in the western tradition, rising from the dead is usually either something
miraculous or horrifying. The jury is still out whether an isolated Pacific
Northwestern community’s sporadic resurrections are a blessing or a curse. For
two formerly grieving parents, it is certainly the former case when their
youngest daughter literally walks back into their lives. However, she is not
the only formerly deceased to reappear in The Returned (promo
an Americanized remake of the French television show of the same name, which
premieres on A&E this Monday.
years ago, Camille Winship perished with most of her classmates in a school bus
accident that devastated the town. As the show opens, she comes to near the
fateful scene and rather confusedly makes her way home, unaware of her
temporary death and the subsequent passage of years. Her all-but-separated parents,
Jack and Claire, had tremendous difficulty dealing with her loss, particularly her
father. Understandably, they are not quite sure what it means for their
relationship when she comes back, but they are instinctively protective and
secretive. It is almost too much for her older sister Lena to take, considering
she always suspected Camille was their favorite.
faithful to the original source material in the early episodes,
co-writer-showrunners Carlton Cuse and Raelle Tucker give us plenty of
backstory for the Winships, but slowly dole out tidbits of history on the other
once dead characters for dramatic effect. Unfortunately, probably the storyline
getting the second most screen time after Camille Winship’s family involves the
formerly dearly departed bar band bad boy Simon Moran and Rowan Blackshaw, the fiancée
he stranded at the altar in the worst way possible. However, the most intriguing
story arc follows Victor, a mysterious little boy given shelter by Dr. Julie
Han. After four episodes, viewers will truly have no idea what to expect from
him, unless they have seen the French show. However, it is safe to say one
returnee is a seriously bad cat, but his secrets remain closely guarded.
and Tucker might be faithful to a fault adapting The Returned, but there are plenty of similar thematic precedents
out there already, including the Canadian film also titled The Returned and the BBC America show In the Flesh, both of which chronicle the challenges of the
formerly deceased in treatment for their zombie condition. However, A&E’s The Returned still mostly works, if you
come to it without any baggage from its source material, because of the
strength of its cast.
Pellegrino is convincingly guilt-ridden and surly as Jack Winship and Tandi
Wright is similarly engaging as the more stable but equally pained Claire. It
is quite compelling to watch them process an unimaginable turn of events.
Likewise, India Ennenga and Sophia Lowe truly look like sisters and share
believably catty sisterly chemistry as Camille and Lena, respectively. As
usual, Sandrine Holt’s sophisticated presence just generally elevates the
proceedings and she sensitively expresses Han’s frustrated maternal instincts
in her scenes with the squirrely Victor. Strangely though, Agnes Bruckner, who
has a bit of a cult reputation for films like The Pact gets little work of substance in the first four episodes
as busybody copper Nikki Banks. If only the same could be said of the quickly
tiresome Blackshaw and Moran, played with excruciating angst by Mary Elizabeth
Winstead (so much better in Faults)
and Mat Vairo.
Over the course of the initial four episodes, A&E’s
The Returned remains light on
allegorical pretension and heavy on its extreme form of family drama, which is
all for the best. In fact, the local pastor played by Carl Lumbly is unusual
sympathetic and down-to-earth. When unknowingly challenged by a rather embittered
returnee, his words on faith sound heartfelt rather than rote. He is one of
many in the ensemble who inspire optimism The
Returned will continue to be quite watchable. Highly moody but weirdly
grabby, The Returned is worth
checking out for fresh viewers in search of new genre television when it premieres
this Monday (3/9) on A&E.
Labels: A&E, Remakes, Sandrine Holt, Zombies