Nothing But Lies
Review of “In the Flesh” S1E2
By A. Zombie
These little visits with the not-so-nice people of Roarton have become the highlight of my week. What are they up to in the second episode of BBC’s “In the Flesh”? Lies, lies, and—surprise—more lies.
Feeling trapped at home, Kieren escapes to his grave where he is reunited with his old hunting partner, Amy Dyer, who persuades him to take a dangerous day trip. After fleeing when he is spotted, Kieren discovers that Rick, his former best mate who died in Afghanistan, is back in town and is persuaded by Amy to go and see him at partisan local pub, The Legion. After an awkward reunion, Kieren finds himself on an HVF hunting mission in the woods, where the night patrol has reported live rabid zombies roaming free.
Which liar to tackle first? Might as well make that liars and point out the Swiss cheese logic fueling the Walker Family. Kieren is being treated like a mental case from the good ol’ days, back when the mentally disturbed were treated with ice baths, overdoses of opiates, and left to wallow in their filth until such time as they became mindless zombies, easily manipulated by doctors. Once they were free from the asylum, their families secreted them away. A dirty family secret best left locked in the cellar. Jem, despite still hating her brother for killing himself, knows the lies their parents feed Kieren are wrong and will only hurt him. She’s constantly talked over in this episode, and at some points walked out of the room before she says anything to undermine the fantasy Sue and Steve have created for their new way of existing. They’re living in a yacht on the Nile, so far removed from reality it’s going to bite them in the backside like a starving crocodile.
Which is exactly what happens when they leave Kieren alone in the house for the afternoon. He gets cabin fever and takes a walk. To a cemetery. Because all well-adjusted zombies like to take a stroll to their own grave. Except Kieren isn’t well-adjusted. He’s an emotionally traumatized and bullied teen who thought he’d finally ended his pain when he cut his wrists four years ago. Not only did he return, but was dumped right back into the same awful place which forced him to take his life. And this time there’s no way out. No friend to buffer him from the cruelest alpha-male jockstraps walking around Roarton. He’s an artist, or was before his death. Small town men don’t understand him. Small town women don’t trust him to be capable of providing for them. Aside from his seriously dysfunctional and lying family, he’s alone.
Enter Amy—who’s a few crumbs short of a cookie and doesn’t care. Really, she doesn’t. In a breath of fresh, possibly insane air, she swoops in and saves Kieren from being, well, himself. She points a shining mirror at his life. Questions everything he’s done since returning home. Amy even invades his home, spills a bunch of lie-abolishing truth about PDS people on his family’s dinner conversation, and makes him seriously think about his quality of life and the lies he’s allowed his parents to live in.
“They don’t like admitting that I’m—”
“What? The undead?”
“Shouldn’t they start getting used to it?”
“Shouldn’t you start getting used to it?”
She’s also the only person who’s stopped and really talked to Kieren about his suicide. Not blame him and hate him like Jem, but try to understand why he did it. Show a little sympathy for the decision he made. And then point out how stupid he was to waste the life he’d been given, when she’d had no choice—dead from leukemia before ever truly living.
Every PDS person returning to normal life needs their own Amy. Rick Macy, son of HVF leader Bill Macy, could learn a lot from her. From the second he steps off the transport truck, he’s telling similar lies to the one’s the Walkers peddle with every single breath. Rick tries too hard to be normal, to make his father believe nothing’s changed—because Rick knows the second he acts like a zombie, his father won’t respect him. Zombies are not normal. They won’t make their father’s proud. They can’t continue the family name. What good is a dead person to a man like Bill Macy? So Rick lies. He commits self-harming actions, like drinking and eating even though PDS bodies cannot process anything they ingest and get violently ill. The one good thing Rick accomplishes amidst his lies and acts of normalcy is reclaiming his position as buffer in Kieren’s life. But does Kieren really need that buffer now that Amy made him stop and examine where his future could lead?
It’d appear she’s done some good. When Kieren and Rick help the HVF track down a pair of rabid Rotters in the woods, he steps in and uses sound reasoning to keep first Rick, then Bill and his cronies from slaughtering the zombies. Sure, Rick is now diminished in his father’s eyes—why would anyone listen to a pansy who slit his own wrists? But Kieren may have found a purpose to his second life. If he takes Rick down a similar path, they’ll be golden.
Can Rick and Kieren break the habits hanging on from their old lives to start something better or will Bill’s grip on their lives derail the positive influence of Amy’s presence? There’s one more episode in season one of “In the Flesh.” We’ll find out which way the guys go soon.