Episode two of The Returned doesn’t move us much further forward but it was engaging and enjoyable all the same. Little bits of plot were teased out and we got a more in-depth look at some of the characters, with this episode focussing on Simon.
The episode began with a short and compact flashback to Simon and Adele’s wedding day. Happy and in love, their day was ruined as Simon died in as yet unexplained circumstances, leaving Adele alone at the alter. Back in the present day, Simon is smashing a barman over the head with a glass. There’s clearly a big difference in Simon’s personality now and in the flashbacks, and I wonder if it suggests something changed in the nature of the returned.
Simon visited Adele again this episode, and it’s pretty annoying how conveniently there is nobody around whenever the two meet, allowing Adele to think it’s all in her mind. When I can see the writing being obviously structured to aid the plot it breaks my immersion in a show.
Simon was arrested for his assault, and questioned by Adele’s police officer husband, and that is where we left this storyline, with a nicely set-up three party relationship, with each person holding a different piece of the picture.
Meanwhile, Camille was struggling to come to terms with her return. Her parents tiptoe around her, her sister is in denial and her former friends don’t even recognise her. Presumably this will be a big part of the show, the recently dead struggling with their alienation from their former friends and family. The BBC’s recent zombie show In the Flesh covered similar territory.
Also introduced this episode was Serge, a serial killer back from the dead. We saw a little of him last week in his attack on Lucy – who is still alive, it is revealed. Serge’s brother was questioned by police and then headed out to the family farm, where he met his returned brother.
The Guardian’s reviewer argued that the serial killer plot is a ‘little inconsistent with the understated, less fantastical feel of The Returned’s other storylines.’ I think though that we’re going to have to get used to this because this direction is inevitably were the show is heading. It’s a supernatural drama in which twins experience mutual orgasm and in which all kinds of crazy goings on are happing, like the power cuts and reservoir level issues. I do think it is a potential a problem. If the show starts getting cartoonish or overt in its supernaturalism then it will conflict with the creepy and quiet atmosphere we’ve had so far.
I do like the serial killer plot though. Serge’s brother, Toni, in particular is interesting, seemingly feeling protective and scared of his brother at the same time. It mirrors the reaction of other family of the recently returned, except that Toni has reasons beyond the supernatural to be frightened of his brother.
We also had a little more of Julie and Victor this episode. At the end of the hour Julie is shown to have scars across her stomach, suggesting – I think – that she was the victim of one of Serge’s attacks. Victor meanwhile still refused to speak, and had some fun with his deadness, jumping out of windows and transporting himself through walls.
Swann Nambotin, the little guy playing Victor, is great. There is something in his demeanour and appearance that is both creepy and sweet, off-putting and likeable. Of course, horror has long exploited the creepiness of children but it’s still pretty effective. The horror in this show in general is pretty good. In one eerie scene, Serge walked up unknown behind his brother, without musical cues or an attempt to shock the audience.
Unexpected direction like this can keep the show scary. There was an America horror show called The River which I doubt you’ve ever seen because it was short lived and awful. The first two episodes though were very creepy, but the show found it impossible to sustain this over the whole series. It became cartoonish. Movies can be very frightening over 90 minutes but it’s much harder to do this over an eight episode series. Hopefully, The Returned can stay frightening via interesting direction.
- Some things we learned about the returned: they are all very hungry, with Camille raiding the cupboards last week, Simon assaulting someone who wouldn’t feed him this week, and Serge eating a chunk of someone’s flesh. They also can’t sleep.
- The show is set in quite a beautiful location. I’d like to see them make more use of it.
- I still really like the directing. There was a nice, brief shot this episode from outside Adele’s house, with Adele and her husband visible downstairs and her daughter visible in her room above, both lit up and surrounded by the darkness outside.
- There is quite a useful list of characters from The Returned on the Channel 4 website, for anyone struggling to keep track