If you enjoyed the Netflix series Dark, you might be interested in the French series Les Revenants, (The Returned) also available on Netflix, and home video. Especially if you’re a fan of:

  • TV mystery shows with a supernatural twist, like the aforementioned Dark, Lost or Twin Peaks
  • European murder mystery shows like The Bridge, The Tunnel, or Broadchurch
  • The sense of impending doom from any Black Mirror episode
  • Subtitles and/or dubbing

The setup

People who died years ago are returning to a French village, but unlike most things that come back from the dead, they look perfectly fine and are initially unaware that they’ve died. Each episode mixes a character’s backstory with the events of the present, as everyone becomes aware that something unusual is going on and starts trying to figure out what that is.  If this sounds familiar, Les Revenants was remade for American television as The Returned. But even if you were or weren’t a fan of that, this French series is still worth checking out because of:

The mystery

The dead coming back is part of a larger, stranger picture. Sure, there’s the question of how they’re back, and why they look great (though to be fair, it’s safe to assume French zombies wouldn’t be caught dead looking unfashionable), but there’s also the issues of the water level dropping at the town dam, the dead animals, and the fear that someone who was intended to stay dead is back among the living.

The tone

It’s a brooding, slow burn European drama where something definitely isn’t right in town, and that, right off the bat, reminded me of Dark (or rather, Dark reminded me of it, as Les Revenants aired 2013-2015).  The pacing and cinematography become an essential part of the story as layers get peeled back and the tension builds.  It’s the sort of thing one pretty much never sees on American television, though I suppose Twin Peaks came close.

The character drama with flashbacks

These characters get reminded that things in their past that they’d thought were long since buried have just been waiting for the chance to come back. The use of flashbacks here is an effective form of storytelling as viewers see how the past informs the present, although in a slightly different way than Dark did.

The lack of “give it a few episodes”

Life is too short to watch/read/play garbage, and I hate sinking time into something hoping it’ll get better, or worse, finding out it doesn’t. If you share my concern, you’ll find the first episode pretty much matches the format of the rest of the series, so there’s no “give it a few episodes and it gets good” here. If you’re not interested by the end of the first episode you’re not going to care for the rest of it—spend the 15 remaining hours you saved trying something else.

The fixed commitment

And while we’re discussing use of time, Les Revenants is a total of sixteen hour long episodes and done. The story is told, and while it might have been tighter I felt like my viewing time was well spent and the finale didn’t come out of nowhere and throw out everything that I’d just watched. (*cough* Lost *cough*).  Thus, you won’t be left hanging after sinking time into it.

So if there’s not enough “brooding and mysterious” in your life, or if any of the above appeals to you, or you really liked Dark, you should definitely give Les Revenants a watch.

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