Whoever you are, no matter how old, and however dead you may once have been, we all want to feel like we belong somewhere. Or at least make sure we’re not in a place we don’t belong. And where is that feeling most heightened? No, not a zombie brother, but at high school.
Although actually, yes, we should just pause and dry heave our way to terms with the fact there’s an undead stripclub/whorehouse in Roarton and that it’s doing a roaring trade. No matter how much you root for the PDS sufferers, and no matter how much you might think ‘Yeah, of course I’d be okay with a corpse washing my windows’, just when you think you’ve drawn a moral line, Dominic Mitchell throws something like that in to test your prejudice.
Anyway, back to school, and In the Flesh has a ‘Grange Hill with graves’ vibe to it this week. Unsurprisingly it works well, as the zombie template and the politics of school fit together seamlessly: the dead kids are the uncool kids, isolated on their own table at lunch; there’s PDS Henry who fancies Jem, which has all the desperate equivalence about it of the nerd pining over the cheerleader; and there’s drug-taking in the loo. You almost expect an undead Tucker Jenkins to rock up.
Jem (Harriet Cains who, with help from the props department, articulates Jem’s mental problems particularly effectively) is struggling to fit in and struggling with her post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s her past as a Human Volunteer Force member that places her with the cool girls, but it’s that same past, and its horrific memories, that cause her to lock up during an attack. No sooner does she feel like she belongs than she’s back to being an outsider.
It’s not so different beyond the school gates either, where the undead are being treated like kids in wrongly put in detention. PDS sufferers are being forced to work in a community service payback scheme, and it’s keeping Kieren trapped in a place he no longer wants to belong. There’s a threat that the undead are becoming something more serious than the kids at society’s ‘uncool’ table – they may be slowly being segregated into a bibbed underclass of sub-human slave labour.
Still, whether it’s The Man keeping you down, or the judgey-as-shit girls at school, there’s nothing like a rave to lift your spirits. A zombie rave. ‘Big fish, little fish, pinewood box!’. Instead of the ‘aciiid!’ they’re getting high off sheep brains, and it’s disgusting as it is hilarious. High Amy Dyer is my new favourite Amy Dyer.
But Lesson 1 in raving is never wander off from the rave. Actually it probably isn’t but it should be, as Henry does, only to be shot dead by Jem. Typical, just as we’ve been lured into liking him. She’s out with her Colt, feeling like she’s back where she belongs. Oops. The girl you fancy accidentally killing you. Did they ever do that on Grange Hill?
Aired at 10pm on Sunday 11 May 2014 on BBC Three.
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