Hellevision: BBC’s In the Flesh

© BBC, Des Willie

© BBC, Des Willie

I’m into zombies. All sorts of undead from infected to mutations from lunar-caused to demonic-summoned. I love a good ol’ fashioned zombie story – a tried and true survival tale of the living paired with gore-geous special FX. But whenever I encounter a story with a twist or something fresh, it’s like my own mini undead Christmas.

In The Flesh

© BBC, Des Willie

Based on a quoted opinion from WIRED, I was bracing myself for “the thinking person’s Walking Dead” with Northern English accents. But I was severely let down in the best way possible. BBC’s drama In the Flesh was nothing like The Walking Dead. While the hit AMC show (based on the graphic novels) has established its place in the zombie-world and has indeed helped propel zombies into mainstream media, it’s good to have something else on TV that’s completely different and approaches the genre with a unique perspective while still utilizing some familiar techniques.

In the Flesh is a three-part mini series primarily set in the fictional Northern English town of Roarton but first introduces us to our main character, a young man named Kieran Walker, in a government facility. About four years ago, something like 140,000 dead people came back to life – well, zombie-style life. Many called it “the Rising” and dubbed those rising from the dead “rotters.” A violent war against the undead was fought and many people died for good – no additional dead rising nor any spread of an infection.

© BBC, Des Willie

© BBC, Des Willie

But  we begin the story after all the fighting and well into a program which the government has implemented for the zombies or rather Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) sufferers. Those with PDS are now going through medical treatment and rehab in order to re-assimilate into society. And it’s nearly time for Kieran to rejoin his family. However, our main character is from what’s seemingly the town most radically against any type of PDS assimilation. Seriously, imagine backwards, stereotypical redneck, socially conservative, and bigoted place in the US. Replace the word “homosexual” in all of the hate speech that you might hear in such a scary place with “risen dead” or “rotters” and that’s the type of antagonistic hometown poor PDS sufferer Kieran Walker is returning to. Quite the bleak environment for a young troubled zombie.

Through flashbacks and disturbing (though awesome and full of bloody zombie action) dreams, Kieran is forced to relive the things he did in his undead past. As expected, the living in Roarton aren’t too keen on him being back in town, especially not now that he’s partially deceased. To put it bluntly, things suck for Kieran and his family. While trying to figure out his place in the world and reintegrate back into society, he:

  • tries to reforge a bond with his little gun-toting sister
  • visits a website for the Undead Liberation Army headed by the Undead Prophet –  an enigmatic voice and figure who covers his face with a skeletal jumper and proclaims he has all the answers for the undead – possibly considers joining the prophet and his undead mission though isn’t too impressed
  • meets a PDS sufferer named Amy who offers some much needed levity and comedic relief to the show
  • has to confront his past in an incredibly visceral way
  • come to terms with things he was responsible for during his life and also his undead life
© BBC, Des Willie

© BBC, Des Willie

There is so much depth to this series and those partially deceased syndrome sufferers each have a story to tell. But this first series is undoubtedly driven by Kieran and his experiences with his family and friends. However, the message is definitely bigger than the character himself.  Using horror to convey a social allegory is nothing new. Fans of George A. Romero are quite familiar with the technique. The man has been making political and social statements (some intentional, some not so much) since the Living Dead series. And In the Flesh follows the tradition beautifully. It tragically explores a social allegory that is quite a heated topic in our world today. Never coming outright with it,  still anyone paying attention can pick up on the strong allusions to a forbidden homosexual relationship between “best friends.”

In the Flesh has been given the green light for a second series and you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for it in 2014. Seems to me that the story arc of Kieran Walker, his family, and the folk of Roarton is over, and they are en route to whatever type of a happy ending such a bleak town plagued with the ghosts of zombies and bigots past may be able to manage. Perhaps the second series will focus on another story arc or character?  Or maybe some type of imbalance with the medication and a re-zombification epidemic?  Maybe we’ll get to see more of the quirky PDS sufferer Amy? Whatever happens, I hope to find out more about this Undead Prophet character and his Undead Liberation Army.


In The Flesh is a BBC Drama Production North co-produced by BBC AMERICA. The series follows zombie teenager Kieran Walker (Luke Newberry) and his reintegration back into both the local community and the heart of his family. After his suicide four years ago, his friends and family thought they’d never see Kieran again. But then, shortly after his funeral, thousands rose from the dead; and after months of re-habilitation and medication, the zombies, now known as PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers, are gradually being returned to their homes. When Kieran returns, he is forced to confront his family, the community that rejected him and haunting flashbacks of what he did in his untreated state.

– BBC America Pressroom

The Secret of Crickley Hall also hits shelves today. Review coming for that series shortly!

Based on the trailers I’ve seen, I have a feeling fans of supernatural haunted house horror may be into it this series.

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About Boris

Boris enjoys reading, writing, traveling, performing, roller derby, and costuming in addition to immersing herself in a variety of horrific worlds via literature, art, video games, comics, music, haunted attractions, and cinematic adventures. From zombies to slashers, creature features to B-movies, and psychological thrillers to supernatural stories, Boris is into many different subgenres of horror.