Worth Watching – The Returned (Les revenants)

Like many Netflix users, I’ve binge-watched many series, and started even more without picking them up again beyond a few episodes. I was hesitant last week to put on The Returned, a French television series from 2012, but it was auto-recommended to me and had a really good rating under its belt. So I tried it out, and I’m very very glad I did. Sometimes how tired I am in the evenings determines whether or not I want to read subtitles.

It’s difficult to talk about a show like this without giving too much away, so there are spoilers to be found throughout this semi-review. I’ve only dipped into 3-4 episodes, but I’m enjoying it immensely.

The strength of the show is in its storytelling, character development, and incredible build-up and mystery. The acting is also fantastic, and balances the supernatural storylines appropriately without losing a grounded sensibility and tone.

Each episode is named for a particular character, and therefore the focus of each shifts a bit, though the circular narrative allows all of the storylines to evolve. But the story revolves around the fact that a group of people that were presumed to be dead years ago just suddenly comes back as if nothing ever happened, seemingly related to some electrical disturbance at the dam. They may have been dead for a few years or entire decades, and they’re not zombies. They’re just back, with no memory of dying. They’re just trying to pick up where they left off, while their families and loved ones panic in various ways. And the variety of reactions to the returned is quite diverse. A twin returns to find her sister has aged several years, a wife returns to a husband that assumes she must be a demon, and in general people return to those who have already mourned their losses and attempted to move on with their lives.

In the hands of other writers, this would be a terrible show, but instead it is evocative and clever, thoughtful and well-planned. I’ve seen some things on message boards that suggest that the season finale makes some bad decisions, but supposedly there are more episodes coming this year. I will check back as I progress through the series in my shorter updates.

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