TV world: zombie edition.

So… it’s no secret among my friends that I watch a ton of tv shows. Now that I’m out of school, for some reason, I’ve (ironically?) actually cut down on the number of shows I’m watching. I watch shows of various, various genres (sci-fi, fantasy, drama, comedy, foreign, period pieces, etc.) so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite and different shows I’ve watched in the last few years in a series of posts (tag: TV world)

For reference, the shows I’m currently watching that are new to me are: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Orphan Black (back on Saturday yo!), The Mindy Project, Skins (UK), Parenthood, Once Upon a Time, Parks and Recreation… and I think that’s it. I’ve also been rewatching House and Gilmore Girls in my spare time.

I haven’t had time or had the energy to track down some of the classics (mainly The Sopranos lol. I’ve watched the beginnings of The Wire, Twin Peaks, Oz and I’ll finish those in due time) so this list might be biased towards shows from the 2000’s-present.

I also have a post on my top shows that got cancelled prematurely, here, and I won’t mention those shows since I’ve already talked about them. But you should watch them all so you can join me in being angry that they didn’t get more tv time.

But let’s talk about zombies…

Zombies have always been this pop culture thing. I guess people have always been fascinated with the reanimation of the dead. I find the idea of zombies such a creepy and human concept. You see the idea of bringing the dead back to life throughout history and fiction (Frankenstein? vampires? and all that jazz) but zombies are different in that these “undead” aren’t actually human at all. They have no feelings… they tend to just walk (or run, depending on the story) and “eat.”

From my perspective, zombies came back into the pop culture limelight due to a series of well received zombie movie releases (e.g. I am Legend, Zombieland, World War Z) culminating in the success of The Walking Dead which seemed to just come out of no where and take over college kid conversations (I often overheard frat boys talking about how to zombie-proof their frat houses. I myself have also had that conversation with my roommate about our apartment complex).

I loved The Walking Dead from season 1-2 and while I did finish season 3, I was no longer really invested in the show to continue. However, I’ve heard season 4 was actually pretty good so I’m tempted to watch it once it finds its way onto Netflix streaming.

In the mean time, I’ve stumbled upon two other international zombie shows that are, in short, excellent.

1. In the Flesh (BBC, 1 Season/3 episodes, season 2 to return in the US on May 14)

I watched this during my last semester of undergrad since it was so short and I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be studying for midterms or something.

It’s a great show focusing on the events after the “The Rising” (aka the undead rising aka zombie apocalypse) in which a cure for “partially deceased syndrome (PDS)” (aka zombie disease) has been found where they are still dead and diseased, but have their memories back and are in control/conscious. The PDS patients or “rotters” (aka zombies) are gathered, treated and slowly released back into society, given that they’ll continue taking their meds. The protagonist is a teenage boy, Kieren, from a small (rural, even) and religious town. He returns home and events in his anti-“rotters” town unfolds as the series goes on. The show also deals with very human issues like love, homophobia, prejudice, suicide, etc.

The show has “typical” zombie elements in that if untreated, PDS patients become rabid and become what we’d normally think of as “zombies” and start eating people. Kieren also has to disguise his somewhat decayed appearance with cosmetics which I thought was a clever idea. Another thing I like about the show is that the PDS patients do remember bits and pieces of their time while rabid. I think Kieren has flashbacks of being rabid and suffers from what might be considered PTSD which I thought was an interesting element they brought into the show since we don’t normally sympathize with zombies. IDK there’s just something about this show that humbles me.

Also, I think it’s interesting that like The Walking Dead, the word “zombies” is never uttered… like “zombies” was never a concept in these fictional worlds. Instead, we get words like “walkers” and “rotters.”

What I enjoyed the most was that the perspective is from a teenager and his family and his town. You kind of grow to sympathize with many of the characters- like I honestly don’t know how I’d handle things in their situation. The acting is great. The actor who plays Kieren does a great job of reflecting what he’s feeling and making you feel similarly. The rest of the cast (his family, other rehabilitated patients, antagonists) are also great and mesh so well. They all have different philosophies and mannerisms and they inhabit those mannerisms so well.

The show is fairly fast paced and while the “zombies” are unsettling to look at, you quickly get used to it. There are a few twists, and a few really really sad scenes that just really resonate with you. It’s a pretty somber show which can get really bleak at times, but it’s so great and deals with human values and emotions while in the context of zombies. The Walking Dead focuses on the current battle against zombies while In the Flesh shows the aftermath- the rebuilding of society and the fact that we’re actually capable to banding together to defeat zombies.

It’s only three episodes long, so you really have nothing to lose 😉

The show is streaming on BBC iPlayer here or you can find my compilation of streams here.

2. Les Revenants or The Returned (Canal+, 1 Season/8 episodes, season 2 in the works, English adaptation in the works)

My friend, who’s even more of a tv junkie, recommended this show while I recommended her In the Flesh (lol), and I just got around to watching it. The two shows are actually mentioned under “See also” on their wikipedia pages. The series is apparently based on a film of the same name.

This French show takes a different approach to the undead. Rather than all the dead coming back to life, the show focuses on a few of the undead coming back to life in a particular small mountain town. These undead are seemingly physically fine and mentally conscious and don’t eat people (no blood or ripping of flesh yay!) But the show is utterly eerie and haunting and can get depressing to watch. It’s so serenely creepy. I think the music (by Mogwai, post-rock ftw) definitely sets the tone of the show and is fitting and beautiful (so beautiful that I went out and actually got it). All of the background music is wordless which adds this uncomfortable silence during scenes. But I love it. It really helps place you directly in the show like an observer of current events rather than watching something unfold from afar.

The show is nonlinear- you see past events that led to each featured zombies’s death interspersed with the present world (feels like present day) in which they “wake up” in. This season really reminds me of how Lost was formatted with one main person/family’s story per episode while giving us glimpses of what’s going on with the other characters. Also similar to Lost, some of these characters have met while still alive.

Main zombies range from a teenage girl, a mid-20’s groom, a little boy, and best of all, a serial killer, along with a few others. Each of these people died (in the same town) under different circumstances at different periods in time. And now they’re back, most of them looking for their loved ones and trying to reintegrate and remember what happened to them (most don’t remember everything about their deaths) as well as looking for a purpose. Like In the Flesh, Les Revenants also deals with very human elements like love, suicide, adolescence, religion, parenthood, etc. However, unlike In the Flesh, it’s a little slower paced and you don’t get that many answers, but how many answers did Lost provide and how long did we all watch that show? We watched until the end because it was that good- this show is like that… maybe even better.

It’s pretty uncensored and there was one scene that I especially found disturbing, but I love that it’s such an unabashed show (by American standards) and does a wonderful job of setting up the scenes. The subtitles don’t detract at all, and the acting is seriously superb, even the young actors who make up like half the cast– A+ casting. The show won an International Emmy (didn’t even know these existed) for Best Drama Series.

It’s more of a supernatural show with undead characters in it than a “zombie” show. There’s a dam that blocks this large lake above the town in the valley that broke and it’s all mysterious and supernatural but we don’t really know why or what happened. We don’t know how or why these people have returned and not others. There’re just a lot of questions that have been left unanswered in season 1 and I’m itching for season 2. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. So much suspense. It’s so, so good.

You can find it streaming on Netflix.

Happy watching and keep an eye out for the next post in this series! I’ll leave you with the this (wouldn’t get out of my head the entire time I was typing this up).


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