The Returned promised much. A French supernatural thriller set in a small Alpine village where a group of men, women and children did not yet know that they had been dead for several years. In the shadow of a vast dam, they found themselves in a state of confusion, trying to return to their homes. Their arrival coincided with a series of gruesome murders bearing a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past; a homecoming like no other.
For most of the series we were gripped. In fact, for pretty much all of it we were on the edge of our seats, trying to fathom out what the hell was going on, hoping there would be answers. But more and more questions were being raised, and little was getting resolved. We had Camille and Simon - who both died years earlier. They had not aged, and they were completely unaware of their own deaths.
Camille’s parents separated after her death, and on her return she soon realised that her mother was in a relationship with Pierre, an odd figure who knew all along that the dead would return. Her twin sister, meanwhile, spent most of her days getting drunk, but it took Simon a little longer to work out how he had passed, and a little longer for his onetime partner Adele to forgive him. Then there was Victor, a strange little boy looking for a fairy, and finding lonely nurse Julie instead.
But they weren’t the only ones brought back. As Camille invented a new identity for herself as 'cousin Alice', Julie's very dark past resurfaced and threatened to destroy her completely, her neighbour was murdered, and Simon was abruptly separated from Adèle and his daughter Chloe when he was shot. The serial killer popped up from time to time, continuing his work, but his progress was hindered by his brother, still alive but guilty about his siblings death, as well as his mother's. Meanwhile, dead animals were being found perfectly persevered, there was a sudden power cut, scars were appearing on both the dead and the living, and nobody seemed able to leave the town. Keeping up?
Come the final episode, relations, unsurprisingly, were very strained between the living and the dead. The living feared the deceased, especially as a newer and more sinister wave had entered the town. What did they want? Why were they here? Well, despite hints that some of the dead were merely back for revenge after losing their lives when the dam broke years earlier, while others were simply trying to get their lives back, the outcome of The Returned was a bit of a choker. There were no real answers. Some of the subplots almost reached closure, but others – the serial killer in particular – simply confused.
Okay, so we have another season to endure, but a few answers would have made the trip a bit more bearable and left us wanting more. Instead, we got nothing. It raised a few interesting questions, especially in the form of what would you do in these circumstances, but we still have no idea why they returned; or, more to the point, why some of the ‘zombies’ had returned first, only to be sought after by the other dead. And why did they leave the serial killer behind? And did they give up when a few cops pointed guns at them? And why did the dam burst and flood the town again? And where did they all go? And what happened to the other townsfolk who had no part in this story?
The Returned sustained interest for the most part, thanks to a refreshing dose of chills, nudity, confusion, intriguing characters, and a score that will stay in your head forever. We should give the creators the benefit of the doubt and pray that there’s a bigger story here. I, for one, shall return, ever hopeful. Others may not. DW