Tag Archives: Amy

In the Flesh, season 2

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The first season of In the Flesh was very good, but also very bleak. As bleak as its setting in a lonely North England town. It drew some fairly obvious allegories, using the zombies Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferers as stand-ins for homosexuals, religious and racial minorities, immigrants, HIV/AIDS sufferers, and any other group that can most easily be trodden upon by the heartless masses.

I really grew to like Kieren and Amy, who have a pretty adorable friendship. The terrible prejudices and actions of the citizens of Roarton were really difficult to watch. Excruciating, in some cases, because of how easy it is to relate the way the PDS are treated to the way gay people are still treated, and the fact that some of them are attacked. Sometimes by family. In 2014, for fuck’s sake.

The second series is longer (6 episodes, rather than 3), and uses a different sort of allegory.  A new political group, Victus, has been winning seats at Parliament by campaigning with aggressive anti-PDS policies. They (like most far right parties) are channeling people’s fears to enact policies that restrict and control the PDS population. In Roarton, a new MP from Victus shows up, Maxine Martin.

in_the_flesh_wunmiSoon, she has put a system in place to invalidate the passports of all PDS persons. Kieren discovers this when he tries to leave town, to head to Paris and to live a life where he is not completely surrounded by people who hate him and his kind. In order to ‘earn’ his passport back, he has to work to ‘give back’. All the PDS people have to do a certain amount of community service in order to make up for some of the damage they wrought. But as time goes on, it becomes clearer that this is not a system that they can really get out of. The ‘community service’ is mandatory, and they shift the guidelines at a whim. You can draw obvious parallels to concentration camps and internment camps and no-fly lists and ‘random’ inspections of people of color, or anyone with Muhammad in their name. Also to immigrant populations, vilified and contained, mistrusted by the generally douchy public.

The overarching story of the season is the fabled ‘second rising’. There are a few schools of thought on how it may come about, and whether it should come about.  The Undead Liberation Army and its creepy prophet is trying to bring about the second rising. Enter ULA member, Simon. He’s Irish, and he’s all in for the ULA movement. Amy has a crush on him, but in typical Amy fashion, he turns out to be more attracted to Kieren. Que sera, sera.

Simon helps Kieren start to accept who he is–going out without the ‘mousse’ and the contact lenses, looking like the undead person he is. His family hates this, and sees it as such a radical move that he may need to be sent back to a treatment facility to be re-brainwashed.

The second rising can only happen with the help of the first risen. The actual first person that came up from the ground.  Simon thinks this is Kieren. But it’s not.

Amy, once she gets over the fact that Simon isn’t straight, turns her attention back to Philip. She’s going through some stuff–she has tremors sometimes, and occasionally forgets that she’s dead and tries to eat something. Things are changing for her and she’s not sure if that means she’ll turn back into a ‘rabid’ or what. Scary stuff.  The good news is that as soon as she reaches out to Philip, he immediately stops being incredibly creepy and pathetic, and starts to be a little bit adorable.

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In typical Roarton fashion, that doesn’t last long.

It’s a very bleak show, but I actually really enjoy it. The whole zombie thing is such an easy stand-in for so many awful social issues in history and in the modern day. I’m hoping it gets a third season/series, because I still want to see what happens next. It did not end on a resolution, but a cliffhanger. I don’t mind a cliffhanger when the show has definitely been renewed, but I get pretty annoyed when I watch a cliffhanger and then have to accept the fact that I’ll never get to see what happens next. There should be some sort of post-season special. Whenever a show is cancelled after a cliffhanger, they should shoot one more episode to wrap it up. If you are reading this and you work in TV, make this shit happen.

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A new take on the zombie apocalypse: In the Flesh

InTheFleshIn the Flesh premiered on BBC Three in March, and aired over three nights on BBC America this month.  I’ve noticed lately that things which air over three-4 weeks in the UK are crammed into 2-3 nights in the US; not sure why.  This was no exception, but I found it easier to take some time between viewing the first episode and subsequent ones.

