Everything comes full circle in the season 1 finale of In the Flesh. Episode 1 ends with Bill Macy pointing his gun at Maggie Burton, a harmless old woman and PDS sufferer, and pulling the trigger. Appeals to his humanity don’t sway him, but he does have Maggie take out her contacts so that he can see that she’s partially deceased while he shoots her.
Episode 2 ends with Bill’s son Rick Macy pointing a gun at 2 feral PDS sufferers, and then at Kieren, when Kieren steps in front of the gun to stop the unjust killing. Rick refuses to admit that he’s a PDS sufferer, but he does respond to appeals to his humanity. He gives up when Kieren takes out one contact to remind Rick that the feral zombies are the same as Kieren.
Episode 3 ends with a third person looking down the barrel of a gun, but this one knows he’s on the side of justice, and doesn’t hesitate to fire.
There are several moments of truth in episode 3. Bill decides that Rick must redeem himself by killing Kieren, who he says is a disgusting, evil rotter. Rick decides to prove to his father that PDS sufferers aren’t evil by forcing Bill to face that his son is one. Bill draws the opposite conclusion from this.
When Kieren and Janet discover that Rick is gone, they force Bill to face what he’s done to his son. He finally understands the blood he has on his hands.
The entire Walker family also finally manage to communicate honestly with each other, and especially with Kieren. Kieren finds out how much his death hurt the people he left behind.
Amy and Philip spend the night together, but then Philip gets embarrassed in the morning and insults Amy before he leaves her house. After Philip leaves, Gary forces his way in and creepily sexually harasses Amy into wearing her mousse and contacts again. Since Amy lives alone, she decides to go live in one of the Undead Prophet’s communes.
The human boys get angry and blame the zombie when they find themselves attracted to a partially deceased girl (or boy). It’s akin to trying to beat the gay out of themselves by beating up someone else. Bill wants to kill the gay and the dead in Rick by making him kill Kieran.
But who wouldn’t find Amy and Kieran attractive? They’re gorgeous, interesting people, and there’s no one else like them in Roarton.
Bill is a hateful, violent old man, but Gary is poised to take his father figure’s hate and murder one step further. His violation of Amy was distinctly rapey, after he’d made sexually humiliating jokes about her and Kieran at the pub the night before. He likes to attack and humiliate the person and their body, not just get rid of the rotter. Bill’s attacks all come out of hate. Gary’s come from enjoying watching people suffer pain and humiliation.
The beginning of Episode 3 finds Sue and Steve on the couch, after they’ve waited up all night for Kieren to come home. Steve is worried out of his mind and wants to call Shirley, but Sue talks him out of it. If they call Shirley, the treatment center will get involved, and they’ll take Kieren away again. Steve says that he can’t bear to lose him again.
Kieren is walking home from the cave after the capture of the feral zombies. The HVF trucks drive past him without acknowledging him. Rick is with his father. When Bill and Rick get home, Bill jumps out of his truck and is livid. He furiously yells at Rick that Rick embarrassed him and was insubordinate. Kieren can’t be allowed to win. He’s got to be gotten rid of, and Rick has to be the one to do it.
Bill refers to Amy as Kieren’s girlfriend, but he also sets up the murder of Kieren as the ultimate test of Rick’s loyalty. He knows what Rick and Kieren actually are to each other, somewhere inside.
Amy and Philip get dressed after spending the night together. Amy looks vulnerable, but remains polite and cheery. She offers Philip some aspirin for his hangover. Philip has to leave for a council meeting, and with that thought, the regrets set in and the insults start flying. He realizes that he could lose his job for sleeping with a rotter, and threateningly tells Amy not to tell anyone about what happened.
As Philip’s leaving, he runs into his mom, Shirley, coming up the front walk. They both lie about why they’re at Amy’s house, but neither is fooled. Philips says he’s doing outreach. “Partially deceased face-to-face relations.” Then he zips up his fly. Shirley says, with a totally straight face, “We’re having pork tonight. You like pork, don’t you, love?” Philip says he does, also with a straight face, as he’s running away from his mother.
I want a Shirley and Philip spin-off show.
There’s a large outdoor holding pen/cage next door to Bill’s house that must have been used when they started rounding up zombies instead of shooting them. Or rounding them up to shoot them. Gary brings Dean there, then tricks him into the cage. They’re quarantining Dean because he got bit the night before, just to make sure he doesn’t turn. Dean points out that Kieren said he wouldn’t turn, but Gary figures that’s all part of a plot by rotters to stick together.
