'The Returned': A New Kind of Walking Dead

Ken Tucker
·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

At the start of The Returned, a school bus runs off a road and goes over a cliff. A small town in Washington state is devastated by a loss of lives, but four years later, some of those people thought dead return, inexplicably. 

That’s the premise of this new series premiering Monday night, adapted from a highly acclaimed French series, Les Revenants, which aired on the Sundance channel last year. The Returned also has elements in common with the ABC show Resurrection

In Monday’s opening Returned episode, “Camille,” we see what happens when teenage girl Camille (India Ennenga) comes back. She’s unchanged from the intervening four years, but during that time, the rest of her world has changed for Camille’s parents (Mark Pellegrino from Lost, and Tandi Wright), her mother’s new romance (Jeremy Sisto as a grief-counseling psychologist), and her sister (Sophie Lowe). 

As the weeks of this show proceed, viewers will learn more about other “returned” characters — or rather, more about how their returning affects their loved ones, because the reasons for the return remains mysterious.
The French series has been adapted for American television by Carlton Cuse and Raelle Tucker. Cuse oversees another adaptation, Bates Motel, which precedes The Returned on A&E at 9 p.m., and the two shows make for a good pairing of often-quiet eeriness. 

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I’m not sure how well the rigorousness of Cuse and Tucker’s adaptation will work for many viewers. I recall watching Les Revenants and thinking at various points that characters weren’t reacting to these extraordinary events with believable startlement. In the new version, this is even more pronounced. I mean, if your daughter had suddenly shown up after four years presumed dead, without having aged a day, would you merely say to the girl’s father in the mildest of tones, “Camille’s here. Would you like to see her?”? When I watched the French series, I would sometimes say to myself, “Oh, those Europeans — they’re so calm; they under-react to things.” Watching the same moment in The Returned, I thought, what a weird, zombie-like reaction — and it removed me from my involvement in the scene.

Whether this sort of thing bothers a lot of viewers remains to be seen. But Cuse and Tucker (the latter also worked on True Blood) do a good job of translating the deeply unsettling miracle at the heart of this show.  

The Returned airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.