If you haven’t yet seen the BBC’s In the Flesh, especially if you’re a fan of the “monster” genre as embodied in shows like The Walking Dead and True Blood, remedy this immediately. Just like True Blood and X-Men, In The Flesh maps its Others— those who have risen from the dead in a mass simultaneous event known as “The Rising”—onto our already familiar Others: homosexuals. But it does so with something so unimaginably foreign to monster franchises that it might at first seem absurd. It does it with delicacy.
In The Flesh takes place in Roarton, England—probably not coincidentally pronounced “rotten” in the local dialect. Its main character is a shy, sensitive young man who’s definitely not coincidentally named Kieran Walker. So, here we have The Walking Dead told from the point of view of the walkers. Well, “rotters,” as the slur may be.
Kieran’s particular place as main character lies at the crossroads of the show’s literal Other- zombies-and figurative Other: he’s also gay and has committed suicide because of it. “The Rising” was a national trauma as a zombie killing spree, but it also reunited families with their dead loved ones, and there is much poignancy in the show’s portrayal of the Walker family reunited.
In the Flesh is as British a show as The Walking Dead is an American one—it’s hyper-realistic, smallish, intimate, steadily paced, and staid in its necessary violence. The world it creates looks just like what you’d have if the dead returned in a modern, highly bureaucratic society. A medication has been developed that keeps them out of their “rabid” state, along with the inevitable unwieldy politically correct name for the risen dead, “Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferers.”
Those with PDS are issued contact lenses and makeup foundation to make their appearance normal so they look less disturbing in public. Of course, tension immediately builds between PDS sufferers who want to “pass” for normal and those who aren’t ashamed of being partially deceased. Not to mention religious fanaticism on both sides. Rumors of a second Rising abound, and the government soon revokes full citizenship for PDS-suffering British. Kieran had hoped to make it to the continent, where attitudes toward the partly dead are more tolerant, but now he’s stuck in backwards Roarton for the foreseeable future, battling bigotry with only a bit of fun to be had here and there, getting high by eating sheep brains.
In the Flesh airs every Saturday at 11 p.m. on BBC America. Learn more about it here.
The Walking Dead returns Oct. 12 on AMC.