It’s 4 YEARS after The Rising and they still haven’t bothered to learn the actual rules of the game. If PDS has been studied extensively enough to develop a cure and resettle survivors in the community, this kind of information has to be readily available. But it might require enough reading skills to find a Youtube video. I’m not sure either of these two are that smart.
I’m not going to feel sorry for Dean, though. He stood there and watched Bill shoot Maggie, then only wanted to save the ferals because they were worth money.
Kieren walks by the grocery store that has been haunting his nightmares and flashbacks. He decides to go in and confront his memories in the place where he killed Lisa. His mousse has almost all worn off and he only has one contact in. The scene flashes between the new memories that he finds from being in the place where it happened, and the present day.
Being in the place where it happened stimulates Kieren to remember more. He discovers that Jem was at the store with Lisa that day. She shot all of the other zombies, but when she found him and Amy eating Lisa, she couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger.
Kieren finally goes home, where his parents have fallen asleep on the couch. He goes into Jem’s room and startles her awake. She wakes up and sits up, drawing and pointing her gun at him in one motion as smooth as any cowboy or action hero.
Kieren tells her that he has flashbacks from the time when he was feral. He remembers Jem being at the store when he killed Lisa. He says that he won’t make excuses for killing her.
Jem asks if he remembers what she did. He does. She asks how it feels to remember to remember his feral state and what he did.
Kieren: “It feels awful. I’m not one of those people who thinks what we did was alright because it was necessary for our survival, or that we were somehow an advanced species, so killing the living doesn’t count. It does count. I did kill her. And all I can say is that I would have done anything to have stopped it.”
Jem: “So you think I’m a coward.”
Jem has been wracked with guilt for years because she couldn’t shoot her brother, “rabid rotter or not.” Instead, she lied and told everyone that she’d run out of bullets. She feels like a fake and a liar.
Kieren says that he’s glad she didn’t kill him. She asks if he really is, and he says yes, he really is.
That’s a major turnaround for him. How much is because Rick is back, and how much is because of Amy and Jem? At first I thought that the dual-natured eyes symbolized the way he was being torn in two, like Rick. At this point, it seems like he’s come to terms with both sides of himself, the person he was before he died and the person he is now. One eye color for each perspective that Kieren automatically sees.
Kieren says that he’s going to talk to Lisa’s parents. He going to try to bring them some peace. Jem says to wait for her, so she can go with him.
Bill is teaching Rick how to murder his boyfriend. Rick is going along with the lessons. Janet is disturbed, but silently does the dishes and makes lunch. That’s her role in the family.
Bill moves on to creating justifications for Rick to give for the murder, and shoring up his motivation. When Rick isn’t as enthusiastic as Bill would like, Bill mocks him as a weakling and unmanly, then threatens him with God’s disapproval.
When Bill can’t find his cigarettes, Rick jumps at the chance to escape his father for a minute. He stops to borrow some change from his mom. Janet silently understands that it’s so he can call Kieren from outside the house to warn him that they’re coming for him, and gives Rick the money. They’ve been a team, surviving Bill’s abuse together, for a long time.
But neither of them ever says a word in protest to him. Did he beat the disagreement out of them early on?
Rick stops at the phone booth next to the grocery store. The handset for the Walker’s phone is missing, so his call goes to voicemail.
“Hey, Ren, it’s me. You’re in danger… So please, please, if you see me or my dad coming, just run. Please, Ren, stay away. Ren, about last night… I really-“
He runs out of time and coins, and can’t finish the message.
Sue tries to stop Kieren and Jem from going out again, because it’s so dangerous. Between the distraction of the phone ringing and Jem saying she has her gun, they manage to get out. As they walk past the garage, we can see that “PDS” has been painted on the door in 6 foot letters.
Bill calls the vicar and asks him to give a barnstormer of a sermon this morning, about doing your duty, no matter what, to convince Rick to complete his mission. Janet interrupts the phone call to tell him that Philip is “painting something” on the garage door. Bill actually takes his loaded rifle outside with him to talk to Philip.
Philip is painting PDS on the door. The council met secretly that morning, and decided that all houses with PDS sufferers inside must be identified. He shows Bill the official decision. Bill takes the letter and fires his gun in the air. Philip runs. Rick comes back, and Bill tells him to get ready for church.
