In the Flesh: Series 2 Episode 4 Review
Reviewed by Rory McKay.
A very noticeable trend in In the Flesh series two is the gradual phasing out of Kieran as a major character – he’s been present and correct in every episode with some great developments, but the series one lead has certainly had far less screentime this series. So, with In the Flesh’s least Kieran-centric episode yet, does it hold up?
Philip, the mild-mannered and somewhat cowardly council member, has been a far more prominent figure this series – and his storyline finally reaches a compelling point this week. With Roarton’s PDS brothel revealed, valued customer Philip is pushed to the edge – but instead of simply falling further into insignificance, Philip finally starts to stand up and reveal his feelings – first to evil MP Maxine Martin, then to the crowd of furious protestors at the brothel. Steven Thompson does a great job as a believable coward who’s finally breaking out of his shell – and plays the character with enough pathos to make the audience root for him and cheer at his victory at episode’s end despite his questionable taste in leisure time. In the Flesh has always been excellent at developing characters well in a short space of time, and writer Fintan Ryan has managed to make one of the show’s least interesting characters a compelling on screen presence.
Jem has had some excellent plot recently – but her sign-up to the new ‘Roarton Protection Service’ (a very typical and funny satire of ‘brand new organizations’) and PTSD-suffering adventures is sadly a little weaker than normal, her screen-time flitting between repeat of series one and more hammering in of her fractured state. Harriet Cairns still does a decent job, but with somewhat standard ‘hallucination’ plotting and well-trodden descent into madness, she has some fairly weak material to deal with this week. Plus, the show’s continued pursuit of her romance of Gary still feels a forced way to show her allegiance despite the apparent age gap – even if her twitch at the family dinner shows she’s not entirely under her spell.
Simon has been shown as a magnetic cult leader in previous weeks: a charismatic leader who effortlessly converts people to his ‘religion’ – but this episode seems to show a far more human side to Simon. Emmett Scanlan (looking like his normal self for the first time this series) continues to impress – his tender scenes with Luke Newberry showing that Simon is indeed capable of human affection. But while Simon appears more emotionally capable and ‘normal’ this week, his forced mild demeanour cracks under the revelation that Kieran is possibly the first Risen – Simon’s boggling expression shows that this is something major – and it might just turn out very badly for Kieran.
Amy, after two episodes on the sideline, has a little bit more screentime this week – her descent into a possible rabid state is extremely well played by Emily Bevan, who conveys Amy’s usual ditzy energy with a growing, suppressed layer of pure panic. It’s likely that there’s something afoot that isn’t as simple as turning rabid – but for now, her plot is staying nicely shrouded in mystery. Her reaction at seeing Simon and Kieran is a tragic and saddening one for a likeable character who just needs affection (even if it’s a moment that isn’t mentioned after and will presumably have to wait until next week for some kind of pay off) – and seemingly she finds that in Philip, who’s been pining over her for a long time indeed. It’s likely this won’t turn out well for Philip, however – getting together with a gravely ill zombie rarely does…
Despite all the spread character focus this week, Kieran’s plot continues to be one of the best things about the show. Luke Newberry has played Kieran as mild and suppressed from the start of series one – so to see him finally crack during his monologue is somewhat jarring. His monologue at the dinner table about the Rising is a terrific scene – Newberry displaying previously unseen sadistic satisfaction at his deeds in the Rising, alongside his horrific guilt. It’s a speech that displays several new facets of Kieran’s character, some for the first time somewhat negative (Kieran has been a paragon of virtue previously, one of the few unambiguously ‘good’ characters in the show). Despite this, writer Fintan Ryan and Newberry keep Kieran’s rage sympathetic – after being forced to hear Gary’s Rising tales, it’s almost a triumphant moment for Kieran as he speaks out. As for the revelation that Kieran was seemingly the first Risen, it’s a somewhat contrived plot twist (and seems to be a retcon of series one’s depiction of his rising from the grave), but it looks like the pay off will be worth it.
Episode Rating: 8.5/10
In the Flesh continues to impress, with great character work even for the more peripheral regulars, solid mystery-building and compelling drama. With just two episodes to go, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the final two episodes of the series (and hopefully not the entire show) play out.