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Series / Les Revenants

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You wish you could see your dead loved ones once again ? Think twice.

"You know, for people who speak of loved ones getting life after death all day long, I would have thought that you would AT LEAST plan SOMETHING in case it happened. Just saying."

Also known as "The Returned".

A 2012 mystery/esoteric french horror drama soap-opera TV series created by Fabrice Gobert for Canal+. It is a loose adaptation of the 2004 film of the same name by Robin Campillo, though the series expands its original idea and plans to create a long-run mystery on its basic premise. It proved quite a success for audience and critics alike (in fact it was the most watched original fiction created by Canal+ of all time), winning an international Emmy, and declared best 2013 drama by the Guardian (beating out Breaking Bad, mind you).

The show is available in the UK on Channel 4, and in the USA on Sundance Channel. Its second season debuted in France in late-September 2015, and then started airing in the US and UK shortly after its broadcast in France ended.

The series follows the lives of five people who have come back to life for no apparent reason, years after their death. They have no memories of how they died but all reappeared at the exact place where they passed away, and all of them lost their lives in brutal circumstances.

It is set in a banal yet unsettling provincial (and unnamed) mountain town. The TV series follows their strange new lives and as well as the reactions of their relatives, who react in varying ways to their loved ones' unexpected return. Gradually, what at first looks like a miracle slowly proves to be quite a emotional hardship to all involved...

... and then things start getting really weird. As the series progresses, dead people coming back to life is not the only supernatural problem this town and its inhabitants have to deal with.

The soundtrack is performed by the Scottish Post-Rock band Mogwai.

A TV series that debuted in March, 2014 on ABC, Resurrection, which is based off a recent novel with the same name and a very similar premise, is being compared in the media almost universally with this series.

Paul Abbott, the British creator of Shameless, was at one point working on a remake of the series for Britain's Channel Four, but it moved to a different production company, and the show eventually aired on the US channel A&E. Carlton Cuse, formerly of Lost, produced the remake, which ultimately only lasted a single season.

Warning: We try our best to avoid spoilers, but due to the sheer volume of plot twists, it's very difficult. Beware.