Bill didn’t deny there was a PDS sufferer in the house.
Jem asks Duncan and Patty to skip church. They show Kieren and Jem their latest missing posters. Kieren tries to explain that he killed Lisa, but her parents believe the mythology that they’ve seen in the movies. They thank him for saving the ferals from the patrol, because now if the patrol find Lisa in her feral state, she’ll be safe, too.
Kieren tries again to explain that his bite isn’t contagious, and only the people who died in 2009 came back, but Duncan and Patty believe that Lisa was bitten, came back, and is wandering the woods, because that’s what they’ve seen in all of the films. That’s what gives them the most hope. Jem convinces Kieren to let them believe what they want, rather than taking their hope away.
Dean is a diabetic and starts calling to passersby, asking them to bring him something to eat. They’ve all heard the story that he’s been bitten, and refuse to help. Or maybe they hate him for their own reasons.
Vicar Oddie spews the usual hate from the pulpit. When he talks to Bill afterward, he sows some seeds of doubt.
Vicar: “For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible.’ There will be a second rising coming, Bill. When the first risen have been judged, a second resurrection will be upon us. But this time, the Lord will bring back the proper, the righteous, the true souls, that we miss so dearly.”
Bill: “It’s the same old Rick, I can promise you that.”
So, here we get another explanation for all of the hate toward the Risen. Everyone whose relatively recently dead loved ones didn’t return, is envious, and confused as to why their loved ones weren’t among the chosen. Now the rumors are starting that this is just a first, imperfect round, a test case. God will send the real, perfect souls back soon, in perfect bodies, instead of the partially deceased bodies the returned have now.
Like Bill, the Vicar is fine with zombies, as long as they’re his zombies. He’s put the idea in Bill’s head that this isn’t the real Rick, it’s a demon wearing Rick’s form. The real Rick will come back with the second, better, rising.
Amy is still in her robe and watching Undead Prophet videos when Gary pounds on the door. He says he has to mark her door. She tells him to go ahead, and shuts her front door. After a minute, Gary appears in her bedroom door.
He won’t tolerate her going without her mousse and contacts. He grabs her, wrestles with her on her bed, holds her by the hair, smears lipstick and mousse all over her face, and pushes her away. He tells her, “In this village, you cover up your rotten face, got it?”
He’s seething with anger the entire time. He tells her that she’s an affront to war heroes, like him. Invading her home and bedroom, intimidating, humiliating and assaulting her are hardly heroic.
Jem offers to share her drink with Kieren as they walk home. He reminds her that he can’t have fluids, and she accepts it easily. Finally, someone who can handle the truth.
She thanks him for leaving Lisa’s parents with some hope and says he was brave for going in there. He says that he’s taken enough from them, and he didn’t feel brave. Jem says that he’s always been brave. She says that people think she’s tough. Kieren doesn’t think of her that way, because she’ll always be his little sister. She says that he’s the younger one now, because he’s technically still 18, and she’s almost 19.
They see Amy at the train stop, waiting with a suitcase. Jem leaves Kieren to go talk to her. She’s wearing her mousse and contacts again, and headed off to live in a commune with the Undead Prophet. She doesn’t think normal society will ever accept them, so they should make their own places where they can be safe together. The Undead Prophet is helping to answer the big questions about their existence.
Amy tries to convince him to come with her, but Kieren has too many connections to leave Roarton. Yet. She asks if this is about Rick, who she didn’t like much. Kieren says that most of that is an act Rick puts on for his dad. He thinks Rick will eventually change.
Amy: “You’re such a soppy optimist.”
Kiren: “Optimist? Amy, I killed myself.”
Amy: “Okay, so you’re an optimist with depressive tendencies.”
She explains that, while Kieren has a family, she has no one, no back up. She needs something like that, which a commune can give her. Kieren worries about how she’ll get her shots, but Amy says that the Prophet has a large stockpile of the medication.
They hug for a long time. She promises to be back, especially for their wedding, 😏 then gets on the train.
Shirley, the queen of the undead caregivers, has gathered the mothers, and possibly wives, of Roarton’s PDS sufferers in a group therapy session. I count 6 caregivers in attendance, so that would have been a minimum of 8 partially deceased residents of Roarton, before Maggie was murdered and Amy was driven out. Both Sue and Janet are there.
