”  When he goes, Shirley gives Janet the phone number anyway. Bill goes to Rick’s old room and examines his old trophies. Later he and Janet dismantle the shrine they have to Rick and remove the black ribbon from his photograph.

Kieren reads a card from Rick that reinforces that they were close and suggests there was some major tension between Kieren and Bill Masey. The card is also signed with a kiss. His dad comes to invite him downstairs not liking to leave him alone – and giving him his medicine just as the door rings – Steve shoves Kieren into the cupboard under the stairs before answering the door. It’s someone else coming to view the house.

In the cupboard, Kieren’s torch runs out of batteries and, in the dark, he has a flashback to being in the coffin and first awakening, struggling to get out. His dad lets him out after they’ve gone and he’s panicking and almost incoherent. He clams down and his dad asks him about the flashbacks –and Kieren asks him why they buried him. Rather at a loss how to answer, Steve is rescued by a call from work asking for him – Kieren urges him to go.

Once alone, Kieren finds a hoodie and goes out, past Kenneth’s house where Shirley is comforting him, and off to a graveyard that has been secured and locked down with warning signs, locks and barbed wire. Across at another cemetery, the HVF ceremony for the dead goes on. The vicar makes a speech and, when Bill arrives, founder and leader of the HVF, he invites him to speak. Bill tells them that Rick is coming home – and that he expects their full support (in a tone of voice that demands rather than expects). He and Janet leave and the crowd starts gossiping.

Kieren arrives at his grave, with a hole in the middle surrounded by police tape where he first rose from the dead. He has a flashback of him and the rest of the graveyard rising from the dead. He comes out of his flashback when he hears someone speaking. A woman sees him and announces that she knows him – and runs after him. He tries to run from her but she keeps chasing him. he grabs a metal pole to fend her off but she keeps coming, impaling herself on the metal spike.

She staggers back, pretending to be hurt then laughs at his expression, announcing she’s already dead and introducing herself as Amy Dyer. She compliments him on his epitaph and points out she chose hers (her grave is in the same graveyard). She made a will specifying she wanted to be buried here, he says he wanted to be cremated – which, obviously, didn’t happen. He starts to leave and she says she understands, he’s got a lot of living in the past in minute detail to do, a lot of looking at old photos. He reacts and asks how he stops doing that; she says she went on daytrips. To the bus stop!

To a funfair! Where Manic Pixie Dream Zombie tells him not to worry so much, they have concealer on and contacts in, why be so afraid of being out in public. She talks about being free of the fear of death, how different that is from other people. But Kieren realises she’s been watching that undeadprophet website; she says he makes a lot of sense and has no guilt or remorse for what she did as a zombie – since she was out of her mind. Kieren doesn’t adapt so well and, in the haunted house, hallucinates his last victim.

Bill and Janet wait for Rick to arrive and a small crowd of HVF has gathered across the street, at least some expecting Bill to kill Rick. Rick gets out the truck – wearing concealer but still with a scar on his face, and nods to the crowd, several nod back.

Rick and Bill bond over shooting stuff at Bill’s little shooting range while Janet hides in the bathroom trying to ring the busy helplines and popping a pill. Walking home, Jem asks her mum, Sue, whether Bill is ok with PDS people now and Sue puts it down to not accepting the truth about Rick yet, believing what he wants to be true. Jem asks if they’re going to tell Kieren that Rick is back and Sue ignores the question.

At the range, Janet joins Bill and Rick; saying she’s been fixing up Rick’s room (Bill makes a comment about Rick’s dirty mags) and Rick asks after the Walkers – Janet mentions a “bad patch” they had and Bill expresses contempt for “giving up” (a reference to Kieren’s suicide). Rick asks what happened and Bill says Kieren killed himself, “a weak ending for a weakling”, which shakes him visibly.

At the amusement park, someone recognises Kieren from his funeral – and yells to the crowd he’s a rotter. Kieren has to run from the fair, hide and run into the woods. There he sees his last victim again, seemingly whispering his name, who goes into a cave. Back in Roarton he looks at the message board and sees a missing person sign for Lisa Lancaster – the woman he killed.

The vicar has a meeting with 2 members of the HVF who want paying for their efforts and their patrols or, as they put it “faffing around in the woods”. With Bill distracted they’re less focused. The Vicar agrees after consulting the clerk (Phil) who says it’s possible.

Jem and Sue meet with Steve and Sue tells him about Rick being back and keeping it from Kieren. Jem disagrees with keeping it from him. Kieren sneaks into the house while they’re arguing in the driveway.

Rick and Bill continue to clumsily rebuild bonds (his bedroom has a considerable number of pictures of half naked women) before going out. In the pub, the landlady takes down pictures of the HVF killing zombies since they could cause offence – and Bill and Rick arrive. Into the echoing silence, Bill demands some respect, highlighting Rick is a veteran. Rick talks about his time in the army, everyone conspicuously doesn’t mention him dying and he talks about family always having your back, no matter what.

At the Walker house, Jem still won’t eat at table with them but does comment on how weird it is that Sue keeps cooking meals for Kieren and he keeps pretending to eat them in a slightly bizarre attempt to fit in. Steven also complains about her carrying a gun. They’re interrupted by the door – it’s Manic Pixie Dream Zombie! And she’s not wearing her contacts. Of course, Amy being Amy, she introduces herself to the family and joins them for dinner. Jem leaves. Amy’s frank and completely uncensored when it comes to being a zombie, making them uncomfortable and Kieren hustles her upstairs and tells her they don’t like admitting he’s a zombie and prefer to pretend he isn’t. Outside, Jem tries to join one of the HVF on patrol but he says she can’t – Bill says she was harbouring a rotter after Kieren was discovered at the funfair. She mentions rick but apparently that’s different.