This series features examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The 2004 movie had a lot more people resurrecting; this series focuses on five "Revenants" to get a better assessment of their predicament. The movie also didn't provide any explanation for these unexpected resurrections, which the series plans to do eventually.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Of the 2004 movie.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: A variant occurs when Julie takes in Victor, which seems to perk her maternal instincts and awakens unreconciled feelings for her former partner, Laure.
    • Not only that, but one of the reason that led to Julie and Laure's breakup was the former's inability to have children after the Cannibal's attack.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: The waiters at the American Diner are dressed as cowboys; but it's kind of justified as it's supposed to represent a theme-restaurant version of America.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Léna is first. Then her twin comes back from the dead, which makes her even more angsty.
  • Anyone Can Die: Out of the "living" characters across two seasons, Mr. Costa, M.lle Payet, Toni, Laure, Thomas and his entire battalion of Gendarmes, Lucho, Sandrine, Frédéric, Pierre and possibly Adèle, plus the special case of Lucy who may have been a Returned from the start, all bite the dust sooner or later. Of course, given the kind of show they're on, a couple of them turn into Returned, or still reappear as hallucinations.
  • Arc Words:
    • "It's over."
    • "Do you trust me?"
    • "You can count on me."
  • The Ark: The Helping Hand.
  • The Atoner: Pierre, who identifies as a born-again Christian, and likely runs the Helping Hand as a way to try and make up for a jaded past, including participating in the robbery where Victor's family is killed.
  • Auto Cannibalism: Simon eats his own rotting flesh while jailed.
  • Back from the Dead: Camille, Simon, Victor, Serge, Madame Costa, along with a dog and a butterfly. Apparently there are many more, probably people who died when the original dam broke and flooded the town. Lucy, their leader, could possibly qualify, though she never really died. She could just have regenerative powers. Julie wonders if she's one of them because she was clinically dead for two seconds after her aggression, though it's scientifically possible she got lucky on the operating table.
  • Big Blackout: One that renders the town near uninhabitable.
  • British Brevity: Both seasons to date are only eight episodes long.
    • In France, the series aired two episodes back-to-back each week over four weeks.
  • Closed Circle: The town becomes this near the end of the first season, with the town's only exit road mysteriously leading back to the dam, trapping Laurie, Julie and Victor when they try to leave by car.
  • The Conspiracy: In flashback, we find Mr. Costa, Serge & Toni's father Milan, and Pierre were part of an underground group bent on forcing Victor's family out of the town, and other questionable acts.
  • Coming and Going: Sex and death are inextricably linked, especially in Lucy's powers of clairvoyance, which magnifiy when she is stabbed and comes back as one of the Returned.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Pierre has developed an enormous homeless shelter, The Helping Hand, complete with large dorms, months of food supplies and ammo, lots and lots of ammo.
  • Creepy Child: Victor. From his habit of rarely speaking or smiling to his supernatural ability to appear and disappear. Then he drives someone into committing suicide.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: EVERYONE.
  • Deconstruction: Of the traditional Zombie Apocalypse genre. The show tries to be as realistic as possible and focuses more on the psychological impact of seeing someone you lost magically coming back rather than the fantastic aspect. ...Or at least, before the final episode.
  • Dead Guy on Display: The military discover the corpses of the gendarmes who opened fire on the Returned at the Helping Hand lashed to trees. All except one.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Adèle believes that Simon tragically died in a car accident the day of their marriage. He actually committed suicide, but he doesn't remember why he did it when he returns.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The school bus accident that begins the series is shot a very objective angle, very passively, with no dramatic tension. The passive angle we see it initially at is partly by design as at the end of the episode we see the crash from a more participatory point-of-view and we find the accident was caused by Victor standing out in the middle of the road and the driver trying to avoid him.
    • The same passive angle is employed in the second season when portraying Mme Costa's death. We just see her walking on the frozen lake from afar, then suddenly plunging under the ice.
  • The Don: Milan.
  • Doting Parent: Camille's mother is so totally overwhelmed by her return, she seems to ignore her personality shifts as she becomes re-involved in her Sibling Triangle. She also goes to great lengths to hide her return from the parents whose children did not come back.
  • Driven to Suicide: Esteban's parents commit suicide at the Helping Hand when Camille falsely tells them she has seen him and he will be waiting for them on 'the other side'. At the beginning of the second series, Esteban returns.
    • The list of people who have been driven to suicide by Victor's illusions grows exponentially during the series.
  • First-Episode Resurrection: A grand total of five! it turns out that dozens resurrected in the same episode though they remained in hiding for the entirety of the first season. The five others didn't find the rest of the group in time
