When I first heard about the French show The Returned (Les Revenants), I was definitely intrigued. Dead people returning and the promise of lesbian characters was enough to reel me in. I sat down last night to watch the first episode and I can already tell this will be my new obsession.
A bus full of school children is driving through the scenic mountain countryside of France. Why, nothing could ruin this beautiful day. Oh great, here comes teacher wrecking a perfectly good field trip with a test. I used to hate teachers like this. Aren’t they aware that field trips should have nothing to do with learning? Camille takes off her headphones and apathetically grabs her copy of the test. This day can’t get any worse.
Apparently I spoke too soon. This show certainly knows how to start off with a bang. We are not even two minutes in and we are already exposed to the sights and sounds of an entire class plummeting off the side of a dam. Cut to present day inside a large estate perched within the mountainside, a butterfly comes back to life and bursts through the glass of the shadow box it had been displayed in. I smell foreshadowing. Nope, that’s my frozen pizza burning. I got caught up in the show and didn’t hear the timer.
The butterfly floats past an elderly gent asleep in a chair who is soon awakened by a knock at the door. Meanwhile, Camille casually climbs up a grassy hill at night unaware that she was a passenger on the death bus. I assume she is either a well-put together zombie or has the ability to regenerate a la Claire Bennet from Heroes. Next we enter an establishment called The Lake Pub. In a back room, a middle- aged man is paying a twenty-something for an act that involves disrobing as they leave through the bar. A group of friends notices their exit and asks their red-headed compatriot, Lena, if her Dad is seeing Lucy again. I don’t think there is enough beer in the bar to fix her evening after witnessing her Dad post-coital.
Lena’s Dad then arrives at a group meeting which is already in progress. If it is for sex addicts, he will definitely need to share this evening. Turns out it is a support group for parents of the children involved in the horrific bus crash. At the same time, Camille continues her journey along a busy road; she slowly approaches a town in the distance that suddenly loses power. The power returns minutes later and we cut back to the group meeting where they discuss the design of a future monument in honor of the bus crash victims. The group leader, Pierre, opens the floor to Lena’s Dad, Jerome, who proceeds to shit all over the monument calling it pointless and ugly.
Camille eventually returns home and her mother, Claire, comes down the stairs calling out for Lena. She sees Camille preparing a sandwich in the kitchen and stands frozen staring at her. Camille apologizes for being late and explains it wasn’t her fault. She woke up near the dam and had to walk the whole way home. After her Mom stares at her and responds with one word answers, Camille retires to take a bath upstairs. While trying not to have a heart attack, Camille’s mother puts her room back in order and removes a creepy shrine with a picture of twins. Holy crap, Lena is her identical twin! And it appears several years have passed since the accident. Claire then calls Pierre, the group leader, and when he doesn’t answer, she calls Jerome, her ex-husband.
The elderly gent, Mr. Costa, calls Julie to come over and give him some type of medical treatment. He seems very agitated and asks her to hurry. As she leaves, she lets a curly haired stranger enter through the security door, which is always a good idea. He thanks her and asks if the door code has changed. Uh oh, Julie, another reanimated corpse. Keep walking. He proceeds upstairs and knocks on Julie’s door only to be confronted by an intrusive neighbor with wailing cats. He is looking for Adele and is very confused when Miss Nosy has no clue who he is talking about.
Jerome arrives at Claire’s house and opens the bathroom to door to view Camille in the tub. She angrily yells at him to get out, thinking her Dad has lost his mind. As her parents try their best not to crap their pants, Camille comes downstairs and asks if she should see a doctor since she must have had a blackout. She then inquires where Lena is and Claire nervously says she is at a friend’s. Cut to Lena pounding back shots while trying to forget that her Dad solicits prostitutes at her favorite watering hole. Meanwhile, Mr. Costa is getting his “calm down” shot from Julie. When she inquires about a noise in another room he insists he is alone and she leaves. Once she is gone, Mr. Costa slowly walks down the hall past younger pictures of him and his wife. And surprise, guess who is at the kitchen table? And she hasn’t aged a day.