Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In The Flesh, Season 2, Episode 1

A new report gives us some quick exposition – 18 months have passed since the zombies have been reintegrated into society (ish) but there’s now a problem of the Undead Liberation Army causing all kinds of tension. There’s also a drug called “Blue Oblivion” on the streets. There’s also a new political party, Victus, with signs and adverts around that is against PDS integration.

To remind us of this tension, we have a kid calling the PDS “rotters” and that they can’t feel, which our old friend Ken (who lost his wife) objects strongly to, reminding him that the medication the PDS takes makes them safe.

Ken on the kid get on a train with 4 PDS who are probably ULA planning a strike. When the train moves, one stands and begins ranting his party piece in dramatic tones. The 4 PDS take the Blue Oblivion – and become full blown flesh eating zombies. There’s a massacre…

They killed Ken!

Steve and Sue Walker (Kieran’s parents) watch the news of the attack worriedly, as Victus and PDS groups both blame the other. Kieran’s worried that his old friend Amy may be involved in extremism, he shows his sister, Jem, a letter from her talking about going on a “secret mission”. Jem and Kieran seem closer though and she’s faced with the mundane worries of school exams rather than her past zombie hunting – but she also thinks Kieran should go to the continent where people are more tolerant of PDS.

He goes to the doctor (with awesome nurse Shirley, who is truly excellent) because his eyes are aching – which is a sign of more nerve tissue growing back. But it also means he’s wearing his contacts far too much – since he never takes them out. They gently tell him he isn’t supposed to do that and Shirley, who is awesome, asks him to run through an affirmation (little speeches to help build confidence). Which he does – quickly and stiltedly, the doctor’s happy but Awesome Shirley looks concerned. She’s also very much in favour of Kieran staying in the UK and very protective of any suggestion he “should” leave – but the doctor think it’s probably wiser to get out of Britain. Awesome Shirley gives him his meds and leads him out – but as she does another nurse tells her about Ken. Ken’s dead (noooooo, I liked Ken!)

He can’t even get out the door without another incident – a man, Gary, dragging in a rabid PDS, in full zombie. He has him in chains and drags him to a cage where another is already. Everyone around seems so used to this that it’s not even worth noticing. Gary gets an £80 - bounty for bringing in an intact rabid PDS; but Kieran points out the PDS has a bullet wound (Gary denies carrying a gun – there’s been a weapons amnesty) – he loses £40 for a damaged rabid PDS

Vicar Oddie, the hater of all things PDS, is still ranting away to his flock, supported by Phil the general council dogsbody (and Shirley’s son) – but that flock is much much smaller. After the service he’s visited by Maxine Martin, their new MP. She wants to talk to the assembled people but notes that this church is apparently not the place to do it.

Kieran works in the pub and the landlady doesn’t want him to go to France (about which she has some bizarre beliefs) and instead be promoted and stay. She also stops Gary from getting a beer until he hands over his gun – Roarton is a gun free village. Kieran still gets dirty looks from some patrons. And some of the old HVF clowns are still around but are window cleaners now. They’re also not very friendly towards Gary – especially not Dean who was locked in cage by Gary last season (he’s also learned appropriate PDS language).

The Vicar takes Maxine to where all her constituents are – the pub! She tries to reassure everyone’s worries about Ken’s death but prevailing opinion is “he went to the city, what do you expect”. But she’s also taken aback to realise Kieran is PDS (when she touches his hand) and there’s actually a few PDS in the pub. Phil tells Kieran that Maxine is from the Victus part.

After meeting in the pub, Maxine seems to be hanging round – the Vicar passes off Phil to her to help her clear out the old, cluttered council office. She also wants the Parish Records, including some clearly missing ones. Phil reports this to the Vicar, including that he can’t find the records… the Vicar seems eager to have Maxine leave

Maxine checks in to the B&B where the landlady warns her her mother-in-law is PDS… but she’s a complete Victus supporter. As Maxine unpacks, one of the things she removes from her case is a toy train.

Of course, the distaste for the PDS may be largely because her mother-in-law doesn’t seem to be the most pleasant person on the planet. She goes out to feed her cat – and is attacked by a rapid PDS. Maxine kills it with a power tool. Well, she’s handy, you have to give her that.

Time for some high school drama – Jem, former HVF warrior, isn’t fitting in real well in a nice normal school and seems to be an outcast. But one guy likes her – sitting at the PDS table – yes star crossed lovers are coming.

Amy is at a happy little commune of PDS (or “Redeemed” as they consider themselves) with her fellows jealous of her and her super duper special mission to Roarton.

When Kieran goes home he checks Maxine on the web and finds her giving anti-PDS rants. This seems to firm his resolve to travel as he checks a guide book on Paris for PDS-friendly accommodation. He goes to the graveyard to visit Rick’s grave – and runs into Amy.  They banter back and forth as only they can and she takes exception to his low self esteem but throws in the cryptic comment that Kieran rising in Roarton makes him super special. According to Amy, Roarton is where the dead first rose. She also rejects both “zombie” and “PDS” (which the living gave them) she insists on the undead, the “Redeemed”. Kieran isn’t sold on that one.