The first person to speak is the mother of a teenage PDS sufferer named Henry, who’s disturbed about the, ahem, fan mail, her son’s been getting. Philip and Gary aren’t the only ones to find PDS sufferers strangely attractive. Some people have turned the fetish into an obsession.
Shirley has barely finished announcing that the group is a safe place and what’s said in group, stays in group, before Henry’s mother is reading one of the letters:
Dear undead love God,
I want to feel your cold dead hands all over my warm, silky bodice. I want you to bite me deep, you horny corpse.
That was quite an icebreaker. At least the mums know their kids won’t have trouble finding dates or be alone forever. 😚 Barbara needs to take up writing PDS/living romance novels.
Shirley says that Barbara is very misinformed. Henry’s mother says that’s not the point, but I’d really like to know what Shirl’s referring to. Sexual interest? Sexual function, particularly for males? Body temperature? Maybe she just means that they’re room temperature, instead of just-out-of-the-grave cold. I need Shirley to give a class on the new physiology of PDS patients, stat.
Shirley moves the group on, asking Sue how she feels. Sue says, “How do I feel? How am I feeling? Well, one minute, I’m just so happy he’s back. And the next, I’m filled with anger. And a minute later, I’m in the bathroom, bawling my eyes out, so quite honestly, I can’t keep up.” Shirley notes that Sue’s reaction is common.
Shirley asks about Sue’s anger with Kieren.
Sue: “When Kieren… left, my family… um, my family went into free fall. Jemima became this white hot ball of rage that I couldn’t reason with. And Steve… You know there’s that joke that the best husband is a mute husband? But the reality of watching someone who you’ve known and loved for so long just, um, just shutting down in front of you, is awful. And at its worst point with both of them, I blamed Kieren. I was just so bloody mad with him. And that is a horrible way to feel about someone, especially your only son.”
Janet: “I felt exactly the same way, Sue. But more fear than anger. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when Rick came back, I was scared of him. Scared of my own flesh and blood.”
Janet finally speaks. Turns out, she’s bought into a lot of the same outdated ideas that are consuming Bill.
Back at the Macy house, Bill is training Rick to quickly subdue Kieren, then put a knife in the base of his skull. Once he’s convinced Rick is fast enough, he’s ready to go kill Rick’s lifelong best friend and love of his life. Rick goes into the bathroom to think. He covers the injured part of his face, so that he looks alive again for a moment. Then he begins to remove his mousse.
Janet: “The way Vicar Oddie put it, they’re all supposed to be possessed by the devil himself. Demons in disguise. I haven’t found that at all. My handsome man’s back. He’s different. He’s a bit different looking, but he’s still the same, deep down. You know how I know that? My Ricky, he’s a good boy.”
Rick returns to the living room and his father, and for the first time there’s nothing hiding what he really is. He tells Bill that he doesn’t want to kill Kieren, his best mate. “If Ren’s evil, Dad, then so am I.”
Bill says that he understands. “You’re trapped, aren’t you? You know something’s not right, and you want out.” Rick is crying and shaking his head “yes”, thinking his father finally sees, and maybe accepts, the real him.
Bill pulls Rick into a hug. It’s perilously close to the hold he taught Rick to use when he wanted to stab a rotter in the base of the skull. Bill tells Rick that it will be alright.
Jem takes down her trophy hunting/rotter hunting photos, takes off her HVF uniform, and returns to life as a normal person. Bill paints over the PDS mark on his garage door, throws some stuff away, and pulls back out the box of memorials to Rick. Jem puts her gun away in the shed.
The lost phone handset is in there. Jem listens to Rick’s last message. She races out, searching for Kieren. Kieren is out wandering around. Bill Macy drives by, headed toward the Walkers’ house.
When Janet gets home, Bill is drinking a beer and watching the game, as if nothing has happened. She pretends to have been at a church committee meeting. When she asks where Rick is, Bill totally gaslights her, pretending that he hasn’t seen Rick since he shipped off to Afghanistan 5 years ago.
Kieren comes home to find Rick’s body, with the knife still in it, leaned up against the garage. He closes Rick’s eyes, whispers something inaudible in Rick’s ear, and pulls the hunting knife out of Rick’s neck. Then he sets off on a hunt of his own. Jem comes back just as he’s leaving the driveway, but he ignores her. She sees Rick, and runs inside to Sue. Ken watches the whole thing from his living room chair.
