Television

Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Michael

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The Returned Season 2 Episode 1 – L’Enfant

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The Story So Far…

In an Alpine French village, by a huge dam and an even bigger mountain range, the dead walk the Earth. They haven’t come to eat brains though, they’ve just come to eat. And shag. Eating and shagging, that’s about all they do, in between half-hearted bouts of getting reacquainted with loved ones.

In the first series, the key returning dead were: Camille – a 15 year old girl who must now contend with the fact that her twin sister is now four year older than her, Simon – a suicidal bridegroom with a haunted look and wild hair, Serge – a serial killer, murdered by his own brother and Victor – a terrifying child who has been dead for decades.

The series tracked the lives of the Returned as well as the other residents of the town. Julie, a nurse and survivor of Serge’s vicious attack, took care of Victor, who believes her to be an angel. Julie’s ex, Laure, works for the Gendarmerie (that’s the fuzz to you and me) with Thomas. Thomas is married to Adele who was the bride to be of Simon before his suicide. This town would be plenty interesting even without the undead wandering its streets.

Returned 1

In addition to the zombies and the soap opera storylines, other mysteries appear. The reservoir begins to drain, revealing lots of animal corpses. Lucy, a waitress at the English themed Lake Pub manifests the ability to see the dead relatives of the people she has sex with. The roads out of town don’t lead out of town any more. At the conclusion of the first series, there is an impasse between the dead and the living. Adele (alive) is carrying the baby of Simon (dead). The gendarmes disappear. The town flooded. And then…

Now

It’s be more than two years since the first series of The Returned (Les Revenants in French) was shown in the UK. The poor French have had to wait three years. Not only was the first series quality television of the highest order, but it left off with loads of questions unanswered, not to mention a cast largely built around child actors. Fortunately, Swann Nambotin as Victor has barely changed in the intervening years, and the superb Yara Pilartz as Camille is still a fantastic screen presence despite that fact that it’s now clear she won’t grow into her twin, Lena (Jenna Thiam).

However, those looking for some quick answers after the long hiatus will be disappointed, as the show gives the audience no explanations, only piling on more questions. In fact, the show must be commended for its refusal to clarify – the episode doesn’t even start with a recap of the previous series and there’s no clunky scenes of exposition that so often litter British and US TV. What we do gather is that the (living) survivors evacuated to a holiday camp above the flood line. The army, along with a dam specialist named Berg, have moved in and don’t believe a word of the locals’ stories about the living dead, who have disappeared. Berg, it turns out, is from the area and appears to have a theory about the flood that he refuses to divulge to the military.

Returned Berg

New boy Berg

Poor Lena meanwhile spends her time badgering the soldiers for new of her sister and mother, in between bouts of shouting at her father, Jerome, who appears to be in the midst of a breakdown. Lena seems to be positioning herself as a leader of the more together element of the town. A significant proportion of the town though has succumbed to the Stephen King law, which states that in the event of a supernatural crisis at least one character will descend into religious mania almost immediately. In The Returned the first person to do so was Pierre, who was involved with the twins’ Mother. He thought the Returned were the first sign of the end of days and began stockpiling food. He invited followers to join him at the Helping Hand youth centre, and much of town joined him. Pierre has a dark past though – he was one of the home invaders that killed poor Victor.

Elsewhere in town, paramedics attempted to rush Adele to a bigger hospital away from the town because her she appeared ready to give birth after only six months of pregnancy. But wouldn’t you just know it, the road out of town just sort of…peters out? Later on, two soldiers try to escort the newly returned Audrey out of town but the same thing happens. ‘This is the way I always go’ says a confused driver. My theory is that it is the dead that cannot leave town – it first happened to Julie and Laure when they tried to leave with Victor. Adele cannot leave because of the baby she is carrying. Surely the soldiers would have noticed before now if they couldn’t leave town, suggesting that they have been doing so freely when not accompanied by returned.

Returned Victor

The terrifying Victor

The one person who has a clear idea of what she is doing is Lucy, the strange barmaid who was revealed to have been a returned all along in the previous series. She is now collected the returned from the town and ferrying them across the lake to the deserted side of town, like a modern day Charon. She takes Audrey across to meet a familiar face – she died in the same coach crash that killed Camille. Camille and Audrey are put into the same house, but there seems to be a division between the two girls and many of the other returned, who gather like a horde outside their new home. There is also a brief glance of a creature in the wood that looks like your more traditional zombie, and may be responsible for the strange wounds seen in the deer that wander around the town unimpeded.

The Returned has always been about atmosphere and intrigue rather than rollicking plots and easy answers, and it’s a style that carries on here. There are ponderously slow tracking shots, scenes with precious little dialogue and a vast range of moody expressions, all backed by a gorgeous score from Scottish Post-Rock band Mogwai, returning after their stellar work in Season one. The problem is that extended mysterious can’t hold an audience’s attention if no answers seem forthcoming. The Returned has always courted comparisons with Twin Peaks but should be wary that both the quality and the viewing figures of that series fell off a cliff in Season Two. There is no sign so far that The Returned is anything other than it was before but that’s not necessarily enough for a show like this, and the early viewing figures in France have not been encouraging. In the UK, the move to More4 from Channel 4, despite the first season’s popularity, can’t be doing anything for audience numbers either. The Returned is an excellent TV series and deserved to be watched widely.

Michael

Michael comes from the middle ground between light and shadow, between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. He will write on comics, TV and film, plus anything else that might occur to him.

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