As U.S. moviegoers await the theatrical premiere of Brad Pitt’s new World War Z later this month, BBC America tonight rolls out In the Flesh, a three-night “zombie miniseries event” continuing through Saturday night.
Set in England, the unconventional drama follows teenager Kieren “Ren” Walker (Luke Newberry, Anna Karenina), who died in 2009, but was one of thousands who unaccountably rose from their graves not long after that as members of the walking dead. Eventually, government researchers discovered that many of the “rotters,” as humans called them, responded to a medical treatment that, if administered on a regular basis, turned off the “zombie switch” and allowed sufferers of the newly diagnosed Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) to manage their condition and lead comparatively normal lives, although they can’t digest food or liquids.
Now, after many months of medication and rehabilitation, Kieren is among the latest group being released from a government facility and returned to his small rural hometown of Roarton, wearing special makeup and contact lenses to conceal his zombie-like features. While his parents are nervously overjoyed to have their son back, however, the rest of Roarton is a hotbed of anti-zombie sentiment. Even Kieren’s once-adoring kid sister, Jemima (Harriet Cains), has joined the Human Volunteer Force (HVF), a grassroots militia that sprang up when the zombie resurrection overtaxed government security forces in the metropolitan areas, leaving outlying villages to their own defenses. The HVF is led by Bill Macy (Steve Evets), a working-class army veteran who co-founded the group with Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), a zealot who sees a chance to exploit the situation to his own ends.
Macy’s unwavering hatred of zombies compels him to continue hunting down and killing “rotters” regardless of whether they have been rehabilitated, even after his golden-boy son, Rick (David Walmsley) – who also was Kieren’s best friend in high school – returns from Afghanistan as a PDS sufferer himself.
Beyond that set-up, it’s really difficult to say much more about In the Flesh without spoiling the many surprises and twists that series creator Dominic Mitchell has waiting for viewers. For one thing, as Kieren soon discovers to his dismay, his “cure” leaves him with still-vivid memories of the bloody acts he was driven to commit while he was rabid, as well as the horror of suddenly awakening in his coffin underground when “the Rising” took place. But it’s not all dark – Friday’s episode gets a blast of fresh comic air as Kieren is reunited with fellow PDS sufferer Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan), whose life was cut short by leukemia and is so grateful to get another shot at life in the fresh air and sunshine that she goes through her days with a ferociously unapologetic gusto.
Beyond that, you’ll have to watch In the Flesh to discover important revelations such as the poignant truth about how Kieren died and why. You may notice that some plot threads, including one involving a mysterious Internet website, are left dangling; the BBC already has commissioned Mitchell to write additional episodes, which will premiere next year in the United Kingdom (no word, yet, on whether BBC America will pick those up, but the odds are good if viewers respond favorably to this initial miniseries).