Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In the Flesh, Season 2, Episode 4

Amy starts her day with an attempt at breakfast – which is a little odd since the PDS don’t eat and she spits the bar she eats into the sink.

Phillip, by his dreams, is still obsessed with Amy – and he comes downstairs to find his mum, the awesome Shirley, talking to Henry’s mum and they’re pretty upset that absolutely no-one cares about Henry’s disappearance. That also includes Phillip

Which brings us to Maxine who also doesn’t care – since she’s poring over her records to find the first risen; so much so she threatens the PDS with being listed as non-compliant for not listing their times of rising (which, since most of them don’t know, is likely to just get everyone to make it up). While she does this, Dean leads the “give back” PDS on how not to alarm living people (which is every bit as awful as you can imagine). Simon is missing and Kieren notices, so is Amy.

Back at the Walker household, Jem tells her mum, Sue, that she’s going on patrol again and everything is totally fine while Sue worries massively about her daughter (and for pretty good reason).  

Kieren comes home and his dad is still all positive and upbeat about the whole give-back scheme while Kieren can see exactly how useful Dean’s guide to civilised humanity actually is and it’s little more than ritual humiliation (showing sufficient cynicism to remind us that Steve is a northerner even if he is upbeat, he points out that that’s the work place). He also wants to go out, probably to spend some time looking for Simon, though his parents are pushing him for family time. Ahhh even as a PDS, the old dramas remain – a little normality to contrast wrenchingly with everything else.

Phillip delays his meeting, drawn to the PDS brothel again (unknown to him, a nosy neighbour is making note of everyone going in and out), studiously avoiding the eyes of the other patrons to meet with fake-Amy-sex-worker which, in a show about zombies, still manages to be the creepiest thing. While he sleeps it off, Maxine notices his absence. Phillip wakes in the brothel and realises he is late – but as he hurries off he is confronted by the nosy neighbour who rants at him and spits on him

Kieren does go to Simon’s, all dressed up – only to find Amy and a whole room full of PDS congregants. Awkward. Simon continues to talk some very good sense though – about PDS not being ashamed of who they are, not trying to hide who they are etc; but Amy doesn’t here because she has to hurry away with a nosebleed. Simon greets Kieren as a congregant and Kieren, after the kiss last episode, is not impressed. He warns Simon that all his followers (who he calls brainwashed) are going to get into trouble for not complying and gets irritated with Simon for not being a “normal person” for 2 seconds – I think this is more related to his recruitment pitches than failure to conform though. Amy interrupts to stop them all arguing while both of them jump – because Amy still has a crush on Simon. She’s also showing signs of confusion, trying to do a task she’s clearly already done.

When she leaves, Simon tries to kiss Kieren but he stops him – Amy’s right out there and she deserves to be told rather than her continue to desperately crush on Simon.

To the town meeting – which Phillip is missing – starting with the founding of the RPS (Roarton Protection Service) which is basically an anti-PDS police; people point out that it’s blatantly the old HVF, even with the same members. When people start complaining about PDS not wearing makeup, Maxine takes over – and is shocked and disgusted to learn about the PDS brothel “the living and those things?” Maxine has a full on rant, inciting the crowd; and Henry’s mother snaps. She stands up and refuses to speak or listen to Maxine, calling her a liar – she shames her neighbours for completely ignoring his disappearance, pretending he was never there.

Phillip finally appears after the meeting is over and Maxine accuses him of missing it so he could avoid having to speak about the missing Henry. She’s angry that Henry’s mother won’t “accept the facts” and how it basically derailed her whole incitement rant. She wants Phillip to lie to Henry’s mother and claim a reliable source saw Henry at a ULA training camp – but Phillip keeps asking what the source is. She threatens his career and future when he keeps being reluctant and expects him to have an answer for her in 5 hours – when they go to protest the brothel. Phillip looks awfully stressed.

Gary is happy to see Jem back in a soldier’s uniform - and they kiss – before heading out. They split up, at Jem’s insistence, and when she’s alone she starts panicking – she hallucinates Henry’s dead body and runs through the woods until she reaches Gary. They move on to the pub – and someone’s buying their drinks for them, like back in the day when the HVF got free booze. Fear of PDS is growing again. Gary’s advice to Jem is to, basically, be strong, ignore it and move on.

Amy goes to see Shirley about her symptoms (she doesn’t want to see the doctor) and Shirley proposes using a new form of the medicine they use since the documentation says it’s helpful. They’re both present to see Phillip’s little freak out over the toaster. Meanwhile, Simon agrees to get to know Kieren – which means going out wearing cover-up make up and contacts. In the street Kieren kisses him – which is when Amy runs into them. They don’t see her, but she’s clearly very upset. Poor Amy.

Kieren takes Simon home with him to meet his parents which is very awkward, especially since Kieren’s parents still insist on inviting PDS to eat meals with them. Jem arrives and she’s invited Gary for lunch (both of them a little tipsy from the pub) – and Steve catches them kissing on the front doorstep. This may be the most awkward lunch in the history of family dinners. Especially since Jem doesn’t see why they should change out of their new uniform and Maxine’s plan to commemorate the rising is raised and Gary rather tastelessly brings up war stories at the table while Steve and Sue desperately try to stop it and even Jem looking really uncomfortable. Kieren breaks and decides to tell his own little story of rising from the dead – sure, it’s not funny but nor was Gary’s – Steve and Sue again try to keep the polite dinner going.

