This week brings us the first season’s penultimate episode of ‘The Returned’, and forces me to accept that this show is simply not going to go where I expect or want it to go. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I honestly don’t know.
I’ve been harping for a while now on the question of how long the big secret can realistically be contained. Perhaps I should just give up and let that go. The characters will spread the word when the show’s writers want them to, and that’s all there is to it. What’s actually “realistic” in a story where people come back from the dead, anyway?
On the other hand, when this week’s episode has some of those characters blabbing about the returned dead on social media, yet still nothing comes of it, I feel like the writers are just jerking us around. What kind of world does this story take place in that news like that wouldn’t quickly go viral?
Did the original French series handle this differently?
We open with a flashback to 29 years ago, where we discover that Helen (Michelle Forbes) has been incarcerated in a loony bin after burning down the town hall in protest of… something or other. She’s always been a hothead and fairly off her rocker, is the point. During visiting hours, her husband the dam engineer seems to be endlessly patient and loving with her, which throws some of what we’ve been told about him into a different light. Eventually, however, he has to leave for work.
A few moments later, alarms go off and the staff tries to evacuate the patients up onto the building roof. Helen slips away and runs outside, just in time to see a mudslide barreling down the mountain toward her. The visual effect is adequate for television (certainly better than the bus crash in the pilot episode), but the flood seems kind of small, not quite the catastrophe it had been built up as. Were all of the floods’ victims at this mental hospital, or is this just a failing of the episode’s direction?
Jumping forward to the present, Helen seduces a demolitions contractor for a local mine and has sex with him in his office trailer. When they’re done, she asks him a lot of questions about his job, specifically about a cache of old, unstable dynamite in storage. He gets uncomfortable (who wouldn’t?) and tries to wrap up the date. Helen hits him over the head with something heavy and kills him.
Next we see her, Helen uses a stolen key to break into the storage locker and steals the dynamite. Obviously, she plans to create another flood to purge the town of its wickedness.
Simon & Rowan
Now returned from the dead for a second time, Simon seeks out Peter’s help and tells him what happened. Peter still wants to help, but can’t let Simon stay at the community center anymore, because that’s exactly where Tommy would look for him. Instead, he gives Simon some money and the keys to one of the center’s lesser-used vans.
While Rowan is distracted, Simon lures their daughter Chloe out of the house and into the van. Rowan spots them speeding off and chases after in her own car. Unfortunately, she fumbles with her phone while trying to call Tommy and crashes into a telephone pole. Although she’s unhurt, Simon gets away.
Tommy and some other cops arrive on the scene shortly. Tommy instructs his deputy to put out an APB on the home intruder he shot the previous day – you know, the one who should be dead in the morgue right now. The deputy looks confused but follows orders.
Tommy immediately goes to the community center. From the description, he knows that the van came from there, and demands that Peter explain why he’s helping Simon. Peter plays dumb.
Rowan goes to the Winships’ house and is greeted by Lena. She asks to speak to her sister – the dead one. Lena is dumbfounded. How does Rowan know? Rowan isn’t interested in explaining. She just wants to know if either of them has seen Simon.
Chloe can tell that something is up when Simon avoids a police roadblock. He tells her that they’re going on an adventure to the beach. They make their way to a lake and spend some time together, but Chloe asks to go home. Simon realizes that he’s being foolish and impractical, and that it’s time to give up his old life and move on. He calls Rowan from a payphone and says that he’ll give Chloe back at the church where they were supposed to get married.
Simon brings Chloe to the church and asks the pastor (who immediately recognizes him) if he’s in Hell. Rowan comes in, angry. The pastor slips into another room and calls Tommy. Simon tells Rowan that he’s letting them go, but tells Chloe (who still thinks he’s an angel) that he’ll always watch over her from Heaven. Sirens blare from outside and Tommy races in, but Simon is gone by the time he gets there. Chloe tells him that it’s over and he should leave Simon be.
Lucy & Jack
Lucy is released from the hospital and goes to see Jack, who’s cleaning up the bar now that Tony is dead. She apologizes for freaking him out with the talk about hearing his dead dad, and claims that she can’t hear voices anymore. Jack forgives her, asks her to stay, and kisses her.
We find them again later in bed. Lucy wakes up, hearing voices once more. They lead her to the kitchen, where she sees blood gurgling up from the sink (an image that others have seen before).
As Deputy Nikki digs further into the case of Victor, she investigates an old fire from 2002 that killed a woman and a young boy matching his description, who then went by “Eric.” The victim’s neighbor found the child unsettling and never believed that the fire was an accident. It’s official – this kid isn’t just creepy and needy; he’s a straight-up serial killer.
Nikki tries to call Julie to warn her, but Victor intercepts the call and hangs up on her. Nikki races to Julie’s apartment, where Victor blocks her at the stairway. The lights flicker and Julie comes out. Nikki tells her that she’s not safe with Victor, but Julie angrily demands that she leave them alone.
It’s not Julie at all, it turns out. As he did to Peter and to Tony, Victor is forcing Nikki to have a hallucination. The real Julie is inside the apartment taking a shower.
Fake Julie shoves Nikki down the stairs, where she tumbles to the bottom. Real Julie hears the crash and rushes outside in a bathrobe. She runs down to Nikki, who isn’t moving. Is she dead, or just unconscious? That’s not clear yet.
Camille & Peter
Lena’s friends post about Camille on Facebook, claiming that she’s responsible for the two parents that killed themselves. They call her a murderer. Camille goes to Peter, the only person who seems to understand her predicament. He tells her that, “They’re just not ready,” but she says that she doesn’t want to run away.
During preparations for an anniversary memorial ceremony for the bus crash victims, the other parents tell Peter that they don’t want the Winships to attend. He says that they probably hadn’t planned to anyway – which likely doesn’t help matters much. Why would they attend? They got their daughter back and don’t need to mourn with everyone else, right?
That evening, however, Peter invites Camille to the ceremony anyway and brings her up on stage, pleading for everyone else to be patient and understanding. Claire and Jack, who’ve followed Camille, stand in the back. One of the angry parents says, “Whatever she is, she isn’t Camille.”
Peter insists that she’s exactly the same girl she was four years ago. He knows this, he explains, because he’s just like her. He died 29 years earlier.
Honestly, this isn’t a big shock. The way Peter’s been acting recently should have clued observant viewers in that he’s probably a revenant. The time frame puts him in the same period when Victor and Helen died. What isn’t clear yet is whether he died in the flood like Helen, or was murdered by his partner-in-crime after the botched break-in. Given that the next episode is titled ‘Peter’, we’ll probably find out next week.
Yes, I’m still a little frustrated by the show, but I’m also still hanging in with it. Whatever next week’s season finale brings, I’m interested enough to come back for another season as well.