I had some mixed feelings about the premiere of the new American remake of ‘The Returned’ on A&E. Fortunately, the show’s second episode is an improvement in many respects.
Although the pilot episode’s primary storyline, involving a teenage girl who mysteriously returned home four years after her death as if nothing had happened, was pretty fascinating and very well handled, other storylines felt like they were lifted out of a middling horror movie, especially a slasher scene at the very end. The second episode sands down some of those rough edges to give us more of the former and less of the latter. It also gives Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who basically only appeared in a cameo in the pilot, a lot more to do.
At the same time, the show has a frustrating problem shared by producer Carlton Cuse’s most famous series, ‘Lost’: The characters have a sometimes infuriating habit of not talking to each other or telling anyone what has happened to them when they really should.
Also like ‘Lost’, it seems that flashbacks will be a significant component of this story. Episode ‘Simon’ starts off six years ago (which would be two years before the school bus crash). Bar waitress Rowan (Winstead) is very much in love with her rocker fiancé of the title. However, something terrible happens the morning of their wedding. We don’t know the exact circumstances of his death yet, but Rowan (who also just found out she’s pregnant) is left a wreck.
In the present day, Rowan has finally rebuilt her life and is now engaged to Sheriff Tommy Solano (Kevin Alejandro from ‘True Blood’). Simon shows up in town asking around about her. When he eventually tracks her to the library, she thinks he’s a ghost and tells him that she has finally comes to terms with his death and is ready to let go of him. Simon leaves without saying a word. Personally, if it were me, I would have asked her, “WTF are you talking about?”
On his way out, Simon gets picked up by the police, who want to question him about the attack on fake psychic Lucy (apparently she survived, but is in critical condition) because he’d been seen talking to her the night before. The victim had symbols carved into her flesh which match an unsolved series of crimes from the past. Simon tells them his name, but of course records indicate that he’s dead. Sheriff Tommy assumes that he’s an identity thief, until he digs through a box of photos in his attic and finds a shot of Rowan with her old boyfriend.
Camille and Family
At some point in the middle of all this, Simon also crosses paths with Lena, the older twin sister of returnee Camille. Lena recognizes him as having given her a drum lesson when she was younger and obviously makes a connection between him and what happened to her sister. But, again, she doesn’t tell anyone.
Camille’s return has placed a lot of strain on her family. Lena actually accuses her of not being who she says she is and storms out of the house. Camille follows her to the bar and spots Lena hanging around with the boy she used to have a crush on. In a fit of teenage jealousy, she trashes her sister’s room. Camille also feels that everyone has forgotten about her and moved on already.
Mother Claire contemplates patching things up with her ex-husband Jack (Mark Pellegrino) and tells current boyfriend Peter (Jeremy Sisto) that they need to cool things off for a while, but Jack’s drinking problem sours some of those feelings.
The creepy little boy known only as Victor still isn’t talking. His temporary protector Dr. Julie (Sandrine Holt) goes to the police station to see if there are any Missing Persons reports about him, but it seems that nobody is looking for him. Her appearance at the station raises some red flags, however. The cops question her about what her interest is. Rather than tell them that the boy is staying in her apartment, she lies and says that she spotted him on the side of the road but drove by. As a doctor, shouldn’t she feel an obligation to call Child Protective Services?
At the end of the episode, we discover that Julie has scars on her stomach that mark her as a victim of the slasher who attacked Lucy. Meanwhile, in the other room, Victor grabs some crayons and draws a picture with the same swirly pattern as the scars.
From the previews for the next episode, it appears that the issue with nobody talking to anybody else may come to a head quickly as the secret of the returned gets out. I hope that’s the case. That trope is kind of annoying here. Despite that, I liked this episode a lot more than the first one and am starting to feel some investment in the storylines.
Random interesting clue: Both Camille and Simon are shown as being very, very hungry. Simon wolfs down a couple burgers at the bar, and Camille does the same with a plate of pancakes at home. Camille makes a joke that, “So I guess you know I’m a zombie.” I assume that she wouldn’t have made a reference to zombies if that was where the show is literally going, but it struck me as significant.