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.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam