Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Returned, Season 1, Episode 7: Rowan

Opening flashback! This time to a year ago.

It’s a flashback to Rowan’s life (which seems to involve a lot of cleaning) with Chloe and Tommy –but still hallucinating Simon (this is before Simon returned so it’s an actual hallucination this time).

Hallucination Simon is quite vicious in his put downs. Ominously, Rowan tearfully writes letters (looking like she’s ready to emulate Simon’s suicide) but Tommy gets worried and checks up on herm, getting her medical help for the pills she took

In the present day things are still these but more because of the murders Tommy is investigating. (Or not murders since Lucy came back).

Simon hasn’t given up and tells Chloe to tell Rowan he’s coming to pick them both up – because he hasn’t taken the hint of them not showing up the first time

Chloe and Victor meet in the playground while Julie and Nikki are all cute and couply in the distance – Chloe asks Victor if Julie and Nikki are his mothers and reveals her dad is dead and returned; Victor tells her he’s also in the dead club. But definitely not an angel.

Rowan goes the therapy and she’s had something of a breakthrough – she’s furious. She’s furious that she’s spent so much time and money wallowing in Simon when he left her (through suicide). She refuses to do it any more and hands over all of her pills. Which isn’t medically sound.

Which is why she’s scared and angry when she hears that Simon spoke to Chloe – and told her he was coming for them.

In the Winship house, Camille tells Claire that telling her wannabe-boyfriend Ben that she’s a zombie is apparently not a great romantic strategy.

Camille’s friends decide to dig up Camille’s body. There is no body in the coffin – but it is full of water. They’re also caught grave robbing which adds to the stuff Tommy has to worry about. He questions them and doesn’t entirely buy that the body wasn’t in the coffin. When he threatens to charge them, Ben tells Tommy that Camille is back.

So Tommy goes to the Winships and demands they take Camille (or “Alice”) to the station with her ID (uh… based on what?)

Claire and Peter warn Jack before deciding on their next plan – a revelation to the whole group of grieving parents who lost kids in the bus disaster. They trot out Camille and reveal who she really is. Unsurprisingly, Chris, one of the parents wants to know why Camille and not her daughter – even lashing out at how mean she was. Camille flees the room.

Peter follows her to call her selfish and demand she help the group with their pain. Because, y’know, expecting a 16 year old to plough through her survivor’s guilt and both carry the pain and face the rage of several damn adults is such a reasonable demand.

So shamed, she lies to them, makes up pleasant stories about the afterlife and the other teenagers who died on the bus. Jack doesn’t approve but Claire sees it as a practical means to an end and her being happy makes Jack admit it worked.

Lena is a continued guest of serial killer Adam and decides to explore his murder shack in the middle of the night. She finds jewellery, including Lucy’s among Adam’s serial killer trophies and when Tony drives up she runs to him in panic. Which means Tony now realises his brother is attempting (or succeeding depending on how you view his attack on Lucy and her return from the dead) to kill again. Tony doesn’t take the news well. Rather than try to save Lena, he worries about his brother’s secret and drags her inside.

Adam comes home to find Tony has tied Lena up. Tony vocalises his conflict – he wants to help his brother but he doesn’t want to hurt Lena (which kind of ignores the whole kidnapping thing). Adam assures Tony he’s different now – and he understands why Tony killed him and Lucy was totally just a one off, honest, and now he’s all cured. A very ragged Tony remembers that his mother told him not to trust his brother, but Adam is extremely good at manipulating Tony, even forgiving him for killing him.

But what to do with Lena? Adam tells Tony to let him handle it. Adam releases Lena – and asks her to forgive Tony because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He also asks her not to tell anyone about him – and lets her go when she nods. She runs to the road and hitch-hikes out of there

To Julie and Nikki – who drops in because Julie isn’t returning her calls and she’s worried. I’m sensing a theme. When Julie snarks, Nikki kisses her, passionately before Julie pushes her away (visibly taking hold of herself) to tell Nikki that she’s taken in lost orphan Victor again (and he’s now naked in her bath tub just to make it worse). She’s also not letting Nikki take Victor away (which, given how utterly awful the authorities were last time, is pretty understandable). Nikki agrees (so they can get back to kissing).

They continue to be passionate and sexy together when they go to bed that night – though Julie has some initial hesitation about her scars. It’s a wonderful scene as Nikki overcomes that and gently kisses those scars - but there’s nothing that can overcome creepy Victor staring at them. We have another acknowledgement that the Returned never sleep.

To Helen who is wandering around the dam and hearing how it failed the first time (cut corners for the sake of greed). She ends up going to the bar with the engineer who was lecturing and proving the Returned don’t get drunk despite tequila. She flirts and dances and puts forward her theory that the town needs to be washed away. She even creepily talks about how to destroy the dam.

That night Simon does go to creepily stalk outside of Rowan’s house – to find a police guard. The police leaves and he goes in and Rowan confronts him about killing himself when he learned she was pregnant. Simon doesn’t remember – and Tommy arrives with a gun and orders him to kneel because POLICE (and it’s not like we haven’t seen the fact that Tommy throws around orders, threats and power without consideration of cause of law). Simon, of course, can’t imagine Rowan actually did her own thinking and accuses Tommy of putting her up to rejecting him. Simon refuses to leave – and Tommy shoots him.

I don’t like the underlying presumed narrative of Rowan’s suicide attempt: she once attempted suicide and was stopped by Tommy checking on her. I think this is presented as some level of justification for him spying on her and installing the cameras around her house – as some way of protecting her. It doesn’t change that she is due respect and honesty, that she has a right not to be spied upon, certainly without her knowledge. It’s paternalistic and ableist and a plain old skeevy attempt to redeem Tommy’s actions. Rowan hasn’t been sectioned (a process itself that is often rife with abuse), no matter what her past, Tommy doesn’t have the right to violate her privacy and make her choices like that.

Which leads me to another eternal frustration with Rowan’s story – it’s all Tommy vs Simon. The idea that there’s a third option (neither of them) is never really considered. The flaws each one has isn’t presented as a reason to drop either of them (or both of them) – but as things to weigh in balancing one vs the other. Even if they are both terrible choices, we’re presented with a situation where Rowan will choose what she sees to be the least bad, rather than deciding they’re both terrible.

Tony – aie, I’m torn between wanting to slap him for even thinking about going this far to defend even a beloved family member, some things can’t be forgiven, but at the same time I’m very impressed by how he’s portraying the conflict; the guilt over outright murdering his brother, the guilt over NOT murdering or otherwise stopping his brother, his desperate need to believe his brother even though he knows he shouldn’t. The conflict he’s going through is very well portrayed.

Camille – comforting lies or cold honesty? Well that’s been debated that has raged for generations and I don’t think there is an easy answer for it. But the main reason there isn’t a simple answer is because it does bring comfort to people who are hurting – but here we also have an ulterior motive of manipulating these parents into supporting Camille.

I think the depiction of Julie and Nikki is a definite step up from the French version. Not only do we have a lot more overt passion, but we also have small acknowledgements elsewhere about their sexuality – like the comment from Chloe about Victor having two mothers. The French version had Julie and Nikki be a couple, but with a lot less overt acknowledgement, less passion and very little outside acknowledgement. This sometimes happens when show creators try to pretend we live in a sexuality-blind utopia but it often falls flat and serves as a way of down playing their sexuality.