In the Flesh envisions a different sort of ending to the traditional trope of the zombie apocalypse.  Though the zombies rise just as you would expect, the government has a different way of dealing with them than you might imagine.  The ‘rotters’ are rounded up by the British government and rehabilitated.  Through group therapy and medicine, Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) sufferers can be reintegrated into society and returned to the homes they occupied before their deaths.  With the help of contact lenses and ‘mousse’ (foundation), they even appear normal.

We follow Kieren Walker, an 18-year-old PDS sufferer who is returning to his parents’ home.  There are just a few problems with his return.  Kieren’s village of Roarton was one of the major centers of the ‘rising’, and the village formed a Human Volunteer Force (HVF) to hunt the ‘rotters’.  Roarton is still a hotbed of hatred toward PDS sufferers, despite a government mandate of peace and acceptance. Kieren’s own sister, Jem, is a proud HVF member and zombie hunter.

The first episode really shows the absolute sense of fear from having Kieren back in the family home.  Not fear of him, fear of the HVF and its leader, Bill.  It reminded me of something you might see in Nazi-occupied Europe, if you were hiding a Jewish person in your attic.  At the end of the first episode, Bill and the HVF show up at a neighbor’s house, drag his elderly PDS wife out into the street and shoot her in the head.  The hatred and anger are unforgivable and unacceptable.

The second episode had a bit more hope in it.  Word gets out that Kieren is back home, but he’s given a reprieve from being shot in the street. Bill’s son, Rick, who was lost during the war in Afghanistan, is coming home.  Rick’s parents have revered him since his absence, so his return as a PDS sufferer is confusing, given Bill’s hatred for ‘rotters’.  Rick was also Kieren’s best friend, and (this is implied but never stated outright) his boyfriend.  Lots of tension between Kieren and Rick, and Rick and Bill, and Bill and Kieren.  Bill combines his hatred of ‘rotters’ with his homophobia to absolutely despise Kieren.  As far as Bill and Rick go, Bill is totally in denial about what his son is, both as a gay man and as a PDS sufferer.  But the rest of the town starts to show a bit more compassion and acceptance.

Kieren meets his old hunting partner, Amy, and has someone with which to share the crazy experiences of being a dead body re-introduced to the human world.  Even Jem, his antagonistic sister, starts to come around.

The third episode gets into more of the meat of the relationships between all of these Roarton characters.  We learn that Kieren killed himself after Rick was killed in Afghanistan.  His parents and his sister were very angry with him, which explains a lot of the tension.  This fact also proves even more tragic later.

Bill is the catalyst for almost all of the action in this last episode.  He is in absolute and complete denial that his son is gay, and that his son is a ‘rotter’.  His response is to get rid of what he sees as the problem: Kieren.  Without Kieren around, he can pretend his son is normal, in every possible meaning of the word.  And the best way to make sure of it is to have Rick do the honors.  Bill tells Rick to eliminate Kieren (and Amy, for good measure).  I think Rick, who clearly has a hard time saying no to his father’s orders, is tempted to do it.  But how could he kill Kieren for the same faults that exist in him as well?  He can’t do it.  He washes off his mousse and takes out his contacts, and shows himself to his father as-is.

Meanwhile, Amy decides to leave town to find a ‘rotter prophet’ living in the woods, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask of some kind.  She’s looking for answers.  She doesn’t have a family anymore, and life in Roarton isn’t turning out to be peaceful.  Kieren sees her off at the train station and then returns home…to find Rick at his doorstep with a knife in his brainstem. Dead for real this time.  Killed by his own father.

Things are rough from that point on, obviously.  Kieren confronts Bill. Bill gets what he deserves, though not at Kieren’s hands.

Let’s take a moment to think about Kieren’s luck. His best mate/boyfriend goes off to Afghanistan and is killed in an explosion. Kieren doesn’t want to live anymore, so he kills himself because of the ensuing depression and grief.  He rises as a zombie (he can’t even kill himself properly!) and commits terrible atrocities, but after medical attention and rehabilitation he is able to return to his family.  Rick returns too…and is killed again.  The feeling of futility has got to be overwhelming at this point.

