The Returned ‘Serge and Toni’ – Series 1, episode 5
“There’s only one way to find out,” advises Mrs. Costa to determine whether Julie is dead. It’s an indication of how morbid the show has become. So much so that the animals have formed a cult and have entered a mass suicide pact, well by Thomas’ account at least. Simon has been shot, Toni has a rifle barrel pressed against his chest, and Léna is in crippling pain on the precipice of death, leaving little opportunity for whimsical respite.
At this point in the series “L’amore est plus fort que la mort” - love is more powerful than death, is delivered as a faded, optimistic memory. With Julie hanging out of her window wondering whether she is alive, Laure bursts out with, “Je t’aime,” to deter Julie from suicide suicide. The line lacks sincerity and is quickly dismissed in Julie’s sarcastic reply. Elsewhere death is conquering when Thomas shoots Simon in the stomach. The presumption would be that he will live, but this love rivalry has escalated, turning a protective man-of-the-law into an attempted murderer – La mort est plus forte que l’amore.
The episode opens with Toni shouting at his mother, “Why did you let him out?” as he storms off to kill his brother. Twilight is ending and the scene is caught with a slither of light. The sequence is as aesthetically bracing as the plot line is gripping: from the mother’s skeletal face to the yellow skyline as Toni drives off to kill his brother in the death throes of sunset. It looks amazing, the storyline is brilliant and Mogwai finish off this stylish pinnacle in the show. Serge is killed with a spade to the head, to offer a definite alternative to the live burial. It’s a moment so rich I’d openly encourage murder, were it always to play out this well. And what of the mother, why is it credible that she wouldn’t see Toni? How did she die? Did Toni kill her?
Between the two brothers – one looks like he was raised by sexy wolves, the other like he draws wolves in crayon – justice is metered out with violence. With his taste for freshly spliced guts, Serge is a zombie figure against his brother the spade wielding yokel, to whom violence is more refined than the French language which escapes him. Between them there are potent tones of American slasher cinema: the hut, the spade, the flesh eating, the sequences at dusk, even the hunting. As such their narrative feels dislocated from the rest of town, this American country. Which makes the arrival of Léna in Serge’s bed all the more surprising, and demanding of better explanation.
Presumably Toni’s abduction of Léna was intended to open the episode, the scenes left in the editing room when the drama in the dusk lighting took precedent. That or they decided they had to put the two characters together to create tension in Serge’s desire for flesh. Unfortunately this plot twist plays out with little gravitas. There’s not even enough tension in it for Jérôme, Claire, Camille or Pierre to gravely worry about Lena’s absence, despite them being affected by her crippling pain and her rather nasty laceration. While Jérôme checks up on his mistress, Claire static in her kitchen and Camille chasing boys, Pierre is lost in his revenants, whom he treats as toys.
I’m a little disappointed that no one is overcome with joy at the return of a loved one. Surely someone would be predisposed for happiness, to perceive a revenant as a gift of sort? How could you write a whole town of dead people with no one happy at the occurrence? Perhaps it is in the docile nature of all the characters, that there is no reason to be cheery, for death has consumed them. Why hasn’t anyone cracked out the tarte and champagne, lit the candles for a romantic reunion, or thrown a little party? I’m not suggesting we’re due a full satanic festival – fire eaters, heathens, the works – but a glass of bubbly and a party hat wouldn’t go amiss. Maybe I’ll take the suggestion upon myself. Sunday nights can often lack a bit of frivolity.
There are a couple of twists that need mentioning even if their suggestion outweighs their use. The barmaid Lucy has become a revenant. She appears to have lost the fight for her life, and is now enjoying the fruits of the afterlife, which appear to be much more fun, in that her wounds are fully healing, and she has awoken. Great news. In the face of a medical miracle the doctor seems quite pleased too. Party time? Steady on.
The other news is that there are perfectly preserved woodland animals suspended in the water. Their bodies washing up on the stoney land. It’s a brilliant image and a crazy thing to have to deal with, and I’m glad Thomas is confronted with it. The great inquisitive mind of the police captain draws the suggestion that maybe the animals committed mass suicide. Which would make the goat Charles Manson, and the onlooking alpine bear Dennis Wilson. In this, Samir Guesmi has been great in his note perfect portrayal of a numpty.Tagged in: The Returned
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