In the Flesh, Season 2: Episode 3 – “Episode 3”
Written by Fintan Ryan & John Jackson
Directed by Damon Thomas
Airs Saturday nights at 10 on BBC America
Even more so than in either of the season’s first two episodes, “Episode 3” allows In the Flesh to effectively utilize its extended episode order to tell a story that isn’t entirely necessary, yet it succeeds so much almost because it’s not necessary. Scattered among that thread, centered on the characters of Freddie and Haley, are continuations of the various plotlines developing this season. Some, of course, work better than others, but even if Freddie’s story isn’t what this episode is entirely interested in, it anchors the hour with emotional depth.
Roarton appears to be much larger than I had originally thought, and it’s still not quite clear how big it is, either in population or geographically. Among its inhabitants are people similar to the Walker family, dealing with the fallout of loved ones’ deaths and the Rising. It’s easy to imagine another version of In the Flesh that has Freddie as its main character, just as there are probably several other people–perhaps ones that haven’t even been introduced on the show–whose trials and tribulations would hold equal weight. Freddie’s story is a vaguely familiar one (as far as stories involving dead people coming back to life and trying to re-establish connections with former wives go) that puts him into the position of displaced-but-not-forgotten lover. In stories that feature one partner in a couple returning after the other partner has moved on, we’re usually left to watch a rather sad and pathetic story unfold and crumble. Those aspects are certainly here with Freddie, but the more complicated aspect is that the writers choose the less common route by having Haley still experience those older feelings for Freddie (note: this is the first episode of In the Flesh not written by its creator, Dominic Mitchell; Ryan and Jackson do a wonderful job with this script, especially with Freddie’s scenes). She eventually comes to the realization that the person she is now is vastly different from the person she was when she married Freddie, but the journey that the episode takes to get there is sublimely beautiful. When Freddie and Haley reminisce or when Freddie makes appeals that seem to be working on Haley, it’s far too difficult not to smile a heartwarming smile with the hope that these two can be happy in some way. As soon as we see Freddie take off his watch, though, we know where the episode is going, and yet that doesn’t make it any less difficult to watch Freddie urge Haley to attack and possibly kill him once he goes into his untreated state. Even though we’ve seen Freddie prior to this episode, “Episode 3” is really the first time he gets any noteworthy material, and the fact that having just one portion of the hour dedicated to him allows for a story that feels complete and effective is the most impressive success of this episode.
That, however, is not meant to take away from the striking power of the episode’s final scene, in which Kieren kisses Simon. If I have a major complaint about season two of In the Flesh so far, it’s that the reverberations of Rick’s death from last season haven’t been palpable enough. It’s unreasonable, maybe, to ask for Kieren to be totally depressed all that time–and that would certainly make him far less engaging. But it hardly feels like Rick’s absence is a presence right now, which is odd considering the gravity of those events. That said, I think it’s a good decision to give Kieren a new love interest, and Simon, being one of this season’s most attractive personalities, is a perfect fit. Each has a lot to offer the other in terms of their attitudes towards being PDS sufferers and their attitudes towards other people’s attitudes towards PDS sufferers. Unfortunately, the narrative baggage that comes with that is Amy, and I’m not particularly looking forward to seeing how she deals with knowing that Simon has more romantic feelings for Kieren than he does for her, but we’ll get to that when the show does.
For now, I’m still invested in using Amy as part of Philip’s story, because that’s also kind of sad and pathetic in a sweet way. There’s not much advancement in this episode other than Amy being aware that Philip is taking the time to make life easier for her (so he thinks), but that might be enough. Jem and Gary, however, don’t make a pairing that feels natural or one that would have longevity. To use Gary as a means of backtracking on the progress Jem has made is almost annoying, actually, and unlike Maxine–who is a character I thoroughly dislike because she’s so good as being unlikable–Gary is a shoddy antagonist who lacks the kinds of qualities we can sympathize with or even understand. He’s mostly just an asshole, and that worked fine for some characters in the first season who just got to be cronies, basically; but if he’s being built around Jem and as a more substantial character, his motivations either need to be more clear or less purely reprehensible (mostly the latter).
“Episode 3” also explains the First Risen a little bit further, or else I wasn’t paying attention enough to understand that the First Risen isn’t a group of people from Roarton but one person. Given that Kieren is our main character, he seems to be the most likely candidate, but I could see this being an American Horror Story: Coven situation where there are several people who would make sense, theoretically. More on that next week, I’m sure. At the end of the day, “Episode 3” still delivers a fine hour of television and hits the halfway point for a solid second season of In the Flesh.
– Sean Colletti