mon 22/07/2024

The Returned, Series Finale, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

The Returned, Series Finale, Channel 4

The Returned, Series Finale, Channel 4

French back-from-the-dead drama ends with few answers but still leaves a powerful impression

Swann Nambotin as the eerie Victor

It could so easily have been The Walking Dead, where the living endlessly battle an ever-increasing tide of returnees from the beyond. The resurrected in the contemplative Returned weren’t zombies, but actual living people with a desire to pick up where they left off and reintegrate themselves into day-to-day life. Unfortunately for them, and for those they became reacquainted with, it couldn’t go smoothly.

The first series of The Returned ended with the formerly deceased seemingly returning to where they came from, even bringing a couple of the living with them.

The unnamed French mountain town had experienced a lot to get to this point, where the handful of Les Revenants (the original French title) they knew about were suddenly supplemented by hundreds more, all silently walking up a hillside towards the Helping Hand refuge. Inside the building were around 30 or 40 of the town’s residents. Clearly, not everyone in the area was affected by this predicament.

The Returned Lucy Clarsen (Ana Girardot)Of course, suspension of disbelief is necessary to buy into any fantasy, but the holes in The Returned demanded truckloads. Surely the murders racking up might have made more of the locals a tad curious about what's up in their burg? Then again, with the colossal level of teenage drinking at the American-style Lake Pub – much of it in daylight hours – it didn’t seem that anyone was fussed about what anyone else, even their kids, was up to.

The final episode of this absorbing series had the same take-it-or-leave-it attitude as the previous seven. The Returned has been the equivalent of a Gallic shrug. Little was explained. Nurse Julie (Céline Sallette) and her former lover Laure (Alix Poisson) are making off to safety with the eerie back-from-the-dead child Victor (Swann Nambotin). After spending the night atop the town dam, they waken to discover handprints on the car. Someone is after Victor. They then pick up the proprietor of The Lake Pub, who is about to commit suicide by flinging himself off the dam. Victor induces the burly bar owner to shoot himself, although he’s under the impression his dead brother is pointing the gun.

Fleeing a newly emerged horde of the not-dead, they make for The Helping Hand where everyone else is gathering before the inevitable stand-off. When they do arrive, the horde – all from the flooded town beneath the draining water retained by the dam and seeking revenge for their demise – are led by Lucy Clarsen (Ana Girardot, pictured above right), recently the victim of a possibly successful murder attempt but more recently miraculously recovered. She has become their leader. Visions experienced during sex brought her a special bond with the returned.  

The Returned Lena (Jenna Thiam) & Camille (Yara Pilartz)At the core of the philosophically inclined Returned is the message "be careful what you wish for". When 15-year-old Camille returns after being killed four years previously, her mother’s prayers are answered. Her now-19 twin sister Léna (Jenna Thiam) is initially freaked out, but eventually accepts her. Camille can’t be theirs for keeps though (pictured left: Jenna Thiam as Léna, left, with Yara Pilar as Camille).

Throughout the series, influences weren't hidden. Obviously indebted to Twin Peaks, The Returned contained other familiar elements. The subway attacks referenced the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, while the contrast between urban, brutalist architecture and mountain-resort cuteness is a stock signifier that bucolia doesn't necessarily equal tranquillity. More explicitly, The Returned is a remake of the 2004 Robin Campillo film Les Revenants (watch its trailer below).

Opening a film out in so measured a manner with such atmosphere and thoughtfulness is rare, and it’s no surprise a second series is planned, as well as the inevitable and depressingly pointless English-language remake. The effort in bringing this successful first series to the screen is shown in the attitude towards its subtle soundtrack music, by Scottish band Mogwai. They were asked to compose it before filming began, so the makers could be inspired by what they heard.

Such unorthodoxies meant many questions remain unanswered. Chief among these is how come the fearsome Farrouk Larbi from Spiral ended up as the town’s police chief?

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Overleaf: watch the trailer for the 2004 film Les Revenants

The final episode had the same take it or leave it attitude as the previous seven. 'The Returned' has been the equivalent of a Gallic shrug


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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