Kieren returns to the same place where he committed suicide, just to think this time.  His mother comes to retrieve him, and that’s when the story of his suicide comes out.

The whole miniseries features a lot of very grim and taciturn patriarchal figures and their quiet beset-upon wives.  We see Bill and his wife, one meek and victimized by her husband, the other a blustering despot with limited ability to process his own emotions.  We also see Kieren’s family.  His mother shows some emotion, but is still quiet.  His father holds in all of his emotions until the very last scene of the miniseries, when he lets them out in a moment of healing and crying.

This all reminded me of American Beauty, and Bill particularly of Chris Cooper’s character.  So much pain and denial and repression.  Willing to do intense violence to cover up, to keep from acknowledging, the truth. But my only issue with this miniseries is that I think it would be better placed in the ’90s than currently.  The gender politics alone were very traditional, and the ideas about homosexuality are also out-of-date.  Of course, this takes place in the North, somewhere near where Heathcliff and Catherine would have been running around on the moors.  It looks like the type of place where it is just never truly warm.  Windy and cloudy and gray all the time.  I know that the North is, stereotypically, a bit more conservative and less cultured than the South of England.  Something like how the Midwest is thought of in the US.  But, as someone from the Midwest, I also know that not to be particularly true. Is it (Lancashire) so very traditional that this is a reasonable depiction of a small village near Blackpool?  Maybe.  There are places like that in the US, small towns where homosexuality and atheism and being a democrat are unheard of, not talked about, absolute Sins with a capital S.  It’s definitely possible.

I thought this miniseries was pretty good, actually.  Lots of complex ideas and unavoidable tension.  The actor who played Kieren could be a little stiff, a little numb, but how perfect is that for someone playing a partially-dead person?  Anyway, everyone’s emotions were so repressed and covered, that it worked quite well.  My only issue was that the ending was very open, almost not like an ending at all.  I hope that will be resolved when the series comes back for another 4-6 episodes in 2014.

Upcoming British TV

You may have noticed, if you’re one of the 3 people who regularly read this blog, that content about British TV has been lacking lately.  That’s natural, given that it is summer and there isn’t much of anything new on.  But fall is approaching fast and there are a lot of good shows coming back, and a lot of new shows that look awesome.  So here’s a primer on what to expect over the coming months on TV.

Doctor Who premiered last Saturday, and another episode was just on last night.  I have grown to really love 11, though I still prefer 10 and probably always will consider him the best Doctor ever.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, skip this bit as you are not a Whovian and won’t particularly care.

I have to say that these last two episodes have seemed rather lackluster to me.  There were some plot holes in the Asylum of the Daleks, and I saw the twist coming fairly early on.  Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was a bit better, and I love Mr. Weasley as Rory’s dad.  Something just seems off with both episodes so far, and I can’t tell if it’s the show or it’s me.  I suspect, however, that it is not me.  They’ve jumped right in as though there’s been no gap, and I could have done with a bit of a slow submersion.  I do love Karen Gillan, though, and she has been awesome as always.  I think it’s the writing or the direction to blame, but I”m having trouble putting my finger on why or how.  It’s almost like the episodes start too quickly and keep going too quickly for you to be emotionally invested.  And then they’re over, and you still aren’t particularly invested.  It’s missing some of the emotional scenes that you find in other episodes, and so far there hasn’t been anything particularly scary.  A bunch of rusty old Daleks and Filch? After the weeping angels, it takes a lot to scare me anymore, but they’re not even trying!

So why is this on my list of what to look forward to this fall? Because it’s Doctor Who! I will continue to watch it, and hopefully it will get better.

Downton Abbey

There are two trailers out right now for the third season. This one:


And this one (which I prefer):


Maggie Smith is divine.  And Shirley MacLaine as the American grandmother? Wonderful. I cannot wait to see those two in action together.

Okay so here is the big problem with Downton Abbey, and I cannot believe that in the 21st century it has come down to this.  On ITV in the UK, it premieres this month. Next week, I believe.  When will it be on PBS? January.

