TV Focus//The Returned Series 1, Episode 1: Camille

Contains spoilers

The story: In a small Alpine village a number of people who’ve been dead for years suddenly appear again. With no memory of their deaths, they haven’t aged and they arrive to a world changed by their deaths to face the loved ones who’ve mourned them.

The Returned is Channel 4’s new French import and it promises big, big things. Using a style familiar to fans of The Killing and Borgen, The Returned is billed as a zombie drama and yet just from this opening episode, it’s quite clearly much more than just that.

BBC3’s recent quality drama In The Flesh showed that a story about the undead can be something different and more emotionally engaging than anything where the ‘enemy’ is a typical decaying, shuffling menace.  The Returned takes this concept to another level altogether as it shows us something completely new and far more creepy than any zombie drama has shown before.

These undead show no physical signs of what killed them and have no memory of their own deaths. The impact on their families of their re-appearances are as varied as they are startling. The parents of the eponymous teen Camille, who died in a coach crash four years previously, re-unite to put on an act of togetherness that’s as moving as it’s crazy. Anne Cosigny as mum Claire and Frédéric Pierrot as dad Jérome excel here as bereaved parents learning to their horror what can happen when your prayers for your lost child are answered.

Meanwhile, local Doctor Julie has to deal with a mysterious little boy called Victor who appears at her home, and newly “returned” Simon trawls the town looking for his partner Adéle, who is about to be married to another man.

Perhaps the saddest tale (and that really is saying something) is that of Mr Costa whose wife, dead for decades if appearances are anything to go by, returns to the marital home. Unable to tell anyone what has happened and unwilling or unable to deal with his dead wife’s return, Mr Costa’s actions are nothing short of tragic.

Against all of this, there’s still room to be extremely disturbed as Camille and her sister Léna’s story unfolds.  Léna’s horrified reaction to her sister’s return becomes horribly clear as we learn more about the events leading up to the crash that killed Camille. It’s the kind of revelation that has you furiously hitting the “rewind” button on your telly box.

The Returned is shot against a haunting Alpine landscape and the small-town feel means that surely no-one in this little place will be unaffected by the dead walking among them again. Camille takes place over a single, long night where the morning brings a world completely re-written for those affected by the return of their loved ones.

This episode sets the bar incredibly high for the series to follow and it’s perhaps a testament to the quality of the show that a second series has already been commissioned.  But for now, we’ll have to wait a long week for Episode 2 where Simon meets with Adéle and Camille struggles to adjust to life with her family again.

OMG moment #1: The bus crashing in the opening minutes
OMG moment #2: They’re twins. Twins!

Best image: An apparently dead butterfly flaps its wings and breaks out of its picture frame prison
Life’s-not-like-in-the-movies moment: Jérome thinks the planned memorial to his daughter and her school chums is ugly and pointless

What does he know?: Claire’s new partner, psychiatrist Pierre, seems remarkably calm in the face of Camille’s re-appearance
We need answers: Who is the mysterious man who murders local girl Lucy in a dingy subway?

And while we’re at it…: Why are the newly returned so flaming hungry?

Reviewed by Andrea McGuire.

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