In the second episode of the second series ofÂ In the Flesh, Maxine helps with the implementation of a humiliating anti-PDS law, which inspires Kieren to reach out to Simon. Meanwhile, Jem tries to bond with her classmates, and it backfires horribly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ In the Flesh.
Trigger Warning:Â Please see the original reviewÂ for all outstanding warnings.
I can’t deal with this show. HOW IS IT REAL.
I felt a sickness, a dread within me as I watched the horrifying ramifications of Maxine’s leadership in this tiny town. It’s an unreal thing to witness because we know how deeply unfair it is. While I think thatÂ In the FleshÂ doesn’t ignore the fact that thereÂ areÂ some totally fair concerns on the part of those who are Victus supporters, it’s clear that the narrative itself is meant to make us feel sympathetic towards the PDS people, and I appreciate that this distinction is made clear. We understandÂ whyÂ the ULA has formed, we understand that they’re trying to fight back against these horrific oppressive elements of British society, and we understand that these people just want to be equal to those around them.
While there might be societal value in theÂ ideaÂ behind the Give Back program, this episode makes it pretty damn clear that there’s absolutely no interest in true assimilation. And I’ll touch on that more in my section on Kieren, but this is not an honest attempt to build trust, to repair the damage in towns affected by the Rising, or to provide PDS folks with a means to alleviate their own guilt. THESE ARE ALL THINGS THATÂ COULDÂ HAVE BEEN THE FOCUS OF THIS PROGRAM, but it’s not the point of it. It’s about controlling these people, making them substandard humans in the eyes of the government and in society, and itÂ doesn’t solve the actual issue.Â That might be the most infuriating part of this. I understand the fear these communities feel, and I don’t think it’s fair for them to be asked to “get over” something this traumatic. Hell, look at Jem’s story for an excellent example of how the Rising has left people with PTSD that’s being completely unaddressed or unacknowledged by anyone who can help them. There is no attempt to get to the heart of the issue, to do the difficult work that is necessary to protect humanity from the zombie threat while also supporting those who are doing their absolute best to integrate back into society. This isn’t going to work! It’s going to further push the undead to radicalized groups; it’s going to create a bigger chasm between these two groups; it’s going to getÂ worse and worse and worse.
The problem is that it’s much easier to turn the world into a dichotomy of good and evil than to accept the margins and the gray areas. It’s so much easier to say you’re a party of “pro-life” when you deny that the undead have worthy lives to begin with. This dual view of the world works for one sideÂ only, and we’re seeing just how that affects everyone, and IT’S NOT HELPING.
Goddamn it, there’s so much heartbreak in this episode. (Well, the whole show. LET’S BE HONEST, MARK.) Even though I suspected that Kieren couldn’t escape Roarton, I wasn’t ready to see his painful return home after he got so close to leaving. What’s so sad about this is that Kieren once thought he could change Roarton. Indeed, before Maxine arrived, it might have been possible, and Roarton certainly had changed for the better in a lot of ways. But it was through Amy and Simon that Roarton’s bigotry was revealed, and so Kieren figured that it was best for him to simply leave. The horrible irony here, beyond the fact that he was pulled back into Roarton mere minutes before he was going to leave it, is that heÂ wasÂ right. Roarton isn’t getting better, and he finds this out by being forced to do unpaid, menial labor FOR SIX MONTHS in order to be allowed to be classified as a citizen again. (Seriously, the parallels to immigration are undeniable at this point. THIS IS TOO EERIE.) (PS: More PoC if you’re going to do this, please.)
While I could tell his family was happy to have him back in their lives, they could also see how absolutely gutted Kieren was. So I’m wondering, then, how Simon’s going to play a bigger part in Kieren’s development given what we’ve seen here. Kieren’s very first shift for the Give Back scam pits him with Simon, and for that scene, Simon drops all of his ULA pretense and very brutally talks with Kieren about depression, existentialism, and emotion, and IT IS ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE SCENES IN THE UNIVERSE. First of all, to hear depression spoken of in such a realistically painful way… whew, it was an intense experience. But beyond my own feelings of kinship with the sentiments expressed by Simon, I was totally fascinated by how quickly Simon was able to make a connection with Kieren. Before that conversation they had while building the fence, Kieren didn’t seem remotely interested in Simon, but now? Kieren actually accepts an invitation to the undead party, he purposely seeks out Simon, and he’s honest with him.
However… Simon is clearly trying to find out the order of who rose in Roarton, and I DON’T GET WHAT THIS MEANS. What’s with all the hints that there’s something to the first risen??? I don’t like it because multiple groups have imbued the risen with different meanings, and I don’t know what’s true and what’s not, and I DON’T WANT KIEREN TO GET HURT.
The same goes for Amy, who I find myself feeling rather protective towards. Do I understand what’s happening to her? Hell no. I did notice that she and Simon had been injecting themselves with something that didn’t look like neurotripteline, and it’s also affecting her negatively… I think? She shouldn’t be experiencing pain or shaking, but sheÂ is, which would imply that there’s some neurological growth, much like there is in Kieren and his pain receptors. Would that mean that there’s a possible cure? Would it mean that the PDS could actually get better with time? WHY WOULD YOU PUT AMY IN THE WOODS WHILE JEM WAS ON PATROL AND WHY WOULD YOU SCARE ME SO DEEPLY.
JEM.Â JEM. I CAN’T DO THIS. Like I said earlier, Jem’s story is directly related to the failure of the world that Maxine and others want to set up. Nowhere in Maxine’s government and nowhere in the British government is there a place for Jem, and that’s demonstrated on a micro sense by her attempt to integrate back into school. She doesn’t have a support system in anyone around her because no one is prepared to deal with anything who is experiencing mental trauma because of the Rising.
So Jem has to rely on what little she knows. Initially, she uses her own past with the HVF â€“ which was very much real â€“ in order to seem cooler, and it works. FOR LIKE A DAY. Unfortunately, no one is there to help Charlotte either, whose father was killed by a HVF member and never got the chance to come back. OH, AND IT WAS JEM.Â OH AND EVERYTHING IS FUCKING AWFUL AND UPSETTING. WHY IS THIS SHOW DOING THIS TO USÂ WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO YOU. It’s horrific, but Jem is humiliated by her peers when she can’t get past her triggers and her own fears, and it’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. It’s why Jem eventually turns to Gary, though, because she looks for solace in practically the only person who might understand her. This fits in so perfectly with the greater narrative ofÂ In The Flesh, since so many of these characters are desperately looking for someone to understand them or validate them. In Jem’s case, she has no tools within her arsenal to cope with what’s happening to her, so she turns to guns and patrolling, which has even more disastrous results: she accidentally kills her own admirer, Henry, believing him to be a zombie.
It’s a mess, y’all, and the way this culture is in Roarton, it can only get worse.
WHAT THE FUCK. Phillip sucks, I DESPISE HIM. I’d feel worse for him but the man wants to enjoy the undead for his own sexual fantasies while he gleefully oppresses them in order to impress Maxine Martin. Fuck him.
Bravo on the writers thinking of undead sex workers, though! I’m so impressed at the worldbuilding in this universe. OfÂ courseÂ people would develop a fetish for the undead, and I really hope this is explored further because there’s so much to unpack around fetishization, the stigma of being a sex worker, and Phillip’s hypocrisy.
Again, I’ll keep saying this: How is this show real?
The video for this episode can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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