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Les Revenents, AKA The Returned, has taken over my life a bit over the last few weeks. It is my go-to mind wander and my go-to small talk topic. It is the highlight of my Sunday, or, if I’m being completely honest, my week. This French thriller is better than the hype, and if you haven’t been watching it then you have been seriously missing out. The final episode airs on Sunday, so you have a few days to catch up.
I can think of nothing more pressing to do with your time. Get out of the sun and into a dark room with a laptop immediately. Try to persuade a friend to watch it with you because discussion is essential, lest your mind implode from all the questions. So many questions.
If you are a sucker like me for a sleepy town, some odd happenings and subtitles, then this is definitely for you. It has drawn apt comparisons with super Scandi hit The Killing for this reason. I know that for many, myself included, The Killing was enjoyed on boxset which meant several episodes at a time and being sucked into a bit of a Danish crime thriller vacuum which invaded my dreams and meant I developed an unbelievably pretentious habit of inserting bits of Danish into my everyday speech. There have been no such problems with The Returned, as I have been forced to watch week by week, which has meant my opportunities to pretend I am French are far more limited, and therefore I am slightly more bearable to be around.
The Returned is, at its most basic descriptive level, about Zombies. Except, you would hear fans everywhere protest, that it really isn’t. It is a zombie thriller as you have never seen it before. In this small, French town a series of unexplained events begin to occur, the most shocking and obvious being that a select few dead people return with no recollection of the incidents that killed them and the subsequent time lapse. They are not walking towards the townspeople rotting, groaning and trying to eat them, they appear as real and human as their live families. This includes teenage girl Camille coming back to her twin now seven years older, and young man Simon who finds that his wife to be and daughter now have a new family.
The show is almost entirely about how the people of the town, especially their immediately families, deal with their return from the dead and the problems that surface as a consequence. There is also a whole lot of other creepy stuff to contend with, such as water levels mysteriously rising (still no idea what the significance of this is, I am open to listening to theories all day, every day) and a completely adorable but terrifying dead boy named Victor. Creepy, lovely Victor’s relationship with a young woman named Julie, who he latches onto and who looks after him, is one of the highlights of the show.
Julie has a mysterious and deeply sad past and feels so incapable of living that she often wonders if she’s dead; her relationship with Victor appears in some ways, to bring her back to life. Julie is a lesbian and although this has no consequence to the plot, it serves to show a diverse range of characters and relationships in this programme which makes it all the more compelling and starkly real. It is also incredibly refreshing to see a lesbian character not defined by her sexuality but instead by her personality and interactions with others. Lots of extra brownie points to The Returned for this.
The deeply emotive soundtrack by Glaswegian band Mogwai has been described by the director Fabrice Gobert as the narrator of the series, which is spot on. It has the quality of the Twin Peaks score, which sends shivers down the spine of anyone who watched it long after the show finished.
I cannot recommend this programme highly enough to anyone who enjoys being thoroughly entertained. It is guaranteed to have you shouting in shock at the TV (possibly in French) and to have you trying to get theories out of anyone you talk to, desperately trying to find those elusive answers whilst actually relishing the not knowing. Hopefully some of these big questions will be answered next week and if not, there is a second series, speculation about which will keep me going for conversation topics for at least the next year.