Tuesday, April 2, 2013

In the Flesh Season 1 Episode 3

Steve and Sue Walker are up late worrying about where Kieren is and what they should do. Calling for help could have him locked back in the centre – but what if he is hurt?

Kieren walks home  in the early morning twilight, while Rick and the HVF drive past him, the captured zombies in the back. When they arrive home, Bill is in a foul mood, snapping and snarling at Rick. He’s furious with Rick for siding with the “Rotter” and ignoring him. He tells Rick the Walker lad – Kieren – has to go and Rick has to do it.

Phil wakes up – next to Manic Pixie Dream Zombie, half dressed with definite morning after overtones. He panics at the idea of people knowing he slept with Amy the hell he’d have to pay – and Amy turns it round, saying she doesn’t want anyone to know she slept with someone like him. he tells her to keep her mouth shut, he’d but strung up if people knew he slept with a “Rotter”

It’s another strong parallel, many marginalised people are considered good enough to sleep with, but the privileged people – or closeted people – can still maintain the contempt and fear of their sex partners and not only want to keep it hidden but express their derision in doing so.

On the way out, Phil runs into his mother, Shirley, and both make up lies for why they’re there.

The two extra-hunters, Gary and Dean (whose name I keep forgetting and I hereby dub Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum) go to the cage they have for zombies (an old basketball court) and Dum gets locked inside for “quarantine” after he was bitten last week. But probably more to do with Dean saying he fancied Gary’s wife.

As Kieren walks home, he reaches the super market – it looks like the same supermarket we see in his flashbacks to when he ate his last victim. He goes inside, his concealer is fading and one of his contacts is missing. Everyone stares at him as he remembers Lisa’s last moments. Only this time we see more, not only do we see Lisa die but the girl she was talking to on the Walkie Talkie arrives, killing zombies – it’s Jem and she finds Kieren bent over Lisa’s corpse, eating her brains. Back in the present, Kieren retreats out of the shop and goes home where his parents have fallen asleep on the sofa waiting for him.

He goes upstairs into Jem’s bedroom where she’s still asleep, having a nightmare. She awakes in shock with him in the room (his lack of concealer and missing contact probebaly doesn’t help) and points a gun at him. He tells her eh gets flashbacks of his memory returning and says she was there when Lisa was killed. She corrects him – Lisa wasn’t killed, Kieren killed her – Kieren changes what he said to “I killed her.” She waits for him to make excuses but he doesn’t – he killed her and he feels awful and guilty for it. He says he would have done anything to stop it – and Jem asks if he thinks she’s a coward since she could have stopped it. Jem has her own guilt – she told everyone, including Lisa’s parents, that she ran out of bullets. But she couldn’t shoot her own brother. Kieren says he’s going to Lisa’s parents to try and bring them some peace – and Jem asks him to wait for her

And this scene with its excellent acting hereby takes the prize for most plucked heartstrings, ever.

At the Masey household, Bill is coaching Rick on how to kill Kieren – making it look like Kieren was the attacker. He continues to talk about the PDS as if Rick isn’t one of them. He wants Rick to kill him, today and calls Kieren an animal, a monster, while Janet (Bill’s wife, Rick’s mother) overhears everything getting more worried. And then he runs out of ciggies and Rick volunteers to go get some – secretly collecting change off his mother on the way out. Money for the phone box.

he calls the Walker household – but Sue’s arguing with Kieren and Jem about going out and the phone handset isn’t on the charger and Steve’s busy playing “it’s not me! I always put it back!” game to actually look for it – so it rings off without anyone picking it up (oh that is such a perfect family scene). And in a moment of subtle, but perfect writing – Jem gets a biscuit from the cupboard – she gets 2 and gives Kieren one. It’s so casual and natural, like the kind of thing a brother and sister would always do, but it says more for Kieren being accepted by her than any amount of speeches could.

Rick leaves a message on the phone telling Kieren to run if he sees Rick or Bill coming. He tries to say more but he runs out of money. Kieren and Jem have left the house – and someone has scrawled “PDS” on their garage door.

Bill calls the vicar, saying he’s going to bring Rick to the service and wants him to make an impassioned speech to inspire Rick for his mission when Janet interrupts to tell Bill that Phillip is writing something on the garage door. He goes to confront Phillip and it seems a new council law has been passed saying all houses with PDS people inside must be identified.  Bill drives Phil off.

Kieren and Jem see Lisa’s parents. They go in and sit down – the family still produces missing posters for Lisa, in case anyone has seen her. He tells them what happened – it’s painful and difficult and oh-so-emotional… and the couple understands. They seem almost relieved – they knew he “bit her in her untreated state” but they’re more concerned about who moved her body. It’s not her living body they’re missing – it’s her un-medicated PDS self. They want to know if he’s seen her zombie, in the woods. Especially since they’ve heard what he did for the other 2 – saved them from the HVF. They thank him, because of his intervention, if the HVF find Lisa wandering the woods, she won’t be harmed. They think she rose after he… finished with her and that she’s now roaming about. Her mother, Patty, even leaves the patio door open just in case. Kieren tells them that Lisa isn’t coming back – they came back because they died a year before the rising, bodies since then haven’t come back. But they’re sure, when you’re bitten you will come back after death. Kieren tries to convince them that this isn’t true but they’ve seen films, the vicar said so – because that’s his way of demonising the PDS, saying that they will spread. Jem tries to stop Kieren convincing them, says it’s possible, it could be true. Kieren agrees – to give the parents hope and faith.

