Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Returned Season Two

les revenants

The thing about answers is that sometimes it's best to not have any at all. Especially if the story in question started off being about more than that. The first season of The Returned never made me feel like I absolutely needed to know all the intricate reasons and connections of why the dead were coming back. The second (final?) season gave us ambiguous answers at best, but maybe too many of them. Along the way, it still delivers on human level drama better than any American genre show that I can think of (except maybe The Walking Dead), but by the end of it, leaning on the mystical(?) puts it too close to Lost territory for the series as a whole to hold up to the brilliant first season.

As it turns out, many of the dead were connected, but not in obvious ways. I think the exploration of this deeper mythology held some promise. For example, the revelations about Serge and Toni's father, Milan and the effect that had on Serge could really be it's own show. That Milan is a key player in the larger mythology as well is almost irrelevant to the power of what their arc explores. And this repeats several times throughout many of the relationships. But I think they go too far in trying to explain the origin of it all by simply adding more layers of questions to who Victor/Louis is. Was he supposed to be death itself? An angel? A demon? God? Ultimately, who cares because this final layer was never something that was addressed early on. From the start, we were lead to believe he was just another returned. But it turns out he's not. He's more than that and by the final moments it's clear he has some extra powers that simply go too far. On the one hand, having him be the literal catalyst for the events of the series for the reasons shown are beautiful. On the other, it comes too late in the game and feels tacked on. It's like they suddenly decided to start telling a different story, one that might have been wonderful on it's own, but here just sort of clashes with everything we'd been watching. Again, too close to Lost for me to get on board with, because fuck Lost (and Lindelof).

the returned

By far, the best story is that of Camile, Lena, Claire and Jerome. A story that, interestingly enough, doesn't really have any connection to the larger mythology. In particular, I have to say my favorite actor of the entire thing is Frederic Pierrot as Jerome. He was good in season 1, but in the second season he brings the anguish of an unhinged and desperate father to life in a way that drips off the screen every time he inhabits it. He doesn't actually say many words, but his eyes are eyes I think any parent can recognize even if we've never been through anything similar, because how else would we look. His face is a Molotov cocktail of despair and determination that is ready to go off one way or the other. I sincerely hope this man is just a good actor and that he wasn't drawing on anything real because anything real behind this performance can't be something I'd wish on another human.

Anyway, The Returned is still worth a viewing, especially for the restrained feel of the first season and how it builds to a dramatic and near perfect end. I wouldn't say skip the second season, but maybe lower your expectations going in. I doubt there's going to be a third season. It was sort of a finale type of ending, but you never know.

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