What is worth noting among this is that Kieren remembers everything of his own rising (including his time of rising – midnight) – something both Simon and Maxine have been looking for. Simon is very very interested, especially when Kieren is clear that no-one else was around. He was alone when he rose. Yes, Kieren is the First Risen (was there any doubt?). Simon tries to focus on that but Kieren is trying to tell his own story – the fear that always plagued him when he was alive was now gone. Steve finally cracks and tells him to stop – and Kieren loses his temper – Gary is laughing and joking about killing PDS and that’s fine dinner conversation?

Kieren storms out, Simon following.

Phillip goes to beg the woman with the video camera – and he spends a lot of time fixating on her fire-irons to ominous music (though he’s put off by her Jesus statues). We later see him leaving – with the video. But he hasn’t killed her – he’s convinced her he’s doing religious outreach; which Mrs. Lamb then goes on to praise Shirley for raising such a good and pious young man. Shirley goes home and sees Mrs. Lamb’s video in the bin – she doesn’t mention it, but she does talk to Phillip about doing right by Henry’s mother.

But Phillip may not be out of the woods – Maxine’s landlord has borrowed a video from nosy-neighbour-Mrs. Lamb and it turns out to be one of her CCTV tapes

Two of Simon’s followers break into the doctor’s office to free the rabid PDS to prove to him how dedicated they are (ah, the problems of a cult – can you really control what your followers will do to try and impress you?). They paint ULA graffiti around and open the PDS cage, but when the rabid PDS don’t instantly leave the cage (they’re kept sedated), they both leave before anyone comes to the alarm.

The receptionist, the unsympathetic Denise, arrives to turn off the alarm – and is attacked by the free rabid PDS

Phillip goes to Maxine’s meeting – and find Maxine has the tape of him visiting the brothel. And yes, she’s using it for blackmail to force Phillip to lie about Henry.

The brothel protest begins – Maxine calling everyone in and the new RPS, led by Gary, prepares to raid the building while Maxine makes her little speech to the small crowd. Inside they gather everyone up, prostitutes and clients, Gary throwing out one of the women’s property. Amy watches from the back of the crowd, horrified. Gary hounds the people out in front of the crowd

Phillip goes to see Henry’s mother and she talks about knowing Phillip as a child, how she trusts him, how she desperately needs some truth. We see him leave later, looking determined – he goes to the protest where the people inside are being forced to show their faces to the crowd – and takes Maxine’s microphone and tells the crowd to stop, that they’re no better than the prostitutes and clients, none of them are “pure” – they jeer and shout at him while he talks about accepting their real selves and not being ashamed. Seeing he’s being ignored he drops the mic – and goes to stand with the other clients who are being publicly shamed

He drinks in a bus shelter afterwards and Amy arrives – somehow managing to joke about his reputation and necrophilia and not make it mocking or cruel but a shared joke. And he awkwardly confesses that he doesn’t have a PDS fetish, he just likes one person with PDS – Amy. They go to bed together and continue to make jokes.

Kieren, at Simon’s house, removes his contacts and wipes off his makeup and Simon’s. Simon makes a call to someone to say he’s found the First Risen – and he’s beautiful.

Maxine goes to the graveyard to tell a grave “don’t worry, not long now” and brushes away a tear. Is Maxine looking for the second rising?

There is a wonderful ongoing analysis into so many elements of prejudice and discrimination with the treatment of the PDS. The whole thing is really excellently done to show all of these in a very real fashion – there’s just one big glaring hole in the middle: PDS are dangerous. PDS are one dose away from eating people which makes them an inherently problematic comparator to actual marginalised groups – as the fate of Denise makes clear

Kieren and Simon are also interesting complicated. Kieren wants a human connection with Simon, but Simon is almost an embodiment of his cause. He doesn’t talk like a “normal person” – he makes speeches, he tells sermons. He never turns off and is just Simon; and here’s Kieren trying to pursue a relationship with a man who alternates between treating him as a congregant, a constituent and a potential activist. At the same time, is Kieren pursuing a relationship but also adding in fine print that Simon needs to drop his beliefs and activism? After all, Kieren was the one who came in with his lectures of conformity. And Simon ends up having to go out wearing the cover-up make up; Kieren asking Simon to be “normal” also requires him to abandon his beliefs and “conform” for the sake of Kieren’s comfort.

But then Kieren is becoming complex – all the conformity is slowly shattering and his temper frays. Again – a lot of complexity and nuance there, different angles and progression and growth

Jem and Gary continue to be creepy and not just from the sexual standpoint – Gary is dealing with Jem’s trauma and PTSD by being in complete denial about it – putting Jem back into a soldier role, into being badass warrior so he can pretend her pain and conflict and confusion isn’t there. And Jem herself – she’s also almost playing the role – if she can be the cold, hard soldier she was then she doesn’t have to be afraid or guilty any more. Gary is pushing what so many mentally ill people face – ignore it, pretend it isn’t a problem and hope it goes away.

And Phillip? There’s a lot of complexity there – shame and courage, flaws and failings and, yes, creepiness and confusion