In the Flesh

A friend of mine suggested I watch In the Flesh but didn't say what it was. I wasn't sure. Was it a movie? A mini series? A regular series? My DVR recorded it in one giant three and a half hour chunk, which I watched all the way through. Usually I can't tolerate anything longer than a couple of hours, but this project enthralled me and the time flew by. It's a zombie story that doesn't have a lot of gore, instead it's a thoughtful look at what could happen after the immediate chaos and terror.

We meet Kieren aka Ren (Luke Newberry) at a grocery store where he is hanging out with a few other zombies. They all attack a young lady and eat her, or at least gnaw on her a little. We soon discover this is actually a dream, or an intense memory, or perhaps a melding of the two. Ren is at the end of a rehab program that is reconnecting his neurons and changing him back from a zombie. The big brained scientists don't call it zombie-ism, instead their clients have partially deceased syndrome (PDS). The scientist in charge of Kieren warns him that the more his brain fixes itself the more vivid the dreams will be.

Just as Ren is about to released to return to his family, a friend of his self-destructs by taking a blue pill that is extremely detrimental to his health. Shaken by what just happened, Kieren is reunited with his parents, who are overcome with emotion. His return to his home village is problematic. His younger sister, who he loves very much, is hostile, the village leader believes PDS is not a disease. Instead those who returned are demons and should be destroyed. Add in Ren's vivid memories and you have one very haunted teen.

Ren's tender heart makes the story that much more poignant. He is easily bruised and has a latent sense of social justice, which is getting stronger as he is exposed to more bigotry and hate. My favorite character in the series is a young woman called Amy (Emily Bevan) who shared his kills with him in the grocery store. She is bold, courageous and thrilled to be alive again. She stands up against the mores of the village, refusing to hide her face as expected.

Ren's parents, played by Steve Cooper and Marie Critchley, have not come to grips with his death and are extremely emotional over his return. They are walking a fine line, trying not to pressure Ren while simultaneously worrying about him every time he is out of their sight. Sister Jem (Harriet Cains) has no such qualms. She is furious with Ren, treating like the monster she views him as. While the family struggles to find equilibrium they must protect Ren from the village religious nuts who are determined to destroy all the “rotters”.

There is plenty of external conflict but it's the internal conflict that makes this smart series so powerful. News recently broke that the show has been renewed for a second season/series, which will explore some of the clashes and issues only touched on in the first season/series. In the Flesh is available on Amazon Instant Video. I tried to find it on Netflix but the film that's listed under that name is very different.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a short story from Strange Horizons by Mark Rudolph called Words of Love, Soft and Tender. Love is always confusing, words can have different meanings, communication is fraught with misunderstanding; how much more so when those involved are from different species? I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy but not enough of it is from a non-human perspective, which makes this story that much more enjoyable.