I was a couple of episodes into the excellent French series “The Returned,” about a group of seemingly random people who return from the dead, before it hit me that I was watching a show about zombies.
The zombies who populate this eight-part series, which debuts Thursday night at 9 on the Sundance channel, are not stumbling, decaying, groaning monsters clawing at human flesh. These zombies look and behave (for the most part) just like the friends and family members they reunite with after years in their graves. At first, they do not even know they are dead, and when they figure it out, they are confused, frightened and sad.
In other words, it’s not exactly “The Walking Dead.” Sure, there is some graphic violence and plenty of disturbing sights, but the violence isn’t gratuitous in the “Bro! Did you see THAT!?” way I feel many people watch the super popular (and gory) AMC zombie series. “The Returned” is moody and mysterious and creepy -- and devastatingly sad.
But let’s forget about the z-word for a moment.
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The mystery at the center of “The Returned” -- who are these “people,” and why did they suddenly return to this remote village in the French Alps -- is what gnaws at you as much as the creepy, knowing stare of young Victor (Swann Nambotin), the most haunting of all those who have been brought back.
The strength of the series is that it allows you, through a series of flashbacks, to get to know the “returned” as the people they once were -- who, incidentally, are also the people they still believe themselves to be.
“The Returned” is so smart and captivating, you won’t even notice the French subtitles! Oh, did I forget to mention it’s subtitled? Please, please, please. Do not let that keep you from diving into one of the most enthralling series to come along in a long time.