5 September 2013 | Leofwine_draca
Very good - and very frustrating
Review of Series One:
THE RETURNED, a French TV series tackling a zombie epidemic, is one of the freshest and most inventive pieces of television I've watched in a while. Everything about it screams impressive: it boasts wonderful performances from a series of outstanding actors, huge attention to detail, and exceptional technical values from the direction to the camera-work, the set design, you name it. It's also very well written, with a cast of intriguing characters and just the right level of incident to keep you watching.
Another plus is the horror theme, which for once is handled with maturity and insight into human emotion. These aren't clichéd, flesh-eating zombies, rather missing loved ones, and watching them return to their family members - who have long since stopped the grieving process - is heartbreaking. The horror comes from a growing sense of mystery, of an increasing foreboding, enhanced by some excellent, long-held musical notes which send suspense levels through the roof. It truly doesn't get much better than this, and it puts Hollywood to shame.
If there's one problem with THE RETURNED, it's that it ends up incredibly frustrating, because it answers very few of the many, many questions it raises. By the end of the last episode of season one, we're no closer to the truth of the matter than we were at the beginning of the first episode, which is a real pity; the audience will only go along with you for so long, and there should have been some real, concrete answers to sweeten the mix. As it is, we're now forced to wait - for a very long time - for the second series, which should hopefully provide at least some explanation as to what it's all about.
Review of Series Two:
Most of us who were fans of the first series were eagerly awaiting this second series as it would hopefully tie up some of the mystery from the first. No such luck. Instead of finally telling us what's been going on, THE RETURNED continues to plough the same furrow, deliberately obscuring the viewer and raising more questions than it answers.
The use of flashbacks has gone into overload here. Every episode opens with a flashback and they recur throughout. They're pretty tiresome by now, especially when they add very little to the plot development. Plus, a bunch of new and rather extraneous characters are introduced and the series tells their stories instead of adding much in the way of new stuff to the existing characters.
The quality of the acting is still good, and the cinematography - all stillness and gloom - remains excellent. But the characters seem like they're stuck in a rut, and viewers are forced to wait until the final episode until something finally happens. I'm not sure what - the ambiguous nature of it means that the viewer must make his or her own mind up as to what transpired - but at least it provides a conclusion of sorts. Please, no third series though, as this was a huge step down from the excellent first.