Unf, heart strings ripped round two.

Meanwhile, Dean, locked in the Rotter prison is not getting much charity from his neighbours, with abuse from a child and middle aged women spitting at him.

The Vicar delivers a rousing fire and brimstone sermon encouraging everyone how evil the PDS are, with Bill looking at Rick constantly. While he may put Rick separate, it’s clear that the vicar does not, and he still sees a zombie.

Gary goes to mark Amy’s house – but doesn’t leave. He’s furious that she walks around without concealing her face or wearing he contacts, he calls it an insult to “war heroes like him”. He grabs her by the hair, holding her down and painting her face with concealer.

Kieren and Jem walk back home, Jem offering Kieren a drink and thanking him for not taking away Lisa’s parent’s hope. She praises Kieren’s courage and calls herself his big sister since, technically, e’s still 18 and she’s 19 soon. I love their sibling dynamic now they’ve grown into it. They pass the train station and Kieren sees Amy on the platform, Jem leaves and encourages Kieren to stay and speak to Amy.

Amy’s wearing full concealer and contacts, which Kieren comments on. She tells him she’s leaving; Roarton will never accept them, they need to go somewhere where they can be themselves. The Undead Prophet on his website says he has a commune, with his own answers. Kieren thinks it’s dangerous and she encourages him to come with her. After much joking he says he can’t – not yet. And she guesses that Rick’s the reason despite him being a dickhead. Kieren says Rick put on an act around his dad. She accuses him of being an optimist which he finds funny considering he’s a suicide. She says she needs to go – she wants a family, something she doesn’t have. The train arrives and they have a touching goodbye.

Aww, she needs to stick around, their friendship is awesome – especially when Kieren isn’t so mopey around her

The awesome Shirley (who is, indeed, awesome) is running a tea morning for women with PDS family members so they can ask questions and get support. Including one woman whose son is getting sexy letters from people who are fetishising him being PDS. She reads it aloud while the other women desperately control their smiles. Less comically, Sue discusses her own feelings, her pain and relief and joy and anger and grief – especially since her family went “into freefall” after Kieren’s suicide and she describes with incredible acting and emotion, what Kieren’s suicide did to everyone. Janet speaks of being ashamed of being scared of Rick – her own son.

I take it back, THIS is the scene that plucks at the heart strings

While they talk, at Masey’s house Bill is teaching Rick how to kill Kieren until Rick flees to the bathroom. He looks at himself in the mirror, one hand covering his scars, but Bill calls him again. He removes his hand and starts wiping away his concealer. At the tea morning, Janet talks about her son being back – her handsome son, only a bit different looking. She says he’s a good boy, with a hint of doubt in her voice.

Rick, without concealer or contacts, goes to see his father. He tells him he doesn’t want to kill Kieren, that Kieren’s his best friend and if he’s evil, so too is Rick. Bill hugs him, telling him it’s going to be alright – but he also says “you’re trapped, you know something’s not right” which is… ominous.

In the cage outside, Dean is still calling for help for someone to buy a sandwich for him. He’s diabetic and he has to eat. Ken passes by – the man who watched the HVF kill his wife. He takes Dean’s money and goes and gets him a sandwich – his face carrying a speech’s worth of emotion. As Ken leaves Dean calls out – and apologises for what he’s done.

At home, Jem takes down the pictures of herself hunting zombies – underneath is a picture of Lisa. She removes her HVF armband.  She removes the bullets from her gun and puts it away. Bill Masey paints over the PDS painted on his garage and throws something in the bin. Jem locks the gun in her totally unsecure shed – and there she finds the handset of the phone they lost. She checks the answerphone and gets Rick’s message to Kieren. Jem runs out the house- searching for Kieren.

Kieren’s on the bridge over the railway, looking out over the tracks – and Bill drives past. He doesn’t stop – and just drives home. There, Janet comes home and asks him where Rick is. Bill says he hasn’t seen Rick for 5 years, not since they waved him off to go to Afghanistan. She looks up and sees that he’s put back the black ribbon on Rick’s picture on the wall.

Kieren returns home – and sees Rick slumped against their garage door. He’s bleeding from his nose and when Kieren touches him, he slumps forward with a knife wound in the back of his head. Kieren cries, strokes Rick’s hair, closes his eyes and whispers something soundlessly in Rick’s ear. He takes the knife out and storms off, crying. Jem hurries up but he doesn’t answer her, she sees the body and runs in shouting for her parents.

