If you’ve already watched the Best 25 Best Shows on Netflix, powered through the Next 25 Best TV Shows on Netflix, and got caught up on this week’s best new movies on Netflix, here’s a weekend binge-watching recommendation on Netflix: It’s called The Returned, and it’s fantastic television.
Over on the A&E network, they’re currently planning an American remake of Les Revenants (or The Returned), and from everything I know about the remake so far (Carlton Cuse is running it, and Jeremy Sisto will star in the ensemble), it appears as though one of the best series on TV is being remade on the wrong network with a bad cast. I get the sense that it’s going to be a substandard frame-for-frame remake, and the only difference will be lesser actors and no subtitles.
It’s a shame, and if you have an eight-hour binge window, check out the French series, which is one of the best things going on Netflix. Though it predates it considerably, the premise is somewhat similar to the inferior ABC show Resurrection in that people who have been long dead suddenly return to life at the same age as before and attempt to re-assimilate into their old lives and families (a premise that is also similar to In the Flesh, except that these undead were never zombies). That adjustment, obviously, is difficult: Wives have moved on to other husbands, identical twin sisters have aged, and the families are naturally skeptical at the thought of a loved one returning: How did it happen? Where did they come from? How long will they stay before they’re taken from us again?
Carlton Cuse is kind of the right name to attach to the remake for the same reason that his Lost co-showrunner Damon Lindelof is appropriate for The Leftovers: Because both shows ultimately deal with mysteries that are larger than us. We don’t know why the dead have returned in The Returned, and neither do the undead. But in addition to their own confusion, they have to grapple with a world that has moved on without them, as well as the alienation and fear of the other townspeople. They also want to know out why they were chosen when so many others were not. As the series progresses, these mysteries grow deeper, more complicated, and way creepier (there’s a supremely weird kid who returns after being dead for thirty years, who rarely speaks, but when he smiles, your bones will chill).
It’s a brilliantly acted, instantly addictive series. It actually won the International Emmy for Best Drama series last year, and the series second season will air on Sundance later this year (before likely moving on to Netflix). Honestly, however, it’s a better show to binge watch than to see week-to-week because the mystery is so compelling, you’re not going to want to wait to find out the answers it has to offer.