While ABC's new series Resurrection investigates the supernatural, The Returned — the French cult favorite that shares a premise with the former — simply flirts with it. The American series, which premiered on Sunday night, is not a direct remake of The Returned (Les Revenants). But given their similar storylines, it's almost impossible not to draw comparisons, especially when one is clearly better than the other.
Both shows are based on a group of dead people coming back to life not as frightening flesh-eating zombies, but rather as seemingly normal human beings who haven't aged a day.
At the intersection of sci-fi and crime drama, with a saucy mix of horror and romance to boot, The Returned simultaneously spooks and pleasures viewers. Don't let its subtitles turn you off; The Returned is brilliant television.
'Resurrection.' Image Credit: E Online
The only thing that Resurrection succeeds in doing, on the other hand, is to turn its fascinating premise into something mundane and forgettable. Judging by the pilot, the show devotes too much airtime to ritualistic cop investigations and boring police procedures before later giving way to sappy melodrama.
By contrast, The Returned juxtaposes its beautifully eerie soundtrack and haunting cinematography with deeply developed (and often Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like) characters. With all due respect to Resurrection, here are seven reasons why The Returned is the show you should really be watching. Vive la France!
When you've seen the plummeting valleys and lush green mountains resting in a ubiquitous layer of fog that serve as the backdrop of The Returned, suburban Missouri just doesn't cut it. The director of The Returned has said that filming only took place between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., so that it would always seem like dusk. The strategy pays off: From the curvature of the lone highway encircling the dam, to the isolated glass house peeping out from the mountain shrubbery, the haunting scenery is the perfect backdrop to the series' creepy and unusual plot.
Resurrection not only loses out to The Returned when it comes to scenery, but also can't hold a candle to the original's soundtrack. The Returned's amazing music was created by the Scottish post-rock band (and somewhat of a cult sensation) Mogwai. Known for their "moody melodies," Mogwai mixes gentle beats with deeper bass riffs, making it the perfect acoustic equivalent to the ghostly backdrop.
A majorly disappointing feature of Resurrection is its lack of character development. By contrast, The Returned explores relationships between characters in complex and messy ways. Camille, for example, is a 15-year-old girl who returns from the dead to find that her twin sister is now four years older than she is.
Her twin Lena, played by model-turned-actress Jenna Thiam, has a volatile reaction to her return. Her emotions swing from affection to grief to jealousy. The dynamic between the sisters is one of the most endearing — and chilling — elements of The Returned.
In The Returned, female leads are not just objects of male desire, but rather they are authoritative figures who take action. So far, Resurrection lacks such roles. The pilot unfolds through the eyes of Detective Martin Bellamy, played by Omar Epps. And although Bellamy commands attention, his understanding and perspective of the situation is also limited.
The Returned, on the other hand, has plenty of strong female leads. In addition to the twins, the series also introduces a lesbian couple, Julie (caretaker of Victor, a little boy who returned from the dead) and Laure (a policewoman who threatens to turn the boy in). There's also Lucy, a dead waitress who becomes the anti-heroine when she assumes her position as unofficial leader of the Revenants.
Eight-year-old Jacob from Resurrection is as cute as a button, and that's precisely the problem. There's nothing about him that's eerie or haunting.
The Returned's Victor, however, is as creepy as creepy little boys can get. His big, deep-seated eyes and silent stare do most of the job, but he also possesses a sense of deep brooding that's more characteristic of a depressed adult than a small child. All of which is 100% creepy.
The Returned has you gripping the edge of your chair every single episode, and it's full of enough bizarre trysts and turns to make your head spin. For example, Simon (Pierre Perrier), who allegedly committed suicide 10 years earlier, returns from the dead only to find that he has a daughter with his ex-fiancée Adele, who is now engaged to the head of police, who is trying to hunt him down. Confused yet?
Americans can be pretty puritanical when it comes to nudity — especially male nudity. Not so with The Returned, which grants us a generous dose of a completely naked Simon. And its love scenes are far from gratuitous. They are at once infused with as much grief as lust, and often have dire consequences. When Resurrection delivers equally raunchy love scenes with such profound meaning, I'll be tuning in.
For inquiring minds, you can stream The Returned on Netflix now.
Image Credits: Canal+