Channel 4 unveiled their latest foreign drama import on Sunday. Replacing Homeland’s Sunday slot, The Returned is a French-subtitled zombie drama. Or so it says.

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The first episode featured a definite lack of the usual zombie tropes. Instead of flesh-hungry monsters and crossbow-toting survivors, we were introduced to a small French mountain town who, after four years, were just coming to terms with the loss of a class of school children whose school bus had crashed over a mountain edge. That is until one of the girls from the crash reappears with no memory or idea of what has happened.

The first episode varied its pace between the dead returning to the living, the living becoming the dead (e.g brutal murder) and glorious shots of the mountainside scenery. It felt oddly paced for a first episode, stuck halfway between trying to deal with the reaction of the families of the returned truthfully while setting up plot points to hook viewers in for further episodes.

The idea of a loved one returning from the dead has been explored since ancient Greek times. Orpheus tried to rescue his love from the underworld, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein explored the possibility of giving life to the dead and The Walking Dead has explored the reality of a zombie apocalypse. We are obsessed with death and the possibility of returning from it.

The Returned looks set to explore the philosophical side of the zombie allegory. When zombies first burst into popular consciousness they were the embodiment of the booming 80s’ mass consumerism and the endless unwavering hunger for more. The early noughties saw the beginning of the comedy zombie, where the gore of the zombie attacks became the focus. It seems we are entering a new phase within the zombie genre, the thinking zombie.

After the success of BBC Three’s zombie drama In The Flesh it seems viewers are ready to leave behind the simplistic zombie archetypes of yesteryear.

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In the Flesh – British Zombie Drama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the zombie genre grows it seems viewers are happy to stop asking why zombies exist and instead asking what is going to happen to the zombies. It is clear that The Returned is aiming to fill this serious zombie drama niche.

The Returned returns to Channel 4 this Sunday at 10pm