Just when we thought we’d get to see the world outside Roarton, our hopes—like Kieren’s—were dashed. With the Vicar’s death, changes are afoot. None of them beneficial for the undead. Before we get into what happens in the episode, let’s have a quick rundown.
Kieren’s dreams of escape are left in tatters when Maxine imposes an Undead travel ban on Roarton, also introducing stringent measures for PDS Sufferers to pay back their debt to society. However, being thrust together with Simon on Maxine’s ‘Give Back’ scheme has its benefits. The two have a connection, and Kieren agrees to go to Simon’s Undead party that night, where Simon makes a surprising declaration.
Jem is troubled at school. A 19-year-old amongst 16-year-olds, she feels completely alienated, until she’s revealed to be an ex-HVF war hero. Jem’s reputation soars and she is befriended by the popular girls. However, when a PDS prank goes wrong, resulting in a terrifying rabid in the corridors, Jem is humiliated in front of her classmates. She gravitates to Gary, finding solace in a world she understands – hunting rabids in the woods. But it’s here that disaster strikes.
Kieren’s escape route is blocked. He’s denied what he considers a chance to start again in a city that may or may not allow him to be himself, unlike the small minds in Roarton. Given the fact that his father insisted to send him on his way with a French-themed breakfast—complete with awful “French” music, berets, French-pressed coffee, and French toast (the latter two Kieren can’t even enjoy)—the poor kid needs to get away. Instead he’s ordered back to town after being refused a train ticket. Amy, too even though she wasn’t trying to leave. She tagged along to convince Kieren to stay, acting on Simon’s orders. Most of what Amy has to say comes from the heart, though. Kieren is running away from his problems. He isn’t trying to fix anything. This trip isn’t so much about finding himself as putting distance between him and the painful emotions in Roarton—his parents’ failure to understand who he really is, the town’s small-minded anti-gay sentiment, and Rick’s second and final death. Try as he might to start over, Kieren’s problems start and end with his inability to accept himself. He’s hiding behind layers of makeup, lies, and evasion.
Amy said it best: “How many miles will you have to travel to be able to take it all off?”
What’s so special about the undead in Roarton? This underlying question has filtered through the first episodes for series two. The longer they pull out this question, it becomes more and more apparent that Kieren is the man of the hour. Everyone is focused on him, from Simon and his mission passed down from the Undead Prophet to Maxine and her hush-hush info search through the town records. Could Kieren be the first risen? What does that mean for the PDS community?
The government plans to use PDS sufferers as slave labor. They’ve concocted a scheme in which the undead “give back” to their communities after leaving rehab. If they’re good, their cases are reviewed after six months and their rights as a living person renewed. It sounds almost reasonable. Until you stop and really think about it. They’re making people who had no control over their return from the dead earn a place in society again as though they’re car thieves and drug addicts. We make criminals work community service hours in order to prove they can be trusted and let off the leash, so to speak. And there is no guarantee PDS people will actually regain their rights. The law is written to only promise their cases be reviewed, nothing more. It’s entirely possible that every PDS sufferer whose case is reviewed in six months is ordered to complete more “give back” hours. A reality Kieren is now considering after a talk with Simon.
Naughty Phillip, the newest council member in Roarton, has been visiting PDS prostitutes. But not necessarily for the obvious reason. He’s using them to replicate his fleeting relationship with Amy. Which I’m pretty sure was a just a one-night-stand. Someone is watching him. They know what he’s up to. The fall-out from his nightly visits will rattle the council again.
The major focus of the episode wasn’t so much Kieren and the other PDS trapped in town—who make the most of it by partying and getting high on lamb’s brains—but Jem’s continuing failure to seek treatment for her PTSD. She has a fleeting moment where everything seems okay. The kids at school find out she’s a HVF “hero” and the harassment turns into a form of worship. She’s bringing friends home to hang out. Going out to spend time with the girls. Sure, Jem still suffers hallucinations, but they’re easier to brush off. Until an idiot PDS kid gets his hands on Blue Oblivion and turns rabid at school. Of course everyone will think sending the hero in to kill the rabid undead is a good idea. They don’t understand what it was like for Jem—who was only fourteen during her first mission—during the rising. Of course she panics at the school. Fails to dispatch the “rotter”, which is a good thing because the drug does wear off. Something we hadn’t seen before. Instead of talking it out, getting help for her PTSD, Jem decides to arm up and resume patrolling for rotters. And kills an innocent PDS boy who had the biggest crush on her.
