Published on November 16th, 2015 | by Michael


The Returned Season Two Episode Five – Madame Costa

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Madame Costa lends her name to this episode of The Returned and in the opening scene we finally get to see her ‘secret origin’ story. Madame Costa has long been one of the most straight-forward, yet mysterious, characters on the show, dismissing all manner of oddities with a Gallic shrug and a drag on her cigarette, yet been strangely coy about her own death. In the past she’s offered at least three different versions about her demise, but finally we seen the real one. Borrowing heavily from the other show I cover at the moment, Fargo, she merely falls through some ice to her death after following her wayward dog onto the lake. In high heels no less! Beforehand she drowns though she talks to her husband the school teacher, who tells her little Louis/Victor is a strange child, whom no-one will sit near. After Madame Costa’s death, the camera picks up his drawings and wouldn’t you know it, one of them shows a drowning lady.

If Madame Costa’s death was a pure accident as shown, why did her husband commit suicide the moment she showed up as a returnee? I had assumed it was guilt over her death but he appeared blameless in the flashback. In fact there seems to have been a lot of suicide in town down the years. Esteban’s parents were rather eager to take the word of a child, Camille, and kill themselves to be with their son. Simon was said to have killed himself, his parents probably went the same way. Are things that bad or if there something about the place that makes people particularly susceptible to it?

Questions over whether Louis/Victor makes these things happen or merely predicts them seem to be answered soon afterwards, as he has a nightmare in which there is a clear image of Julie throwing herself off the dam. Victor wakes up in a state of distress, which one of the first times we’ve seen him show any emotional reaction at all, never mind genuine concern for someone else. A bold man of action, unlike so many in the town these days, Victor immediately decides to mount a rescue mission, recruiting Madame Costa and leaving his mother and brother who honestly probably won’t even notice he’s gone. Madame Costa says the horde won’t let them leave the dead side of the lake (which the characters have taken to referring as ‘the Domain’) and indeed a bunch of the dead silently confront them on the path out. Undeterred, Victor walks through them and they part to let them pass. Even the dead fear Victor.

Madame Costa

For her part, Julie has gone to visit her old patient, Victor’s father (who I mistakenly said had gone into a coma during the home invasion. In fact he fell comatose many years later). There, Julie meets a pretty nurse who puts her up in an abandoned wing of the hospital. There’s a definite spark between Julie and the nurse, so maybe Julie won’t be feeling so suicidal from now on. The nurse’s name is Ophelie which is apt given that Julie recently nearly drowned herself in the lake. Ophelie tells Julie that the missing Gendarmes turned up dead but neglected to tell her that one is as yet unaccounted for. Still no clues as to who is missing but narrative convention says it must be either Laure or Thomas. Many fans like to believe it has to be Laure for the sake of Julie’s story, but I think Thomas might turn back up to putting a spanner in the works of his family who are doing just fine this week.

For their part, Adele, Simon, Chloe and the wee baby Nathan are holed up in the Church and during the baby’s christening they look the picture of family contentment. Even the Padre, who previously sold Simon out to the Gendarmes, seems charmed, helping hide the family when the fuzz come sniffing around. Lucy Clarsen is also desperate to track down the baby and uses her very honed female wiles on Alcide, who manages to resist her, unlike every bugger else.

There are still three more storylines I haven’t touched on yet, each with its own emotional heft. It’s a testament to the programme that each episode can be so busy without feeling rushed or labyrinthine and that so much can occur when half the running time seems to consist of slow panning shots of ugly interiors. I’ve noticed over recent weeks that there seems to be no throwaway lines, no casual conversations. Every word seems to advance the plot or build up a picture of a character.

In ‘the Domain’, Esteban is going the way we thought he would (I mentioned his lack of reaction last week). His descent into a member of the horde is first played for laughs – he goes for a piss oblivious to the presence of Camille and Claire – but then tragedy, as tears roll down his otherwise immobile face before he leaves the house, probably for good. Camille tells Lena and Claire that it’s for the best and that he is with his new family, Lena’s incredulous expression at this is so beautiful it belongs in the Louvre.

Lena etc Madame Costa

Things are going no better for Esteban’s fellow recent returnee Audrey. Having successfully negotiated her way across the river, she meets up with the dynamic duo Berg and Jerome who are super-sleuthing their way to solving the town’s mysteries (Berg’s father designed the dam that burst 35 years ago, by the by). Jerome interrogates Audrey about where ‘the Domain’ might be before getting the word to Sandrine about her daughter’s reappearance. Unfortunately Sandrine has been listening to Pierre’s poison (for how long? It can’t have been more than a few days) and goes all Garden of Gethsemane on her own daughter, betraying her to Pierre and his thugs. We don’t see Berg and Jerome learn of this, hopefully they’ll go some way to putting it right next week. For all that Jerome was gruff with Audrey this week, I think there’s a good man under that mighty breakdown beard.

If they do want to rescue Audrey, they could do worse than speak to Toni and Serge who between them effected a pretty good break-out last week. Toni is back in the old family shack this week and gets the shock of his wife when seven or so glamorous women show up in his kitchen. Let’s take a moment actually to give Toni his due. He seemed so weak and confused early in the season when he went willingly with Pierre over Lena’s protests, but last week he stopped his brother killing Pierre’s guard with a simple, controlled ‘non’. This week, when Serge returns to the shack, he finds his brother calmly having dinner with all the women, presumably having cooked them all some food (although I imagine conversation was limited, these women acted horde-like and Toni has never looked comfortable in his own skin). It was a simple scene but the absurdity of it made me laugh and Toni is really showing his mettle under extraordinary circumstances. Serge isn’t so keen to see these women though. Toni, like the audience, has guessed that these women were his victims in the infamous tunnel. The show has done a great job attempting to redeem Serge this season so it’s refreshing to see him literally confronted with his murders to remind us how bad he used to be.

Toni Madame Costa

The one element of this episode that fell a tad flat for me was a scene near the end, which showed Milan, still at the bottom of the lake, sparking into life. It was only last week he was put there, and he’s come back from the dead at least three times already so if they thought that would shock or scare us I’m afraid they were mistaken. The final shot of the episode more than made up for it though, Victor fixing the audience with one of his wide-eyed stares as the picture fades to black. What a pity that More 4 found it necessary to talk all over the excellent Mogwai track that accompanied the final scene and the credits. The show goes to such lengths to build atmosphere I’d rather they didn’t wreck it by telling us about an all-night Father Ted marathon, thank you very much.

It was only while recapping this episode that it hit me quite how much ‘Madame Costa’ had packed in. Even with a relatively small bunch of characters there are so many storylines, different factions and unlikely partnerships to keep a track of but it never seems overly confusing, at least not if you can remember the first season well enough! There are just three episodes to go and the pacing of this season would suggest we’re building to something big – after all the army already know that all the gendarmes were killed, it’s hard to escalate the stakes beyond that. I don’t know if this season will be the last but it some ways I hope it is – The Returned has barely put a foot wrong so far and I’d rather it go out swinging than go on interminably like some mystery series I could mention. I don’t even mind if we never solve the mystery of how and why the dead came back. At this point it’s the people, dead and alive, that I care about. Let Jerome reconnect with his girls, give poor Julie a break and for the love of God have someone smash Pierre’s teeth in and I’ll be more than happy.

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