“Les Revenants” has come back from the dead! A&E is now airing a remake of the acclaimed French series, which originally aired in the U.S. on SundanceTV in 2013, called “The Returned.” The new show brings a stellar cast and a wider audience to a very similar story – the remake has stayed remarkably close to the French version – and serves as creepy follow-up to “Bates Motel.” Should you be watching?
The premise is simple: previously dead residents of a small town mysteriously return to resume their lives with no memory of their death. Town members coping with being confronted with loved ones they had previously tried to leave behind makes things complicated.
The premiere centers on Camille, a high school girl who died four years earlier in a bus accident, who suddenly appears in her family’s kitchen again making a sandwich. Though Camille (India Ennenga) looks and feels the same – despite being strangely hungry all the time – she has returned to a very different life. In the aftermath of her death, her parents, Claire (Tandi Wright) and Jack (Mark Pelligrino), separated and her rebellious twin sister, Lena (Sophie Lowe), aged four years.
Camille is not the only one who has “returned” and each episode in the series focuses on another mysterious reappearance as the stories start to intersect. It is curious that Carlton Cuse, a former executive producer and writer for ABC’s “Lost,” would choose to revisit this territory – personal relationships strained by a supernatural occurrence. One of his “Lost” co-conspirators, Damon Lindelof, now heads HBO’s “The Leftovers,” a show where scores of people inexplicable disappear. Cuse’s “Returned,” where people inexplicably reappear instead, falls short of Lindelof’s HBO show’s thematic depth and ends up feeling like “Leftovers” light.
However, that does not mean “The Returned” is not worth watching. The show also draws heavily on “Twin Peaks,” containing its drama almost entirely within the confines of its way-too-small town as a supernatural tidal wave brews on the horizon. Like “Twin Peaks” there’s also a serial killer on the loose and a paranormal conspiracy in play. The show is not at a loss for creepy moments. After all, while this is not “The Walking Dead,” it is a zombie show of sorts, and the Returned do not bring anything close to peace or happiness for their loved ones from the other side.
On that front “The Returned” succeeds admirably, creating an unending sense of dread. Any show that can make looking at a wide-eyed eight-year old boy -- Dylan Kingwell's "Victor" -- a terrifying experience is doing something right.
The knock on the show is that it is loyal to a fault in its adaptation of the French original. Though, while “Les Revenants” was unapologetically artsy, “The Returned” sometimes struggles to stay on the right of the line between emotionally affecting thriller and melodrama.
All the same, with steadying performances from the large ensemble cast, A&E succeeds in creating a faithful, if Americanized, adaption of a brilliant show and a pitch perfect follow-up to its lead-in, “Bates Motel.”
What do you think of “The Returned?” Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.