TV REVIEW: In The Flesh - Episode Three

After Kieren (Luke Newberry) defied the town and convinced Rick (David Walmsley) to not shoot the two zombies they had found in the woods, both are faced with having to deal with the consequences of their actions. For Kieren, his flashbacks mean he thinks he can finally give some peace to Lisa's family, the girl he killed in the supermarket. It also leads to some quality reconciliation with his sister Jem (Harriet Cains) who spared his life on that fateful day between the aisles and some home truths with his parents (Marie Critchley and Steve Cooper). Elsewhere, Bill (Steve Evets) is still reeling from Rick's decision and decides that his son needs reminding of his duty to the village of Roarton. Employing Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham) to give a sermon about rising to a challenge, Bill convinces Rick that the only thing to be done is to kill Kieren.

Highly emotional from start to finish, the third episode tied up a few of the loose threads of the series. In The Flesh has grown in strength each episode and the third brings about a resolution that is tragic, emotional and heartbreaking. As always, there were many issues and themes dealt with in this episode, from suicide, familial relationships and their breakdown to second chances and a need for redemption. Once again, Dominic Mitchell delicately balanced all of this into a satisfying conclusion to In The Flesh. There were many strong scenes in this episode, Keiren and his mother in the den, Amy's departure and the reconciliation with Jem, and each provided a small sense of closure to their respective storylines, yet still leaving enough should the opportunity to continue arise.

The strong material gave the cast plenty to work with and the performances throughout the series have been of the highest calibre with this episode no different, but it is to the fathers and sons to whom we must turn. In an instalment full of emotional moments, the most heartbreaking had to be the overdue confrontation between Keiren and his father, Steve. Kieren's parents were ever-present but had taken something of backseat in the proceedings, spouting ill-advised comments whilst trying to cope with the return of their son. Steve especially had just been placating rather than actively attempting to re-connect with him. In this episode, we finally heard why. Cooper's monologue about discovering Kieren's body was well-pitched, tear-jerking without descending into histrionics. Like many of the scenes in In The Flesh, its strength lay in the grounded nature of the drama. This was a man who had lost his son and couldn't understand why.

The parallels to Bill Macy and his struggle with his own son Rick were clear. Evets has been one of the show's strongest assets, displaying a man so rigid and fixed in his attitudes that he simply cannot accept his own son, constructing fantasy after fantasy to excuse his behaviour. Combining a fierce brutality and a tragic vulnerability, Bill Macy was a fascinating and powerful character whose strength lay in feeling so terrifyingly real. Walmsley also deserves a mention as the deeply conflicted Rick, torn between his love for Kieren and his sense of duty to his father. Offered a triumphant scene in which he stands up to Bill, 'au naturale' as Amy would put it, Rick gets his chance to finally be himself before he is tragically killed once again.

Newberry has been a relatively calm central figure as Kieren, the seemingly lone sensitive character in a town full of bullish locals, his outcast nature exacerbated by his PDS. Last episode, we got to see both Kieren's more humourous side with Amy, as well as his more tragic, when he confessed to her that he had killed himself. The third, however, requires him to run the whole range of emotions, from grief to happiness, to pure, unadulterated rage. 

Unfortunately, I don't feel that Kieren was given entirely the resolution that the character deserved. Yes, he got given the second chance to reconnect with his family and live again rather than end his life as before, but his relationship with Rick felt unresolved. Although Rick's death was necessary for Kieren's redemption, with all of the build-up and conflict in their relationship, it did not feel as if their relationship had reached any point of resolution; they still remained apart, neither able to speak their feelings to the other. But then again, maybe that was the point. After all, In The Flesh has been so grounded in reality and it does not always end with a happy ending. Nevertheless, the "Ren and Rick 4ever" aspect of the narrative felt a little unfinished.

Whilst the three episodes of In The Flesh work well as self-contained story, there feels like there is so much left to explore in the world that Dominic Mitchell has so brilliantly realised. The series' allegorical nature meant many themes abounded during its run-time and supporting characters acted as signifiers rather than functioning in their own right. If it was to get a second series, it would offer Mitchell a chance to explore these themes and characters more. Personally, I want to see more of Kenneth Cranham and the show's religious allusions or find out what happens to Amy and the undead revolutionary types. 

The show has great potential and there a wealth of directions that it can go in, whether that be focusing on Kieren and his family to exploring the wider post-Rising world, I only hope that BBC Three are willing to support it in the future.

- Becky

You can read Becky's previous reviews of In The Flesh here.

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