In the Flesh: Series 2 Episode 6 (Finale) Review
Reviewed by Rory McKay.
Series two of BBC Three’s In the Flesh has broadened the show’s horizons enormously – no longer confined to the tale of Kieran Walker, the world’s nicest zombie, series two has introduced new characters, developed old ones and expanded the show’s mythology. It’s been a fantastic series, but does the finale – quite possibly the final episode of the show itself – leave the series on a high?
Kieran has often been a supporting player this series, with much of his screen-time given over to the supporting cast (often to great effect), but the series finale once again puts Kieran front and centre. Kieran has gone through a very interesting evolution this year – no longer the frightened and timid teenager who wore contact lenses in his sleep and couldn’t look at himself in the mirror, Kieran has become a much more independent and strong character. His scene with the (by now) insane Gary is a superb one, Kevin Sutton radiating manic fury as he rants at Kieran about the Rising. Gary has been an extremely unsympathetic character all series with his vicious hatred of PDS sufferers and manipulation of Jem, so it’s interesting to see some of his motivations – however psychotic Gary might seem, Dominic Mitchell does a excellent job of somewhat humanising Gary – it’s hard not to at least feel a little sorry for him…
… Until he kidnaps Kieran and forces him to take Blue Oblivion, an act that truly shows up Gary as the least sympathetic character on the show. It’s a great character study of Kieran as he faces his ultimate fear of going rabid – right in front of his father and sister, no less (Jem pointing a gun at Kieran’s head is a neat mirror of the flashback scenes in the supermarket from series one). It’s these scenes that are the episode’s most tense – knowing In the Flesh’s habit of killing main characters off, seeing Kieran, metres away from his father with a gun to his head, it’s a heart-poundingly tense moment – with an excellent resolution too, as Simon sacrifices the chance of the Second Rising to save Kieran. Simon doesn’t play an enormous part in this finale, but it does show how far Simon has come too – from dead-eyed cult leader to emotionally capable friend who chooses his friend over his mentor. Emmett Scanlan has been a fantastic addition to the series, and the indication that he’ll be staying around for any future series is a reassuring one.
Despite the heartwarming resolution to Kieran’s story this series, Dominic Mitchell is far too cruel a writer to leave all his characters happy – and the scenes that follow are some of the show’s most emotional and heartbreaking yet. Amy has had comparably little screen-time this year, but Emily Bevan has revealed herself to be one of series two’s (even more so than series one) breakout stars with a charming and sympathetic performance that left viewers rooting for Amy all series. Amy’s series arc has been an intriguing one for the show’s mythology too, revealing that PDS sufferers can re-humanise – and it’s that evolution which ultimately dooms Amy. Almost as soon as her heart beats again, it’s stopped by Maxine Martin and a knife – as many viewers guessed, Amy is indeed the First Risen. It’s an emotional ending to a character who was often a ray of cheerfulness in a sea of brooding, conflicted characters – and most of all, it’s a trademark cruel (yet superbly acted and written) twist for Amy to seemingly come to the brink of death, bounce back, find a boyfriend and have it all robbed from her based on a belief that ultimately turned out to be false.
And finally, we get to Maxine Martin, the MP who for many episodes seemed to be a typically evil anti-PDS villain who would seek to stop Simon and his cult’s agenda immediately – but of course, In the Flesh wouldn’t go for something as obvious as that. Despite the unforgivable murder of Amy, the revelation of her true motivations at the village fete is a fantastic moment that reminds us that even monsters like Maxine Martin have reasons for their madness. Credit too to Wunmi Mosaku, who expertly conveys the MP’s emotional breakdown and shows an entirely new, perhaps more interesting side to the character. Dominic Mitchell has always been skilled at developing fairly one-note characters and turning them into something unexpected, and the scene at the village fete is a terrific moment (even if it is a little satisfying to see the MP finally rejected and thrown out of Roarton for her crimes).
Surprisingly, all of the show’s surviving main characters end the series in a fairly good place – Kieran is once again embraced by his family and finally confident in his own skin (in a poignant scene, Kieran finally pulls down the towel he’s been using to cover the mirror all series), Jem is on the road to psychological recovery and Simon has found a soulmate and is sticking around in Roarton – even if consistently unlucky Philip is once again alone (Philip has been series two’s breakout ‘old’ character, with Stephen Thompson doing an excellent job). There’s still plenty of dangling threads for series three, however – the Undead Prophet isn’t likely to be pleased by Simon’s actions, and his cult are still steadfast in their beliefs and Kieran’s hand shaking in one of the episode’s final scenes showing that he might just be on the path to humanity just like Amy. We’re left on a tantalising cliffhanger as two Halperin and Weston scientists arrive at Amy’s grave and begin to dig away – but what do they have planned for Amy? And will we ever actually find out?
Episode Rating: 10/10
In the Flesh’s improved second series concludes with a sublime finale that wraps all character arcs up in satisfying fashion, features some genuine edge-of-seat moments and provides some intriguing teases for the future. This might, sadly, be the end for In the Flesh with BBC Three facing cancellation – but it serves as a fitting wrap-up for the series if this really is the end. Now, BBC Three, you have a show to renew…