Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the Flesh, Season 2, Episode 6

2 security people have been sent to Roarton for a “collection”, presumably to pick up Kieren (stopping at a café and served by a PDS waitress who is forced to make a humiliating speech each time).

At the Walker household, Kieren’s parents have fully turned against him, locking him up and happy to let Norfolk take him. Things aren’t great for Jem who is still having guilt/trauma dreams, she also can’t even look at Kieren.

Amy is freaking out because she’s changing – because she can feel. Phillip suggests seeing the doctor, Amy is more sensible though – a PDS person doesn’t say “I’m changing” and get help – they get sent to the Treatment Centre.

Dramatic dressing and praying moment – Maxine, Gary and Simon; a montage of people whose beliefs make them do highly inadvisable and probably wrong things. Simon tells his followers to get ready and Maxine takes down a photo from her wall – but not Kieren’s. Gary rushes to Maxine eager to stop Simon but Maxine tells him to stand down, Simon isn’t a threat (yes she’s definitely got her own agenda). Gary grabs her, furious and tells her how terribad Simon is – Maxine isn’t ruffled and sends him home. Gary doesn’t listen and goes to raid Simon’s house anyway – it’s empty, just an ominous sign saying the dead will rise again.

The Norfolk people arrive and they’re actually there for Amy because of her odd medical results, that means they’re in for some testing. Dr. Russo, who tries to be a good guy, is very very unhelpful to them and may as well have yelled “TEAM AMY!” (like all right thinking people). But everyone is so very polite about the whole thing.

This day is also the “Beat the Bounds” fete where the people of Roarton walk the perimeter fence for funsies (if this seems strange, you have never seen a British summer fete or seen Morris Dancing perpetrated). Phillip takes Amy and very nicely gives a polite verbal smack to the judgemental Mrs. Lamb. Sue, Kieren’s mum, gets her own little verbal mauling when Shirley (Phillip’s mother. And she’s awesome) sympathises with her and tells her how terrible it is for Kieren to be so persecuted. Sue tries to point out Phillip with Amy but Shirley is more fazed by the fact Amy is actually eating. She goes over to Phillip to tell him “you done good” nodding to Amy. Awwwww… never mind anyone else, Shirley is the star of this show.

Steve, Kieren’s dad, takes Jem to the Beating of the Bounds where everyone is carrying big spikey weapons (in case Morrison Dancers show up. One glimpse of an accordion and it’s flight or fight). Maxine makes a big happy speech and even jokes about all the edged weapons

Gary isn’t at the march – not finding Simon, he goes to Kieren’s house, gets rid of the night-bright Dean and decides to start smacking Kieren around to find Simon. Since the PDS (except Amy) don’t feel pain, isn’t this kind of redundant? Kieren doesn’t seem very impressed either, miffed that he hasn’t seen Simon for days and generally more irritated than frightened by Gary. Gary ransacks Kieren’s room – and finds the Blue Oblivion that Kieren decided to take from Simon’s place for no damned reason. Gary drags Kieren out to his truck – watched by Simon.

Meanwhile, Simon’s followers head to the cemetery. And so do the Beating the Bounds marchers (led by Jem since Maxine leaves the group). Simon’s followers decide to stop the march into the cemetery – and they’re carrying Blue Oblivion pills. Big show down happens

When away from town, Gary powders the pill and pours it into the injection site on Kieren’s spine. Kieren runs off, followed by Simon. He runs to the cemetery and ties himself to the bars on one of the graves. Maxine’s also in the graveyard making a moving testament to her dead brother and hoping he rises (this cemetery is either a lot bigger than it looks or everyone there is really oblivious to everything around them). Gary calls Jem to tell her her brother is on Blue Oblivion (he is currently going all rabid) and Jem begins to fall apart before finding resolve. She pulls a gun and the PDS at the entrance let her through

