The Returned Season 2 Premiere Review: The Walking Alive

The Returned S02E01: "The Child"

Mystery is the cornerstone of human experience. What does my future hold? What happens when we die? Are there gremlins in the center of the Earth? How many gremlins are there? What do they eat, these gremlins? Such are the mysteries that have tortured humankind since the dawn of time, approximately 2,015 years ago.

Mystery and originality were the main draws in the first season of The Returned, France's artful, emotional, and restrained take on the the undead. We'd seen zombies as metaphors, but never as gentle and poetic as these. Like any good head-scratcher, the premise was as fresh as it was addictive: one day a mountain town's dead return to life with all their faculties in tact, plus memories leading up to the moment of death. They didn't want human flesh so much as to pick up where they left off. In doing so they upended the worlds of the living in a soap opera of romance, tragedy, and intrigue. Perfectly paced, the storytelling bounced between devastating human interactions and the kind of suspense that comes with art that makes up its own rules. Could the second season capture that mysterious magic all over again?

After watching tonight's “The Child,” I'm happy to say the answer's a resounding “oui!” Set six months after the standoff at the Helping Hand, the hour carried on in true Returned fashion by letting our brains vibrate with curiosity for answers as the show basically ignored our need for clarity in favor of getting right back down to business. With the help of a time jump, a military occupation, and a few new players, this first installment promised the same taut fantasy that made the first season a hit.

So the first familiar face we saw was Adele the schoolteacher pregnant with Simon's possibly undead baby. She was in an ambulance, only the ambulance had made what appeared to be a wrong turn into a dead end. Next thing we knew she was in an empty room with her newborn baby, when out of nowhere a mysterious hand grabbed her. Then she woke up from what was really a dream, and as Father Jean-Francois explained, Adele had a nasty fall down the stairs and was all set to be transferred to a hospital across town, but the road wouldn't allow it. Remember last season, how Julie, Victor, and Laure couldn't leave town? It seemed like the same thing was going down.

In the same way the central mystery of Twin Peaks was the identity and motive of Laura Palmer's killer, the main question here is, just what the heck is going on with this town? I don't want to know all at once, as it's the mystery that allows for the drama of twins on a life delay or young lovers reconnecting after suicide, but I do want my curiosity rewarded at healthy dosages with some clues or new information. So it was nice to have Berg, a new character act as our surrogate as far as updates go. Coming to investigate the rapid flood that has since subsided (except in one area), he's a man with secrets all his own. Why did he request to come here specifically, a place near his hometown? 

Overall, things weren't great for the remaining folks. Those without ties to the horde fled in droves, Lena and her father Jerome found themselves back at odds in the absence of Camille and Claire (who left with the horde at the end of Season 1), and Adele stood accused by her own daughter of trying to terminate her own child. Once more, the dead were causing all kinds of drama among the living. Then, wouldn't you know it, a NEW “Returned” named Audrey, who also died during Camille's bus crash, arrived in town. So did Toni, the once dead older brother to Serge the dead serial killer. As we'd later find out, they were the first of a second wave of people returning after a period of inactivity. 

As Adele admitted that she had tried to abort the baby several times, an officer attempted to drive Audrey to her parents, but the road ended mysteriously and she took off into the night. She saw a Returned eating an animal, then Lucy the de facto leader/soothsayer of the the Returned brought Audrey to safety. In a symbolic scene, Lucy ferried a bunch of new Returneds across the lake closing off their town. Maybe the dead are meant to live separate from the living. Maybe confusing the two only leads to pain. It seemed the role of these original undead was to usher in the new undead, as Camille was able to comfort Audrey. But just as Lena refused to join forces with the Helping Hand, Claire and Camille seemed pretty wary of the horde that showed up when Audrey got unruly. I wonder if they didn't have some extra sense of the girl's arrival.

An interesting layer to this new season is the hierarchies forming on both sides: the locals are keeping secrets form the skeptic military while the old Returneds have taken on the responsibility of shepherding in the new ones. There's a sense of segregation and a battle for Adele's baby thats keeping the two factions at odds, at least until the cryptic event referred to by Lucy occurs. Which I guess is why we picked up at this moment in Season 2. Something has made people like Toni rise from the dead again, and with them their relationships. 

Closing out the episode, Toni's brother Serge showed up on the undead side, as well as his mom, and we found Victor living with Julie. In his signature cutesy-creepy way, the little boy drew all kinds of pictures of random people. Though they weren't random, as the pictures predicted who would be coming back—with Adele's unborn child among them. Victor then asked if Julie would stay with him forever, just as his real mom showed up. Across the lake, Adele went under to have her premature though 100 percent developed baby, leaving us to wonder what this was all building toward all over again.