Amy discusses cause of death – and dying of leukaemia, how unfair she thought it was, how she had been “benched before she had chance to play the game.” She asks Kieren’s last thought – and he says “relief.” He shows his death wounds – his slit wrists. Amy is upset and hugs him. At which point Jem comes in the room.

Kieren goes downstairs, angry, and puts on a coat. His parents ask where he’s going, he ignores them and leaves. They follow him and he’s furious that they didn’t tell him Rick was back.

In the bar, Bill keeps giving Rick drinks and comments about a girl called Vicki who he assumes Rick had a thing for. Of course, Rick can’t drink and he ends up throwing it up in the toilets.

Amy and Kieren approach the pub but Kieren stops –the people in the pub hated him before he was a zombie for not being like them, let alone afterwards. Inside Bill is furious that the Vicar hasn’t turned up. And then Amy enters, no contacts, only light concealer, followed by Kieren. She is aggressive in the face of people staring at her. At Bill’s urging, Phil goes over and asks them to come with him (Kieren says hi and they make awkward small talk) and move them into a tiny side room – where Kieren runs into Rick. Pause, dramatic music time. They shake hands – and rick is furious that Phillip moved them into a side room. Phil quickly backs down when faced with pushing Rick into the side room as well.

Of course all sat at the table is less than comfortable – Kieren is still mocked for being “girlish”, people stare at Amy without concealer and contacts and she makes snide remarks about Rick drinking when he’s just going to be sick.

Meanwhile, disposable HVF man is in the woods when he hears something and runs into – a rotter. One without concealer, a possibly feral zombie. He runs to the bar to announce a rotter (they all say they know, but he says a rabid one in the woods). The HVF turns out – and Rick and Kieren go with them.

When they arrive, Rick and Kieren hang back so Rick can ask him what happened, why is he a zombie (though he can’t bring himself to say dead or zombie). Kieren said how he felt after Rick died – a massively powerful emotional scene follows, that’s well acted and pretty heart breaking; with Rick feeling guilty, responsible and even angry for Kieren putting that kind of guilt on him, Kieren not caring about the prospects of his art school without Rick, Rick leaving for training without telling Kieren he was going. Kieren writing letters that Rick never received. They’re interrupted by Bill demanding they get a move on.

Kieren and Rick find the “rotters” eating a sheep, a man and a little girl. Extremely daintily. Rick reports it on the walkie talkie – using the word rotters - and Kieren asks what he’s doing.

The useless, comic relief HVF member tases the girl then gets bit by the man – he tases him as well. He then begins babbling about being infected and puts a gun to his head. Kieren is bemused and tells him he can’t get infected – but he’s sure! After being bitten in 20 seconds you become one of them. Kieren points out it’s been more than 20 seconds. Bill asks Rick whether they should hand them over to the civies. Rick says they’re disgusting and evil and Bill tells him to shoot them. Kieren gets in the way again asking why – and pointing out they can cure them of being rebid by taking them to a hospital. Kieren says they’re like them – like him, is Rick going to shoot him too?

Rick lowers his gun and Bill’s gun jams. Bill asks for the other’s gun but Kieren speaks to them, asks how much they’re worth alive (£900 each) He has it put to a vote, and the 2 HVF fighters both vote for taking them in alive for the reward money.

It’s a small side issue but I think the characterisation of Bill’s response to Shirley offering a therapist sends a powerful message. Shirley and Janet both consider it a good idea and it clearly is a good idea, but Bill rejects it outright without hesitation because “he’s not tapped”. It really underlies our cultural revulsion towards both mental illness and seeking even the slightest help from a therapist. Unfortunately, there’s less challenge of his contempt for Kieren’s suicide other than Janet’s disapproval of speaking ill of the dead.

I have to say again how much realism there is in this show, the subtext, the things unsaid, the facial expressions – but I also think that this may make the show very very British and means it doesn’t travel well.

Amy the Manic Pixie Dream Zombie… I like her and she’s immense fun, but even the undead get Manic Pixie Dream Girls?

There’s a lot of interesting foreshadowing of the relationship between Rick and Kieren, how important it was, how close it was – from the kiss in the card Rick sent Kieren even to Bill’s something aggressive hatred of Kieren and determined investment in Rick’s heterosexuality

of course, while all this is touching and powerful in an understated way, it also means that Kieren is a suicidal gay teen dogged by tragedy, whose sexuality and lost love drives him to suicide, makes him a zombie and leads to him eating people.

There’s some more well presented examinations of different elements of marginalisation – how it can cause you to reject your loved ones but also make an exception for them – make up some rule, some proviso that makes them “OK” without softening or changing on the overall group. We also have the marginalised going through various motions and acts to pretend to fit in, with Kieren’s ridiculous play acting of eating.

Of course that doesn’t change the underlying issue of the appropriation of the marginalised issues to tell a story of persecuted zombies – and while showing these issues draws light to them, it also draws further comparisons and adds to this ongoing problem of us being more comfortable with fictional marginalisation than actually analysing real world marginalisation.

This sits especially badly with this series because there is a REASON why zombies are hated. They’re not like POC or GBLT people or disabled people, these PDS have actually killed people. Kieren has constant flashbacks to the woman whose BRAINS HE ATE. Yes he’s guilty about it – but it does mean piggy backing the issues that actual marginalised people go through: gay people being rejected by families or being the “exception” or having to put on an act for their families or hiding in public for fear someone may notice, or the segregation POC faced or the fear around mentally ill people and whether they’re taking their medication, for example, for a group that is and has been actually dangerous and caused a massacre is extremely problematic.