Sunday, June 9, 2013

In The Flesh: Three Night Zombie Event (Spoilers)

When commercials for In The Flesh started running on  BBC America I was beyond excited.  I love the zombie genre, and in the last few years zombies have been overtaking vampires in public popularity.  Like vampires, their nature has been subverted in new and interesting ways.  We've had fast zombie, zombies that can learn, and even a zombie cured by love. The In The Flesh trailers reminded me of one of my favorite YA steampunk book series Gone With Respiration (Book 1: Dearly Departed and Book 2:  Dearly  Beloved).  In the Gone With Respiration novels, some zombies are able to live semi-normal lives through science, so it stands to reason that I would fall just as hard for In The Flesh.... that was unfortunately not the case.  It wasn't that I didn't like In The Flesh, it was just... it seemed very... incomplete and there were a lot of plot holes.  Here are my thoughts on the three part series, a list of pros and cons, spoilers if you haven't watched all three episodes.

The Plot

My biggest problem with In The Flesh was it's used up beaten to death plot line.  They could have gone so many ways with such a brilliant idea, but they went with the obvious, overdone racism/segregation/no tolerance in a small town plot line.  I mean, of course, that would have to be an element, I would be afraid if a "rehabilitated" zombie moved in next door, but they went all Nazi Germany on us.  Not to mention that Keiren Walker was already an outcast to begin with as a gay artist in love with the town bigot's son, Rick.  Of course, Rick does anything to make his Papa proud, so he ships off to Iraq to be blown up by an IED, causing Kieren to kill himself.  
When they are both brought back home zombie-fied, we get a Brokeback Zombie situation, both men know they love each other and while one is pretty open about it, the other lives multiple lies in order to fit in.  And just like in Brokeback Mountain, when Rick tries to get his father to see the truth, he ends up murdered... again... by his own dad... and you could see it coming a mile away.

Did I enjoy the story despite it's many cliches (Kieren's dad who won't talk about his feelings, his sister Jem who is an angsty teen filled with anger, quirky girlfriend Amy who is too big for a small town)?  Yeah, I mean, we all go see the same love stories and comedies retold over and over again, but with this I was hoping for something epic and different.  The British always blow my mind with their innovative stories and unique characters but that was just missing.

What Was Missing

The issue for me though was how many awesome looking plot points were brought up, but never finished.  As I watched the last episode I kept checking the time, wondering how they were going to get to everything mentioned since episode one.  I was most interested in the Undead Liberation Army, with the Undead Prophet as their leader.  This could be EPIC!  Not to mention the drug the ULA's followers took to re-zombifie them.  I could see so much potential from this but it never went anywhere... even when Amy goes to join up and Keiren warns of the dangers... nothing, we hear nothing more of it.  Why was this only three episodes?  It's not like Sherlock with its full hour and a half episode... this was just not enough content! Maybe that's why what we did see seemed so lame.

Also, I would have loved to see more of a back story of what life was like during the zombie apocalypse and how science was able to cure the condition.  There could be a whole episode dedicated to corralling the "rotters" and subjecting them to crazy experiments.  We did see some of Keiren's flashbacks from that time, but they only involved the day he killed Jem's friend.  The most powerful moment was during Keiren's flashback of climbing out of his casket and the subsequent panic attack that followed.  Look, in the end, three episodes was just not enough and while we were dangled some juicy goodness, we were left with nothing but the skeleton that a great show could have been built around.

The Makeup

Dem eyes!  I love movie makeup, especially movie monster makeup.  One of the best parts of In The Flesh was the makeup design... I was even willing to look past the few flaws to give it an 8/10 on the awesome scale.  First of all, those contacts were AMAZING!  I mean, I'm sure the poor actors hated having them in, but the effect was beautiful and chilling.  I also loved the idea that the zombies wore makeup and contacts to look more human.  Even with the makeup on, the makeup artists brilliantly showed the bits of zombie through.  For example, Kieren (who wears an epic amount of humanizing makeup) always has blue lips... no matter how hard he tries to cover up, there is always that bit of blue.

My only problem with the makeup is that when Keiren is full zombie, he has heavy brow with sunk in eyes... but after his treatment he is looks totally fine.  They could have explained this away easily, but just left in hanging in the ether.

Luke Newberry

The actor behind the puppydog-eyed Keiren Walker made this show for me.  His performance kept me watching through the tired plot.  He could deliver a perfect Pinter Pause and in the next moment burst through with strong passionate emotion.  No matter how much makeup they slathered on his face his performance broke through, every emotion readable, even through infected yellow eyes.  I just fell in love with him!  It was only three episodes but I wanted more Luke Newberry!  I need there to be a second season just so I can see more Keiren Walker.

In the end, despite my issues, I did enjoy watching, even if it was mostly because of Newberry's performance.  Supposedly the show will continue in 2014, but it really needs to be more than three episodes, that's just not enough time.