The Returned episode 6 review: Lucy

The Returned is still intensely watchable stuff, but is its engrossing story actually leading anywhere? Here’s Louisa’s review…

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Lucy

“If anything had a purpose, wouldn’t we know?” Jérôme asked Claire this week, and with just two episodes left in this eight-part first series, you might very well pose the same question. The Returned, beautiful and captivating as it is, has set so many tops spinning over the past six weeks that logically, it’s only been able to keep a select few in motion, while others wobble, slow, and eventually come to a stop.

Léna’s scar, for instance, the strength-sapping body horror of episodes four and five, was apparently cured by a dab of Serge’s nettle paste and we’ve barely heard a word about it since. Was it caused by proximity to Camille? If so, why wouldn’t Serge’s presence provoke the same reaction? Indeed, why was it only Léna affected so, and not the others who’ve had people return?

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These questions and more, you feel, are not going to yield satisfying results. Perhaps the trick with a series such as this – one of spiralling supernatural mystery – is to relax into it. Let its beauty wash over you and obliterate every other consideration. The Alpine setting nudged us to think about the Romantic sublime back in episode one, and perhaps that’s our solution. We need, Keats-like, to accept the state of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Anyone unable to channel their inner sickly poet however, might like to join me by opening the nearest window, sticking out their head and screaming a full-lunged, frustrated “Aaaarrrrrggghhh” before composedly closing the latch and going about their business for another week. The implicit contract an audience signs when watching a mystery series is that eventually, we’ll be given answers. Scattering wiggy clues and water-filled coffins all over the shop is fun, but at some point, a sense of purpose has to be revealed for the viewers not to feel they’ve been had. I adore the world this drama has created, the atmosphere, the setting, the strangeness, the music… Please then, The Returned, in two weeks’ time, don’t leave me feeling like I’ve been had.

Impotent addresses to a fictional creation over with, let’s consider how episode six moved the story along. Camille’s transformation from teen vixen to beatific messenger from beyond (the denim cut-offs were swapped for a floaty white blouse) is the most dramatic about-turn we’ve seen. Back from the dead she may be, but Camille is no conduit to the other side. No, she’s a charlatan, a Sally Morgan-alike who pretends to have been in contact with the dead to tell people what they want to hear, sometimes – as we see at the end of the episode – to devastating effect.

The scene in which Camille was introduced to the group of grieving parents was the episode’s most dramatically satisfying (that, and young Chloe’s conversation with Adèle about her father’s suicide), reminding us of how strong the series’ quieter, more realist moments are. If there’s any justice, when The Returned has run its course, newcomer Yara Pilartz (Camille) won’t lack for a day’s work in her career.

Camille’s debut in faux-mediumship coincided with the awakening of the town’s real McCoy, ghost-contacting shagger, Lucy Clarsen. Though the episode was named for her, we know nothing more about Lucy now than we’d picked up beforehand, aside from the fact that she can learn your name by shaking your hand. She can learn much more by jumping your bones, it appears, as we learnt watching her sex up Simon and complete the mother of all wrong and awkward threesomes by humping Jérôme in order to speak to his dead daughter’s spirit. As casual xenophobes would say, ha, only the French!

Lucy’s still a cypher though. Where she was before, what drew her to the town, whether her ‘power’ is real… all that remains a mystery. As the only one of The Returned’s characters to have dabbled in the supernatural before all the dam/lake/back-from-the-dead shenanigans, could she even have been the catalyst for all this? Not if the show stays true to its chronology, as we were shown that Victor was around at least three years before she rode in on that bus.

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Now back in the arms of his fairy godmother, little Victor is keeping another secret (alongside having incited Mme Payet to bloody suicide); his body is beginning to degrade, zombie-style. If it’s happening to him, then the others mustn’t be far behind. There’s another item for the ‘explain later’ corkboard.

On the subject of others, that gaggle of returnees Léna stumbled upon in the closing moments promises to up next week’s undead quota. With the power out for good, the town dividing itself into protective groups, and a herd of dead-os wiping the American Diner out of food (what are the odds the otherwise absent Madame Costa is not only amongst them, but the source of that plan?), The Returned is beginning to feel more like a generic zombie thriller than ever.

If that edges it closer to its genre bedfellows, then Léna’s story this week tipped the balance from cerebral supernatural drama to horror schlock. Before she’d even happened upon that eerie group fire in the misty woods, she’d already stepped into the classic horror movie role of ‘Girl who behaves in an entirely unforgiveable fashion when kidnapped by a serial killer’. Instead of waking up, asking Serge for her phone, and blowing that popsicle stand, Léna hung around to see his collection of objects with which to stab women, dressed up Psycho-style as his mum, then had sex with him. If you weren’t screaming at your TV by that point, then you’re clearly a person of admirable decorum and restraint. Bravo.

Don’t misunderstand me, The Returned is still the best thing on TV at the moment (and surely the only one with such a simultaneously dirty yet philosophical mind – it was wangs, nipples, and existential mysteries galore this week). It’s just so good, it’s taught us to expect a great deal, perhaps more than it can deliver.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, Serge et Toni, here.

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.

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