In the Flesh (BBC America, Saturdays, 10/9C) returns for a second season beginning this evening. In the second season premiere, things go from bad to worse when some of the Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferers – calling themselves the Undead Liberation Army – resort to terror tactics in response to the actions of the pro-living party, Victis. The effects of both factions have a striking effect on the citizens of Roarton.
Kieran Walker (Luke Newbury) has gotten a job at the local pub, where the owner has given him a promotion and the keys to business. Her suggestion that he might one day run the place make him reconsider leaving town and heading to the far more PDS-tolerant Paris.
His family have pretty much adjusted to his return – his sister, Jem (Harriet Cains) has even become his staunch defender in the face of his father’s political incorrectness. The return of his friend Amy (Emily Bevan) and her new beau, Simon (Emmett J. Scanlan) and their refusal to use the skin camouflaging mousse and contact lenses that allow them to pass as living leads to a confrontation that seems to fuel his desire to leave.
The arrival of the areas new MP, Maxine Martin (Wunmi Mosaku) – an outspoken member of the Victis party – leads to some confusion to the followers of Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), whose goals seem to be even more extreme than her.
The premiere opens with a sequence in which members of the ULA take a new, illegal drug called Blue Oblivion that returns them to their unmedicated state and go on a rampage in a tram car. An incident with another unmedicated man leads to Maxine paying a visit to the vicar, where we learn both of their agendas in more detail.
In the Flesh, season two, seems even more personal and political than season one. ‘They’re only one missed dose away from ripping our heads apart’ has become the heart of Undead haters and the response of the ULA, though extreme, seems to some PDS sufferers to be appropriate.
In a larger sense, PDS sufferers stand in, allegorically, for any oppressed minority and the series examines how people fear and/or seek to destroy that which they do not understand – hiding behind religious fervor, or skewed anti-science rationales.
On a more micro level, the series continue to be about people placed in extremely trying circumstances and the variety of ways they react – from hatred to acceptance; from violence to striving for peace. For every shocking sequence like the ULA action in the teaser there is an intimate sequence like the Walker family at the dining room table.
Written by series creator Dominic Mitchell and directed by Jim O’Hanlon, the second season premiere maintains the darkly beautiful tone of the series and deepens both characters and the growing intensity of the world in which they live. While we can sympathize with Kieran and other PDS sufferers, there are arguments to be made by the Maxine Martins and Vicar Oddies of the world, and that is what is truly frightening.
Final Grade: A-