Amidst its usual tales of oppression, self-hatred, and the poor treatment of veterans, In the Flesh told a love story this week—a wistful love story that wonders if we can ever really reclaim our past relationships and whether she should even try to.
In the Flesh takes some time away from its regular players this week to focus on a different story happening in Roarton: the story of Freddie and Haley. Fun-loving Freddie rose from the dead to find that his wife, Haley, is now living with a new beau, the very responsible Amir. Ever since he returned from the treatment center, Freddie has stayed with Haley and Amir, haunting his former life. It's a haunting that Haley isn't quite ready to give up. Sure, she'll tell him to stop watching their wedding video, but in the next moment, she's sitting on the couch watching along with him. He reminds her of more carefree, youthful times, and surrendering him means fully accepting the adult world with Amir, briefcases as presents, and a birthday spent in a data management course instead of out on the town.
Freddie has been having a lot of trouble moving on with his undeath. He doesn't want to bond with the other PDS sufferers, doesn't understand why he has to participate in the Give Back Scheme—after all, he's a business owner. But he's not just haunting his former life; he's haunted by it. Playing the ghost of relationships past is a whole lot less frightening than moving forward and finding out what he can make of his second chance.
In his way, Freddie is beginning to realize exactly what Simon is trying to preach to the other PDSers, just without the benefit of zombie church. That's part of why Simon dislikes the recovery centers; they want the redeemed to hide in plain sight, to return to their old lives as copies of the people they used to be. He wants them to acknowledge that they have been changed, and to see that change as something beautiful. But it seems more than merely philosophical; there is genuine religious conviction behind Simon's words—or at least, that's what we're led to believe. When Simon dampened a washcloth and asked who was going to wash off their makeup first, I half expected him to wash it off himself, like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
Kieren is less concerned with Simon's philosophy, however, than with his behavior as an undead human being. After their sparky moment by the campfire, Kieren feels that Simon has been leading Amy on, letting her believe that they're romantically involved when they're not. Simon's defense is that Amy needs to feel loved and so he shows her aromantic love—no more, no less. And Simon claims to have his concerns about Kieren as well. When the two find themselves working in the surgery as part of the Give Back Scheme, they learn that one of the staffers is mistreating the rabids, handling them like animals instead of like sick people. Simon wants to spring the rabids and treat them himself, which sounds like a terrible idea. When Kieren coaxes him into giving up the plan, Simon is furious, suggesting that Kieren isn't as promising a prospect as he hoped.
But what happens that night sways Kieren a bit more toward Simon's worldview. Haley meets Freddie in his workshop and this time, when he asks her to run away with him, she tells him that it's time for him to leave, time for both of them to let go of their relationship. It's a wonderful, mature moment; they both acknowledge that they've had a good run and that the future is frightening, but there are no hard feelings. They'll each always have the other in their hearts. But Freddie's chronic irresponsibility resurfaces in a disastrous way: he's forgotten to take his shot and he's about to go rabid. Unfortunately, the workshop door is jammed shut and Haley refuses to kill her childhood sweetheart.
Gary, Amir, and Kieren all come to the rescue, but they're not exactly in agreement about how to proceed. Yes, Gary saves the day when he manages to force to door open, but it's good guy Amir who brings Freddie's shot and Kieren who calms Freddie down long enough to administer it. Gary may shoot Freddie in the leg first, but he's ready to make a kill shot for no other reason than he's had a fucking terrible day. And Freddie's punishment for missing his shot is more than humiliation, more than terrifying the woman he's loved all his life; he is shipped off to a detention center and transported like, well, a dead body to boot. It's infuriating enough to send Kieren straight into Simon's arms.
Of course, Kieren doesn't know what happened with Gary that day—or with Jem, for that matter. Tortured by her killing of Henry, Jem confesses to Maxine, who really could not care less about a dead PDSer provided that PDSer wasn't the first risen in Roarton, the one who could, according to Undead Prophet dogma, bring about a second rising. Philip may be skeevy—forcing Amy to help him out around the office because he has a crush on her, happily participating in the oppression of the PDS sufferers even as he patronizes PDS prostitutes by night—but it's striking how heartless Maxine is next to Philip. She isn't cruel just toward PDS sufferers, either; she refuses to acknowledge Jem's overwhelming guilt and tells Henry's mother that her son has likely become a zombie terrorist. Maxine clearly has a job to get done, and she's not letting anything like pesky human emotions get in the way.
Gary, at least, seems genuinely interested in lifting the burden of guilt from Jem's shoulders, although he seems to want to absolve it rather than help her work through it. He tries to win her over with the very innocent gesture Henry never got to make, slipping the blocky "Jem" bracelet onto her wrist. Too bad Kieren already saw the bracelet in Henry's stoned little hands.
In the meantime, he's a bit busy making out with Simon, perhaps thinking he's found a little happiness in rotten Roarton. But is Simon genuinely interested in a romance with Kieren, or does he suspect that Kieren might be the mythical first risen?