In The Flesh S2 Ep 1

In the Flesh has made its return to BBC America, and this time US fans don’t have to wait months — BBCA is broadcasting episodes less than a week after their BBC Three airings in the UK. The 56 minute episodes are extended to 1 hour 15 minutes of time, allowing for BBCA’s commercial breaks, while sparing us from the heavy editing that plagued, for example, Being Human’s BBCA broadcast.

The new season continues to affirm that In the Flesh the best zombie show on TV, and one of the most original in the horror genre. Season 2 remains focused on Kieren Walker, the young suicide victim who was among a wave of recently-dead people who inexplicably rose from their graves a few of years earlier. The zombie uprising, which happened before the events of Season 1, played out much like any in the genre, with humans fighting the undead relentlessly and the undead eating humans for lunch. Where In the Flesh differs is that, in this universe, they (the government, mostly) found a way to manage the undead condition, which they dubbed Partially Deceased Syndrome (or PDS). These treated undead were not simply made docile like in Shaun of the Dead or Fido, they actually returned to their former states (other than ashen skin and white eyes), complete with memories and personalities intact.

Season 1’s three episode arc took an intimate look at the effects of the reintroduction of PDS sufferers into mainstream society — a special challenge in Roarton, small English village that was devastated by the uprising and became the birthplace of the Human Volunteer Force (HVF) — with a focus on family and lost love. Season 2 casts a wider net, as we start to learn about another resistance group, this one under the mysterious Undead Prophet.

Fighting for humans: Maxine

Fighting for humans: Maxine

The episode opens with Ken, a minor character from Season 1, who stood with the HVF in Roarton, even as he hid his treated undead wife at home. He’s now seen in a decidedly more metropolitan town with his grandson, having a nice day out. They miss their train, just barely, and have to take the next one, along with a group of four well-dressed PDS. The four soon make themselves known as members of the Undead Liberation Army (ULA), and launch a terror attack on the passengers using themselves (reverted to their “rabid” state after snorting a blue substance) as weapons. Ken doesn’t make it. No one makes it.

The residents of Roarton seem oddly undisturbed by Ken’s murder — murders happen in bigger towns, they say — even as Roarton seems to be seeing an increase in “rabids,” flesh-eating zombies who are haphazardly dealt with by local hunters and ex-members of the now-defunct HVF. Outside of Roarton, the political climate is becoming more aggressive when it comes to the undead, with politicians and people increasingly mistrusting the pharmaceuticals that keep the undead from killing and calling for a more permanent solution. Among these politicians is Maxine Martin, a Victus Party MP who shows up in Roarton in the aftermath of Ken’s death and is shocked to find PDS living freely among humans and rabids wandering nearly unchecked. She becomes determined to clean things up, but finds little support — even the vicar, as it turned out, only wanted to deal with the undead because he believed getting rid of them would lead to a “Second Rising” of the dead, including his late wife.

Fighting for the undead: Simon

Fighting for the undead: Simon

Kieren, meanwhile, is still struggling with his undead life. He’s grieving the loss of his love, Rick, but some things are going OK. He’s getting along with his parents (though they’re still in denial that Kieren was ever rabid) and sister (ex-HVF) Jemma, he has a job in a pub, and his undead friend Amy, who left him in search of the Undead Prophet, is back in his life. But things have changed. She’s with a charismatic undead man named Simon, one of the disciples of the Undead Prophet, and their talk of resistance makes Kieren uncomfortable. Kieren has remained haunted by the memories of killing while in his rabid state — he wasn’t looking to wage war on the living. Amy, we’re told, has been chosen for an important mission. Is her “visit” with Kieren part of the mission? Jemma is having nightmares and flashbacks of witnessing the undead eating people. Will she go back to the HVF, effectively rejecting Kieren once again? Is Maxine right about the questionable long-term effectiveness of Neurotriptyline as a PDS treatment?

Season 2, with its attacking undead (some with human intelligence), feels a bit more like a zombie show than Season 1, which showed PDS sufferers squarely as victims and almost always sympathetic. Season 2 adds another layer to the plight of the PDS. Killing Ken, probably the most sympathetic human outside of Kieren’s family, was a good move. It doesn’t allow the viewer to simply side with the resistance. It gives the victims a face, and calls to question the ULA’s tactics, while showing through Maxine that the human threat to the Undead — fully sentient beings in this universe — is real. It’s a frightening way to start the season. The fight between the humans and the undead is one that looks like it can never end as long as both sides exist. At least with The Walking Dead, you know a walker wants to kill you when you see one.

 

Watch Season 2 Episode of In The Flesh on Amazon Instant Video.