The Returned Series Premiere Review: Living, Breathing Memories

By Ryan Sandoval

Nov 01, 2013

The Returned S01E01: "Camille"

This year for my Halloween costume I wore one of those garbage bags that looks like a Jack o'lantern, and stuffed it with the remainder of my clean clothing (tank tops, dress socks, etc.). I spent the whole night inside my three-story townhouse doing a Ouija board all alone while some teenagers egged my garage door for an hour straight. As I listened to the rhythmic pelting, I realized the hooligans were morse-coding extremely hurtful remarks. To make matters worse, the only spirit I was able to summon just asked me really specific questions about the "Affordable Care Act," which I was not equipped to answer, and the horehound candy I made shattered all four of my wisdom teeth. It was a real Bummer-O-Ween, that is, until I watched the first episode of Sundance Channel’s "The Returned," an excellent supernatural import from France that began its eight-episode run this very evening.  

An adaptation of the 2004 film They Came Back (or Les Revenants for the French of tongue), this Fabrice Gobert-helmed pilot concerned itself with doing just two things, and doing them thoroughly: establishing how life in this town continued after the deaths of members of its community, and allowing the show's characters plenty of time to accept the central phenomenon. Where I come from, people DON’T return from beyond the grave, and this show does a convincing job of illustrating the rich stewpot of emotions that would occur if a dead person inexplicably came back into your life.  

That Jerome (Frederic Pierrot) and his estranged wife Claire (Anne Consigny) were all, "This can’t be happening, but gosh I did miss our little baby girl smoke-smoke-smoke," was a very human response. Who hasn’t imagined a dead loved one just kind of doing normal things like fixing a ham sammie in the kitchen, and then been completely devastated by the split-second apparition in our mind’s eye? You’re happy for the same memories that mess with your heart. That’s the "terrifying and amazing" sensation The Returned lives in. 

Story-wise there’s a lot to explore here. From Camille’s (Yara Pilartz) point of view, she’s rightly defensive about her family’s wariness. It’s not her fault she died in a bus crash that went on to ruin the lives of both her parents and her "close" sibling Lena (a magnificent Jenna Thiam). From her family’s point of view, they’re learning how to mitigate the painful associations they have with her memory. Her death understandably made a lasting impression on Jerome, Claire, and Lena, but where are they supposed to put their feelings now that she’s undone the source of hurt? For Lena especially—as we learned in the kind of reveal this show seems quite confident in pulling off—Camille’s return bears extra importance, as the now-aged identical twin feels renewed guilt over missing the deadly bus trip in order to lose her virginity to Frederic, a known crush of her sister's. Drama much?    

Hinting at further angles to make us all curl up in the shower and sob, the wild-eyed Simon (Pierre Perrier) wondered why Adele (Clotilde Hesme) rejected him and moved on to the tune of a new family herself, while the pie-eyed Victor (Swann Nambotin) acted as the wordless, living question mark that is this supernatural happening (while, in a clever dovetail, also acting as the physical reason the bus went over the cliff in the first place). Every other character had an association with the deceased, and thus dramatically responded to that, while Victor's puppy-dog relationship with Julie (Celine Sallette) was a reminder of all the straight-up initial mystery that remained in the background. WHY IS THIS ALL HAPPENING? Also, as no story is complete without a villain, a mysterious serial killer seems to have returned with the normies. Not to mention what’s going on with the decreasing lake level. Wow, all this in just the first hour? Sign me up!    

It helps that this world feels like a horror movie, but without any jump scares. Rain is pouring, there are slow-tracking shots down dimly lit hallways, a wordless child appears from the shadows—but there’s largely no threat to cap off the suspense. That’s not the game being played here. If anything, the "monster" lurking in the closet waiting to attack these characters is the concept of unexplainable emotional pain. Mogwai’s excellent soundtrack builds tension not to cause anguish, but to enhance the feeling of "What is happening and why?" Gobert lets us exist in that moment of suspense until we accept the feeling of extended mystery as a tonal norm, just as life itself can be one giant, unsolvable riddle. 

So with about as strong a pilot as any television show can pull off, The Returned looks to be the kind of program you hope for as a viewer: one that asks big questions while entertaining you in a familiar, yet groundbreaking sort of way. 

Thanks for reading, bye!       


– Who’s your favorite character?

– What was your favorite scene?

– What’s going on between Jerome and Lucy?

– Where did Mr. Costa’s wife go?

– What’s going on with the water level?

– Did you like the debut of The Returned?

