Much like Jerome’s wall of mysteries filled with question marks and curious connections, the second season of The Returned is all about answers that only raise more questions. The Returned has become more of a mystery to uncover than an individual character study from week to week, like the first season, but the show has progressed into this new style beautifully. An episode like “Madame Costa” proves, The Returned is excellent at adding new depth and layers to the characters we’ve already been watching for almost two seasons.
This is surely true of poor, creepy Victor. Last week, we learned that the town found Victor to be a threat 35 years ago, when the dam broke and they blamed him for all of the town’s tragedies. This episode shows us how, maybe, they had a good point to respond in such a harsh way. Victor’s nightmares, well, they always come true, and his drawings of the town’s tragedies are predictions that he seems to be getting from his head. These aren’t vague visions either, as we finally see the death of Madame Costa, who dies falling through the ice while taking her dog out, immediately after spending time with Victor. Watching Costa fall, and then disappear completely, with her dog waiting on the ice is chilling enough, but cutting back to Victor’s drawing and see the detailed prediction of this exact moment adds an extra bit of creepiness.
Once again, this season offers a huge reveal, which only makes me wonder even more about the unknown—which is this show’s exact wheelhouse. Is Victor witnessing the future, or is he actively creating it? Does the drawing of these incidents make them occur and is that why his mother demands he quit drawing? And why exactly doesn’t Victor warn these people? Is there no escaping the inevitable? Not only does this revelation make Victor even more fascinating, it makes him even more tragic. One starts to sympathize with the rest of the town for being afraid of Victor, especially in this time of heightened fear. It’s hard to imagine not being freaked out by a boy who has 100% accuracy in his horrific visions.
In the first season of The Returned there also seemed to be two very distinct factions: the living and the returned. This season, especially with “Madame Costa,” breaks these groups down even further, which splinters the town even more. When Aubrey escapes back to her home, her mother refuses to look at her, and can’t accept the daughter that is clearly in front of her. Instead, she leaves Aubrey kicking and screaming in the arms of the Helping Hand. For the living there are now two separate groups as well: those who are ready to accept the truth about what is happening, and those who want to live in a world of ignorance.
This is especially true of Serge, who is visited in his home by all the women he killed in the tunnel over the years. They won’t say anything, they’ll only stand there and stare at him guiltily. Despite the fact that Serge knows who these women are, and why they look at him with such sadness and pain, he won’t go in the house and face what is waiting for him, whatever it is.
These groups of the dead who stand silently and stare at the living and the dead alike are popping up with an increased frequency. This group is reminiscent of The Leftovers and the Guilty Remnant, who are a constant reminder for those trying to move on to not forget the past. It’s not clear yet if this silent group has the same intention, but it seems incredibly likely at this point.
We watch as Esteban turns away from the mostly normal returned, who live their lives as they once were, into another member of this silent group. As Virgil explains to Camille, they are all like him, and they will one day become like him. There is another change that seems to be coming, and it seems even more haunting than even the return was.
The town of The Returned is literally built on mysteries. Like the work of the excavation team, this season is all about unearthing this town’s mysteries piece by piece, until we can finally put the puzzle together. The Returned has shifted from a loss allegory into a full-on suspenseful riddle, even ending the episode with a dramatic eye-opening moment from Milan—who was thought to be dead. It’s a different style from what The Returned started with, but by keeping the characters at the center of these mysteries, the series continues to become more fascinating with each new episode.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.