With its airing on Channel 4 being accompanied by the trait of being the first fully subtitled drama to be aired on the station for years, it’s hard to expect anything other than this TV series-length adaptation of the 2004 French film They Came Back, or Les Revenants.
Thankfully, as it turns out, the acclaim and hype is entirely warranted.
Appropriating the surreal normalcy of Twin Peaks and combining it with a premise that recalls a more nuanced take on recent BBC serials The Fades and In The Flesh, The Returned sees a small town bearing witness to a number of its former residents being inexplicably resurrected ¬– their time deceased ranging from a few years to 30 – while trying to find some meaning behind the unexpected return of some of their friends and relatives and reconcile this with the effect it has on their day-to-day lives.
Meanwhile, a number of strange animal deaths and rising water levels at the local dam only add to existing concerns.
While The Fades and In The Flesh at times couldn’t help but poke fun at their own outlandish premises, you will find no such wry humour in The Returned. Exhibiting an at times almost unbearably melancholy atmosphere that owes much to David Lynch’s trope-defining series, the performance of the cast is entirely in keeping with that of a small town that has faced and pulled through in the face of numerous tragedies, only to be faced with yet another that leaves it literally – and figuratively – isolated from the world at large.
It’s a world that’s easy to get lost in and believe in, a sense of authenticity only occasionally punctuated by the odd misjudged character, like the abrasive local police chief and the enigmatic creepy kid, both of which seem to have become staples of genre TV nowadays.
Even so, with a second series in the offing, and with it a chance to add the cathartic value of explanation that series lacked, there’s a real future in The Returned, and it’s richly deserved.