After last week’s opener, In The Flesh digs into the lingering conflicts left over from S1, as well as Maxine Martin’s (Wunmi Mosaku) arrival.
Let’s bitch it out…There’s a central mystery brewing on In The Flesh and it’s not quite the one that I expected. I anticipated that there would be an ideological battle between the Undead Prophet’s teachings and the pro-human movement, embodied by Viccar Oddie and the new MP for Roarton, Maxine. While I’m not completely off base, it’s becoming increasingly clear that both sides are also on the hunt for something and it has to do with when certain facts about the Rising.
Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) is undoubtedly at the center of this, which makes sense considering he’s the show’s protagonist (although it does make things a bit obvious). While introducing the PDS Give-Back Scheme, Maxine takes special note of the fact that Kieren doesn’t remember the exact time he rose (she singles him out with an ominous asterix and red sharpie circle, like she’s plotting some Emily Thorne-style Revenge). Simon (Emmett Scanlan) is also looking for someone in particular – someone who rose at a particular location, which is why he takes particular interest in Kieren after he’s identified by his denim jacket by a random PDS sufferer. At this point we have no idea what either Maxine or Simon hope to gain from these efforts, but it puts Kieren right in the middle of the war that’s brewing in Roarton. Since neither of them is particularly trustworthy, it’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that Kieren is in even more danger than we thought.
The other big development in episode two is the aforementioned PDS scheme. This is very clearly another one of In The Flesh‘s political allegories as the PDS sufferers are singled out, their travel rights revoked and they’re effectively forced into slave labour. The new scheme is described as a national effort, and is unanimously passed by the Parish Council. As Simon argues, the whole thing is very clearly a scam since there’s no confirmation that their rights will be restored by the review panel in six months. Considering the scheme is supported by Maxine, however, it’s not difficult to infer that the scheme was developed without PDS sufferers’ best interests in mind. It’s a worrying development that – like the best speculative fiction / dystopias – confirms just how easy it is to strip particular groups of their rights using panic and fear.
Of course, it would help if certain people weren’t actively contributing to those feelings around town. I have a bit of difficulty believing that a high school curriculum would tackle such controversial topics as the Rising and the Human Volunteer Force (HVF) so casually (although the teacher does seem like a bit of a tool). Unfortunately the show and tell homework assignment brings out the worst in everyone: one girl brings in a machete as a “historical artifact”, Jem’s (Harriet Cains) supposed new friend Charlotte humiliates Jem for killing her father during her time on the HVF and one of the PDS teens in class, Rob, decides the event is a good opportunity to drop Blue Oblivion and scare everyone. The traumatic event prompts two responses: it significantly contributes to Jem’s PTSD and lends weight to Gary’s (Kevin Sutton) argument for the return of armed patrols.
Naturally these two byproducts combine and end in tragedy when Gary and Jem go patrolling in the woods during Simon and Amy’s (Emily Bevan) party. There’s an attempt by director Jim O’Hanlon and writer/creator Dominic Mitchell to increase the tension during the scenes in the wood to make us wonder if Amy will be shot, but it’s clear that Henry (Charlie Kenyon) will be killed the moment he wanders away from the party (He was obsessed with Jem, so clearly she would be the one to kill him). It’s a disappointing return to form for Jem, who’s conflicted nature has been one of the show’s biggest storylines thus far in series two and while I don’t doubt that she’ll remain conflicted, this is overly melodramatic and obvious. It would have been more courageous to not have her pull the trigger…
- Kieren and his family first learn of the Give-Back scheme (and later its issues) via some casual web surfing, proving that they probably need some educating on the reliability of information on the net.
- The biggest hypocrite of the show award goes to Philip Wilson (Stephen Thompson), the recently appointed Councilor who Maxine sweeps under her wing in the wake of the Vicar’s death. Philip is still a brown-noser (something his mom nearly calls him on) and his anti-PDS actions during the day are contradicted by his PDS girlfriend fantasy at the local PDS whore house at night. This is actually more interesting than Jem’s conflict, though Philip still feels isolated in his storyline.
- Amy’s bad reaction to the Commune’s home-brewed Neurotryptaline continues, prompting a seizure and more hand shakes. What’s in that cocktail and how does it differ from the prescription kind that everyone else is taking?
- There’s a suggestion (reiterated in the previews for next week) that Simon is actually gay. While I’d love for Kieren to find some kind of happy in Roarton, I don’t for a second believe that Simon is being genuine. The hand-touching only occurs after Simon has realized that Kieren may be the one he’s looking for.
- Finally, looking to get high? Eat some sheep’s brains! Looking for dates? Log on to Lovesick Puppies. This show is killing the little details this year.
- Kieren (when Jem walks in on everyone wearing berets at the breakfast table): “It wasn’t my idea.”
- Amy (dismissively cutting down Philip at the doctor’s): “Pee’s leaking.”
What’s your take on episode two? Is Kieren the one that Maxine and Simon are looking for? Do you think Simon is romantically interested in Kieren? Were you hoping that Jem’s storyline would take an alternative route? How long before Philip’s dirty secret is found out? And would you want your children to study the Rising in high school? Sound off below.
In The Flesh airs Saturdays at 10pm EST on BBC America