'The Returned' Uses A Highly Dramatic Setting

by Kayla Hawkins

One of the best parts of French series Les Revenants is the setting, all lush and green, abandoned and empty, filling the frame with the isolation and vague menace of nature. The American adaptation of Les Revenants, The Returned is set in Caldwell, Wash., which isn't a real town, but a collection of locations assembled from around British Columbia in the Vancouver area. And it doesn't seem like it's based on any specific town either — all the real Caldwells across the U.S. are in places like Idaho and New Jersey, not exactly known for their isolated, mountainous landscapes. The show takes place in Washington state, but there's no tiny Caldwell, Wash., at least that Google (and the one Seattle denizen I asked) know. Instead, to keep the dark magical realism of the original, as they discuss in the video below, A&E and producers Carlton Cuse and Raelle Tucker decided to create their own small town.

This explains how and why they chose Vancouver to film the show. It's a close comparison to the French settings, with its lush greenery and cloudy mountain peaks. Just like any other show, they had to construct most of their interior sets, but chose to do the same with their exterior locations, rather than just trying to pass off different parts of Burbank as the Pacific Northwest. Setting mystery shows in the northwest U.S. is something of a recent tradition: Twin Peaks started the trend and maximized the weirdness of its setting, while The Killing used the frequent rain to show how brooding and serious its murder mystery is. See what else the people behind The Returned had to say about its setting in the video below.

The French series also used a composite of different settings to achieve its moody, dusky look. Actually, they went even farther than their American counterpart, as according toThe Guardian, the series only filmed between the hours of 4 and 9 p.m., so every scene had the same, otherworldly light. While the trailers for The Returned also look pretty otherworldly, instead of sunset, the scenes have the feel of sometime between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. — every background is dark, only illuminated by flickering street lamps and convenience store lights.

There is a real Caldwell Lake outside of Spokane, Wash., that is appropriately spooky and flanked by evergreens. Maybe that's the inspiration for Caldwell on The Returned, which is so dark and creepy that it feels less like a real town than a setting in a gothic storybook — and something tells me that that's exactly how the creators wanted it to turn out.

Images: Joseph Lederer/A&E; Giphy