Monday, June 24, 2013

The Returned, Season 1, Episode 3: Julie

Start 7 years ago – with Catwoman! Complete with grossly impractical heels, leaving the party. Much to Batman’s dismay because she (it’s a woman in the Batman costume) can’t convince Catwoman to stay a little longer. After a couple of kisses, Catwoman insists (though I have to agree with Batman – and not just because arguing with Batman is never a good idea – 3 hours sleep is pointless, you may as well all night it at that point).  Alas, Batman is left alone,  and Catwoman, Julie, is off home.

She walks home through the underpass – the one where we saw the man in a hoody (Serge I think) attack Lucy in the present. And as she walks down it a man in a hoody appears walking the other way – he grabs her and stabs her repeatedly in the stomach while whispering reassurance. Just as he did with Lucy. This would explain Julie’s stomach scars.

To the present with Julie, this time leaving Mr. Costa’s funeral accompanied by her very very annoying neighbour. I’d suggest murdering her but death doesn’t seem to stick in this place. And the priest greets the police – Laure and Thomas and compliments Thomas on how wonderful and radiant his fiancée, Adèle looks. Whut? Adèle, it’s a funeral – this is not a place to look radiant! Now is the time for sombre or at least politely bored. Pierre greets Adèle before seeing Claire and Léna (Camille stayed at home – after all it’s not good manners to bring your own dead to a funeral. It’s rather upstaging things). Claire tells him Léna thinks she met another Returning dead person – Simon – and if there are others then Camille doesn’t have to hide (until the zombies take over, then everyone has to hide). Pierre has some random, vague cautions and platitudes that Léna has no time for – I gather she isn’t his biggest fan

You know what this scene is? It’s a test to see if you remember all ten squillion characters.

The priest starts his sermon, Léna and Frédéric (whose name exists solely to test my ability to find accents on my keyboard, I’m sure) make lots of meaningful eye contact. Annoying, gossipy neighbour decides this is the perfect time to tell Julie about the brutal attack on Lucy (because in the middle of a funeral sermon is the perfect time for gossip). Of course, this rather upsets Julie who flees the funeral, not answering the neighbour, watched by Laure.

The priest concludes his sermon with the assurance that Mr. Costas will be reunited with his wife Vivienne (ha!) who died young – despite the fact Mr. Costas didn’t believe that. Now that’s just rude and in bad taste – you bury a guy and get a priest in to call his religious beliefs wrong? I’m sure that can’t count as good manners.

Away from the funeral – to the Seguret home where Camille begs a cigarette off Jérôme, yes giving ciggies is wrong but she archly asks if he thinks she’ll get cancer. See, upside of being the walking dead! Camille, not being a fool, also asks Jérôme (her father) if he is separated from Claire (her mother). After a brief attempt at lying he says they have been for 2 years – after the accident that killed Camille he became “out of control”. He says how hard it was – particularly on Léna and Camille says she knows – she’s lost a sister as well. Ouch

To underline that, when Léna and Claire return from the funeral, she takes one look at Camille in the kitchen and leaves to her room. Camille follows her and Léna invites her in while she changes. Camille picks an awkward question – is Léna with Frédéric? She liked him and the only reason she didn’t go with him is because she promised Camille (not a promise she kept) – a promise Camille considered void once she died. Since this is all kinds of an awkward conversation to have with your young/twin returning-from-the-dead sister (let Ms. Manners cover THAT scenario!) Léna changes the subject to trying to find Simon. As Léna changes, Camille notices a scar on her back – she moves to touch it but Léna flinches away from her.

Jérôme talks to Claire and raises the possibility of moving away from the town, allowing Camille to live openly – and maybe helping their own relationship, but Claire dodges the issue (she still has her thing with Pierre). When driving Léna to college, Jérôme tells Léna about the plan – saying Claire agrees. Léna reacts as explosively – not happy to have her whole life uprooted for the zombie sister

In the ominous side-plot – the water level in the lake is still dropping rapidly and the dam workers now have robots examining the whole damn to see if there’s any breaks or leaks.

Simon’s still at the police station, interviewed by Bruno – who still want him to give his “real name” since Simon is, of course, dead. They plan to release him so long as he doesn’t leave town; though he can give them no address nor where he is staying. The police call Pierre to pick him up – I get the impression that Pierre is a do-gooder or maybe social worker who takes in waifs and strays.

Thomas, Laure and Alcide discuss the attack on Lucy and come up with nothing. With no other leads, Laure goes to talk to Julie since she was the first victim (and was dubbed “the aperitif” since he tried to eat her).

Julie’s in the bath and doesn’t hear the doorbell until Creepy Kid Victor touches her shoulder – she wraps a towel round herself, showing her scars again. Camille isn’t apparently welcoming at the door – it’s been a long time, apparently and Julie wants rid of her. Aha, Laure is Batman, Julie’s ex! Laure starts to ask about the inquiry but Julie’s more concerned with Laure not contacting her once, not once in 7 years since the attack. Laure says Julie didn’t want her to – and Julie shuts the door in her face.

Ouch, and you thought you’d be a good person to ask these questions Laure? Of course, all of this is watched by the Annoying Nosy Neighbour

Over to Pierre who has picked up Simon and is taking him to the shelter he runs, Helping Hands. Simon asks Pierre about Adèle and gets the full story of his death – Adèle’s fiancé (Simon) died on her wedding day, hit by a car. Pierre asks questions and Simon asks to be let out of the car – walking away.

