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In the Flesh: Series 2 Episode 2 Review

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Reviewed by Rory McKay.

In the Flesh returned strong last week with a newly galvanized, confident opener that successfully expanded the show’s horizons – but does episode two live up to those high standards, or fall short?

In short, not really, though it’s still a strong episode of TV. The show’s doubled length seemed to be proving a great way to let the storylines slowly unravel and dig deeper into characters – but instead, episode two spends too large an amount of its runtime on the lives of the minor supporting characters. There’s still a good focus on the show’s better characters – Kieran, Jem, Amy and Simon – but this episode unfortunately spends a little time getting sidetracked.

An example of this is Philip, the somewhat tragic councillor who harbours a strange obsession with Amy. His obsession could very well play into the series conclusion, but for now his miserable strip club experiences feel somewhat unnecessary – he’s not a particularly interesting or major character, but the show is now seemingly intent on spending a little more time with him at the expense of more interesting storylines which actively play into the series arc.

There’s some very strong moments in episode two – and the ‘Give Back’ scheme, forcing PDS sufferers into ‘six-month’ labour for apparent citizenship proves to be a very entertaining part of the episode. The show’s subtle poking of fun at cheesy government schemes is something it does very well – the kitsch Give Back DVD, with its false promises and ‘smiling actors’, is a neat summation of what the show seems to be getting across this series seemingly good, honourable people often are lying or putting on a facade.

Kieran gets some very strong moments this episode – it’s a testament to Luke Newberry’s considerable acting talent that he utterly sells his despondent reaction to being barred from leaving the country, and left this viewer feeling more than a little sorry for him. Kieran, now locked into a scheme that could very well never end and losing faith in the government, seems to be turning towards Simon and his slightly sinister Undead Prophet group – a path that could very well end badly for him indeed. While the idea of Kieran’s conflict about choosing a side seems to have been short-lived, Kieran’s story this episode is written and acted extremely well, and proves to be one of the more interesting plot points.

Likewise, Kieran’s sister Jem gets a surprisingly compelling tale this week. After her role in the Human Volunteer Force from series one is revealed, she’s pronounced a zombie-killing ‘badass’ and befriended by the popular girls (unfortunately, despite the show’s brief attempt to provide character depth, Jem’s new friends are pretty much the cliché ‘popular girls’ which crop up in dozens of shows. And when an angry student gets a sniff of rabid-inducing Blue Oblivion and rampages throughout the school, Jem’s standoff with the rabid ends up with her tearfully backing down. Jem wasn’t the most interesting character in series one, but her post-traumatic stress this series is painting her as a far more well-rounded and conflicted character, with an element of tragedy like her brother – the scene at the start of the episode was a great, simple way of showing just how hard Jem is being hit by her zombie-killing days.

The show’s new characters continue to intrigue too – Simon comes across as a little less ‘sinister cult leader’ this week, with his tender scene with Kieran showing that he’s not just a brain-dead disciple of the ‘Undead Prophet’, and providing a little more depth to the character. Likewise, Maxine Martin continues her path to being the show’s most dislikeable character – crushing Kieran’s hopes with a smile and a laugh shows that Martin is more than a little cruel. The mystery surrounding her is also developed a little this week – having seemingly set her eyes on Kieran, it’s not looking very good for our favourite undead hero – but just why does Maxine hate the undead so much, and what does she have planned for Kieran? Though the extended series is proving to be providing a little too much space for unwanted plot points, it’s good to see the mystery slowly being unravelled this time.

The episode’s final scene, with Jem shooting down her creepy admirer by mistake, is an excellent and tense way to wrap up the episode – her shooting of an innocent certainly won’t help her PTSD and she’s certainly set for a dark, dark path this series.

Episode Rating: 8/10

Another strong episode of In the Flesh this week, with some very strong plot lines for the show’s central characters (though Amy gets somewhat short shrift in an amusing but slightly clichéd plot development about addiction) – but the show’s focus on the peripheral characters is proving a little less successful, with moments given over to seemingly irrelevant plot lines. It’s not quite as good as the premiere, but it’s certainly of a similar standard.

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