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'In The Flesh' review: Superb zombie drama evolves in week two

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Following a rather frantic first episode, this week's instalment of BBC Three's new drama In The Flesh takes on a rather more sedate pace - with his world established, writer Dominic Mitchell has a little breathing room to explore issues that other shows wouldn't and, to directly quote director Jonny Campbell, "ask questions that other dramas can't".

Pushed, prodded and poked throughout episode one, our protagonist Kieran Walker (Luke Newberry) was something of a bemused bystander last week, provoked by the actions of others. Here, he's pleasingly far more proactive - striking out and standing up for himself, confronting his sister Jem (Harriet Cains), fellow returnee Rick and others.

In The Flesh S01E02: Kieren (Luke Newberry)

© BBC

Kieran (Luke Newberry)



Inspiring Kieran further is Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan) - a PDS sufferer who's taken to undead 'life' rather better than he's managed, embracing the possibilities that being undead offers - immortality, for instance.

Our nervy lead and the outspoken Amy share a terrific rapport - an awkward dinner scene in the Walker home ("I had to throw away my knickers… and my skirt,") and the touching confessions that follow are clear highlights this week.

A paranormal drama tinged with humour - flip-flopping between dark and light, the hilarious and the grotesque - at points, In The Flesh episode two pleasantly recalls its BBC Three predecessor Being Human.

In The Flesh S01E02: Kieren (Luke Newberry) & Amy (Emily Bevan

© BBC

Kieran (Luke Newberry) & Amy (Emily Bevan)



Elsewhere this week, Bill Macy (Steve Evets), one of the most vocal anti-rotter advocates, is torn between his family and his morals when war hero son Rick (excellent newcomer David Walmsley) returns in 'partially deceased' form. Rick's return is interesting because, unlike Kieran's comeback, it's not done in secret, under cover of darkness, but in public, in broad daylight - exposing the hypocrisy of closed-minded small-town thinking.

An awkward "weakling" like Kieran - an outsider, even in life - is easier to persecute than a war hero, with none of Macy's cronies daring to defy him. Even the righteous fury of Kenneth Cranham's Vicar Oddie goes unheeded.

In The Flesh S01E02: Rick (David Walmsley) & Bill (Steve Evets)

© BBC

Rick (David Walmsley) & Bill (Steve Evets)



Macy is in denial about his son's status, as is Rick himself - chugging pints to appear normal before spewing it back up against a urinal. But Rick is just as much of an outsider as Kieran, he's just better at hiding it...

Though it's never explicitly stated, it's implied that the two young men were romantically linked - an intriguing twist that helps amplify their status as 'outsiders' within the intolerant village.

In The Flesh has enough going on just exploring the ramifications of 'humanised' zombies being reintegrated into society, so the resurgence of mindless, rabid rotters towards episode's end is a surprising but not unwelcome addition - one that'll help satisfy viewers looking for more traditional zombie thrills.

In The Flesh S01E02: Rick (David Walmsley) & Kieren (Luke Newberry)

© BBC

Rick (David Walmsley) & Kieran (Luke Newberry)



Like the 'rotters' themselves, In The Flesh continues to evolve in week two. Zombie traditionalists might still have their gripes, but the rest of us can enjoy the show for what it is - a unique and thoughtful television drama, superbly realised and brought to life by a top-notch cast.

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