Since the initial set of undead came wandering back into town, The Returned has had a feeling of forward momentum, like we were barreling toward an answer. Mysteries do that. You start from a point of not knowing, and then by the end you know. The thing about this show is that the mystery is so existential and ever-present that the feeling of "not knowing" becomes pure atmosphere. And that's appealing. We're okay not knowing as we become more invested in the lives involved rather than in finding out the big "answer" itself. After all, whatever the answer to this community's big mystery ends up being, could it really be that different from our day-to-day lives? Sure, no one is coming back from the dead on the regular, but their memories are and the emotions attached are real. The world is already pretty mysterious and the only thing that keeps us grounded are our relationships. Be they with the living or the dead.



UNDEAD QUESTIONS

– What the heck is going on with this town? 

– Should Simon give up pining for Adele? 

– Will Lena ever know peace? 

– Which character are you happiest to pick up with? 

– What did you think of “The Child”?


Comments (20)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Dec 29, 2015
I am HOOKED I never like shows in other languages,but I would watch this in Swahelee! I watched A&E and ABC's versions, but hands down The French have this. I must see Season 1 and catch up on theirs.
Reply
Flag
Nov 08, 2015
Another great season as the show proves to be one of the best.I just hope season 3 airs in a more reasonable time frame.
Reply
Flag
Nov 02, 2015
Sorry but the break between season was just too long. I remember almost nothing and I don't have the time to binge watch the first season again. Maybe in a few years when the it's over I will watch the whole show.
2
Reply
Flag
Nov 02, 2015
It's in tradition of european (especially french) cinema to rather have ambiguous resolution in the movie than clear cut explaining. So TV shows (mystery shows) operate in that way as well. Returned is more artful existential show in that french cinema fashion. So I wouldn't expect detailed explanation of what's going on in the end. And I don't want it. Im enjoying this show as it goes.
Don't understand why do american viewers often need "explain me everything" kinda shows all the time.
Reply
Flag
Nov 02, 2015
I am glad that you are enjoying the show but all French shows are far away from the quality you can find here.
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 02, 2015
I doubt that. France movies and tv shows lack quality when they try to imitate american ones. I can count few more quality french tv shows like Spirals or one about French resistance during WW2, both are hits in France. Or one about House of Tolerance in early 20th century. All these shows have slightly different approach to structuring narrative in tv series. Most american tv shows pursue same formula and approach in narrative, few are courage enough to explore different angle.
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
considering this show concluded 19 Oct, & all 8 episodes are available online in HD ...with subs.. is there really any point in watching this show via Sundance?

i could post spolier after spolier if i wanted to.. nothing to stop me... but i kinda respect sundance with at least trying to raise the median standard of taste for dumericans... though it seems a frivolous waste of money considering how few will actually watch it overall.

i hear dumericans have problems watching tv that you have to read... if they only spoke french or you know, could wait for the inevitable bastardised US remake .... oh yeah.. that ended poorly as well. [hehehe...]


1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
I loved season 1 but this season's ending was total crap!
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
no ..i actually think the finale is a set-up, based on the 'change' that was made by the 'guide'. [god damn it.. i wanna spoiler this sooo much!!!]

i still cant qualify that relationship between the 'guide' & the 'kid'...considering the mother was already waiting on the 'path'? [how did she cross over exactly?.. another mystery there also]

overall, IMO, s01 was more impactful.. s02 expanded the mystery.

i would love to see rating on this though.. rectify finale scored 160,000...i bet less than 25,000 viewers on this show.
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
If you find Victor creepy, just wait for the first scene (before the opening theme) of episode 5. The use of the music is perfect. And don't worry, you will know more about creepy Victor.
2
Reply
Flag
Staff
Nov 01, 2015
Wonderful. We're on a bit of a delay here in the States so I appreciate your spoiler-free teaser. Mogwai makes such a strong case for pairing consistent musicians with a TV series.
2
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
For once,I can see a show before it is airs in the States, it makes me feel all powerful.
3
Reply
Flag
Staff
Nov 01, 2015
with great power comes great spoiler-responsibility
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
what if we remove names and give away episode 8 only?.. cos that's not a spolier ..but an ending you to will have wait to find out if we are lying...right?
1
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
I've just watched ep2 of the 2nd season and I'm still intrigued, will probably binge this all day. For once I'm loving that I am completely clueless of what the hell is going on lol
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
Its showing on C4 in theUK. Way too many new plot lines. A complete mess, sorry.
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
If you aren't watching for answers then you're in for a treat, cuz there aren't many answers at the end of this second season 2. I've endured the 8 long boring hours until the not too bad finale compared to the rest. I wasn't a fan of season one & this second season is even less captivating, sorry for the fans. It's still one of the best French shows we have but not for me i guess!
1
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
It has been very interestingm specially to know that apparently Camille and her mom were apart of the horde.
Reply
Flag
Nov 01, 2015
Thank you for reviewing this fine, yet strange show.
4
Reply
Flag
Staff
Nov 01, 2015
Bien sur! It's one of my favorite shows in the past decade
3
Reply
Flag