While subtitled shows such as The Killing and The Bridge have already popped up on UK television (albeit hidden away on BBC4 and such), Channel 4’s launch of French supernatural drama The Returned is without a doubt the most high profile yet. The buzz around this series is akin to that around Broadchurch or The Fall recently, and we all know how well those caught on with the British public and subsequently around the world.
But the difference is that this isn’t our product, and we’re pinching it from a country with absolutely no previous in genre output. This could be the reason it comes across so unique, powerfully singular and atmospheric, unmarred by the expectations of viewers already over-saturated with ‘zombie’ thrillers and such. The Returned is simply brilliant, and has a confidence in itself that is rare in a genre that we thought had been looked at from every possible angle.
The series focuses on a disparate group of returnees, one of which is a child from a coach crash depicted at the beginning of the episode. This is Camille, who awakes in the mountains near to her town and, with no memory of having been dead for four years, walks straight back into her home. Her mother finds her and reacts with frantic disbelief, tiptoeing around the house as if any sudden movement would break the spell and send her away. We discover more about Camille, and how she died, as the episode goes on, and it’s a mystery that is certainly intriguing enough to carry us through the series.
There’s also Simon, a young man who returns to his frightened and fragile fiancé before being sent away again, Mrs Costa, who has been dead for longer than anyone, and a young child, dubbed Victor, who gives the show its highest dose of horror. For this is, so far, primarily a drama about reactions to returning loved ones, but Victor’s creepy appearances, general demeanour, and part to play in the final flashback all point to something else going on. There’s also an unexplained murder that will play into future episodes, and a suicide that points to the darker side of theb resurrections.
As intriguing as the mysteries are, The Returned is just a joy to watch for its atmosphere and careful structuring – due as much to the novelty of a drama set in France as it is to the talents of those behind the scenes. The show is being remade is a couple of countries, including the UK, and it’s a worry that these adaptations won’t be able to capture the same sense of uneasiness as this original. Renewed for a second season in France, it doesn’t really matter whether this catches on for the English-language crowd but, chances are, we’ll be hooked anyway.
What did you think of the episode? Will you be tuning in next week? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.