Bill is watching the game, while Janet is watching Bill in confusion, when Kieren storms in. Bill tells Kieren that he’s barred from the house because he’s an animal. Kieren replies that he was barred from the house 8 years ago for making Rick a mix CD.
Music being too girly for Bill.
Bill tells Kieren to get out, because when Rick comes back, he’ll still be banned. Kieren asks what Bill is talking about. Bill says, “The next resurrection. But this time, only the good dead are gonna come up. The right dead, not imposters like you and that thing.”
Kieren tells Bill that his real son came back, showed Bill his real self, and Bill killed him for it. Bill says he got rid of an imposter. The real Rick would never have stuck up for Kieren like that. Rick wasn’t like Kieren, the way the imposter was.
Kieren yells that yes, Rick was like him, and he was only coming back once. It was a gift, and Bill ruined it. He murdered his own son.
Janet has been slowly taking this all in, and it finally sinks in that Rick is really dead again. She starts screaming, “No, no, no!” Bill grabs her and yells at Kieren for upsetting her. Kieren says she should be upset, her son was just murdered. Bill tries to explain to Janet that Vicar Oddie says Rick will come back during the second Rising, after Bill judges the rest of the current lot, and gets rid of them.
Janet grabs the knife from the arm of the chair, where Kieren buried it when he entered the room, and slashes at Bill. She chants, “You killed Rick,” as she cuts. Bill’s hands are sliced as he reaches them out to stop her,
Something about seeing the literal blood on his hands and his quiet, undemanding wife trying to kill him while finally speaking the truth, gets through to Bill. He understands that he’s killed the real, one and only, Rick. Kieren holds Janet as she collapses, both of them crying together.
Bill stumbles outside, into the driveway, babbling about what he’s done to Rick. Suddenly, he’s shot in the chest, and falls down, dead. Ken Burton looks at Bill’s body for a moment, then walks away. Dean is still in the cage. He tells Ken he won’t say anything. I don’t think Ken cares. He just put down a guy who was on a murder rampage. He considers shooting Dean, but decides not to waste the ammo.
Janet and Kieren rush outside. Janet kneels down next to her husband, softly saying that someone should get him help. She’s having a really bad day. Kieren just leaves…
Now that all of the shouting is done, he’s in the same place as he was when Rick died the first time. He walks until he comes to the cave where they spent time together. There’s graffiti next to the door: “Beware Rotters”. Kieren slowly walks in.
Steve and Jem wait at home for Kieren. Steve is silent and looks gutted. Jem tells him not to worry, Kieren wouldn’t leave them again. Steve puts his head in his hands.
Kieren sits in the cave, in candlelight, facing the spot where he and Rick wrote on the wall: REN+RICK 4-EVER. Someone enters the cave, but he can’t tell who. He thinks it’s the ghost of Lisa again, but it’s Sue. They fuss that they’ve each almost given the other one a heart attack.
Sue asks what the H–l he’s doing there? He says that he didn’t know what to do, and he just started running. He needed to be in the cave, where he and Rick used to meet. He wasn’t gonna… He bursts into tears.
Sue: “I’m so sorry about what happened to him, Love.”
Kieren: “I think I got him killed.”
Sue: “No, you didn’t.”
Kieren: “He stuck up for me, and Bill…”
Sue: “Yeah, Bill. That’s right, Bill. Bill killed him. Not you. Bill.”
Kieren: “Christ, Mom, it’s becoming just like it was before, and I don’t know how to change it.”
Sue: “I’ll tell you how to change it. This time, you live. You don’t leave. You stay. ”
Kieren: “You want me to stay? When I’m like this?”
Sue: “Yes. My God, Kieren. I’d love you with all my heart if you came back as a goldfish! I know how it feels, to lose someone.”
Sue tells Kieren the story of how she met Steve. She’d had a different boyfriend, who she’d thought she would marry, but he left her for her best friend. She quit college, came home, and decided to end it all.
She went to the late night chemist, but the cashier could tell what she had planned and refused to serve her. She burst into tears, right there in the store. This kind fellow took her in the back, made her a cup of tea, and listened to her while she talked for hours. He made her laugh, too.
Sometimes she wishes Steve would talk more, especially about real stuff instead of films and weather, but he’s there when you need him. He’d love to talk to Kieren about the real stuff, too. Kieren asks where Steve is. Sue says he’s at home having a nervous breakdown. He can’t bring himself to come to the cave.
