In the Flesh
By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
British zombie drama is cerebral thriller for hardy teens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The series is about a zombie apocalypse, yes, but its messages go deeper than that, raising issues like bigotry and government responsibility and paralleling others like mental illness and addiction. The rehabilitated partially dead struggle to find a place in a society that fears them, which causes some to seek escape from the new reality and the threats on their lives. What's more, the story encourages viewers to sympathize with the "monsters," marking them as the victims and those who would destroy them to protect themselves as the villains.
Positive Role Models
Kieren and his family strive to reconnect and resolve the hurt feelings that his suicide caused. He does the same with friends, both from his living years and from his untreated zombie existence. Some people are sympathetic to the plight of the PDS sufferers and help them assimilate, at great risk to themselves. In his case, family proves loyal beyond all other influences, but that's not the case for all the risen. Some partially deceased patients crumble under the pressures of their new lives, turning to drugs and other temptations for an escape.
Violence & Scariness
In flashback sequences, zombies kill and feed on humans. These scenes are grisly, with the undead bloodied, partially decomposed, and manic. Humans use automatic rifles and handguns to fend off attacks, and other weapons like chainsaws are shown as well. Death scenes are particularly intense, with rehabilitated zombies (who look fully human) shot execution-style while family members watch. That said, violence isn't the primary focus of this cerebral show, and most of the content is more suspenseful and tense than it is gory. Kieren's suicide isn't referenced in detail, but the characters deal with the emotional fallout of his actions.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex isn't a a focus of the show, but the story alludes to a closeted relationship between Kieren and his longtime male friend.
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Language is not used excessively, but everything goes, including "f--k," "s--t," and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Nearly all of the characters are adults, and most drink at some point. A teen also drinks heavily at times, likely to take the edge off stresses in her life, but alcohol never proves problematic for anyone. Some of the risen resort to a dangerous drug that's peddled to help them cope with their guilt over past wrongs, and it's implied that it leads to at least a few deaths.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that In the Flesh is a gritty British drama miniseries about zombies who are reassimilated into their communities, where they're feared and hunted by a grassroots army. There are brief flashback sequences that show partially decomposed zombies feeding on humans and being shot themselves, as well as some in which rehabilitated "rotters" are killed in front of emotional family members. The show isn't an easy watch, thanks in large part to the fantastic cinematography and excellent writing, both of which play on viewers' sympathies for the plight of the partially dead. Those who do tune in will find the story a compelling one and its careful parallels to mental illness and addiction worth discussing.
Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
IN THE FLESH opens as Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) and a group of Partially Deceased Syndrome ("PDS") sufferers prepare to return to their lives after intensive medical and emotional intervention following their involuntary rising. Kieren is apprehensive about rejoining his parents and younger sister, Jem (Harriet Cains), and his fears multiply when he learns of the village's vigilante army, the Human Volunteer Force ("HVF"), led by extremist Bill Macy (Steve Evets), who hunts down "rotters" and kills them on sight. With Jem knee-deep in the HVF, suspicious neighbors everywhere he turns, and ghosts from his past continuing to haunt him, Kieren starts to look outside his family for support and faces new and dangerous temptations.
Is It Any Good?
The BBC's take on the zombie apocalypse is a refreshingly unpredictable one, with a story that turns the tables on typical monster tales by making the zombies the victims and spins their would-be assassins as prejudiced monsters instead of heroes. The general premise of sympathetic monsters isn't entirely unique (ever heard of Twilight?), but In the Flesh makes for a compelling story with far-reaching arcs about family relationships, forgiveness, forbidden love, and bigotry.
Unlike others before it, this zombie story downplays the whole undead-eating-humans thing, which is good for those with weak stomachs for blood and gore. What occasions of it do exist are very brief and shrouded in cinematic haze, but the intensity of the story is wholly unsuited for all but the sturdiest of teens. After all, the concept here is masking zombies to blend into society, and that alone is enough to inspire nightmares for more than a few unsuspecting viewers.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the reasoning behind our love affair with monster-themed movies and TV shows. What makes these types of characters appealing? Do their positive qualities outweigh their potential negative ones? Can you relate to their flawed personalities?
A primary theme in this story is that of prejudice. What accounts for the different reactions to the PDS patients' return to society? What role does fear play in bigotry? Are people's fears warranted? Do we see examples of this kind of response to any scenarios in our society?
What is this movie's message about the government's responsibility in protecting citizens? The HVF is born of citizens' mistrust of the government's hands-off approach to monitoring the partially deceased patients. What, if any, current political issues are inspiring similar rallying of citizens? What role does propaganda play on either side of the issue?
- Premiere date: March 17, 2013
- Cast: Harriet Cains, Luke Newberry, Steve Evets
- Network: BBC America
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: April 2, 2023
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