One way to describe the first series of In the Flesh would be quiet. This three episode series has been as introspective and repressed as the main character at its centre, and it is this inherent understatement that makes the outbursts we finally see in this finale all the more powerful. There are no flashy showdowns between the Rotters and the HVF as you might expect, as it wasn’t really about that larger conflict, and the episode prefers to focus on the emotional, human toll events have had on these characters.
Like some of the best genre telly, In the Flesh would work just as well had it been conceived as a straight drama, and all of the resolutions here would have held much the same meaning had Kieran never succeeded in killing himself a year before. The focus of the episode is on the hinted-at romance between Kieran and Rick, and we discover more about what led to his suicide in the first place. The most striking moments, though, are the exchanges between Kieran and Bill Macy after he does the unthinkable, filled with grief and hatred mixed up with heaps of denial and barely suppressed rage from both sides.
We’ve barely seen Kieran speak above a whisper before now, coming across as a little shocked and scared of his new situation. His relationship with Amy gets a nice resolution when she heads to a unnamed, more accepting, place, and I suspect that this is one of the storylines most compromised by the criminally short three-episode commission for In the Flesh. Her scenes, while affecting in their own way, felt completely separate from what was going on elsewhere, and it’s a shame we didn’t get more time to spend with her. This goes for all of the supporting characters, though Ricky Tomlinson did at least get his own hero moment.
Jem, on the other hand, was able to naturally develop into a sympathetic character after processing what happened to her best friend Lisa at Kieran’s hands. Half of the episode seemed to be preoccupied with repairing the siblings’ relationship, and it felt right to see Kieran approach Lisa’s grieving family. It relieved some of his guilt and self-loathing if nothing else, and the second half of the episode wouldn’t have been possible had he not regained that confidence in himself as a human being seperate from his PDS.
Conversely, Rick was having the opposite experience with his dad, embracing his partially deceased side so as to shock him into seeing sense. The hypocrisy of Bill towards his son has been one of the most startling things about the series, and what we see transpire in this finale pays off both characters wonderfully. Having seen what his son really is – and that’s not restricted to how he looks without makeup – Bill can’t process the fact that the man standing in his house is really his son. It’s far too easy for him to justify, with the supernatural colliding so recently with the real world, and he’s convinced himself that a second rising would restore his family proper.
Really, his reaction to Rick is not dissimilar to the way Lisa’s family are convinced their daughter is still out in the woods somewhere. Neither family are accepting the truth and prefer to believe an easily understandable lie if it means they can continue to hope. Kieran’s outburst after finding Rick’s body was really upsetting if only for the fact that it’s the first time we’ve really seen him break free of his eerily calm exterior. He knew that Bill had killed Rick as much for his preference in ‘friends’ as he did for his identity as a PDS-sufferer, and it felt like the perfect way to end a series that has been much more about humanity than it’s ever been about zombies.
With Kieran finally reaching a point of acceptance with his own family, systematically working through each member’s individual experience after he died, where can the series go from here should it return? Well, plenty of places, as In the Flesh has proven itself as brilliant drama, brave genre fiction and an encouraging move for BBC3. They might have gotten some flack for cancelling The Fades last year, but this latest endeavor at least proves that someone, somewhere, is willing to take a chance on interesting, intelligent fantasy television. I hope we see it return with more episodes, and a bigger canvas on which to tell its story.
What did you think of the episode, and the series? Do you want to see a second series? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.