She goes into the cemetery to find Kieren. Rabid. And Steve does what Steve always does – goes into complete denial and tries to talk to Kieren and tell him he loves Kieren, no matter what he is. Kieren struggles, the clock tolls, Simon gets ready to go Kieren killing when Gary grabs him instead, lots of people point guns at Kieren. Simon gets free and runs…

And we hear a gunshot. But we’re watching Maxine now, waiting for her brother to wake up. He doesn’t rise – but she sees Amy and Phillip walking by

Where the action is, no-one is dead – Simon threw himself on Kieren, taking the bullet (in the back – and it was the pub landlady who shot). Kieren comes back to his senses. Simon takes Kieren away, telling his followers that the second rising has been called off.

Amy is continuing to humanise, shocking her and Phillip when her heart starts beating – which is when Maxine stabs her, calling her “the first and the last”.

Kieren and Simon are in the doctor’s office where Simon is awed at Kieren’s ability to fight off Blue Oblivion which Kieren rejects because he doesn’t have much truck with the mystical stuff. Kieren is more interested in talking about why Simon disappeared – when Phillip hurries in carrying Amy.

Maxine, emotional and perhaps not in her most sensible frame of mind, decides to make a speech for the crowd about how they can conquer death, her brother can come back and every bad thing they’ve done can be completely reversed and all they have to do is have another zombie uprising! Sounds great, right? This is Roarton, where the First Rising began, front line of the Pale Wars. Also she’s covered in Amy’s blood and carrying a big pair of blood stained scissors. Oh and she talks about sacrificing someone too. No amount of tears over her little brother is going to sell that one. She announces every PDS in Roarton must be destroyed – starting with grumpy PDS grandma who keeps popping up who she advances on menacingly

Dean tases her, concluding “she’s tapped.” Very true – apart from anything else, except for Amy, being stabbed in the heart is actually a minor annoyance for PDS.

At the doctor’s office Russo tries to help Amy, while being shocked that she’s actually capable of bleeding. Her pupils change back to human… and the doctor pronounces her dead. Phillip grieves along with Kieren and Simon

There’s a shard of the punch-in-the-gut-grief that In the Flesh has elevated to a damn artform. Time for sadness, Amy’s will (including instructions that everyone at the funeral has to wear “classy, morejous outfits). Jem doesn’t think she should go but that’s also covered – she’s on Amy’s VIP guess list. Though Gary isn’t invited which is ok because Jem broke up with him – if it’s Gary’s word vs Kieren’s word, Jem backs Kieren.

The funeral is very sad (predictably, the people of Roarton have a very staid idea of what Morejous clothes are – but Amy’s coffin is painted in roses which makes up). Phillip won’t leave the grave side.

At the wake we hear that Maxine has been committed. Even Sandra, the B&B landlord is disdainful of Maxine and Victus now.

At the pub, Gary and Dean are friends and both the living and the PDS are still holding lots of prejudice against each other – but are polite in person. The Prophet has called Simon a traitor – and the First Risen is still around

Kieren has hidden in the bathroom to cry – and he actually cries. And his hand shakes, just as Amy started to. He looks in the mirror –the first time all season he has been able to do so. But he finds the “Jem” bracelet Gary gave to Jem and takes it to her telling her that Henry made it, he saw it. Jem collapses into tears and tells Kieren what happened. He asks her what she wants to do and she says she needs some help (the implication is psychiatric help) – he hugs her

Kieren goes on to comfort Simon who blames himself over Amy – it was all Maxine’s fault and her silly silly belief (which Simon totally shares). Simon suggests they leave Roarton by Kieren has taken Amy’s messages to heart and decided to stay. Steve also makes peace with Simon, thanking him for saving Kieren and Sue expresses her hope that Simon hangs around.

