‘The best way is to do it with scissors’.
That’s what Alfred Hitchcock said, once upon a movie murder. Mind you, Hitch never had to kill a zombie. But for our 21st century warm bodies, decades of Pop-Horror has heuristically ingrained in us a variety of ways to do away with the undead. If the Rotters ever did paw their way up from their graves Humanity need only head to YouTube to help them choose an anti-zombie weapon.
And though the weapons are on show in Roarton, including that hilarious home-made knifey-rake thing, in In the Flesh there’s no greater weapon, to anyone alive or undead, than love. Oh, and maybe scissors. But we’ll circle back round to the scissors. Don’t worry Hitchcock.
Just as with Series 1, Series 2 has been a bloodied tapestry of love stories, showcasing romance in all its forms and flaws: familial and sexual, gay and straight, dead and undead. Simon’s love for Kieran, Freddie’s love for his ex-wife Haley, Jem and Gary’s post-traumatic lust, Maxine Martin’s love for her dead little brother, Philip’s love for Amy, at long last reciprocated. Even The Walker family’s treatment of Kieran, misguided though it may be, is done entirely out of caring for a son they want to see ‘get better’.
As all these strands weave together in the final hour, that shows that, alive or undead, being Human isn’t defined by your pulse, but by how you cope with matters of the heart. It’s the father-son bond that allows Kieran to fight off his rabid state. It’s love that means Simon is redeemed not through religious slaughter, but by saving Kieran.
It’s people trying to do the right thing for someone they care about. Yet as Maxine proves, what’s right for one can have disastrous consequences for another. As it can do good, love has the power to destroy. And it’s here that Dominic Mitchell decides to make you suffer, and ‘the best way is to do it with scissors.’ Well, power drills are so Episode 1.
Just as our darling Amy has overcome her PDS, and feels her heart beat again, Maxine, propelled to derangement by grief, murders her. Amy’s dead…er. Re-deadened. But it’s more than cruel irony or a life taken. And it’s more than the prospect of the wonderful Emily Bevan no longer lighting up the Lancashire gloom. It’s all the other lives that affects. Philip’s, Kieran’s, Simon’s, hell, even the viewers’. We lover her too. For a show about the undead, In the Flesh has always treated death with grave seriousness.
But as one story is put in the ground new questions rise up. What do the Halpern-Weston exhumation duo mean, ‘there’s still time’. Is Amy really dead? And is Kieran also becoming more ‘alive’? If so, and being Partially-Deceased is temporary rather than a syndrome, then Series 3 (come on, there’s got to be one, and it’s got to be on BBC Two) is likely to ask even bigger questions of what it means to be Human.
Some grief, some mystery. The perfect end to an hour that was nothing less than superb, nothing less than heart-breaking. I’d say I loved it, but we all know how dangerous loving things is now, don’t we?
Aired at 10pm on Sunday 8 June 2014 on BBC Three.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…