This second last episode opened with a flashback to Adele’s attempted suicide. Like BBC Three’s zombie show In the Flesh, The Returned is interested in exploring mental illness, whether that’s the depression of Julie, Simon and Adele, or Serge’s murderous compulsions. Simon and his daughter Chloe spent the episode separately trying to work out the motivations of the suicidal, while Adele tried to suppress any such thinking.
Like Adele, Julie has been dealing with her problems in not the healthiest of ways. After being attacked by Serge, she cut off contact with her friends and shut herself away from the world. Only now is she dealing openly with the problem, and seeking answers, telling Laure that she thinks she’s a returned, an explanation for why she feels so dead inside. Like Adele explaining away Simon as an angel, Laure’s belief that she is dead is an easy answer, a way of avoiding the truth. Laure though recognised Julie’s deep unhappiness, and decided to whisk her and Victor away from the town and all its problems.
And the town certainly has problems, with a broken dam and thus no power. Where though are the media, and the government, and the local authorities? An entire town without power is going to attract attention. I’m sure there is an explanation on the horizon for why there is no help incoming, but why aren’t the characters wondering about this? Why aren’t they phoning the local council or French equivalent? It’s perfectly okay for the show to be supernatural but it needs internal logic or things are going to fall apart. If there is no realism, the show becomes a cartoon and will stop having any impact.
Another example of this is Victor’s sudden switch from totally silent to perfectly talkative. Why couldn’t he talk for so much of the early episodes? It’s a mystery without explanation, and that is a huge problem for a show with so many mysteries. If it’s an example of things to come then there’s going to be a lot of frustrated people watching as question after question goes unanswered by the show.
As problems mounted for the town, the returned started facing their own issues. Many of them are starting to rot. Victor seems unable to control his powers, unintentionally knocking-out Chloe with a vision of her mother’s suicide attempt, and Camille had to face up to what she’d accidentally done: provoking the suicide of two people. She reconciled with her sister Lena though, who showed up back home, without comment about her meeting with the strange wood folk. I guess they weren’t that interesting.
What was interesting was Camille’s conversation with Mrs Costa. She seems to understand what is happening more than most, and treats the whole thing with a weary resignation. Perhaps she’s been though all this before, and has returned many times? In one scene, Pierre had a dream were Victor showed him the valley completely flooded, and we know that there’s an old town at the bottom of the lake. Maybe the town is caught in some never-ending loop; although why Mrs Costa is keeping things to herself I don’t know.
There is something a little off about Mrs Costa, and it’s still difficult to tell if the returned are malicious or not. Certainly Pierre seems to think they will be treated that way, and is bedding down for war, stocking-up on guns. But then, maybe people are right to be afraid of the returned. Near the episode’s end, one of the parents from the grief counselling group collapsed, and has seemingly lost her baby. Afterwards, the camera lingered on Camille, who the woman has consistently been at odds with. Is Camille responsible?
One of the returned who definitely does have his darker side is Serge, who disappeared under the lake this episode, after he and his brother tried to escape the town. Looping around the woods in circles, going nowhere, they decided to swim across the lake, with Serge suddenly being dragged beneath the water, leaving Toni alone.
Julie and Laure also tried to escape, after Victor’s involvement with Chloe had Thomas requesting his arrest. Crossing the dam once, and then twice, and then, in an increasingly tense scene, for a third time, Julie and Laure realised they were trapped and unable to leave. Meanwhile, across town at the bar, Lucy the waitress welcomed the shadowy wood folk with a smile. The finale next week has a lot to do, a lot of mysteries to answer, and I’m not that sure it will be able to deliver. Fingers crossed.
- The conversation between Camille’s mother and the other parent, after they discovered the suicide in the barn, was a little forced, unnecessarily underlining Camille’s complicity in their deaths. I also don’t think anyone would be as callous as the other parent in real life, forcing Camille to feel as bad as she did.
- There doesn’t appear to be any procedure in French police stations. No lawyers, no civil rights, no anything really. Police can just pick up who they want, lock them up, interview them whenever, however. A right-wing, law and order paradise. Maybe that will be next week’s big reveal.
- Mrs Costa mentioned dying in a burglary, which hints at Victor’s death. But if she was related to Victor, you’d think she’d be more engaged with him. They had a meal once, and that’s it. Maybe there’s no connection though.