Late into the night, Phillip finally leaves Amy’s grave. We have a little moment when the cuddly toy on her grave is knocked over and there’s a little sound (like the dead rising? Maybe? Maybe? C’mon!!!! Though it has to be said that Phillip staying up all night for Amy to return would be so sweet right until the moment the non-medicated newly-risen Amy ate him). When Phillip leaves, the two Norfolk people put on protective gear and go to Amy’s grave, apparently there’s “still time.” They dig her up.

They killed Amy… I would say I was shocked, but this was In the Flesh. I’ve sent the whole of season 2 waiting for it to reach out of my screen and try and rip out the audience’s heart. It’s what In the Flesh does. She better be coming back! I loved Amy, she was insecure, frightened and so desperately wanted to be special to someone – and she was, so full of joy and determination to be herself no matter what. It was appropriate she was the one who returned to life because she was the most alive of every character in this show.

It was another powerful season, but I don’t think it had the same impact as the last one. Maybe because the presence of the Prophet and the prophecy made it less personally emotionally impactful. Or maybe the first season was just so utterly devastating that nothing could live up to those standards (and I’m not even sure it was a bad thing because TV shows probably shouldn’t try to reduce watchers into a quivering mess). It did have a lot of powerful moments – I actually started listing moments that were particularly powerful but it got too long – this season hit some strong marks

It also covered some interesting issues the last season didn’t – more long term prejudice rather than reactionism of the first season. The slow devolution and escalation of hatred rather than the shocked rejection that came when the first PDS returned to their families. We also addressed some other excellent issues like Jem – and even Gary – trying to adapt to a world after the fighting was really strong. Jem’s trauma, her anger, her fear and even the resentment of her peers who lost people during the Rising. But most of all it showed how little support she received – she was alone, she went from soldier – teenaged soldier – to normal kid expected to take her exams as if nothing happened. She didn’t handle it well and it was beautifully done.

We have the main theme of the series which is the comparisons to actual marginalised groups. And I’m in much the same place as the first season – there are some excellent issues raised here. Self-acceptance of Kieren (his self-hatred and the cover-up were really well done), family rejection, “acceptance” only if you play “the good one”, acceptance only if you follow arbitrary rules, fetishisation, not “flaunting”, differences in the justice system, the idea the marginalised owe and need to give back – so many issues. And more, because we had some extra with Simon and Kieren – how much does Simon compromise his belief and cause for Kieren? But also how much does Simon treat all PDS as nothing more than pieces for his cause? The way he treated Amy was pretty dubious and Kieren repeatedly picked him up on treating him as a cause to recruit rather than an actual love interest or even a person.

Of course, while all of this is excellent, we do edge into the appropriative (and don’t tell me that Steve telling his gay son “I’ll love you no matter what you are” is all about zombies) but that simple fact that is even clearer this series – the PDS are just one missed dose away from eating your face.  That doesn’t mean they should be hated etc etc but it does mean invoking real world marginalisation will always be problematic. No matter how much the oppression may be similar, actual marginalised group aren’t time bombs waiting to kill.

On that note, I also didn’t really understand the attraction of Blue Oblivion – they kind of failed to sell me why the PDS would WANT to induce rabidness

Maxine Martin introduced some racial diversity to the very White cast. And I liked her capability and was actually kind of glad to see she had a personal, emotive reason to want the second rising, one that mattered to her. Though less so when that reason was reduced to “insanity”. I wanted her to have a personal motive (and, let’s face it, it’s not irrational. The dead have risen once, they can do it again, how can we say it’s impossible or ridiculous in this context) because it would do something to help diffuse the fact she’s been singled out as chief oppressor; by making her whole Victus schtick a vehicle she used with which to advance her own, personal, agenda it moves away from making the one POC the head of oppression.

Kieren continues to be that extremely rare being – a gay protagonist. And this season was not heavily leavened with gay tragedy compared to the first season (I expected Simon to die so many times this episode), though partially because his PDS status is serving very much as a stand in for being gay/homophobia (see his dad’s comments again). Now I want to see how Simon and he will develop.