this tender heart is too strong to surrender
Okay I left this in my inbox for a few days mostly because I couldn’t determine my own feelings about this.
On the one hand, I can assure you that you aren’t the only one who gets second hand embarrassment over Simon during that time; I know people who can’t even watch that whole scene through because they get it so bad. I’m not really wired to feel embarrassment, so I don’t feel the same, but I do feel a lot of other things about that scene, for Simon.
How I feel, more than embarrassed, is sad, just crushingly sad for Simon. Here’s this guy who, for his entire first life, felt like there was nothing in life but waiting to die. His first life was, by his own admission, a lesson in how worthless everything was, just people milling around in misery until the day they could stop. At some point, Simon gave up. At some point Simon got so self-injurious in his actions (or lack of actions, possibly) that it killed him.
At that point, Simon was free. There was nothing.
And then he woke up six feet under, clawed his way out of the ground along with thousands of other people, and began a second life. I don’t think there’s anyone that would argue that’s “normal.”
By the time Simon comes back to himself, he wakes up in the treatment facility. They experiment on him, do horrible things to him in the name of making his second life mean something. He goes home, and the first attempt he makes at starting a “normal” life with his father, but from the gate that’s impossible because his mother’s blood is on his hands. He is forced out of the only place left that might have lead to normal.
So he’s out on his own, and he goes to find Julian, and folds himself into the cult as a follower. He becomes a leader, there, and the relationships he is able to form there are that of two sorts- shepherd and sheep (where Simon admittedly plays both roles depending on who he is speaking to), and the sort of relationship he has with Amy; just enough distance from her to not let it get too far out of hand either way. Even with Amy, there is a certain amount of molding himself to be what the situation calls for.
And then he meets Kieren. And Kieren, at every turn, tells him to cut it out, to stop pretending to be what Simon thinks Kieren needs and just be Simon. For his part, Simon initially attempts to be what he thinks is best for Kieren- he is sweet in the graveyard when they meet, soft-spoken and steady. He attempts to be someone Kieren can connect to, someone that Kieren will let lead him (showing that they both have scars, talking about how horrible life was and how he doesn’t feel that way [implying the ULA stopped it], laying his hand on Kieren’s to tell him he wants him there). When that doesn’t work, he even tries to back Kieren into a corner at the hospital by using him to distract the nurse while Simon steals the keys to the cage.
Simon finally gives up- he literally surrenders because he is at a loss. He has tried all the things he knows to be what Keiren wants/needs, and every time Kieren tells him he’s doing it wrong, because all Kieren wants is for Simon to be Simon.
The problem is that Simon doesn’t know how to be Simon.
When Kieren tells him to be a normal person Simon isn’t sure what normal is.
Simon has never viewed himself as “normal” and when he got a second chance, he wasn’t allowed to “be himself” because what he is, he has been told is unacceptable (being undead is bad, hide yourself. Get out of the house. Be a follower). So when he asks Kieren “what do normal people do” he really, really means it.
Watching him wear his make up, watching him try to be more animated (as opposed to his very still, careful nature), watching his bewilderment at being offered food he can’t eat, watching him scrape for any small talk he thinks “normal” people use (“how did you two meet, etc) is painful for me, but NOT because it’s awkward… because it really illustrates how horrible Simon’s life has been.
Why In the Flesh should be saved:
- Its portrayal of discrimination is one of the most realistic I’ve ever seen in a piece of media (specifically when it comes to homophobia & mental illness)
- Even when dealing with such serious subject matter it manages to strike a balance between tragedy and comedy so it’s not a continuous bombardment of depression & darkness
- Several well written female characters. This seems like a baseline requirement for any show but it’s ridiculous how many shows and movies never achieve this. But on itf we have Amy; who is given her own narrative that doesn’t revolve around the main character, Jem; who we clearly see struggle with PTSD but is never seen as weak because of this, Maxine Martin; who could have been portrayed as 100% evil with no redeeming characteristics, but instead is a charismatic, complex woman who won’t let anything get in the way of her achieving her goals, and several other characters with memorable personalities.
- A main character who is queer. LGBTQ+ representation is increasing in the media but all too often these characters are merely token secondary/minor characters or their entire character revolves around their sexual orientation. This is not the case with this show!
- There is too much that can be covered in this show and so many questions that need answered for it to be cancelled now. It’s done so much good with just a mere nine episodes, think how far it could go with double that amount (or even more). We could discover more about the lives of other undead people, the changing opinions of the public, watch Simon & Kieren’s relationship evolve, FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH AMY DYER.
- BASICALLY I’LL PROBABLY GO MAD IF I NEVER FIND ANY OF THIS OUT. THERE IS JUST TOO MUCH POTENTIAL IN THIS SHOW AND IT WOULD BE TRAGIC IF IT WERE WASTED.