Welcome to Roarton
A review of “In the Flesh” season 1 episode 1
By A. Zombie
They’re trying something a little different in the ZSC command center this summer. This time around, my assignment is to tackle the BBC’s breakout hit “In the Flesh.” Let’s not waste any time getting into episode one.
Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer Kieren Walker returns home to the cauldron of Roarton, but doesn’t receive a warm welcome from all. His parents, Steve and Sue, are undoubtedly pleased to see him, but his sister, Jem, isn’t so ready to pick up where they left off when Kieren died back in 2009. Meanwhile, the zombie-hating Human Volunteer Force, led by the violent Bill Macy, are ready to take action against any PDS sufferer reintegrated on their patch.
Right out of the gate, the show is visually impressive. Detailed, but not overly done effects makeup on the undead. Fully dressed sets. The cinematography adds movement to the first moments, which could’ve been a boring one-sided walkie-talkie conversation. But they killed it when viewers realize they’ve used an age-old trope—opening a show with an action-packed dream or flashback sequence. It’s been done to death. Even with them working it into the plot, explaining that the rehabilitated zombies will suffer side-effects such as flashbacks, it’s not a strong start story-wise.
Where they catch interest is in the way they handle a beaten-to-death zombie plotline. Yes, the zombies rose from the dead. Yes, for quite some time humans were forced to fight against ravenous hordes or die. But instead of seeking to wipe out the undead population, the humans found a way to reboot a zombie’s mind with Neurotripteline and make them mostly human again. The rehabilitated zombies are slowly reintroduced into society. Sure, they have to put on colored contacts and paint their pallid flesh to resemble the living, but it’s worth it to be at home again. Much to the delight of folks in backward small towns.
That was sarcasm.
In Roarton, we’re introduced to the main cast. Some of whom we’ll no doubt grow to like or at least tolerate, like Kieren’s family. Others we can only hope will find the toothy end of a rabid rotter—slang for an untreated zombie. Of the latter are Bill Macy and his pal Vicar Oddie. Bill runs the local zombie killing group, the HVF. In its heyday, the HVF were heroes. Always on the front line against the zombies. But since the rehabilitation program and the PDS Protection Act went into law, most cities disbanded their local HVF chapters. But not good ol’ Roarton. There’s little to no official government involvement in a town so small. The Parish Council rules all, and most of them side with the HVF. Vicar Oddie has his fingers in all the pies. He knows what buttons to push to send his wild dog—Bill Macy—off on the hunt. He uses Bill’s anger after his son’s death for his own gain. Why should these zombies be allowed to come back and live with them when Bill’s son, Rick, remained dead in Afghanistan? We’re shown a brutal example of Bill’s hate toward the end of the episode. What would he do if he knew Kieren were back in town and that one of his own HVF soldiers, Jem, was protecting a zombie? Pretty sure we’ll find out soon enough.
“In the Flesh” may have fresh-faced actors in the lead roles, resembling Warm Bodies, but where the film made light out of the zombie condition—curing it with the power of love—the show shines a blinding light on the hate that can manifest when normal people are faced with something they don’t comprehend. Jem calls her brother a demon when he returns home. She refuses to believe Kieren is actually back until he tells her something only he’d know. And even then, she still hates him because she cannot understand why he killed himself four years prior. Ignorance is the perfect breeding ground for turmoil, and there’s plenty of that in Roarton.
How long until the humans turn on each other? Hate can’t be contained to just one set of people, or not-quite-people in this case. Eventually tempers will get the better of everyone.