Full disclosure: I have not seen the French version of The Returned, Les Revenants, because I am an uncultured American swine. According to this guy, however, the original show is amazing and perfect, and this pathetic American knockoff isn’t even fit to shine its shoes. So, there we are. Perhaps we should all watch the French version, too, and then we can compare and contrast.
The Returned opens with a gorgeous, panning shot of the Pacific Northwest landscape. It’s four years ago, and a school bus is cruising along the scenic mountain route. On the bus, we zero in on one student who is doing all your typical teenage girl things: listening to emotional music through headphones (in this case it’s “Welcome Home” by Radical Face), staring out the window longingly pining for a life that she doesn’t even know how to define, let alone obtain, and ignoring her peers and teacher. Wait, what’s that? Those aren’t typical teenage girl things? Well, they were for me, so take your makeup and your boys and MOVE ALONG.
Camille is her name, and she sighs deeper than anyone has ever sighed as she accepts an assignment from her teacher while pondering her existence. I hope she’s at peace with herself, because, of all a sudden, her bus skids off the road and falls from a cliff. I’m no bus expert, but there did not appear to be any reason for that accident to happen. Very curious.
Four years later, present day, and the Pacific Northwest is still full of nature and beauty. The sky is blue, the trees are green, and the people are white and wealthy. Back at the scene of the bus crash, Camille climbs up to the road. She looks distressed and confused, but definitely not like she’s been dead for four years. Actually, she doesn’t even look that dirty or mussed from climbing. Somewhere, Buffy Summers is watching this show and scoffing, “In my day, we had to earn our resurrections. I clawed out of my grave with my bare hands!”
Somewhere else in town, Elton from Clueless is facilitating a support group, and Jacob from LOST comes in late and hovers by the door.
The power goes out across the whole town, and a woman who I suspect is Camille’s mother uses the outage as an opportunity to light the candles in her Camille-shrine. The power comes back after just a moment, though, so Camilla’s mom blows out the candles and decides to pray to her shrine later.
Back at the support group, a woman presents a model of the memorial being built to honor victims of the bus crash. She mentions that there are 32 holes to represent the 32 lives lost, but I hope the welder didn’t finish that part yet, because with Camille’s return they only need 31 holes. Awkward. Jacob from LOST is like, “No offense, but… that memorial is so. Effing. Ugly.” Elton tries to mediate the conflict, but Jacob is pretty much a jerk to everyone and they all look very used to his behavior.
Camille’s mom hears rustling in the kitchen, and, making the fairly safe assumption that someone alive is making the noise, calls out to “Lena” and goes to check it out. She finds her super dead daughter standing there looking very super alive. Camille is starving, which makes sense because she hasn’t eaten in four years. It looks like she’s using Miracle Whip on her sandwich, though, so clearly she’s a monster who can’t be trusted.
Before her mom can say anything, Camille starts ranting, like, “Don’t get mad at me! Weirdest thing happened—I woke up in this ditch, and I don’t really know how I got there, but I didn’t have my phone, and I had to walk like a million miles, and I’ve just had, like, a really hard day, OK? So just let me eat this sandwich before you JUMP DOWN MY THROAT. GOD, mom.”
Meanwhile, in a bar called the “Dog Star” (which I’m guessing is a reference to Sirius, the brightest star system, not the deceased wizard), a young girl that I think is the aforementioned Lena is ripping shots left and right. She’s tryna get wasted, y’all! In a room adjacent to the bar, Jacob from LOST and a new lady are getting dressed and they have a weird exchange:
Lady: Sorry, it doesn’t always work.
Jacob: It’s OK.
Lady: Usually, I get something, but today? Nothing.
Jacob: It was still good.
Listen, I’m extraordinarily not heterosexual, but I’ve been given to understand that in these types of situations the dude is usually the one apologizing for something “not working.” Something is amiss here, I say! Jacob (whose name is actually Jack on this show, apparently, and boy is that confusing) also seems to be at least partially supporting this woman financially. He gets a call from Camille’s mom (Claire), who asks him to come over. There are a lot of characters being introduced, but I think I figured out that Jack and Claire are Lena and Camille’s parents.