In A&E’s ‘The Returned’ the dead come home

Tom Long
The Detroit News

For some, watching A&E’s new series “The Returned” is going to seem — to paraphrase the words of the immortal Yogi Berra — like deja vu all over again.

That’s because “The Returned,” which is about ghosts or zombies or something like that, is itself a ghost, zombie or something like that. It is a remake of the French series of the same name that played on the Sundance Channel a bit more than a year ago and many of its scenes absolutely mirror that original, award-winning series.

Which should make the show ripe for complaints about unoriginality and cross-cultural thievery, not to mention the inevitable comparisons between actors playing the same roles. Which spooky little kid is the spookiest, which set of twins look most alike, which distraught lesbian doctor had the best set of belly scars? Let the carping begin.

But let’s not let the carping drown out the fact that the American version of “The Returned” is well on its way to being every bit as good as the French original. It may even improve on certain aspects of the show, we’ll have to wait and see.

It helps to have a strong premise, and “The Returned” has a doozy. In a small, rural town, a young teen girl named Camille (India Ennenga) climbs a hill to the highway and walks home as dusk falls. When she gets to her house, she walks in and immediately starts raiding the fridge as her mother looks on dumbfounded.

Camille, you see, died in a school bus accident four years earlier.

But here she is, all shiny and fresh-faced, with no memory of the tragedy — all aboard the bus died — and the same age as the day she perished.

Meanwhile, her twin sister, Lena (Sophie Lowe), has grown into a young woman, her mother (Tandi Wright) and father (Mark Pelligrino) have separated, and mom has a new boyfriend (Jeremy Sisto). Somebody, obviously, is going to have to break all this, along with the news of her own death, to Camille. Talk about awkward.

It soon turns out Camille isn’t the only one returning. A handsome young man (Mat Vairo) who died on the day he was supposed to get married; a small boy (Dylan Kingwell) who seems incapable of speech; a beautiful women (Michelle Forbes) who’s been dead for decades; and a serial killer (Rhys Ward) all come back and, at the very least, disturb the lives of people they used to know.

Each one of these returnees has his or her own storyline and, as the show progresses, those storylines become entangled. Each episode is titled after one character and flashbacks let us know who died when and how and shed light on current circumstances. It is all supremely weird and it just gets weirder.

As the episodes progress, differences between the French and American versions emerge, the most immediate being in the French version all this mumbo-jumbo was somehow tied to a local dam, while the American mumbo-jumbo doesn’t seem as moisture-centric. Yet.

There are a lot of characters and talent involved here — Mary Elizabeth Winstead notably plays the bride who was left behind — but “The Returned” is very much a show propelled forward by its story and the questions it raises. Would we really want to see the dearly departed come back into our lives or would their return wreak havoc? Was Lazarus happy after being raised from the dead?

They’re questions without easy answers no matter what the language. But even if it is deja vu all over again, “The Returned” keeps asking them in a hypnotic, chilling way.

‘The Returned’


10 p.m. Monday