I started watching The Returned when my excitable Francophile housemate realised that Scandicrime was out and it was all about our French neighbours (well, according to the Guardian, at least). I haven’t gotten into a supernatural show since the demise of Lost made me dismiss any attempts in fear of losing another 130 hours of my life to eventual crushing disappointment, so I was a little wary, and not least because I would be spending Sunday nights reading the TV (and occasionally shouting ‘zut alors!’ humorously*). The good thing about the subtitles, if you’re reluctant, is that it forces my household, often guilty of having phones, laptops, iPads etc out during any group TV or film watching, to put them down and look at the screen. It’s like being in the cinema, but better, because you can get people to make you tea during the breaks.
Anyway, The Returned is off to a very good start. Strange things start to occur when Camille, the 15-year-old girl who died four years ago in a bus crash, walks into her parents’ home, scoffs down (what I imagine to be) some delicious cheese and saunters around as if… well, as if she hadn’t been dead for four years. The twist in this particular tale is too good to spoil, but rest assured, Camille’s case is extra creepy. Soon, more thought-to-be-dead residents of the small mountain town begin to return and complicate the lives of those who have grieved for them and tried to move on, but have never stopped loving them. It starts to get super weird when Victor, a child of ten with the creepiest blank expression ever to be captured on film, shows up at Julia’s apartment – a woman he seemingly has no connection with – and she takes him in, presuming him orphaned or abandoned. No, Julie! He’s dead, you idiot! Also, look at him, Julie. Those are the cold, dead eyes of someone who will kill you in your dormir:
If the return of the dead wasn’t kind of terrifying enough, there’s also a serial killer who has a penchant for the delicacy of human stomachs on the loose. When he strikes again after seven years, one of the Returned is mistaken for the killer and things starts to unravel with a certain brilliant unease for the viewer. As the stories behind the deaths of the Returned emerge, it becomes clear that this mountain town truly is very small indeed. The complex connections between the stories and characters can be difficult to follow, but so worth it when you figure out what’s what – the genius lies in the gradual realisation, as it dawns over you and sends a shiver up your spine. Creepiness definitely crawls, and the show’s creators have got this down to a fine art. Sunday’s episode ended on a traditional girl-lost-in-misty-woods-stumbles-across-chanting-group-at-campfire and I did a genuine gasp and a little shiver. Merde is about to get real, y’all.