My Thoughts On: ''The Returned''

Thursday 15 August 2013


Over the months of June and July, a French thriller television show aired on channel four... you might have heard of it. It was called ''The Returned''.

Seriously creepy, atmospheric and ever so French, the first season consisted of eight episodes, each sort of focusing on one particular character while continuing to build on the suspense of the previous instalment. I haven't written a proper TV review in ages and ages, so (even though it has been over for two or three weeks now) I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you my belated thoughts on this one. Warning - it does contain some SPOILERS... sorry folks!

The Premise:

The basic outline of the programme (which was based on a 2004 French film titled ''Les Revenants'') is as follows: a quiet little village in France is turned upside down when people who have been dead for varying amounts of time start to reappear. A teenage girl who died in a bus crash four years before, a young man who apparently committed suicide on his wedding day seven years before and a woman who died decades ago when the town was flooded by a burst dam are just a few of the lost souls who come back and, understandably, freak the life out of their loved ones. Their reappearance coincides with some other strange goings on - the water in the dam is inexplicably getting lower and a series of horrific murders committed in the past start up again. We soon discover why - the murderer is one of the returned.


What I Liked:

The entire atmosphere of the show was fantastic - personally, I think the subtitles helped with this, but that might just be the film student in me! I loved the music (courtesy of Mogwai), the muted colours and the fact that you literally didn't know what was going to happen next. From the very first episode, when Victor followed Julie home on the bus I was on the edge of my seat!

I think the idea of this show is incredibly clever. These aren't your typical zombies. They look and act like regular human beings (until their skin starts decaying, obviously) and they seem genuinely as confused as anyone else as to why they are there. The writing was strong, and the end of each episode (with the exception of the finale) was always a surprise.

What I Didn't Like:

Far, far too many unanswered questions for my liking. The finale let me down a bit. Everyone loves a cliffhanger, but not to that extent - it became more of an anticlimax, which after seven episodes of genuine tension and suspense was quite disappointing. I particularly enjoyed this summary on Digital Spy of all the unanswered questions from the first series! I also struggled a wee bit with some of the characters, which I'll come to in a moment...

Who I Liked:

Julie - I thought Céline Sallette who played Julie was excellent. There is something incredibly vulnerable about her and, with what she had been through in the past, I thought her ever increasing bond with Victor was really interesting to watch unfold.

Lena - I felt quite sorry for Lena. The shock of having your twin sister come back from the dead can't be easy, especially with the intense (bordering on creepy) connection between them. She is obviously affected in a much deeper way by her sister's return than anyone else seems to be - physically, at the very least.

Jérôme - Again, I felt quite sorry for Jérôme. He seemed so lost and sad, and I think the actor (Frédéric Pierrot) played the part really well. It helped that he was sort of playing opposite Pierre, who made my skin crawl.

Simon - There were moments when Simon irritated me, but generally I did feel sympathetic towards him. Of everyone, he seemed the most confused and frustrated by his situation, mostly because the person he has come back to has moved on, married someone else and raised his child without him, but also because he cannot understand what happened to him when he died.

Victor - The character who creeped me out the most to begin with ended up being the character I just wanted to hug. Yes, he had some very, very creepy moments, but the flashback to his death was so heartbreaking and his adoration of Julie (the fairy!) really affected me.


Who I Didn't Like:

Pretty much everyone else.

Okay, that's a bit harsh. I didn't dislike everyone but I felt pretty indifferent to most of them. Pierre, as I said, made my skin crawl, but other than the five I mentioned before, I couldn't really connect with any of the other characters. That doesn't mean the acting was bad - the acting, overall, was excellent. I just didn't really warm to anyone else. Claire, Adele and Thomas all sort of irked me, and I got consistently annoyed with Camille even though her circumstances were obviously upsetting. Serge, obviously was a bit on the horrifyng side, and while I felt sympathy for Tony it wasn't enough for me to really care about him. And don't get me started on Lucy - anyone with a clue what was going on there, feel free to chip in!

I'm not sure if this disconnect from the characters was intentional on the part of the writers, or if it was just how I felt. I'm all about character, it's the most important aspect of any film or TV show to me - it's why I'm so obsessed with shows like Lost and Being Erica, shows where characterisation is absolutely key to the way the plot unfolds. I think with only eight episodes and something as major as an immenent zombie takeover to deal with there maybe just wasn't quite enough time to get to know everyone to the extent that I would have liked. It definitely wasn't enough to put me off watching though, and I can't wait to find out more next season.

*I just read an interview with the creators on the Channel 4 website... apparently they are all about character too:
Quote: ''I like shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, which are slower than fantasy shows and which focus on the characters. For The Returned I imagined a fantasy drama where the characters are more important than the action and the story.''

It must just be me then!

In Concusion:

I think The Returned has been one of the best things on TV this year so far. It was suspenseful, artistic, well written and pretty unique - an excellent combination. I can't wait for it to 'return' next year! *so sorry, I couldn't help it*

Did you watch The Returned? I'd love to know what you thought!

Thanks for reading!

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