Reviews and other Features: The Returned

The Returned Season 1

What would happen if the dead came back to life? And not in an ugly, undead sort of way, but returning just as they when they were last alive? No ageing, no scarring and no idea of what had been going on since they left.

That’s what Emmy award-winning French drama The Returned sets out to answer. The beautifully shot eight-part drama pondered what would happen if eight people came back to their small town and how it would affect both them and those they left behind.

Based on the 2004 film Les Revenants, the first seven episodes primarily focus on each of the people who comes back, including the 15 year old twin Camille (Yara Pilartz), the eerily shy, young boy Victor (Swann Nambotin) and the brooding Simon (Pierre Perrier).

The Returned clip

And as well as the incredible cinematography by Patrick Blossier and subtly haunting music by Mogwai, it’s the strong acting and thought provoking script that equally stands out.

Several developments are especially memorable. One is the storyline of Adèle (Clotilde Hesme), a young mother caught between her current fiancée Thomas (Samir Guesmi) and her former boyfriend Simon (who is also the father of her child). Dealing with the issues of a twisted love, sentimentality, parental responsibility and a growing understanding of the truth, Adèle is unsure of who to trust and what to do

The other prominent plot, and where the show is most sensitive, is in dealing with the nurse Julie (Céline Sallette), and her attempts to recover from the violent attack that almost killed her. Suspicious, quiet and withdrawn, she is slowly brought out of her shell by the arrival of Victor and the slow-burning romance with her former girlfriend Laure (Alix Poisson).

The Returned

For all its good points, the show is not perfect. For a premise that deals with various storylines interlinking, it does get a bit silly and weird towards the end of the series, when characters start behaving in unrealistic ways. Especially peculiar is the attitude of Lucy, a revenants, or undead character. Her sexual liberation with some of the show’s more unpleasant characters helps to undo a lot of the sensitivity in Julie’s storyline, where the emotional and mental devastation of being attacked are dealt with so well.

The hotly anticipated eighth and final episode of the series was bizarre and slightly baffling. As well as not answering questions the series has posed, it also creates a whole different set of questions that could threaten to seem messy and take the show off track.

But the revelatory show, which won critical acclaim including the International Emmy for best drama series, is expected to start the second series with the same confident flair of how it began. With such a great premise and so much talent in front and behind the screen, I share that confidence.