Claire - Anne Consigny
Jerome - Frederic Pierrot
Camille - Yara Pilartz
Lena - Jenna Thiam
Pierre - Jean-François Sivadier
Adele - Clotilde Hesme
Simon - Pierre Perrier
Julie - Céline Sallette
Victor - Swann Nambotin
Serge - Guillaume Gouix
Toni - Grégory Gadebois
Lucy - Ana Girardot
OTHER HEAVEN AND HELL SHOWS
Four years after a school coach went over a cliff and killed over students and teachers, one of those children returns home with no memory of anything happening at all, causing understandable consternation to her grieving parents. A young man searches for a woman who has moved on and is now married with a child. A man unable to face the return of a woman long dead ties her up and burns the house before killing himself. A waitress is brutally murdered. This is not your normal day in a small alpine town.
LES REVENANTS (The Returned as it is being called by Channel 4) is a slow burn supernatural drama featuring a large cast of characters in much the same vein as shows imported from Scandinavia such as THE KILLING. Except with ghosts ... or people who were dead, but aren't any more ... or something. In this opening episode, explanations are as elusive as slapstick humour. We are parachuted into the lives of the characters at a time when those lives are to be turned upside down with no explanation as to who they are, what their relationships are or what is going on. We can only hope that these things will become clearer over the coming weeks.
What is clear is that this show is very definitely French. There are long silences, meaningful looks, the dialogue is sparse and unacceptable things are accepted without a barrage of questions. Nobody immediately summons the police when a dead girl shows up out of nowhere or social services when a young boy walks in off the street and decides to stay in young nurse's apartment. Instead, everyone displays their emotional angst on tormented faces. Oh, it's French all right.
That said, though, it is also fascinating. The questions raised cannot possibly be ignored. Who are these dead people who have returned? Why Camille and not the others on the coach? Who is the woman that Mr Costa feels the need to tie up and burn and why can the police not find a body later? Why is the water level behind the dam dropping and what the hell does it have to do with what is going on? The episode's determination to ignore all of these questions in favour of a moody examination of the effect on the selected townsfolk certainly builds up the mystery.
At the same time, the sense of a small town is nicely set up with a few recognisable places (the dam, the bar, the underpass, the new housing estate) being used to create a sense of normalcy and a realistic backdrop for the fantastical elements of the plot to play out in.
The spooky mood is brilliantly set up by the initial premise, along with the inclusion of an unspeaking boy that Julie dubs 'Victor' who is really creepy. That Camille is so ordinary and not at all exciting undermines things a bit until more information about her link with her sister Lena and the events of the day on the coach are revealed to hint at links with things happening deeper that previously suspected.
It's easy to say that the set up is redolent of TWIN PEAKS in its depiction of an isolated community with all kinds of secrets bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to be brought to light, but it is a comparison that is as inescapable as it is easy. Except that none of the characters here are larger than life. Every one is a carefully drawn and believable person.
The cast do a great job (though we're still not convinced about Yara Pilartz's Camille) with some very solid performances and the deliberately low key approach makes the one moment of violence all the more shocking.
Possibly the only things sure about this show after the opening episode is that we are hooked and that we will need answers before too long.Top
The dead people returning did not all die at the same time. Simon died on his wedding day ten years previously and the man who attacked the waitress in the underpass died seven years ago, according to his brother. The police are starting to ask questions and the reservoir level is still falling.
There is nothing that could be described as an answer coming out of this second episode of the moody French production, but links are starting to be forged. Simon, the focus of the episode, was supposed to marry Adele, the woman who is now about to marry the police chief. He also met Lena, who finally recognises that fact. The serial killer could possibly be responsible for Simon's death. The audience is teased with all of these possibilities, but explanations are not yet what this show is about.
Though not as oblique as the opening episode, thanks to the emerging links and information, the accent here is still on the people being affected by the phenomenon and their emotional turmoil. It seems that everyone is a tortured soul in some way and happiness is long forgotten.
There are also sudden bouts of violence from the returned people with no explanation yet forthcoming.
The acting remains impeccable and all of the characters appear as rounded and real, even the less prominent ones.Top
People start to realise that there might be more than one returnee. Julie is revealed as one of the serial killer's victims and recognises him on the street. Lena follows her questions about Simon and Adele realises that he is not just in her head.
The story picks up a gear in this episode as the shock begins to wear off and people start to act on the situation. Camille pretends to be her own cousin in order to get out of the house. Adele shows Simon his daughter and, on learning the truth about his physicality, gets physical with him. The serial killer also goes walkabout and Madame Costa pays a visit to her husband's funeral.
