There is a dry spell, yes folks a serious zombie dry spell. As the summer season begins there isn’t anything in the lineup that gets my attention. In the middle of contemplating what I was going to do for a whole summer without the zombs I am saved!
From across the pond comes a series that is going to catch on as quickly as the plague that causes zombies! From BBC America and creator/writer Dominic Mitchell, beginning June 6th is a series that takes humanity and zombies to a whole other level with IN THE FLESH.
This series begins four years after what is called the ‘rising’ as we meet young Kieran Walker (Luke Newberry) who is one of the thousands who are being treated for PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome). After months of treatment Kieran is about to be discharged back into the world.
Before he leaves, Kieran is given makeup and contacts to keep the humans comfortable with his appearance. Happy to see his parents Steve (Steve Cooper), Sue (Marie Critchley) and sister Jem (Harriet Cains), he learns quickly that the community he left has changed.
The town is being run by the Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), and a group of people belonging to the HVF (Human Volunteer Force) who don’t want ‘there kind’ living in the town of Roarton. Although the government considers PDS suffers members of society who have rights, the people of Roarton call them ‘rotters’.
Kieran’s sister Jem is a member of the PDS and doesn’t give her brother a warm welcome home. Through his bedroom window he sees how ‘his kind’ are treated and what he is up against. He meets Amy (Emily Bevan), a girl who isn’t hiding who she is but knows she will never be accepted by the people of Roarton.
When Kieran’s friend Rick (David Walmsley) comes home from war, reconnecting their friendship is difficult. Rick’s father Bill (Steve Evets) is a radicalist who believes the only good rotter is a dead rotter. With the Vicar Oddie constantly filling him with scripture, he feels justified in everything he does.
If life isn’t difficult enough for Kieran his dreams are plagued with the last memory he had of being the undead and he wants answers. One person who might have them is the mysterious person behind the mask of the Undead Liberation Army.
FINAL WORD: Newberry is perfect in the role of Kieran. There is a soulful presence about this young actor, which is really required to play this character. This is not a simple case of being a zombie but instead a young man who thought he had problems before his death! When he returns home and begins to unravel what happened, Newberry gets a greater sense of self that shows as the series evolves.
Cains as Jem has a story all her own as well. Losing her brother she turns to the only other things to grab onto, that’s a group of folks bent on revenge. Knowing what the HVF is capable of there comes a time this character must choose between what is right and what is horribly wrong. Cains character grows quickly in the middle of the towns madness.
Bevan as Amy is an honest spot in Kieran’s life. She knows who she is, makes no excuses for it but also knows there is no way a life with the ‘rotter’ haters is acceptable. Bevan doesn’t hold back I truly did see her character as an honest voice in a town full of deception.
The relationship between Walmsley as Rick and his father Bill played by Evets is just stunning. These two actors played off of each other’s fears with a result that actually shook me up. I have no intention of spoiling anything for viewers so just know you hear me stay it shook me up!
As Kieran’s parents Cooper and Critchley are so supportive but still hold the same parental fears. The pretense of living as though nothing is wrong when everything is wrong is so hard to watch. These two fine actors portrayed every human emotion a parent could have for their child.
When writer/creator was asked where he got the inspiration for IN THE FLESH: “I originally wanted to explore a more straight story about a kid who had experiences some kind of psychotic episode and had to undergo treatment and be released back into society, but that seemed too preachy.” After seeing a bad zombie movie on television and thinking it was “really bad!” he thought, “here these characters were, in your typical zombie apocalypse blasting away zombies with such glee and I kept thinking, it’s not really their fault that they need brains! They need them to survive, just as we need protein”
That changes his original idea: “What if being a zombie was considered a neurological disease or syndrome? Also, how would the government deal with it?” After consulting psychiatrists on repairing of the neurogenesis of brain cells Mitchell wrote the script.
He takes on PDS using the way society reacted when HIV came into reality. Mitchell also deals with the fears of the town, having one cult like leader using the fears of judgment day, the reoccurring theme of segregation and forced marking of the PDS suffers as identifiable to everyone.
Other cast includes: Juliet Ellis as Patty Lancaster, Steve Garti as Duncan Lancaster, Karen Henthorn as Janet Macy, Sandra Huggett as Shirely Wilson, Riann Steele as Lisa Lancaster, Kevin Sutton as Gary, Gerard Thompson as Dean, Stephen Thompson as Philip Wilson, Ricky Tomlinson as Ken Burton and Gillian Waugh as Pearl Pinder.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give IN THE FLESH four tubs of popcorn out of five. This is such a brilliant piece of writing for so many reasons. First, this is such an in-depth story filled with so many twists and turns. There are a few comedies about zombies turning sort-of human but there isn’t one where viewers see the world from the undead’s point of view.
Not in a comedic way at all, although there are a few light moments, but with reverence. There are so many attitudes that can be found throughout history that are so believable here. The cruelty, labeling, fear, and need to control what humans do not understand. The dynamics of love, family, friendships and the betrayals that come from the same dynamics!
The makeup here is awesome! From DOWNTON ABBEY comes lead make-up artist Nadia Stacey who says, “It was a dream job in terms of make-up because the characters went through so many different stages from freshly rising, rabid to PDS. It allowed me to be so creative and try lots of different techniques and materials.” And what inspired her? “THE WALKING DEAD was huge for me as their make-up is amazing!’ The make-up for IN THE FLESH isn’t so bad either! Adding to the storyline I can only say fantastic job!
I so do hope BBC American continues this series. There are so many issues that can extend the storyline. The music is also perfect and the BBC should make a soundtrack. Each song is perfect and lends to the total emotion being conveyed through the screen. IN THE FLESH is truly emotional and beautiful equally.
I realize that sounds a tad strange to say about a series with zombies but this series goes much, much deeper than just the undead. It’s a series about what fear can do to humanity, and how we treat one another when there is something we don’t understand and once again a sad history that could repeat itself.
Beginning June 6th at 10 p.m./9 central on BBC America comes the next hit IN THE FLESH – don’t miss it!
In the end – who is really the monster?