Finally, The Returned hits a point where it’s not floating by on just its premise alone. The first few episodes of the series have used the initial idea of people returning from the dead to play up the emotions of the characters, and since there are many different people coming back, the show has been forced to show the impact on the families of the returned. But now that the show has introduced the most important characters, “Victor” is able to move away from that familiar tactic to explore its characters with more depth. That means that not only do we get to see more of Victor himself, we also get quite a bit more story about Rowan, Simon, and Tommy.
It certainly makes for a more interesting episode of The Returned. Allowing these characters to develop instead of using them as tools for non-returned to play off of helps quite a bit, and “Victor” does a lot to flesh these people out. Victor gets a quick introduction 29 years earlier during the first scene of the episode, showing his death when a couple of robbers break into his house. Then, he was a fairly normal kid; now, everyone’s kind of unsure about him, especially after the nosy neighbor’s death.
The Returned manages to spend quite a bit of time on all the characters, though, and this time it feels a lot less randomly organized. Rowan and Simon rekindle their romance after Rowan realizes the guy she’s been talking to isn’t a part of her imagination; unknowingly, they sleep with each other while Tommy watches on camera, prompting a huge fight between Rowan and Tommy. Their relationship isn’t a terribly compelling part of the show, but here it does feel important – not because anyone’s rooting for Tommy, but because the returned are now causing problems and consequences, and that’s not going to go over well with people in town.
Similar things are happening with Camille and Lena, but of a more dangerous nature. Since Camille’s return, Lena has suffered from a gash in her back. In “Victor,” it grows so large that she requires hospitalization. Lena blames Camille, but there’s no indication that that’s the case… at least until a flashback sequence cuts back to Lena and her friends sneaking into the morgue to see Camille dead on a slab, with a huge gash in her back. The Returned is setting up intriguing connotations about the people who come back from the dead – their hunger is difficult to quell, and “Victor” seems to indicate that the dead draw on the living for their power. It would explain Victor’s need to kill the neighbor as well.
It’s good to see that The Returned is dropping hints about the mystery behind the dead; the dramatic aspects of the show work, but they’re not why the viewer tunes in each week. “Victor” manages to capture both at the same time, and it’s an episode that shows what the series can do when it’s working at its best. The multitude of characters can be both a boon and a burden, but “Victor” uses them to its advantage to craft a series of compelling moments.
That said, there are still some issues with the show’s approach. In this episode, Helen gets a lot more screentime to float around town, first having a discussion about Lazarus with a priest and then settling at the community center run by Peter. However, The Returned has done little to show why she’s important besides the obvious fact that she used to be dead and now she’s not. In a way, the show uses her to bring up complex thematic questions about rising from the dead, but “Victor” does little with her after that. And the Darrows from last episode are nowhere to be found in this one, nor is there much mention of the violent attack.
Still, The Returned is getting into a much better groove, with good pacing and a stronger understanding of character. Now that character introductions have been completed, there’s more room to work with the connections between characters, and “Victor” puts Helen, Victor, and Simon in the same house. This feels important, as does the sinister way Camille seems to be sapping strength from Lena, and The Returned has me more intrigued now that things seem to be heating up.