As the curtain rang on the previous, initial season of the BBC's In the Flesh last year, its fate was entirely undetermined. Was the show that actually succeeded in making the overused element of the reanimated dead going to be given a second chance at life (pun possibly intended), or would it be permitted to simply pass on gracefully in its sleep? Well, as they say in the industry, "You can't keep a good corpse down", and it seemed only natural that In the Flesh return to right all of the many, many wrongs would-be filmmakers and the trendy hipster scum that follow them have inflicted upon us over the better part of the last ten years.
Taking a cue from the type of human drama George A. Romero was only ever able to convey in rough drafts or literary adaptations, In the Flesh offered up a sometimes cutesy, often tongue-in-cheek social commentary on various classes and lifestyles, and the effect their relationships have on those among us who were simply born to judge and hate. The Rising occurred in 2009, wherein the recently dead returned to life with a craving for, of course, the grey matter of the living. Soon, scientists were able to perfect a drug that all but reverted the reanimated to their pre-Undead selves, save for the whole being partially dead thing. In fact, the politically correct world even assigns the term of Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS), shipping the medically adjusted half-humans back to their families.
But just because your show gets renewed doesn't mean you can carry on exactly as you were. What good is a zombie series if things aren't kept fresh (again, pun possibly intended)? Luckily, writer/creator Dominic Mitchell keeps his eyes on the ever-expanding horizon instead of staying in place to repeat the same series of events over and over; a bold move that challenges the stale routine of most other undead stories that ultimately comes off as sounding only slightly ironic when you realize that In the Flesh: The Complete Season Two actually does stay in the same place in terms of its location. Well, for the most part, that is.
Starting out with a cameo by Ricky Tomlinson, a co-star of the previous season, meeting a ghastly fate at the hands of a group of Undead Liberation Army extremists - who revert back to their rabid, flesh-hungry states via an underground (heh) drug called Blue Oblivion - the series then returns to its roots in the fictional village of Roarton. While the ground between the living and the undead was shaky in the God-fearing town to begin with, the new ULA movement casts new shadows on the living folks' already-suspicious minds. Stuck amid all of the bad vibes is poor Keiran (Luke Newberry), a PDS sufferer who is insecure with both his state of being as well as his own homosexuality. Determined to leave Roarton, Keiran is told there is an Undead traveling ban; one of several new, humiliating laws enforced by the new parish MP, Maxine Martin (Wunmi Mosaku).
MP Martin views the Undead as subhuman, enforcing them to wear ugly orange bibs and commit months of community service in order to give back to the society they unwillingly once destroyed in their feral, rabid conditions. But at the heart of it all, this evil lass is up to something far more sinister. Meanwhile, Keiran's old Undead gal pal Amy (Emily Bevan) has returned from a stay at an Undead convent with a new unfresh face in tow: the handsome, charismatic Simon (played by handsome, charismatic Emmett J. Scanlan - who damn well better land the part of a main villain in a future James Bond movie, if not the title role itself a few years down the line!), who is the Twelfth Disciple of a mysterious Undead Prophet.
With six episodes to play with this time around, Mitchell and his fellow writers get a chance to tinker with new subplots. One episode focuses almost entirely on another local PDS sufferer (Bryan Parry), whose once-happy marriage turned into him living in the guest house; his wife now in a relationship with another man (the ideal cuckold relationship, it ain't). Simon, initially introduced as a potential baddie, soon becomes Keiran's hot new beau. Additionally, we learn he was the first successful patient by the scientific duo of Halperin and Weston who created the Undead's rehabilitory drug (their names a nod to the makers of 1932's White Zombie, generally considered the first zombie movie ever).
Speaking of firsts, there's a good chance Keiran may be the prophetic First Risen - the first to crawl out of the ground during the Rising - which adds a nice slice of mystical-esque mystery and conspiracy. An additional element of higher echelon shenanigans appear in the guise of Halperin and Weston's new prototype drug, which Amy starts using when she it appears she is becoming immune to the original pharmaceutical life-saver. Further drama is introduced as Keiran's sister (Harriet Cains), a former zombie hunter during the great war between the living and the dead, has an internal crisis at school and stoops so low that she starts to date the town's local scuzzy redneck trash (which is truly a fate worse than death).
BBC Home Video brings In the Flesh: The Complete Season Two to DVD (no Blu-ray, sorry) in a two-disc set that presents the series in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio (which is quite rare for television shows, unless it's part of a montage sequence). The quality of this series, which likes to use a number of cool hues to convey that cold rural English mountainside environment, is presented in a clear, crisp transfer. An audible English audio stereo track accompanies the set, and optional (SDH) subtitles are available should you require them. Sadly, much like the DVD release of the First Season, there are no special features included here.
That said, In the Flesh: The Complete Season Two is a fine follow-up to a BAFTA-winning series that made zombies human again, and I'm sure a third series - complete with (hopefully) new twists and turns will finds its way to the land of the living soon.