tue 11/08/2020

In The Flesh, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

In The Flesh, BBC Three

In The Flesh, BBC Three

Zombies are (un)dead, long live the ex-zombies in new BBC Three drama

Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) is only partially deceased, according to the legal definition

I must confess that I do not understand the zombie as pop culture phenomenon. Why otherwise sensible people would dress up as shuffling, mindless automatons interested only in the consumption of human brains for an annual “zombie walk”, or why somebody would rewrite Jane Austen to give the undead a co-billing is beyond me. As far as the former is concerned, certainly, it seems as if the zombie meme is a satire that has eaten itself.

There are also very limited ways that the zombie narrative can play out - we’ll see how Brad Pitt handles it in the big screen adaptation of World War Z when it hits cinemas later this year - which is why it is a relief that In The Flesh, a new three-part BBC Three drama, doesn’t even bother trying. From what the viewer is able to piece together during the first episode some sort of incident, referred to only as “The Rising”, awoke the class of 2009 (deceased) from their final resting places. Four years later, a generation of PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers are ready to be reassimilated back into their communities thanks to a Government-backed programme of acceptance, tolerance and legally guaranteed protections.

Kieren (Luke Newberry) enjoys dinner with his parents in In The FleshAt least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Kieren (Luke Newberry), a teenage boy who, with the help of daily medication and extensive therapy, is now ready to be returned to his family (pictured right), quickly discovers that it is not that simple. Kieren is from the rural community of Roarton, the birthplace of a resistance movement known as the Human Volunteer Force (HVF). Now officially disbanded, the HVF lives on away from the major cities where the scars of a hinted-at brutal war between zombies and humans have not yet faded. Graffiti around Roarton lauds the HVF and warns "rotters" of the welcome that will await - PDS Protection Act or no PDS Protection Act.

So far, so cheesy. It’s easy to see how a premise like that behind In The Flesh could be played for laughs, but what happened instead was fairly grim and beautifully acted, particularly by the younger members of the cast. Newberry’s hesitancy with the state-sanctioned terminology for himself and his fellow sufferers, as well as the guilt and the flashbacks that he finds himself struggling with, were powerful things; powerful enough that the coloured contacts and the daily make-up that left him looking a little like a member of the TOWIE cast couldn’t distract from them. Harriet Cains, playing Kieren’s little sister and prominent local HVF activist Jem in her first television role, was a marvel. She managed to balance her conflicting political beliefs with her loyalty to her family while throwing in a good helping of stroppy teenager. Her anger towards her brother on his return wasn’t just based on his new “partially deceased” status, as we discovered over the course of this first episode - and if the show lives up to its early promise there is a rich, emotional seam to mine there.

Of course there is plenty of drama, too, and a few touches of gore, particularly in the flashback sequences. More recognisable actors like Ricky Tomlinson and Kenneth Cranham play important parts in that. But it’s the human side of In The Flesh that will tempt viewers back for more.

Watch the trailer for In The Flesh

It’s easy to see how a premise like the one behind 'In The Flesh' could be played for laughs


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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I thought last night's episode was wonderful - tightly written in such a way that I'm already on the edge of my seat for the next episode. One wonders how the rest of the world fared during the four (or is it five) years of the fightback against the zombie hoards - perhaps our 'moat' allowed the armed forces to destroy most of them but were Europe, Africa, Asia overrun? I can't wait to find out.

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