When Sue and Kieren get home, Jem and Steve are still on the couch, worried sick. Steve tries to put a good face on it, but Kieren wants him to express his real feelings, not pretend everything is okay. He pushes Steve through his mask of polite discomfort with Kieren’s most recent disappearance, into his memories of searching for and finding Kieren 4 years ago. He wants Steve to make him understand how much he hurt the family when he left them so suddenly.
Steve (very emotionally): “Because I was worried sick. You just go out, don’t tell anyone where you’re going. No contact for days. Jem thinks she knows where you might be and she tells me. So I put on me jacket, I grab a torch, and I go up in the woods. And I get there. Get to the cave. And there you are. You’re sitting down. You’re leaning on a rock. And I think, ‘Thank God, he’s okay. He’s okay.’ Then I get close. I see that Swiss Army knife I got you for your birthday. You’re covered in blood. There’s so much blood. I take you in me arms. I run with you in my arms. And I run and I run and I run. But it’s… I can’t, because you’re… It’s too late. Oh Jesus, son.”
Steve ends his story openly weeping, with his arms held out in front of him, as if he’s still carrying Kieren back from the cave. But his arms are empty, and he thought they’d be empty forever. Kieren has been gutted by this story, too. He moves forward and fills up his dad’s arms, finally. They hold each other as closely and tightly as they possibly can.
Kieren walks to Rick’s funeral. He and Steve are pallbearers. After the funeral, Kieren watches as Rick’s grave is filled. Bill will be buried nearby. Rick is allowed to be buried in the cemetery, rather than disposed of as a rotter.
Let’s applaud Shirley for her group therapy session. It was too late for Janet to be a better mother for Rick, but it allowed her to have a moment to share her happiness with her community before it fell apart. Then it gave her the confidence to attack Bill, which is what got through to him that he’d murdered his actual son, not an imposter. He died knowing he’d murdered all of those people who could have been saved.
And group therapy opened up the floodgates of emotion and good sense that Sue had been bottling up for fear of rocking the boat and making things worse again. Shirley and the others helped her finally understand that Kieren was still just him, and she could talk to him like her son.
With her added experience of getting Steve and Jem through the crises of Kieren’s death and The Rising, she’s actually much more effective at helping him now. We’ve seen her do that with Jem, but she hasn’t known how to get started with Kieren, since his death felt like a huge rejection. Talking in therapy about how bad it was right after Kieren died made her determined that they weren’t going back to that place. It motivated her to go find Kieren and help him work through Rick’s death this time.
Then Kieren pushes Steve to tell his story and express his feelings. Finally, the air is clear between all of them. Kieren knows how much they love him and that they don’t judge him. Now they understand what happened to him. The tiptoeing around that Sue and Steve have done since Kieren came home has really been because they don’t want anything to rock the boat and upset any part of the family. They’ve had a delicate balance going, between Jem’s anger, Steve’s depression, Sue’s fear, and Kieren as an unknown quantity that could possibly turn out to be a land mine.
In the funeral scene, we see one father-son pair who were brought back together by a strong mother, while the other is buried after the father killed the son. Sue wouldn’t let Kieren and Steve continue to circle each other without saying how they really felt about what happened and each other. She knew Kieren needed to hear it, and Steve needed to say it. They not only live, they become truly close again.
On the other hand, in the Macy home, only one person is allowed to express opinions or make decisions. When the power that Bill has gathered during the war is threatened, he becomes more violent in an attempt to maintain his power, aided by the vicar, who is also trying to hold on to his increased influence. Everyone in town is in danger, if they get in Bill’s way.
He doesn’t ever turn his wrath on Janet, but she is possibly the worst enabler I’ve ever scene. She rarely speaks and she does what she’s told, when she’s told to do it. She seems “nice” on the surface, but she doesn’t even warn Bill’s target’s that he’s coming. She sits in group therapy with Sue and doesn’t tell her that Bill is planning to kill Kieren. Even when she’s just found out that Bill murdered Rick, she still gets up and gets him a beer.
Rick isn’t the enabler that his mother is, but he’s been raised with the brand of toxic masculinity that believes anger and hatred are the only acceptable emotions. Lip service is given to protection, but it’s really an excuse to harm others. Homophobia and misogyny are the rule. And he’s been raised to believe the patriarchy, especially respecting your father, is everything. He’s been taught by both parents that his father’s word is law. That was probably violently physically enforced when Rick was small.
