One of the best things about running a pop culture website and podcast is that when I discover a new television show – well, new to me – and I want to talk about it with others, I have an immediate way to do it and it’s far-reaching. I mini-binged on The Returned last night, watching the first four of the eight episodes, and knew I had to write about it.
But first, a little history: The Returned (Les Revenants) is a French drama series which originally aired in 2012. While it shares a similar premise (people return from the dead) with a novel titled ‘The Returned’, they are not related. The US television program, Resurrection, is based on the novel. I recorded a weekly podcast for Resurrection and enjoyed it so much that I’ll definitely cover season two this fall.
Now, let’s dive into episode one of The Returned.
Four years ago, a chartered bus carrying school kids and their teacher suddenly careens off a mountain road and crashes.
In present time, a butterfly in a framed case comes to life and breaks through the glass. It flies through a house and hovers near a sleeping older man. He’s awakened by a knock at the door. A young girl climbs her way onto a dirt road and starts walking along the highway. She’s Camille, and she was on the bus.
Above a bar called The Lake Pub, a man pays a woman and it’s clear they just finished having sex. She apologizes to him saying that, “It doesn’t always work” and he asks if they can try again next week. Huh. Usually it’s the guy doing the apologizing. Anyway, they make their way downstairs to the bar area where a young girl sits with two guys. One of the guys points out to the girl, Lena, that her father (the man who was upstairs) has just finished up with Lucy again, for the third time this week. Ouch. She tries to look unaffected, but it bothers her as she takes a sip of beer. Later that night, the father, Jerome, arrives at a meeting for the parents of the children who died in the bus crash. He’s just in time to hear a woman, Sandrine, announce to the group that she and her husband are having a baby.
Camille continues to walk down the roads as the street lights and the lights of homes and businesses flicker off and on. Back at the meeting, Jerome is being a bit of a dick. There’s a monument going up to honor the dead kids and he scoffs at the sketch of it, saying it’s ugly.
Camille finally arrives home and heads straight for the kitchen. Her mother, Claire, has been upstairs and hears her come in, but she thinks it’s her other (alive) daughter, Lena. She’s shocked to find Camille making a sandwich like everything is normal. Camille apologizes for getting home so late saying that she woke up way above the dam and had to walk an hour to get home. While she’s preparing to shower, Claire (still in shock) rushes to remove all signs of what has happened from Camille’s bedroom.
Claire calls Pierre, the man leading the group meeting, but he doesn’t answer. She calls Jerome, her husband, and asks him to come home. He asks if it’s about Lena, obviously wondering if Lena has told her mother where she saw him earlier. Claire says it’s about Camille and he says he’s on his way.
A young woman named Julie is watching a movie at home when she gets a call from Mr. Costa. He’s having heart palpitations and asks her to come over. Mr. Costa is the man who was awoken by a knock at the door earlier in the evening. Julie tells him she’s on her way and as he hangs up the phone, a woman from the other room asks who he has called.
Julie leaves her apartment and on her way out of the building, she lets in a young man who seems to have forgotten the security code. He goes right to Julie’s apartment door and Julie’s nosy-ass neighbor, Ms. Payet, asks him who he’s there to see. He’s looking for a woman named Adele and is confused when she tells him that Adele doesn’t live there.
Jerome arrives home and Claire leads him to the bathroom where Camille is taking a bath.
In the backyard, Claire tells Jerome that Camille doesn’t remember anything about the bus crash. They’re in shock, but try to hide it when Camille asks why they’re acting so strangely. She calls a school friend, Frederic, despite the fact that Claire warns she might wake him. Turns out, he’s at the pub with Lena and she instructs him to ignore her mother’s call.
Julie tends to Mr. Costa. It appears she’s his nurse. He ushers her out quickly when she hears a noise in the kitchen, insisting that he’s alone. After she’s gone, he goes to the kitchen, walking past the butterflies in the broken frame. There’s a woman in the kitchen, the same woman who’s in many of the pictures around his house, and she’s totally stuffing her face. “I was so hungry,” she says.
