'The Returned' & 'Resurrection' Are Very Different

by Kayla Hawkins

A&E's new series The Returned has a premise that should be very familiar by now: people who were long dead start coming back to life. From The Walking Dead to Game of Thrones, it feels like zombies are a part of every popular show, including Resurrection, a very similar 2014 series. Is The Returned based on ABC's Resurrection ? Even though the shows have very similar premises, they're actually based on other different series. Yep, that's right: they're both adaptations, they basically have the same exact premise and title, but they are based on different things.

There's no way for this not to sound like an Abbott and Costello sketch, but here goes: A&E's The Returned is a direct remake of French series (distributed in the U.S. via Sundance TV and currently on Netflix) Les Revenants, whereas Resurrection was based on a 2013 novel, which was also called The Returned, even though it's not the inspiration for the French series. The French series was based on a film (which was called, you guessed it, Les Revenants, but was translated to They Came Back for English-speaking audiences) from 2004, that was about the effects of some 70 million people coming back from the dead and trying to "return" to the lives they lost.

But there's also differences between how each series approaches their take on the same premise: what would happen if the dead came back to life. There are some unavoidable similarities between the two, like the way both shows rely on suspense but don't use gross-out body horror the way a traditional zombie story would. Both also use some of the same character tropes, like a very young child returning to his parents years after they've made peace with his untimely death.

In The Returned/Les Revenants TV series, the return is limited to the small town in which it takes place, making for a claustrophobic and eerie atmosphere, as the deaths of these select locals (a young groom, a teenage girl) had profound emotional effects. Resurrection also takes place in a small town, but one of the "returned," Jacob Langston, seems to know far more than his childlike appearance would suggest. In this version, perhaps because its based on a book with a defined endpoint rather than an ongoing TV series, the sinister underpinnings to the mystery start being revealed a lot earlier.

Another difference is that in Les Revenants, the people who return are recently deceased, and some of them need to relearn basic things like children, while Jacob Langston returns 32 years after his death, totally unchanged. I think, at its heart, the differences between the two shows are thematic. Both the TV show and movie versions of Les Revenants and The Returned are about how unsettling it would be for people to slip back into the world as seamlessly as they'd recently left it, whereas The Returned book and Resurrection are about confronting long buried grief with a glimpse into the past and how things used to be, even though it's impossible to get the past back.

Images: Joseph Lederer/A&E (2)