I confess I wasn’t expecting too much of BBC3’s In The Flesh. It felt like a “something to replace Being Human” insert, it seemed a “quick, Walking Dead, do that” exercise. And maybe it was both of those things.
But it did a couple of extraordinary things. Firstly, it subverted the audience’s expectations of a zombie drama, not just by showing a cure to zombieism, but by subverting the very nature of those affected as a zombie – sorry, partially deceased human – by having them not becoming zombies as a result of dying at the hands of a zombie, but having them rise from the grave. And it drip fed that, so we see the son’s bedroom still preserved, we see his sister’s anger to him, but because we’d been fed on Dawn Of The Dead and Walking Dead, we didn’t that it was closer to the Ghouls of Night Of The Living Dead. They rose from the dead, and so did the lead of In The Flesh, a young man who committed suicide. And has now, unzombied, returned to his family. It’s a shocking, break out moment from the first episode that the viewer gets to piece together. Whenever you realise, straight away or later on, it’s still a bolt. And it’s something that sets this apart from so many zombie pieces of fiction, apart from the existence of a cure. And an anti-cure.
The second thing is probably more thematic to the show as a whole. This isn’t an allegory for plague, or natural disaster, or a commentary on consumer culture, the cured zombies returning to their homes and facing an organised lynch mob, those who have already killed so many of the “rotters”, the Human Volunteer Force, who have all suffered losses as well draws from different experiences. Whether it be Germans hiding Jewish people in their homes, whether this is Kosovo and people who fought and killed each other finding themselves living next to each other, even mixed communities of Northern Ireland, this series tackles the idea of a separation of people and those that cannot accept the rejoining of the same. This is about how people cannot forgive, how they become inhuman, not through a zombie bite but by the tainting of their soul. And all behind the twitch of a neighbour’s net curtain.
It’s pretty good. Episode two, next Sunday.