So he has no support at home to disagree with his father on the smallest matters or to be the bearer of bad news. Before he died, Rick probably couldn’t even begin to figure out how to bring up being gay. Bill knew, of course, because parents know their kids, but he tried to “train the gay away” by forcing Rick to be more and more macho.
Then Kieren and Rick came back marked, so Bill couldn’t ignore what they were. Yet, Rick still listens to his father most of the time. He still allows his father to treat Kieren badly most of the time. He didn’t even dare stay away from home for more than a few minutes, when he went to the phone booth to try to warn Kieren. Why not grab Kieren and some Neurotriptyline and go on a road trip for a few days, until Bill cools off? Or move into Kieren’s house, or Amy’s? Or at least drive through the village until he found Kieren and made sure he got the warning? Because his parents taught him that Bill will always win.
Eventually, Bill goes too far, and Rick finally stands up to his father. But he made the mistake of trying to talk to his father like a human being, when all Bill understood was violence and force.
We have our second father-son “heart-to-heart”, followed by a big hug. But this one ends in tragedy. Everything Bill said and did was a trap to lure Rick in so that he could kill him easily. Bill was an abusive tyrant at home, and I suspect an alcoholic. He was a violent tyrant in the village. But no one would stop him. The PDS sufferers were left to defend themselves, even when he pulled people out of their beds and shot them in the street.
So, eventually, Ken, the husband of one of Bill’s victims, notices that the casualties are continuing to add up, and puts a stop to the murder himself. It’s too bad he didn’t do it before Rick was dead, but he may not have seen it coming. And he may have felt like Janet didn’t deserve to keep her son, when his wife was dead.
Either way, Sue and Steve opened their hearts, and the Walker family is healing. The Macys kept their hearts closed until it was too late, and they are destroyed.
The literal writing on the wall that says REN + RICK 4-EVER should take away any doubts anyone might have had, as to whether they were openly romantic with each other. Then there’s the discussion in the car about whether they were still going or broken up. You just don’t talk about a friendship, even a romantic friendship, the same way.
Rick likely still had freakouts and doubts, and he let himself be pushed into the military by Bill, but he and Kieren were a thing. I suspect Rick was capable of doing the same thing that we saw Bill do. One minute he’s honest and speaks truth, the next he’s in a complete fantasy world and doesn’t seem to know what’s real and what isn’t. So their relationship was probably always volatile.
Kieren also said that they “messed around” with each other in the cave the night before Rick left for basic training. “Messing around” has a few meanings, but in this context, it generally refers to sexual activity, especially when we’re talking about a drunk teenage couple, alone together in their secret meeting spot, which is filled with candles, who are engaged in a forbidden romance.
What did Kieren whisper in Rick’s ear? I think it was basically, “I love you and I will avenge your death.” Kieren is too good to say, “I told you to stop listening to your psychotic father.” He might have said, “We’ll be together again someday.” Maybe he asked Rick’s ghost to stay near him this time.
For whatever reasons of his own, in interviews toward the end of season 2, Dominic Mitchell bizarrely tried to retcon Rick and Ren into being friends who never got to the point of being a couple. He was playing up the importance of the events of season 2 at the time, but there was no reason to negate some of the most important facts of season 1 to do it.
To say that Rick and Ren weren’t a thing makes season 1 nonsensical. Why would they write Rick+Ren 4-Ever on the cave wall, where anyone could see it, if they didn’t have strong, declared, romantic feelings? Why would Kieren kill himself over a friend and unrequited love? Why include Sue’s story of the first boyfriend she thought she’d marry, which then led her to meet her actual husband?
Why imply so strongly that Rick was running away from the combination of his relationship with Kieren and his relationship with Bill? The story loses some power if Rick is totally closeted and so guilty that he’s not physically open to Kieren at all, because then Bill has no evidence that he’s gay. What gives the story power is having Bill see his big, strong son show signs of being just like the artsy gay boy, who Bill can’t stand, and have Rick want to spend his time with that boy. Bill needs to see signs, like the mix CD, that the relationship is more than it “should” be.