    • While a great many seemed to have returned at the same time, Victor has been back for significantly longer, since Victor possibly deliberately causes the bus accident that kills Camille, and it takes four years before she returns.
    • During the first episode of the second season, Audrey, her boyfriend Esteban, and most significantly, Toni all return. And then, at the end of the episode, even more Returned arrive, all seemingly drawn to Lucy, and more continue to arrive (including Lucy's boyfriend) as the series progresses.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Julie dreams of being dead on the morgue bed, then being brought back to life by Ophélie with a kiss. She wakes up, hears commotion in the hospital corridor, and finds Madame Costa having just returned to life from being shot.
  • Gainax Ending: Adèle's story in the second season has one of this. She follows Simon down a cave, but she loses him in the dark and is spooked by the deformed creature the military saw on the camera beforehand, who may or may not be Simon. The creature takes Adèle's hand and becomes her guide. She then appears alone, dressed in white, joins Simon who is in his wedding dress, and they look up towards an opening, smiling.
  • Genre-Busting: It's been described as the French Twin Peaks, but there's a lot of soap-opera and dramedy in it. The rhythm at which the weird supernatural mysteries are introduced is intentionally slow, in order for the show to focus on the immediate and practical problems a family would experience if one of their relatives came back from the dead. Later on it verges on the Zombie genre and a good deal of Apocalypse How
  • The Great Flood: Twice, once when the dam breaks and floods the original town, killing hundreds, and once again when the water level in the reservoir recedes, and the displaced water rises into town, flooding the power plant and eventually cutting off a significant part of the town, where the Returned, Julie, and Claire now hide.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Adèle is wanted by the Returned as she is now pregnant with Simon's child.
  • Hates Being Alone: Victor may have killed Julie's gossipy neighbor who was asking questions about his relationship to her and he may have deliberately caused the bus accident, maybe in the hopes that the kids would come back as Returned. Though this may not be the case given that he also tried to prevent Esther's murder at Serge's hands.
    • This could mean that Victor is a Patient Zero, the first to have come back. From his behaviour when he first arrived at the Lewanski's home, more than 35 years before, it is possible that he had already died and returned, or that he's even an all-different kind of immortal entity.
    • The season 2 finale implies that it was Victor who brought all Returned back to life, after wishing for his now-elderly father, who was hospitalised after a domestic accident, not to die.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Victor's father still lives in town after his family's murder.
    • And up until the events of the series, Victor has been living with him.
  • History Repeats: Lucy arrives in the town, with only a suitcase and no money. She asks the owner of the local pub for a drink and a place to stay, and he provides them. It happened both in 1976 with Milan, and in 2011 with Toni.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Lucy becomes more uninhibited as the series progresses.
  • Ironic Echo: When Virgil is captured by Milan and thrown in the cellar, he begs the young Serge to let him out, which he does, leading to the former's agonizing death and Milan forcing Serge to watch. 35 years later, Milan is in the same situation and tells the same words to Serge, but he slams the cellar door shut.
  • Join or Die: This is why Milan thinks he has come back, to kill everyone, so they all become Returned. He intimidates Serge into shooting Lena, and then stabs her when Serge's shot doesn't kill her. However, Serge shoots him before he is able to finish her off.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: The Sabatinis, who also lost a child in the same accident that killed Camille, announce to the support group they are expecting. When The Horde begin to appear and advance towards the Helping Hand, Sandrine, has a miscarriage, which she blames on Camille. At the beginning of the second season, after the Sabatinis have left town, her daughter Audrey returns.
  • Meaningful Name: Could some of the male character names refer to The Bible?
    • Thomas, the doubter.
    • Pierre (Peter), the rock.
    • Simon, an apostle who is renamed Peter by Jesus.
    • Another example (not related to the Bible) is Viviane, Mr Costa's returned wife. Her name means basically "living".
    • Both Étienne Berg and his son are dam engineers; their surname means "mountain" in German.
  • Motifs: Water is everywhere, and apparently represents a threshold to the world of the dead. The Returned appear as reflections on the lake on promotional posters, their appearance causes the reservoir level to lower, Camille's coffin only contains lake water, the town is flooded in the first season finale cutting off the Returned from the living...
  • Myth Arc: The producers insist that there is one, though whether or not it will leave viewers satisfied and give them the answers they want is already a matter of great controversy.
  • New Child Left Behind: Adele and Simon's daughter, Chloé.
  • Noughties Drama Series: Considering the series major influences, this isn't surprising.
  • One-Steve Limit: Zig-Zagged, with a dose of Bilingual Bonus, with the characters of Esteban and Étienne Berg, both exclusive to Season 2. Their names are, respectively, the Spanish and French versions of "Stephen".
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Of the Revenant Zombie variety. They look like normal people, don't usually want to eat your brain, can think normally and aren't rotting at first.
