Not to get all QI on you, but did you know a baby’s cry is specifically designed to hack the fear centres of your brain?
2 points to you if you’re nodding. When baby yells, it sparks off all sorts of primal neurochemistry in your amygdala that sets you on edge, even if baby’s not yours, even if it’s a fictional French baby on your British (made-in-Taiwan) TV. Which is why it’s so tough listening to Adele’s baby wailing, and watching, fear centres at DefCon 1, as she slowly, unemotionally, moves towards it and…
…’Phew!’ She gives him a lovely hug. The crying stops. But you’re still on edge because this is The Returned, and by now you already know this isn’t an episode that’s going to let your brain get off easily. ‘Morgane’ is the boldest and creepiest The Returned has ever been. A tour de force of terror right from the off, with a breathtaking pre-title sequence as we flashback to the dam collapsing in a ferocious storm.
It’s a shock bit of Hollywood-grade excitement in a town usually so still that even the slightest tilt of the head from one of the townsfolk is imbued with meaning. A shock especially because the biggest disasters in this show tend to be personal and extremely intimate. And it still proves to be so this week, as creepy Victor delivers a body blow to Julie by telling her the baby she never had is ‘better off dead’.
Whoa! You get the feeling that, beneath eyebrows that are at least ten years too old for him, Victor’s trying to be truthful rather than horrible; that he’s lacking tact because he’s a prescient spook-child, not because he wants to hurt Julie. There’s truth in his bluntness: it does seem to be better to be dead than Returned and forced to live on a housing estate policed by an undead Eurovision backing band, and stuck with a family you no longer feel you connect with.
The same is true for Serge as he’s forced to do his father Milan’s will, all thanks to the persuasive rhetoric of the vice. It’s amazing how amicable you are to even the most bonkers suggestions, such as ‘Kill Lena!’ when your fingers are being crushed.
Serge’s dad really takes Pierre’s title of Chief Bastard this week, which is some feat considering Pierre is keeping Toni locked up and interrogating him through starvation. Damn you and your terrible haircut Pierre. Milan, with his terrible beard, orders his son to take Lena out into the woods and kill her in a scene half Snow White and half sheer terror, especially as it shows how far Milan will go in his pursuit of being a nutcase.
And he is a nutcase. Even before he died, he was a nutcase, killing Lucy to cleanse her of her sins. And now he wants everyone dead, and returned cleansed, like your dry-cleaning. No wonder the immortal prostitute is always breathlessly worrying about him coming.
And while Milan’s coming, Julie’s going. Even in an episode where there’s a collapsing dam, and spooky-doin’s at the bottom of the sinister hole (I jumped when I saw that hand, because I am a ‘fraidy-cat), it’s Julie leaving creepy little Victor that has the most impact. It’s the end of the show’s best double-act, and all the more engaging for the conflict it makes you feel. Is Julie giving up on Victor? Or is she right to leave an undead little boy with his undead mum?
I was busy thinking about that until I saw Julie walk off into the freezing flood water, and then I was preoccupied with the fate of one of the show’s most sympathetic characters. Won’t she drown or catch her death in that water? Is she trying to end her life now that she has nothing in it? I could go to Wikipedia and find out right now, but I won’t and neither should you. Just enjoy the scares as they hack your brain.
Far from a baby’s scream, the silence of uncertainty is the real terror of The Returned.
Aired at 9pm on Friday 30 October 2015 on More4.
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