Simon, the guy who first appeared at Julie’s apartment building, arrives at the pub and asks for Adele. He says she’s a waitress there, but Lucy, who also works there, has never heard of her. Lena overhears and says she knows where Adele lives and offers to take Simon there in exchange for a beer. This doesn’t please Frederic at all.
Pierre arrives at Camille’s house. Jerome isn’t happy to see him. Claire tells him he was right: her prayers were answered and Camille has come home. She takes him to see Camille, who’s upset that the stuff in her room has been rearranged. Claire tells her that Pierre is a doctor, but Camille realizes that’s not true. She thinks he’s a shrink and insists that she’s not crazy. He tells her that going crazy, or saying that you’re crazy, is a strategy employed when reality becomes too hard to handle. This makes Camille tired (me too!) and she asks them to leave so she can go to bed. I do not like Pierre one bit.
A little boy has followed Julie all the way home from the bus stop near Mr. Costa’s house, on the bus, from the bus stop near her house and to her building. He rings her doorbell, but doesn’t answer any of her questions about who he is or where he came from. Of course, nosy-ass Ms. Payet comes into the hall asking questions. Julie tells her the little boy’s name is Victor and Ms. Payet tells her about Simon’s visit, but Julie doesn’t know anything about where Adele, the woman who lived in her apartment before her, has gone.
Back at Camille’s house, Jerome and Pierre exchange words. Jerome has rejected prayers and religion after losing Camille and he doesn’t know how to feel about her return. It seems as though there’s something going on between Claire and Pierre and Jerome knows it.
Lena leads Simon to Adele’s house. They walk through this creepy-ass tunnel, and I have to say that Lena doesn’t seem very smart. You just met him, girl! After she points out Adele’s house, Simon walks off without a word and she heads home. Simon peers through the window at Adele who is trying on a wedding gown. She sees him in the reflection of her mirror, but when she turns around, he’s gone. The doorbell rings, and as he starts pounding on the door, demanding entry, she yells for him to go away. Her young daughter comes down the stairs asking what’s wrong. Simon hears the little girl from the other side of the door and leaves.
Victor is wolfing down a plate of rice at Julie’s, and he’s still not saying who he is or where he’s from. She threatens to call the police since his parents are probably worried, but he just stares her down until she hangs up. She agrees to let him stay one night. Later, she asks his name and he tells her it’s Victor, the name she gave him.
The Lake Pub has closed and the bartender tells Lucy he’ll handle everything else and she can leave. She walks home alone, through the tunnel, where she is attacked by a man who stabs her in the stomach repeatedly.
Lena arrives home, but sneaks in because it’s late. Camille hears her and knocks on her door, a knock that is clearly special between the two of them. Lena stares at the door and knocks a response. When Camille enters the room, Lena cries and screams. Camille does too. And then I cry because it’s heartbreaking.
Mr. Costa is lighting a bunch of pictures on fire in his home and he has the woman from earlier bound and gagged inside. He leaves her there to burn to death. Later, after the fire has been put out, the police captain learns there was no one inside. They put out an alert for Mr. Costa. The police captain goes home to Adele, who needs comforting because she tells him it has “happened again.” The next day, Simon sees his gravesite.
At the dam, two workers discover the water levels are lower than they were yesterday. They notice Mr. Costa climbing on the dam wall, but he jumps before they can get to him. Lucy lies dead in the tunnel. Julie watches Victor sleep on her couch, but when she walks away we see he’s only pretending to be asleep.
At Camille’s, the family sits in silence, not sure what to do. And then there’s a fade back in time to the day of the bus accident.
Lena is sick so she’s staying home and will miss the school trip. Camille is upset because she still has to go. When Lena turns from the window after waving goodbye, we see that Lena and Camille are twins!
Lena was pretending to be sick so she could sneak Frederic into the house. Lena knows that Camille is in love with Frederic, but he says he’s in love with Lena. As the two have sex, Camille can feel it while she’s on the bus. She freaks out and rushes to the door, demanding to be left off the bus. The driver won’t stop. He swerves to avoid hitting a young boy, Victor, standing in the road. Victor and Camille lock eyes before the bus flies off the road and crashes.