TV review: The Returned, Channel 4

Terror in the Skies, Sunday Channel 4

Always a shock when the dead return to life. A few years ago, for example, those of us who value subtitled drama had pretty much got over our sense of bereavement. Even BBC2 wouldn't run a subtitled film, it seemed.

The genre was six feet under. But then BBC4 bought The Killing, and discovered that the concentration involved in reading a television series could do something special for a drama – and now everyone's looking for something that has that vogueish trim of translation along the bottom of the screen. Hence The Returned on Channel 4, a supernatural thriller from France about a small village in the Alps which really should be exploring some kind of exchange programme with Twin Peaks, Washington. They've got an awful lot in common.

The opening was downbeat – if you ignored the echoes of the beginning of The Shining. A coach full of schoolchildren was driving along a mountain road, its occupants grousing about the maths test they'd just been landed with. And then, without warning, it swerved through the parapet, teetered a moment on the brink and dropped into the valley. The group-counselling session you see soon after, parents gathered in a drab municipal hall, suggests that the death toll was high. But then you cut to one of the young victims, up and walking in the mountains. She isn't scary... she's scared, baffled to find herself alone and miles out of town – and this is The Returned's first twist. The dead don't know they've died, and return to their lives as if only a few hours have elapsed rather than four years. Barring a disruptive effect on electricity circuits, they don't appear to possess any supernatural powers, either.

Camille, no conventional zombie, returns to a narcoleptic town, its streetlights shining down on empty roads and bland new-build estates. Everyone seems alone here, waiting for someone missing to turn up, and when they do, their reactions differ. Camille's mother is stunned into frozen immobility, as if any sudden movement might break the spell. Others are less accepting. A young woman whose lover tracks her down shrieks for release, as if convinced that he's a symptom of her madness. A father ties up his revenant daughter and sets fire to the house, as if to purge it of something demonic.

And – although the first episode is mostly a triumph of mood and underplayed emotion – there are signs that the plot will twist itself into more gothic knots. The town doctor is stalked by a silent child who is revealed, in the final frames, to be implicated in the original crash. And the town's friendly hooker is violently murdered in an underpass, as if death is trying to balance the books. So far it's very stylish, the fingernail-on-chalkboard score by Mogwai adding to the eerie urban nightscapes. And the central idea of what happens to grief when its objects are suddenly restored is intriguing, a theme pregnant with uncomfortable truths. But I'm not sure that the funereal pace can be sustained for too long now that it's done its initial job. Ironically, The Returned now needs just a little more life.

I would not recommend Terror in the Skies to nervous fliers. Plane crashes, says its presenter, Professor Brendan Walker, provide “a window on what's really going on” in aviation. If that's true, it's a very odd window, one that obscures the thousands of flights that arrive safely and lets you see only those on which something goes awry. The programme itself sets about to systematically withdraw any sense of security you might have about flight. Brand new planes? Untested in real-world conditions. Old, well-established planes? Prone to sudden unpredictable failure. Next week: “Are the pilots the weak link in the chain?” Would that be the chain that, entirely misleadingly, you've implied is composed almost entirely of weak links, Professor Walker? The pictures are fun though.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power