The Returned: 108 “The Horde” Review
Reviewed by David Selby
Why are the dead so keen to segregate themselves from the living? Who or what has been causing the water levels to fall and the village to become a figurative prison? What is causing Victor’s abilities? Why does he behave so darkly for a supposedly ‘innocent’ young boy – and what was he doing at the scene of the coach crash? And, finally, why have the returned really returned?
These were among the many questions on the viewer’s lips at the end of Episode Seven, and, unfortunately, also at the end of Episode Eight. Because the brutal fact is that, forgetting all the dramatic tension and emotion injected into the final episode, we didn’t actually get any answers. So, a whole week rendered non-eventful in order to incite intrigue paved the way for… another non-eventful week. And it suddenly seems a shame that all the questions, tension and surprises were apparently for nothing, because all we got was a tantalizingly tormenting ‘wait for the next series’ teaser. What if we’re waiting two years for the next series? What if something happens which changes the whole story? It doesn’t sit comfortably with me that every single plot strand is relying on something which is a long, long way off to be resolved. Most mystery-based series – such as Life on Mars – have single-series arcs which allow for smaller answers to please the audience (using the example of Life on Mars, Sam Tyler’s visions in Series One). We had nothing like that in The Returned. It was question after question after question and it almost feels insulting.
Despite this, I simply cannot fault the finale when it comes down to what it actually was. The Returned has been successful not because of the mere fact that the dead had returned, but because of how it carefully depicted the ramifications (in the same way that Broadchurch excelled itself in portraying the grief and other consequences on the victim’s family, the other suspects, and indeed the killer themselves) of the event. Will people accept what has happened? Will the dead come in peace? Will it be easy or hard for the families to integrate their deceased loved ones back into their lives? And how long will the initial ecstasy last? These are all questions – albeit indirect ones – which were answered.
I found the final few scenes ingenious. In many ways, I suppose, the characters all good some form of (temporary) closure. Most of the living were well aware of the injustices in sending their loved ones away, but only the bravest and/or the ones with an eternal love for ‘their’ revenant (they’re emblematically entering the land of the dead with them, after all) had the courage to protest or leave with them. Laure is weak: it pains her to see Julie having Victor taken away from her, but she doesn’t have the courage to act. Julie choosing to leave with Victor proves how far their bond has developed throughout the series. It’s painful to see Lena so distraught; knowing that she may not see her mother or her sister ever again. Thomas remains an elusive villain: doing what is supposedly right but with a cold enough heart to stand and watch whole families pulled apart.
The ‘Horde’ was undeniably unnerving, but where are their motives? Why are they different to the others? Is it because of the influence of the beguilingly inhuman Lucy Clarsen? Speaking of which: please dedicate an episode to Lucy next year, because I’m both fascinated and perplexed by her character.
The final episode was good. It was suspenseful, atmospheric and poignant (Toni’s death being an emotional highlight, bringing out a more sympathetic side to Serge. But could he return too?). But it was also a disillusion; a series of yet more questions and told to wait for another set of episodes which could very possibly follow the same pattern.