Kieran’s dad is less thrilled that Amy’s back and uses his “I should be open with my feelings” lesson from last season to say whatever he wants without any filter – including his belief that Amy is dangerous. His dad also has the strange idea that when Kieran was rabid, he didn’t hurt anyone – which both he and Jem know isn’t true; Jem quickly throws in a distraction so Kieran doesn’t have to say “actually, I ate people’s brains” over the dinner table. Instead everyone mocks Steve’s jeans – the mocking of dad jeans is always a good distraction.

Before Kieran goes to bed he takes off his make up and takes out his contacts. Before he does, he covers the mirror so he doesn’t have to see himself. During the night he hears Jem have a nightmare – he looks in on her, but doesn’t wake her.

The next day the Vicar goes to the graveyard to put flowers on his wife’s grave – and sees Maxine taking names off headstones of the PDS who have risen.

Steve hears people calling in on the radio claiming the ULA is trying to create a second Rising. Which seems to be part of the impetus to drive people to vote Victus

Kieran goes to the graveyard to meet Amy and finds a new PDS sat on his grave (apparently a faux pas) who isn’t wearing make up. He’s Simon, Amy’s new boyfriend and one of the 12 Disciples of the Undead Prophet which isn’t ominous at all… Kieran brings up the rabid atrocities with Blue Oblivion but Amy denies all knowledge – and Kieran points out they’re not hearing about humans going on killing sprees with guns and only getting 5 years because the judge ruled PDS people aren’t really alive. Amy has the pat quote “when injustice is the law, resistance becomes duty”. Kieran asks them not to cause trouble in Roartan since things are getting better there – but they point out they haven’t done anything. Kieran considers them trouble makers because they’re not wearing make up and contacts. They also think Kieran is running away going to Paris.

The Council meets and one of the issues raised is the insecurity of the perimeter fence – which Maxine can confirm. Her action isn’t universally approved, especially since she completely denies the humanity of the rabid PDS.

More random scenes in the village – in the pub Kieran has to listen to Gary and his cronies mouth off about the PDS. And at the supermarket, Sue is asked by another parent of a PDS if Kieran has supernatural powers; she believes her child is psychic. Jem’s having trouble in the Supermarket because she remembers seeing Kieran there, when he was rabid, eating someone; and she panics when one of the shelf-stackers is PDS.

And Simon and Amy go for a night out – to the pub. Without wearing any make up or contacts. As Gary keeps up snide commentary, Kieran tries to encourage Simon and Amy to leave, wanting them not to rock the boat. But they refuse – all they’re doing is sitting without make up. Gary finally calls them “rotters” and Kieran tells him to leave. Gary rubs his hand through Kieran’s make up – and Kieran pushes him into a table. Simon grabs Gary by the throat and the landlady pulls a gun. She tells everyone to stay still and even points the gun at Kieran when he moves. He puts the keys she gave him on the bar and walks out.

The Vicar meets with Maxine, proposing an alliance to bring the village “from the brink”. Which involves quoting scripture at Maxine, believing in a second rising (including of his wife) and showing her the rather poor bunker he’s built in the back garden. He wants to kill all the first risen to bring about the second rising. Maxine isn’t impressed, she thinks he’s lost his mind and adds that Roaton used to be a bastion against PDS. He rants and raves in fury that she doesn’t respect his authority – and he has a heart attack. She rushes to call for an ambulance, but pauses when she sees the missing Record of Deaths on his desk

Using all the notes she has, Maxine prepares a wall of all the PDS’s pictures.

Kieran goes home and packs.

Well, that leaped in at the deep end.

Like the first season, it’s very well crafted – creating a lot of theme with hints and small scenes, brief conversations, adverts and little vignettes; the opinions of people in the pub, the facial expressions of the nurses, the way people react to Gary. It really establishes the precarious atmosphere – the fear, the careful tolerance, the lack of acceptance, the conflicting sides.

A lot of major, very relevant issues to marginalised people are already being broached as well. Kieran faced with the choice of moving to more “accepting” places or stay home and try to change things. Kieran playing “good one” and trying to police Amy and Simon into “conforming”. Amy and Simon’s not hiding simply being seen as provocative, Jem’s fears making a PDS shop assistant hide his eyes, Kieran’s self-hatred in that he can’t even look at himself. His father’s instance of making Kieran “not like the rest of them”. The unbalanced justice system and reporting, the debate over language use from slurs, to labels to the words they’ve chosen.

Of course, while there are excellent parallels here, we do still have the underlying issue that the PDS really are not that far from eating people’s brains and have eaten people’s brains in the past. Like last season, it’s one of the most incredibly moving, powerful and detailed representations of oppression that I’ve seen – but there’s still that issue of the PDS actually being brain eaters.