DEADtime TV: The Returned ‘Tony and Adam’

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Here we go – The Returned has revisited Tony and Adam, and reveals what I’d already known from the start of the show. Adam was the psychopath that started hurting people in town, and Tony, urged on by his mother, put him to rest by bashing him with a shovel and then burying him. The Returned made this way too obvious the first time we met Tony, and that had left a sour taste in my mouth from then on. But “Tony and Adam”‘s treatment of this idea – like it’s a big surprise to the audience – is worse, because its reveal in the first scene of this episode is meant to be some shocking twist in the same way Victor’s death at the hands of robbers was, and it just falls flat.

At least this episode takes time to develop those characters, because for the longest time I didn’t realize that Tony and Adam were brothers (I might have just missed this; no, I’m sure I did). The Returned‘s inclusion of these two characters adds needed suspense to the show, if only because it creates an uncertainty as to what Adam will do now that he’s back from the dead. Has he changed his ways, or does he still need to harm people? “Tony and Adam” hints toward the latter, especially in its concluding scene, but it might also be setting us up for another “twist.”

Last episode, I praised The Returned for jumping into the thick of the plot, allowing the returned characters room to grow now that people have gotten used to them being back. But “Tony and Adam” is another step backwards, a moody but rather bland episode about Lena and Camille again. Frankly, I don’t like either character; I think Lena’s a bitch and Camille’s motivations are so far poorly constructed, the show attempting to use her need to pick up where her life left off as an excuse for her shitty actions. I don’t buy it, and I don’t think that The Returned has sold either of these characters despite the narrow focus on their life.

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In fact, “Tony and Adam” barely registers that Lena’s still in the hospital, the only scene a moment when Lena realizes, telepathically, that Camille is macking on her boyfriend. The family drama in The Returned is the least interesting thing about the show, but it continues to return to it for no other reason than to fuel conflict about Camille sucking away Lena’s livelihood.

In much the same way, The Returned is also forcing us to accept Tommy and Rowan’s relationship without doing much work to make it feel realistic or lasting. All we really know about their love is what The Returned has told us, and in “Tony and Adam”, when Rowan makes the choice to stick with Tommy instead of pursuing her romance with Simon any further, it’s an odd flip-flop that makes the audience feel like they’ve missed something. For someone so infatuated with Simon, she sure got over him fast after years of hallucinations. Maybe it was his singing.

So what does work in “Tony and Adam”? I often find myself asking this same question about The Returned each week, sitting through it and grimacing because it’s just so… plain. Victor’s involvement this week with Peter is particularly important to the plot, because he reveals that it was Peter who killed him and his mother. It sparks a search for Victor, and there’s a nice bit of tension created since Peter’s got stakes in finding him first. Helen gets in a couple of religious jabs as well, stating that the whole town is basically cursed and equating a flood in the ’80s to the Biblical flood.

Water is a prominent theme in The Returned, and”Tony and Adam” furthers this concept after a group of deer are found dead in the river. The coroner claims they all committed suicide, setting the tone for what water means for the town. There’s a creepy vibe to this, but at the same time, the show is surprisingly unwilling to explore this avenue very often, opting for character drama instead. It’s to the detriment of the show, especially since there’s little forward movement in the plot right now.

I thought The Returned was finding its footing, but “Tony and Adam” treads water. A couple of developments work – I’d like to see the show get more sinister than it is right now – but otherwise this felt like another blase episode of a show that can’t hold onto its eerie mood.

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