It's still a slow-burning story, but there is enough progression to give a sense of forward motion and the backstory is becoming ever clearer. Nowhere is this more defined than in the character of Julie, the damaged nurse who the episode is named for. The revelation of her link to the serial killer is made early, as is her link to one of the investigating police officers and they explain her damaged nature, beautifully portrayed by Céline Sallette. The scene in which she sees her attacker on the street is exceptional and the confrontation in the building lobby is shocking.
The hints of darkness and violence below the surface continue with dead somethings in the waste bin and creepy little Victor proving to be enigmatic and dangerous in equal degree.
LES REVENANTS started off intriguing, but it is now downright unmissable.Top
The hunt begins for the killer of Julie's neighbour and Victor is discovered in Julie's care. Adele sleeps with Simon before learning some upsetting news. The scar on Lena's back turns into an open wound.
There are still no real answers as to what is going on, but Victor's backstory is revealed right at the beginning of the episode and a revelation right at the end ties into that. The opening is perhaps not as shocking as Julie's backstory, but it is still brutal enough to make that revelation at the end something affecting. The links between the characters continue to forge and it is this slow unpeeling of the layers of the onion that are so fascinating.
True enough, the police chief and his hidden cameras all over Adele's house smacks of melodramatics and some of the acting remains a little wobbly, but the sense of encroaching doom, the oppressive atmosphere, the slow turning of the screw are all beautifully managed. The web is spun, we are caught and the spider is slowly dragging us in.
Lena's wound is worrying, being without explanation and not seeming to fit into anything else that is going on, but it also feeds into the big cliffhanger ending.Top
Serge Et Toni
The serial killer has Lena, but seems intent on helping her. Simon makes one last attempt to get his wife and child to leave with him. Julie learns that Victor is capable of creating dark visions.
There are still no answers coming out of this slow-burning series, but events are starting to move forward with a bit more pace. The old town under the dam waters is beginning to emerge as the levels fall and the water is full of animals that would rather drown than face something else. Victor's ability is revealed and more of the townsfolk are becoming aware that there is more than one resurrected person in the town.
That the serial killer was buried alive by his brother is the early revelation, but for once that does not tie into the big ending, that being reserved for the revelation of Victor's ability and Simon's fate (or potential fate considering what has already happened). Events are happening faster and there is a sense that we might start edging toward some answers soon.Top
Toni realises that his brother was responsible for the attack on Lucy, but decides to protect him this time, taking on the cops. Camille becomes a prophet of sorts. Simon learns that undead means just that and Lucy wakes up from her coma.
Lucy is part way psychic, though her gift seems to be triggered by having sex with the person who wishes to contact the dead. This is shown at the beginning of the show, but then she disappears from view until towards the end where she seems unfazed by what has happened to the town.
Camille's performance for the parents of her dead friends has a surprising outcome, but not as surprising as Toni's actions, which lead to Lena's escape, sort of, and her encounter in the woods with something pretty creepy.
There are still far more questions than answers, but the plot rumbles on with such intensity that you have to go with it, even though things aren't making a lot of sense. The miasma of doom that lies over everything is claustrophobic and the need to find out what it all means is compelling.Top
The power is gone and the town is cut off. Nobody can leave. Victor takes an interest in Adele's daughter and the friends of the dead prepare for the End of Days.
Strands are slowly coming together, though not to provide any answers. The inevitable drama around Victor's gift and what it means for Adele and her daughter make for extremely tense viewing. Pierre is slowly going insane, proving to be a bit of a nutcase survivalist on the sly. Camille's lies continue to have tragic consequences even though Lena is returned to her family. What happened to her after the big cliffhanger last week isn't even mentioned, which is a bit of a cheat to say the least.
Toni and Serge going for a swim starts off well enough with the introduction of the fact that nobody can leave the town any more (something that is made clear when Julie and Victor make a run for it), but ultimately leads to a twist that means nothing. Not yet, at least.
The returnees are all started to decay now, to gruesome effect, especially with Simon's act in the cell. There is another cliffhanger much like last week's, but considering how that was just ignored, it has a lessened impact.Top
Simon comes for Adele and her daughter, but only gets one. Victor weaves another vision, leading to death. Everyone takes shelter at the Helping Hand compound as hundreds of the dead advance on it.
It's the last episode and there are conclusions, but not one single explanation. Not one. Why are the dead rising? Why these dead? Why do they want certain of them to return to the group and not others? What is Lucy's role in all of this? What happened outside the shutters?
Explanations, though, have not been the stock in trade of this show. Mood has been its purpose and the mood here is one of approaching doom. The dead do nothing, but their approach is dreadful all the same. Their demands are simple and small enough, but that's what makes them so terrible, their lack of significance.
Good people die, others vanish, and nothing is explained. The audience is hooked to the end, but is rewarded with very little as a result.Top