The Returned (Les Revenants) – Series 1

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If you’re looking for something just a bit different than the typical TV genre fare, and don’t mind reading subtitles, this eight-part, French series may be your answer. From the moment the opening credits roll and the music begins, the signature of the story is set in a way few shows can. You’re clear that the series will be a moody and somewhat brain-bending ride.

The Returned is an expansion (of sorts) of the original They Came Back, though that film has more in common with In the Flesh than the current adaptation. This series is a bit more mystery than social impact of the returning dead, though there is certainly some impact to be considered.

The series clearly capitalized on its cinematic genesis as it moved to the small screen with consistently impressive camera-work and story scope. While the cast is very capable, with some rather talented children actors carrying a lot of the weight, I only knew one from their previous efforts. And that person, Pierrot (I’ve Loved You so Long), appears to also be the only actor from the movie source to have followed the tale to its new digs on the small screen.

The weekly format titles the episodes by character, similar to Skins, but tends to be broader in approach. While an episode will delve into and reveal aspects of a particular character’s life and situation, any given story will range across most characters through the course of its hour. And the surprises and twists abound. Many episodes left me open mouthed in surprise; no easy feat.

However, to warn you ahead of time, don’t expect the series to answer all your questions or to fully resolve. This first series focused on the relationships and  are mainly a set up for the confirmed second series arriving next year. I’m expecting the second series to answer the questions and deal with the fallout of the finale. Given what has already been produced, I’m trusting them on faith to eventually deliver and not devolve into some bad version of Lost or Twin Peaks. Admittedly, there is always a risk they will fail, but these first eight offerings were an impressive beginning. I really wanted this to be a solid stand-alone, but if they can provide eight more like the first round, it will be worth the annoyance and wait.