Who Are 'The Returned' on 'Resurrection'? We Search For Answers in Pop Culture's Past

ABC’s new Sunday night drama has served up a steady dose of questions for fans to ponder, but Resurrection's "the Returned" is by far the most mysterious topic on the series. Formerly dead family members continue to pop in the small town of Arcadia, Mo., and it’s still unclear what is behind their reappearance. It may be too soon for the show to divulge its secrets, but it’s not too soon for us to theorize.

Thus far, we’ve been introduced to eight-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez), the morally ambiguous Caleb Richards (Sam Hazeldine), and Rachael Braidwood (Kathleen Munroe). They each died at different times and via dissimilar methods. Jacob drowned in a river, Caleb suffered a massive heart attack, and Rachael committed suicide by driving her car off of a bridge. The only thing they appear to share in common is an insatiable appetite and a severe case of insomnia.

If they know where they came from, they aren’t talking. However, there does appear to be some rules governing their life-after-life. After Caleb was arrested for murders he committed both in the past and the present, he mysteriously disappeared from his cell after asking Immigration agent Marty Bellamy (Omar Epps) for some water. Was his mention of water important? Maybe. Bellamy posed a theory early on that their resurrection may be tied to the two rivers that border the town.

Even the book that the show is based on, Jason Mott’s debut novel The Returned, doesn’t get us any closer to answers. The NY Best Seller explores society’s reaction to The Returned and how the unknown can fuel fears and result in different responses, and on a smaller level, how the return of a formerly dead family member impacts the family unit — which had to out of necessity move on without them. "Why" isn’t the center of the story and really isn’t explained.

So, where do we go to get answers? Other TV shows, of course. The theory of returned souls isn’t new, it’s been explored many times before and these stories can provide clues on where we’re headed, and who and what are behind The Returned.

Option 1: They’ve Come From the Future to Save the World (Or To Make Sure It Burns)

Resurrection has been compared to USA Network’s The 4400 numerous times. On that show, which wrapped its run in 2007, 4400 people returned after having disappeared in 1946. Like Resurrection, none of them have aged a day since their disappearance and they don’t remember anything that has happened in between that day and the present world.

Based on The 4400, Jacob and the others were sent by future Us to prevent some huge calamity that will occur if life continues on its present trajectory. Why bring back a little boy? Like some of the others on The 4400, Jacob’s purpose may be to inspire change as opposed to actually bringing about said change. The shows also share one important plotline — in each, one member of the Returned is pregnant. Rachael revealed her pregnancy to her clearly conflicted former lover turned pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) last episode.

Of course, in the case of Caleb, he could have been sent by a set of future Us, who like the way things turn out in the future, and want to instill mistrust amongst society and the Returned. Or, he’s just really unlucky. Surely if he possessed the supernatural ability to disappear, he would’ve done so during the manhunt.

Option 2: They Are Zombies 2.0

We could go on forever about the similarities between Resurrection and the French show Les Revenants (The Returned). In both shows, the resurrected share an odd relationship with water. The Dam in the unnamed small town on The Returned plays a central role in the plot, and it remains the only physical link between the old Jacob, Caleb, and Rachael. On Resurrection, the group has the appetite of a zombie, but all appear physically fine. On The Returned, everyone looks okay at first, but then, very much like a zombie, some began to dramatically deteriorate.

Maybe Jacob and crew are the new brand of zombies. The un-dead, who are connected somehow, capable of communicating with regulars and as far as we know, not eating flesh. Yes, it kind of strips away all of our modern-day zombies’ appealing qualities. But it also frees us of having to do little more than observe the events unfolding around us and society’s reaction, because let’s face it, there is a good chance these “answers” we hope for will never come.

Option 3: We are all dead and in purgatory

Because of Lost, there is a fear that pervades through all TV watchers that everything we are watching is either a lie or will soon result in answers that befuddle and provide no comfort or actual resolution. That fear runs especially high with any science fiction tinged series, and considering the slow pace of Resurrection, our having passed can be taken as something that occurred on the fictional show, or will occur literally before we get any answers.

Almost every theory on life after death involves reuniting with previously dead family members, right? And amongst those returned there are bound to be some bad apples, who are still trying to redeem themselves before being banished off to some unpleasant place (see: Caleb). If Jack and Kate can be unaware that they are actually dead for the better part of six seasons, there is a good chance, we just haven’t noticed yet.

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