January?! This is ridiculous.  Why cant the studios just get together and decide to air it at the same time? Or shortly after?  As far as I know, there is no legal way for Americans to get their hands on the show before it airs on PBS or comes out on DVD (which might happen first, to be honest).  I would honestly pay to watch it, but I don’t think there is a way to do so.  Whose idea was that? I realize that ITV can’t broadcast here, and they are a British only channel, but this is ridiculous.  I suppose now I know how it feels for Brits who want to watch the latest episodes of our shows. But honestly, there should be a way to get it through iTunes or something. I am honestly not going to wait until January. I refuse.

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And a similar thing is happening with Parade’s End.

This was actually a joint venture between BBC and HBO, which means they have equal rights to air it (in my non-expert legal opinion).  This aired during August in the UK (I only know about it because I caught the last 20 minutes of one of the episodes while I was in London).  HBO hasn’t even announced an air date for the US.  BLARGH. Why do they do this to me?

In case you haven’t heard of it either, let me describe.  This was originally four novels by Ford Maddox Ford, and has been adapted into this mini-series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.  The plot revolves around a wealthy couple, and it is set in the early 20th century, so there are naturally comparisons with Downton Abbey. The husband is sent off to fight in the trenches in WWI.  There’s a love triangle somewhere in there. I didn’t want to read much else because I don’t want to spoil the fun of actually watching it.  If that ever happens.

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So, will anything actually be on soon for us unlucky Americans?  Yes! Thank god.

   Judging by the press photos, this one is about women who ride around on bikes in matching outfits.  Okay, actually, it’s titled Call the Midwife and I am quite excited about it, despite being horrified by the idea of childbirth and by the presence of nuns.

The show centers around a group of midwives in 1950s Britain, and it was a huge hit there. Smashed all sorts of ratings records.  It even beat Downton Abbey in the ratings. So, I’m definitely going to give it a try.  It airs on PBS, starting September 30th.

Richard Hammond’s Crash Course is also returning this fall (October 15th).  It appears they have abandoned the need to associate him with vehicles, and the show has devolved into him simply encountering as many ridiculous and possibly embarrassing Americans as possible.  There is, thought, a really cute trailer.

Another one coming down the pipeline this fall:

Spies of Warsaw

This is another period piece, a WWII-era drama set in Poland (obviously). It stars David Tennant, and that’s about all I had to know before I decided to watch it.  No firm release date yet, that I can find. I believe it comes on when The Hour and other Dramaville programming returns, which would be November, I think.

So it’s set to be another year of British cultural imports.  I do want to add, however, that as much as I joke about being forced to wait for a long time to watch British shows, I am just joking. Of course I hate the waiting, and I don’t see a need for it when we’re perfectly capable of downloading everything anyway.  But as I learned on my trip to London last month, the TV in England is really terrible.  What? What am I saying?! This is a blog about British TV, among other things, so how could I be committing such blasphemy?  I never had a TV when I lived in London, so I had little experience with it.  At my hotel, though, we did have a TV. I didn’t sit down to watch it at any point, but before bed or in the morning I would switch it on, and I was shocked by what I found.  There are only 10-20 channels, and some of them are only available at certain times of the day.  They play a lot of American programming, from old episodes of sitcoms (Frasier of all things) to really terrible American movies that wouldn’t even be shown here (Bowfinger…really?).  Then there seems to be some sort of 24-hour Big Brother channel.  Mix that in with Coronation Street and East Enders, which seem to be less slick and less attractive versions of our soaps, and that’s about all of your choices. Of course, there’s always BBC news, right?  They do news incredibly well there. But, you soon realize that it runs on a 10- or 15-minute loop, especially in the morning.  It’s not fun. If I lived there, I don’t think I’d bother having a TV at all.  So when I complain about having to wait for these mini-series, I do not mean to imply that I would rather switch places with them. They have to wait a long time for our shows as well, and well, we just have a lot more options here. Plus, no TV tax here, always a bonus. So, take the complaining with a grain of salt, and everyone let’s try to be patient, and pretend we aren’t illegally downloading these things. We certainly wouldn’t do that.