When In The Flesh first aired as a three-part miniseries in March of last year it had the odds firmly stacked against it, faced with the unenviable challenge of immediately filling the void left by BBC Three’s cult favourite Being Human, which finished for good the week before.
Luckily, this underdog status worked in its favour as the off-beat series won a fervent fanbase and critical acclaim – not to mention a couple of BAFTAs – for its strange yet alluring mix of zombie horror and British kitchen sink drama.
Now more confidant in its own flesh, series two is a bigger and better beast that continues the first series hallmark of using supernatural scenarios to explore heavy themes of morality, discrimination and politics as Roarton becomes a battle ground of political extremism.
With the Rising now firmly dead and buried, the people of Roarton are starting to move on, establishing a fragile peace and treating the Rising as a historical event to be taught in secondary school. But those most affected by the Rising, both PDS sufferers and the living alike, struggle to adapt and find a place in the new world.
This sense of isolation and rejection is most keenly felt by Luke Newberry’s Kieran Walker, an outcasted teen who committed suicide only to rise again, who still can’t accept who he really is.
We see this in the wrenching scene in which Kieran covers the bathroom mirror with a towel as he removes his covering make-up, unable to see a reflection of his true self. It’s just one of the many touching human moments that writer Dominic Mitchell deftly weaves into the fantastical plot.
Series two starts with Kieran making plans to leave Roarton behind, only for his attempt to escape to Europe to be thwarted as he gets caught up in an escalating feud between the pro-PDS ‘Undead Liberation Army’ and Victus, a right-wing political party that wants to drive the “rotters” out once and for all.
One of the hallmarks of In The Flesh is its ability to split the audience’s loyalties, the writers refusing to paint anyone, living or undead, as an out-and-out hero or villain despite its politically charged themes.
Key to this is taking the time to explore the intricacies of each character, such as Jem Walker’s battle with PTSD and fraught transition from war hero back to schoolgirl, so that the audience can understand how isolation and a loss of purpose can make a person vulnerable to extremist views.
As such In The Flesh is jam-packed with complex characters, not least the series’ two newcomers. Wunmi Mosaku is the most disturbing new addition as psychotic MP Maxene Martin who swoops into Roarton on an anti-PDS sufferer agenda, immediately implementing an oppressive community give back scheme.
More enigmatic still is ULA disciple Simon, played by Hollyoaks’s Emmett Scanlan. At first Simon is all charm and charisma, recruiting a large following to his cause by telling PDS sufferers to stop being “copies of who they used to be”.
However, recent weeks have shown a darker side to Simon as he seethes at the sight of untreated PDS sufferers being kept in filthy cages and uses Amy and Kieran’s feelings for him to bend them to his cause.
Both Maxene and Simon are capable of surprising acts of violence, such as Maxene’s use of an electric drill to despatch one rabid, making their inevitable showdown one of the most anticipated scenes in the final three episodes.
With its unique ability to cut through the sci-fi frippery of the zombie genre to zone-in on affecting human stories, In The Flesh proves it’s worthy of its place among the very best UK dramas.
As its fate hangs in the balance following the announcement of BBC Three’s move online, the final three episodes could be the show’s last hurrah and they promise to be the most explosive ones yet.