The next episode should be interesting. There’s a lot secrets in the air and given what Jem’s done, what Kieren is beginning to understand about the way his people are being treated, a whole world of chaos is about to fall on Roarton. Hang on to your hats.
We’re still trucking along with BBC’s “In the Flesh” here in the ZSC command center. By “we,” I mean I am still watching. Everyone else is busy cleaning weapons and ignoring my requests for show time snacks. Would it hurt them to take a little time to bring in a leg of someone delicious? Really, sometimes I feel trapped in this gig. What’ve the folks in Roarton been up to during the series break? Nothing good.
Kieren Walker, in the now seemingly PDS-friendly world of Roarton, is keeping his head down, working soul destroying shifts in the Legion pub and squirrelling money into his ‘escape fund’. The only problem is that he can’t escape himself.
In the wider world, tensions are re-igniting. The radical pro-living party, Victus, is whipping up hatred and the Undead Liberation Army is retaliating violently. When Victus MP Maxine Martin enters Roarton, Kieren is dismayed, sensing that danger is encroaching. And when Vicar Oddie violently clashes with her, it seems Kieren’s instincts are right.
Kieren is also overjoyed by the return of his BDFF (best dead friend forever), Amy Dyer, though his delight is cut short by a tense encounter with Amy’s opinionated beau, ULA member Simon. When Amy and Simon reveal the prejudice still bubbling under the surface in Roarton, Kieren knows he needs to leave the village immediately.
The episode opened with a supposed ULA attack on a busload of innocent bystanders—including the man who killed Bill Macy during the first series finale and his young son. This is only the second time they’ve shown the effects of the Blue Oblivion drug, and it doesn’t look like a good time for anyone involved. Blue Oblivion negates the effects of daily government mandated Neurotripteline treatments. PDS sufferers must use the treatments in order to pass from the rehab facilities back into the world. Without, they’re considered rabid and put down or held in rehab and forced to receive treatment. The legalities around PDS abuse isn’t clear. How many rights do they retain after release from rehab? It’s clear they are capable of finding jobs, as Kieren has once the village calmed down and accepted the returned citizens. They even disbanded the HVF and declared the village a weapons-free zone. To protect themselves or their PDS citizens? Who knows? It’s just a good thing the guns are gone, some of the former HVF “heroes” can’t let go of the past and are itching to stir up trouble everywhere they go. Dead guys can land jobs, but these HVF members can’t be bothered to try, blaming Kieren and his kind for their unemployed status. Not their bad attitudes, lack of hygiene, and lack of motivation to get off their backsides.
Despite the tension rife within almost every character interaction, the tone for the second series is, so far, much lighter. Even the color pallets are brighter. Except Kieren. He’s still a blob of drab compared to Amy’s vibrancy. Part of it may well be that he wants to blend in as much as possible. Fall into the background, work, earn money, and get gone before people realize he’s still there. Still the loner. And most importantly, still the boy who killed himself and rose from the dead. How often each day does Kieren curse his family for burying him instead of cremating him, as he’d requested? His parents are coping. Slowly. Sue fell back to her role of, “don’t rock the boat,” “everything is normal.” Steve’s adjustment period is taking much longer. He’s at the over-sharing stage of talk therapy. Anything and everything bothering him comes out his mouth. Unfortunately, it’s usually something that pains Kieren or embarrasses him. Jem, unlike the others, is having the hardest time moving on. She’s back in school. A loner now, like her brother. Worse is the PTSD she won’t talk about with anyone, but it’s begun to affect her life day and night.
Maxine Martin is a new/old face in Roarton, with a completely unknown agenda. She’s supposedly there on official business, but there’s glimmers of something under the surface of what she’s saying to the Vicar and others in the village. She’s hunting for something. Or someone. And her fixation on the PDS sufferers in town, especially Kieren, is unsettling. Could she be connected to Lisa, the girl Kieren ate before Jem found him and sent him to the rehab facility? Is she searching for a loved one who was buried in Roarton, hoping they rose and simply weren’t found or reported? We have no clue. It is clear, though, that she’ll do whatever necessary to obtain information and keep her cards close to her chest about her true intentions. Just ask the Vicar. Oh, wait . . . . That ship may have sailed.
So far, this series of “In the Flesh” is much more complex than the last. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds over the next five episodes.
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.