  • The Power of Love: A more serious example: in the second season, Virgil explains that a Returned doesn't become an uncaring, mindless zombie (like the majority of the Horde) as long as there's someone living that still cares for them. This is exactly what happens to Esteban after all his family and friends die.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Many characters shift their ethics as their situations change, but the most standout example comes in the first season finale: Thomas is perfectly willing to separate Léna and Camille over her mother's hysterical pleas, if it means the Returned leave in peace, but when the Returned also intend to take Adèle - his wife, now pregnant with Simon's child - he decides forgo peace and leads his police force into a (seemingly foolhardy) confrontation against them after all.
  • Put on a Bus: Since this is a show where death doesn't stop a character from sticking around (even as an hallucination, like Thomas), the absence of Laure from the second season is particularly noticeable.
  • Regretful Traitor: While Pierre doesn't prevent the deaths of Victor, his mother, and his brother, he eventually stops the murder of Victor's wounded father when his partner is about to finish him off.
  • The Reveal: When the water level of the nearby reservoir inexplicably lowers, it reveals an old church that may have an connection to the Returned.
    • And in the last scenes of the first season finale, we find out where all the water has gone...
    • The second season finale completes Victor's backstory. He was already a Returned when he was taken in by the Lewanskis, and has been hiding with Mr. Lewanski for the past 35 years.
  • Revenant Zombie: In case the title wasn't obvious enough.
  • Rotating Protagonist: Each episode begins by focusing on one of the main characters, with the episode named after them. The one subversion of this trope creates massive spoilers for the season finales.
    • A slight subversion of this trope is the second season premiere, "The Child", which while it focuses on Adele and Simon's baby, and Adele's fears of taking it to term, he isn't born until the second episode, "Milan".
  • Serial Killer: Serge, who stabs Lucy and who had previously attacked Julie.
  • Sequel Hook: At the close of the second season, the Returned all leave, but Serge and Simon are not with them. Lucy leaves Nathan on a couple's doorstep, which Victor - who has apparently been adopted by Julie and Ophélie - is somehw able to sense.
  • Sibling Triangle: Before the accident that kills Camille, both her and Léna were in love with the same boy. Unknown to Camille at the time, her sister was already seeing him. This has repercussions when Camille returns.
    • At the beginning of the second series, Frédéric seems disinterested in either sister, and even left town for a time. However, he has come back into town and is one of Pierre's cronies at The Helping Hand.
  • Stopped Caring: When a Returned has no more ties to the world of the living (i.e. people who still care for them), they become mindless or even feral zombies.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The town has an incredibly extensive CCTV network for its size and population. However, it doesn't occur to the police to put a camera or two in the underpass where at least two women have been attacked, or follow The Returned's movements back to the point before they first appeared.
    • Thomas goes Dirty Cop and uses a covert home surveillance system he installed when Adele once tried to kill herself along with the city's CCTV network to spy on her and Simon, a former fiancé of hers who has now come back as one of the Returned. He eventually catches Adele and Simon in an affair. Not soon after, Chloe discovers the camera in her room.
  • Time Skip: One of six months between the first and second series.
  • 30-Second Blackout: The power has frequent minor failures
    • Are the returned capable of cutting it?
    • Could this be related to the reservoir's level dropping?
    • This later becomes Big Blackout, which ultimately leaves the village nearly uninhabitable.
  • Twin Telepathy:
    • Léna's wounds and sickness seem to be directly related to the Sibling Triangle between her, Camille, and Frédéric.
    • This is also explored during the flashback to Camille's death; while Léna and Frédéric have sex back at the house, Camille becomes aware of it because she can also feel it. Her resulting Freak Out distracts the driver, contributing to the accident.
    • When Serge brings Lena to Camille after the flood, Camille sense when she is close.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This is how Thomas justifies himself after shooting Simon. And by the first season's finale, the revenants and the horde are definitely not treated like ordinary humans would in the same circumstance, especially by Thomas and the rest of the police.
    • After the flood, the Returned seem to split into two camps, ones who want to remain separated, and those who still wish to have contact with their loved ones who've remained in the town.
    • When Toni returns, Pierre and his cronies at the Helping Hand keep him isolated, attempt to interrogate him and beat him when he doesn't know where the Returned have gone.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Victor was killed along with his family during a burglary, in which Pierre was a participant.
    • While she denies it at first, Adele had tried to kill her & Simon's baby before it was born.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Along with Léna, some of the Returned begin to exhibit scars and wounds as they get more emotionally involved (or disconnected) with their loved ones.
    • Although once The Returned unify and retreat after the flood, the wounds disappear.
  • Yodel Land: Set in the French part of the Alps, so the scenery is reminiscent of this trope. But otherwise averted.