This review contains spoilers for the first episode of In The Flesh
It doesn’t seem like the village of Roarton is a place that would welcome change, especially considering the events at the end of the first episode of In the Flesh. But the return of Bill’s son Rick (David Walmsley) means that things are different for a lot of people.
We know that it was Rick’s death in Afghanistan that prompted Kieren’s suicide, so it’s not a surprise that Kieren’s parents are trying to keep the return from him. But it’s also sent shockwaves through the HVF. Will Bill put a bullet in his son’s head or will he welcome him back as if he’d never gone?
Meanwhile, Kieren’s going through some changes of his own. When he sneaks out of the house to visit his grave he runs into Amy (Emily Bevan), a fellow PDS-sufferer who recognises him from their zombie days. Amy tells Kieren that there’s no point dwelling on the past and encourages him to get out and enjoy himself. While Kieren’s a twitching ball of nerves, Amy’s considering ditching the make-up and going “au-naturale”, and thinks nothing of telling Kieren’s parents exactly what happened when she tried to eat a Mars Bar. How will her influence on Kieren affect his reunion with Bill?
The first episode of In The Flesh was really pretty grim, which was a big part of its charm. What impresses about this second episode is that it manages to introduce a bit of levity to the proceedings without compromising the social commentary or the authenticity that has already been established. The second half finally sees the characters start to cross paths and the ensuing tense atmosphere never feels forced. Dominic Mitchell’s decision to prioritise drama over supernatural chills continues to pay off.
If the episode feels a little slower than last week’s, it’s because Mitchell is no longer establishing a world. This week is about developing the characters. Luke Newberry gets to stretch himself a bit this week and he’s perfectly matched with Emily Bevan, who brings a welcome spark of life to the role of Amy. The character could easily have been a foul-mouthed, manic pixie dream girl-type, but Bevan plays Amy’s switches between humour, melancholy and anger perfectly. It’s also a very strong episode for Steve Evets, whose intolerant Bill is confronted with the fact that his son is now a PDS-suffer.
This second episode of In The Flesh does narrow the scope somewhat but it places the spotlight on its characters and their development. It’s still very much an allegory for prejudice, and a scene in the Roarton pub is both tense and comically awkward. But we’re seeing Kieren start to stand up for himself, and realise that he doesn’t have to go through this second life in the same way. It’s still pretty heavy-handed at times but it’s great to see a genre drama with such commitment to its message.