In the Seguret household, Claire finds something fuzzy and dead in the bin – crawling with flies and finds Camille wearing Léna’s clothes and asking to go out.

An officer shows the CCTV footage they have of Lucy walking home to Thomas, and they see a man in a hoody at the scene. Astonishingly, French television seems to be immune to the magical CSI powers that you see in the US and, despite being able to zoom and lighten the picture, they can’t turn random pixels into a perfectly rendered image of the attacker, using the convoluted reflection in a puddle or something. I’m actually impressed! No magical image enhancing software! This is unheard of.

Which is when Thomas realises Simon has been released and goes to grill Bruno about why he was released. Freaking out a little (since Thomas, Adèle’s fiancé, knows who Simon is), he goes looking for Simon at Helping Hands – where he isn’t. He’s at the library where Adèle works, to talk to her. She still thinks he’s a ghost and/or hallucination so is perfectly happy with talking to him (the mental health care in this town leaves much to be desired). He says she’s happy with Thomas, checks that she loves him and decides that he, a dead man, isn’t needed any more and should leave. But Adèle wants him to meet someone first - their daughter - at a ceremony remembering the children who died in the bus crash that killed Camille.

Julie, meanwhile, gets a visit from her annoying neighbour who, having seen the police visit, decides Victor is an illegally adopted child. That’s an… impressive leap of logic. She tries to barge in before Julie kicks her out. About time!

Claire takes Camille shopping but while Camille is in the changing room, Claire is greeted by Sandrine, one of the parents from the support group. She wants to talk about why Claire doesn’t come, whether she’s splitting up with Jérôme and all kinds of conversation Claire doesn’t want to have while her zombie daughter may come out at any time. Which is when Camille leaves the changing room – time for all round shock. Thinking quickly, Camille introduces herself as Alice, Léna’s cousin. Nice save.

Léna has finished classes and goes to the pub – it’s empty except for Serge who introduces himself as Toni’s big brother (he doesn’t look it – 7 year gap as aged Toni, I guess). Toni’s in the bathroom, struggling with the plumbing – all the water has backed up (as it was in the church – linked to the sinking lake water, I guess). He doesn’t know Simon and Léna leaves – leaving Toni to drive Serge away – who desperately tries to be friendly

Léna continues sleuthing, time to ask Adèle about Simon; Adèle denies everything but realises that someone else is talking to her hallucination…

Simon finds his way back to Helping Hands having nowhere else to go – and Pierre talks about resurrection. As you do. With that bombshell, he promises to help Simon.

Over to Julie who leaves Creepy Kid Victor alone (he’s drawing creepy pictures of what look like all the Returned people) and he goes to visit Annoying Neighbour Lady. Let the skin eating commence!

While he eats her skin, Julie returns home on the bus, seeing a man in a hoody out the window and having a panic attack for it. She goes home – but Victor is missing. She hears sounds downstairs and goes to investigate armed with a pair of scissors – only to be grabbed and disarmed by the man in a hoodie (who I think is Serge). She lays on the floor, panicked as he holds her, preparing to stab her with her own scissors. But then the scene changes – she’s still laid on the floor panicking, but no-one is holding her, Victor slowly pulls the scissors out of her hands. Hyperventilating, she slowly calms down.

Thomas tracks Simon on the town’s CCTV – seeing him with Adèle. At home, Adèle is dazed and stunned and then sees Simon outside. She goes to him and they kiss. Watched by Thomas on CCTV

Claire is in her bathroom when Jérôme comes to her, slowly re-establishing their relationship, saying he loves her and kissing her neck – but she sees a bug come out of the plug hole, it startles her and she backs away, saying it’s too soon. Léna sneaks out to the pub but gives Frédéric the brush off – he goes out for a smoke and meets… Camille. Who introduces herself as Alice, Léna’s cousin. But in the bar Léna is angry to see her and tells her to leave or she’ll tell their parents – using the excuse that “Alice” is only 15. She leaves and Frédéric is confused. He follows her and finds her crying – she kisses him passionately, he kisses back, clothes start flying – and he notices the new scar on her back. The scar that’s getting bigger. She sees it and runs off

Julie lays with her head in Victor’s lap – he puts his hand on her shoulder comfortingly. Across the hall, the Annoying Nosy Neighbour is laid dead on the floor, a wound on her stomach from which her many cats are eating. Told you the kid was creepy

There’s a lot of characters on this show and a lot of miniplots that advance really slowly with more hints and foreshadowing than actual moving forward. It’s getting a little confusing and full and I think they need to draw a line against expanding any further – preferably by simplifying some of the plots.

The story itself is more character development and realisation than plot movement. So far it’s working because they’ve got some excellent acting, some excellent atmosphere and a very well maintained sense of theme, but I don’t think it can keep going for long with this continues building up of tension and suggestion we’re leading up to something without actually leading up to something. Some breadcrumbs are needed now, we’re getting a little lost and the ominous forshadowing needs some background of plot to give it shape. We're also getting a few mysteries - not just the dead rising but Lena's scar and the falling water - some answers would be appreciated especially since next episode we're half way through the season

We have a lesbian couple – some inclusion on the sexuality front which is great to see, but it’s early yet for me to be unequivocally praising especially since there seems to be little joy between them. Also, I have suspicions about Victor. That makes 2 lesbians for GBLT people, and 2 POC – Serge and Thomas.

Not going to lie, I was not sorry to see annoying neighbour get eaten by her cats :p

Hey, what gives Channel 4? Here I am struggling with accents and your guide on your site totally skips them! Lazy, lazy webmaster!