It’s not made 100% certain in season 1 that Kieren and Rick are a couple with physical experience, since many of the details of their relationship are left for us to guess. But they were exchanging music, meeting in a secluded place, by the light of about a hundred candles, where, on the wall, they’d written that they were forever. When the parents of one told him he couldn’t see the other, he joined the military and got himself killed. The other promptly joined him in death. If this were a boy and a girl, there would be no question about what they were doing in the cave.
I’m not even a big Rick and Ren shipper. I just hate that kind of inaccuracy and retconning.
Rick was a good first love, because they were all each other had, living in a small village. It made their relationship intense and the most important thing in their lives. They felt like no one else could understand them the way they understood each other.
But they didn’t actually have much in common and Rick actually treated Kieren badly. Really badly. The show went out of its way to make sure we realized how much Rick was like his father. Kieren can do much better now that he’s able to get out in the world.
Rick is a tragic figure, not just because of his deaths, but also because of his two lives. He eventually found courage in each life, but both times, it was too late to save himself. He’s a conformist who usually takes the easiest of the choices set in front of him, and only thinks about alternatives or the effects on other people when Kieren makes him. Kieren doesn’t need to spend his life being someone else’s conscience.
Janet raised Rick to do what Bill says, without complaint, and then sneak away quietly later to do whatever he really wants to do. That strategy works okay for a housewife who just wants to go to group therapy occasionally, but not for the gay son of a homophobe. Apparently Janet just stood by while Bill abused their son and harassed Kieren.
The more Bill suspected that his son might be gay, the harder he pushed him to uphold unrealistic macho standards. He was still using that strategy after Rick came home again, very pointedly jumping in and stearing the conversation toward girls or guns at the right time. He also extended its use to proving that Rick was really alive instead of partially deceased.
There’s always an implicit threat in these conversations, because he has both Rick and Janet conditioned to know what could happen if they do something he doesn’t like. Keep Daddy happy, or everyone will suffer.
Which leaves Rick torn in two, because part of him does want to live more openly and stand up to Bill, like Kieren does. But with Rick’s father, it would be suicidal. It eventually was.
The Vicar turns out to be the Biggest Bad of the town, the Lady MacBeth who whispers in Bill’s ear and keeps him fired up to kill. Bill was horrible and deserved to die. He might have even eventually killed Rick on his own without the vicar’s encouragement. But Bill might have come around to living with some sort of double standard, or Rick and Kieren might have gotten away, if the Vicar hadn’t given Bill the idea that this Rick was disposable. And Vicar Oddie was cunning enough to do it where no one else could hear, so no one knows the full part he played in the tragedy.
Just like they don’t know that he was the one who sent Bill out to kill Maggie. Would Ken kill the Vicar, too, if he knew Oddie’s role as puppetmaster in both deaths? Or would Oddie’s status as a Man of the Cloth protect him? Until this episode, Oddie and Macy seemed like equal partners, the head and the hands. This episode made it clear that, while both were fanatics who left sanity behind long ago, the head was manipulating the hands into outright evil actions.
Lisa was Kieren’s last kill, that’s been explicitly stated multiple times. So Jem leaving him alive didn’t allow him to go kill others. She just didn’t execute him, vigilante-style, for the kills he’d already made. But at that the time, she didn’t know that’s how it would turn out. He could have killed another dozen of her friends and neighbors, while she watched.
This is why the small towns were so angry that the professional military ignored them. It’s very difficult for people to kill their own, especially lost loved ones who’ve returned, and who are in many ways helpless when they aren’t killing. This is why they were eventually rounded up and quarantined instead of exterminated.
As we’ve seen, once the first wave of The Rising was over, they were left with a finite number of slow-moving, non-contagious zombies who had virtually no ability to strategize. It was only people’s tendency toward fear, panic and ignoring emergency instructions that made them difficult to catch. A partner, thick clothing, any kind of sports helmet, and some netting are enough protection and weaponry to catch them.
If you have Amazon Prime, episode one of the series Lore, They Made a Tonic, does an excellent job of showing how the 19th century fear of those accidentally buried alive evolved into a fear of and belief in vampires by the END of the century. We all say we don’t believe in zombies, but a state that’s eerily similar to zombism can be brought on by chemicals, mental illness, torture or societal conditioning.
From there, it’s easy for any cult leader to direct their unthinking followers, whether they have one follower or millions, into doing whatever the leader wants, slowly grooming them into doing the unthinkable, if they won’t do it immediately. Zombies aren’t really all that fictional, which is of course why they’re so popular.
Images courtesy of BBCAmerica.