Warning: This article contains mild spoilers for series two in In The Flesh
Series two of BBC Three’s offbeat zombie-drama In The Flesh may be over, Roarton’s melting pot of prejudice finally boiling over in a heartfelt, bittersweet and often sickeningly tense finale last Sunday, but is this the last we will see of Kieran Walker and his PDS-sufferer pals?
It’s hard to believe that such an intelligent, inventive and relentlessly gripping show could have its future cast into doubt, and yet the announcement that BBC Three is to close has done just that.
There are currently rumours that the drama could switch channels or even resurface online – which, given Amazon Prime’s purchase of Ripper Street and Netflix’s near-continuous stellar output, is fast becoming the home of great drama.
Whatever the solution In The Flesh deserves a third series because, as its second series so decisively proved, its still one of the best dramas – zombie or otherwise – on TV right now.
Here are five reasons to renew In The Flesh for a third series.
1) It’s more than just zombie horror.
In fact, it’s not really about zombies at all. Part of ITF’s genius is the way it juxtaposes its supernatural premise with the grim realities of a kitchen sink drama to explore deeper themes in a way that is frighteningly real and personal.
Creator Dominic Mitchell originally intended to write a show about a teenager with a mental illness who returns home after violently attacking a neighbour before he landed on the idea of using PDS sufferers as a conduit to make discussing such dark ideas more palatable to a mainstream audience.
Few other shows, if any, are brave enough to tackle mental illness, discrimination and fundamentalism each week, and that’s exactly what makes ITF so vital to the BBC’s schedules.
2) Mitchell hasn’t just created a scenario; he’s created a world.
As wonderful as the first series of ITF was, its relative intimacy and brevity now feels more like a taster compared to the wide-ranging epic served up in series two.
An extended run of six episodes allowed Mitchell and co to dig deeper into the impact the Rising had on the lives of people outside the Walker family circle, resulting in the heart-breaking highlight of Freddie and Hayley’s doomed marriage.
It was superbly acted all around and the romance was so deftly handled that the obviously-signposted climax was unexpectedly nerve-wrecking for an episode that acted as a refreshing break from the main plot.
If more series means more episodes like this, then In The Flesh should be re-commissioned until the end of time.
3) In The Flesh knows how to tug on our heartstrings.
While horror scares and visceral thrills are in no short supply – the first episode of series two opens with a cinematically taut rabid attack on a tram – where ITF truly excels is in the wrenching moments of human emotion.
Scenes such as when Kieran has to cover the bathroom mirror with a towel before he can remove his contacts or when a PTSD-suffering Jem finally breaks down and all Kieran can do is promise to get her the help she needs show how adroit Mitchell is at hitting his audience where it hurts.
At these times watching In The Flesh can be emotionally draining but that’s precisely what makes it so worthwhile.
4) There’s something beautiful about its northern moors setting.
It may not be the most flattering depiction of northern life on telly, but there is something hauntingly beautiful about the wet and windy surroundings of a post-Rising Roarton, it’s grim peaks looming in the distance like the ever-present sense of death – a constant reminder that its trapped denizens can never escape.
Much like the show itself, Roarton possesses a beguiling blend of mystery and realism. A town that looks like every other town in the country and yet feels completely isolated all the same. This mysterious atmosphere is as transfixing as it is unsettling and leaves an indelible mark that inexplicably has you wanting to come back for more.
5) Mitchell isn’t even close to running out of ideas.
Series two as a whole was superbly written by Dominic Mitchell; his scripts littered with so many brilliant ideas (using sheep’s brains as the undead’s form of ecstasy) and neat touches (displaying Amy’s two lifespans on her coffin) that sometimes he didn’t know what to do with them.
The writing is bravely allegorical and it’s the sheer scale of the storytelling that is so impressive, touching on right-wing politics, sexuality, race, family and violence among many other topics.
Such is the scope of the writing that, far from running out of steam, ITF feels like it is only just getting started with vast swathes of questions still to be answered. Is Amy really dead? Was Kieran the first to rise? Who is the undead prophet? And why were those creepy scientists so keen to get their hands on Amy’s body?
With so much left undiscovered all we can do is hope that BBC Three has learned from its mistake with The Fades, another high concept sci-fi that was cruelly axed after just one series, and finds a home for our BDFFs (best dead friends forever) so that In The Flesh can rise again for a well-deserved third series.
Click here to watch the trailer for series two of In The Flesh