Kieren bangs on the Masey’s door and walks past Janet to Bill. Kieren demands Bill stand up from his chair - Bill won’t listen to him and just says he’s barred from the house. Kieren stabs the knife into the chair. Bill says that’s why – calling Kieren an animal. Kieren says he’d already been barred years earlier for giving Rick a mix CD. Bill is convinced rick will come back in the “next time” the next rising of the righteous that the Vicar told him about, quoting revelations.  The good dead will come back, not like Kieren and that “thing” which is how he describes Rick, an imposter.  Kieren tells him his real son did come back and showed Bill his real self and Bill killed him for it. Janet looks on in utter horror. Bill says he was an imposter, Kieren says he came back, like him, it was a one shot deal and Bill ruined it. Janet starts screaming “no” over and over again. Bill claims it will be fine once he’s judged the rest of them – just as the Vicar said. Janet grabs the knife from the sofa and attacks Bill screaming that he killed Rick. He holds up his hands, streaming with blood, while Kieren tries to hold Janet back. She collapses to the floor screaming accusations

Bill staggers out the back, gasping about Rick and runs into – Ken, with a shotgun. He shoots Bill in the chest. He waklks away, past the zombie cage, inside which is Dean with the sandwich Ken got him. Dean holds up his hands and says he saw nothing. Ken looks at him and walks way. Janet and Kieren come out and Kieren walks away. Janet is shocked and shaking she gasps for someone to help her, but can’t raise her voice. Kieren walks away, past another family having PDS painted on their door. And the man painting it saying he was just following orders

Kieren walks into the woods, to the cave there. While at home Jem reassures her father that Kieren won’t… won’t leave them again. In the cave there’s graffiti – Kieren + Rick for ever. He thinks Lisa comes from the back of the cave – but it resolves into his mother who was worried. He says he needed to be where he and Rick were together, and he thinks he got Rick killed, sticking up for him. She blames Bill, it’s all on Bill. Rick thinks it’s like it was before and he can’t change it – she says by living, this time he lives, he stays. He’s shocked she wants him to stay, like that and she says she always would. She tells him her own story of losing someone she loved at college, her only close encounter with suicide – and being saved by his father. She talks about him and how he’d be there but can’t face the cave (it sounds like this is where Kieren committed suicide)

They go home. Stewart forgives everything, but Kieren says no and talks about the pain he caused by just leaving without telling anyone anything – he wants Stewart to be angry he encourages him to be angry, to rage, to rant about what Kieren did until Stewart finally breaks and his reserve shatters and he starts crying. Kieren hugs him

It ends with the funerals of Rick and Bill Masey.

Well, I feel fairly dragged over the coals. This series is so well written, so emotional and so well acted, with lots of beautifully subtle scenes (like Jem giving Kieren a biscuit) and amazingly powerful emotional scenes that it’s quite exhausting to watch. But it’s exhausting in the way that only the best dramas are.

But that ending… and without even Kieren and rick’s relationship being overtly acknowledged! (Sure it was very very heavily implied, but still. I know some people like that it's left to implications - but why? Why is it always our relationships left to the implied subtext?). Ye gods, I had to stop the show and come back later…  I honestly can’t think of a thing to say, my head’s still reeling from it. I thought they were going to get a happy ending, I thought they were going to get a second chance... such is the cost and pain of prejudice and bigotry - but damn I really hoped for them
There’s some incredible presented scenes of family acceptance and fear and change and the emotion that comes with that, of family loyalty and family rejection and different ways families adapt to such a massive change

What got me, especially with this episode, is that every scene hit you. We’d move from the tea morning of incredible emotionally devastating scenes,

There are a lot of parallels to marginalised people – and a lot of them very accurate and very well done in their way. From the hiding, to the shaming, to the making exceptions “my family member is different”, to the public labelling of their houses, to forcing marginalised people to choose between being “the good one” or to stand with the fellows, to force them to hear hatred that is equally directed at them, to force people to hide and police how they may present to the world, fetishisation of minorities

I won’t say it’s a good way to show these issues, even though it’s a powerful way – because I still have problems of using fictional persecution to try and show real world persecution. I think we’re too inclined to ignore the actually persecuted and by trying to deliver these messages through the back door, we create the impression that it’s acceptable and reasonable not to listen to the voices of actual people.

And I still don’t agree with drawing comparisons between actual dangerous monsters – even if it’s only just potentially dangerous – and real persecuted people because marginalised people are so often presented.

Despite that, this series is powerful, it has some immensely well crafted messages, even with their dubious foundations, and the acting, writing and emotion involved is strong enough and well done enough that it’s sometimes painful and difficult to watch – certainly impossible to watch without being moved. Scenes today – like Lisa’s parents and Sue’s speech in the tea club were heart rending.

And if you really do have to present marginalised issues through the lens of fictional creatures - THIS is the way to do it. This is as perfect as it can be. This is as emotive, as real and as evocative as it can be. this is as tragic as it can be, this carries as much of the immense impact you possibly can. This came as close as it possibly could to Getting It Right.

It’s a beautifully well written, well acted and incredible show. It’s powerful, moving if not exactly fun or comfortable watching. It'll bowl you over and knock you down.