  • Comments (56)
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  • denisestewart77 Oct 09, 2014

    Reading subtitles bites, but this is well worth it! Best supernatural series I've seen in a long time. I'm a horror buff and I love it! Now when does the second season air in the us.?

  • ben45tpy Jan 24, 2014

    Wow this is stunning and hopefully opening the door for more high-quality foreign language shows to gain more exposure in the US.

  • Vena Jan 01, 2014

    I actually only started to watch the show because i knew that mogwai made the soundtrack. :D

    Here the quote from wiki:

    The soundtrack to the series was written by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai. The band's guitarist John Cummings said in an interview with The Quietus "They wanted us to start writing it before they started filming it. They described it as inspiring them, they wanted some kind of musical mood in place before they started, so we were working a bit dry at first ... we'd (only) seen the first couple of scripts in English"

  • Vena Jan 01, 2014

    Well the music is so great because the soundtrack is from one of the most amazing bands ever, Mogwai.

  • techngro Dec 22, 2013

    There was so much about this show that just doesn't make sense. If a little lost child showed up at your door, would you really take him in, let him stay at your house overnight and not contact the police? That doesn't seem like what a rational person would do.

    Another example. Your dead child shows up in your kitchen making a sandwich. What's the first thing you do? You go into her room and clean out the memorial you set up there? Really?

  • efonsecajr Nov 11, 2013

    Loved the Pilot. Devastatingly beautiful. Soundtrack is what builds the suspense. The characters are what build the emotions. Both go great together. Need more now.

  • Vipyr Nov 11, 2013

    Actually, this show is about as good as tv gets. The music, the plot, the storylines, the actors, absolutely mezmorizing. Ive seen alot of good tv series in my lifetime, and this one is at the top of the list!! Riveting, shocking, as well as suspenseful, is all an understatement.

  • tnetennba Nov 08, 2013

    I thought the first few episodes were OK, but it turned out to be the second worst show in the past few years after Hemlock Grove. I wrote a longer post about it on the "should I watch" page. Link.

  • bkyle2429 Nov 08, 2013

    going to give this another shot I download the pilot on Itunes will record tonite's

  • NeeUyank Nov 05, 2013

    in the show page it says "hasnt aired yet".. can someone please update these stuff , especially if there is a show that is reviewed..

  • Rolamb Nov 06, 2013

    There is no show page for 'Les revenants', the original series that Sundance is showing. There is a show page for 'The returned', the American version that is made based on the original French one. That series will air in 2014 so it's correct it sais 'hasn't aired yet'.

  • LOST-TWD-PP-GOT Nov 28, 2013

    If you look at the sub-titles, you'll see that when the show title Les Revenants comes up, the sub-title says The Returned. The American remake which premieres on ABC next year, is named Resurrection.

  • dmn99se Apr 27, 2014

    Resurrection (ABC) is an adaptation of The Returned (a novel). The Returned (Sundance) is an adaptation of They Came Back (a French movie), and will soon be adapted as an English-language series that will either be called They Came Back or The Returned.

  • dmn99se Apr 27, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • dmn99se Apr 27, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • LOST-TWD-PP-GOT Nov 28, 2013

    Oh and i hope that Resurrection is very different from Les Revenants/ The Returned, because i don't want to watch the same story over again this soon. If i have to choose, i'll go with Les Revenants. Because i love this show, and need two of the same show.

  • LOST-TWD-PP-GOT Nov 28, 2013

    Don't need two of the same show- oops.

  • NeeUyank Nov 09, 2013

    I click on the title of a show in a pilot episode review and it links to a page.. then there is some airing and there is a page of the same show.. it really does not matter if it is an original series or a version; a show, name les revenants (the returned in English) is aired in a US channel.. if a link goes to a "wrong" page, this still is poor management, especially for a show that is reviewed.. and if someone is reviewing a show, then there has to be a page related to it.. there is actually nothing correct about this situation..

  • Rolamb Nov 09, 2013

    The posting is on the community page of "The returned', so when you click the link it will take you to 'The returned' On the community many postings that are in any way related to 'The returned' can be posted. So it is absolutely correct what they have done.

    If somebody would have made a 'Les revenant'page/community. it probably would have linked to that page. But no one of us or the staff have. If you'd rather have the staff not review series that have no community/series page, please tell them.

  • Rolamb Nov 10, 2013

    No, you told me, I'm not with I'm not sure if they will read every comment. But you can write a mail to f.i. TVcom_editorial

  • NeeUyank Nov 10, 2013

    thats exactly what I'm doing..

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