Get Onboard: Les Revenants

[Blogged by Jay Yencich]

[The Breakup]

America, I think we need to start seeing different zombie shows. No, it’s not you, it’s me. Too much has changed and I don’t feel connected anymore. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy our time together. I did, I swear. I do remember all that we’ve been through together, all the thrills and the excitement, blood throbbing in our ears, nights spent huddled on the couch entranced by every word and movement.

In the beginning, everything felt so right. It was like a whole new world was opening up to us and we were like explorers in it, charting it out, discovering it together as a team. All those people we met, how they were such characters, and how everything felt so vital and real, like it was us against the world. And I want to hold on to those memories, believe me, I’ve treasured them for so long, but lately, I just feel like there’s something missing. There isn’t the chemistry anymore like we had in the start. It’s like we just shuffle on, dragging our feet, making noises but not really saying anything to each other. Lately, I keep getting stuck on the bad things, it’s all I see or think about anymore. I can’t seem to make out what was so good about what we had before.

I was there with you in season one, when Rick and Glenn got all decked out in gore but protected themselves with plastic sheeting to prevent any vectors of contamination. How exhilarating it was to be sneaking around like that with everything at stake! But then in season two, it was like everyone forgot about that, all screaming and stabbing wildly. God, what a mess that was! I know season two was a rough time for both of us, that feeling of lost purpose, but we pulled through then and stuck with it.

I stayed even when things got awkward, when Andrea got involved with that sociopath and we tried to tell her not to but she did it anyway. Even when he was exposed for what he really was, it was like she forgot all about it the next time some smooth talking Southern boy walked into her life. I don’t want to seem callous, I really don’t, but I guess she got what was coming to her. It didn’t seem like she could help herself.

And the Governor? We knew he was always tripping over his ego even if he was trying hard to make his way in the world. And at those parties when he said and did all those things, we knew he was bad news then, but he went through all that song and dance of “I can change! I can care about people!” and for a moment we believed, even though we knew we shouldn’t. How we sighed and gave each other knowing looks when things turned out that way! They didn’t mean it, it wasn’t their fault. At least I didn’t want to admit so at the time.

But then there were all those other people we used to spend time with, all those hardy and world-weary survivors who seemed to have so much potential in them. It broke my heart piece by piece, how they kept making the same mistakes again and again, kept thinking that zombiedom was something to be cured or treated with therapy like addiction or compulsive behavior, acting like there was no difference between them and the others. And you know what? I started to believe them, but not in the way they wanted. When that incident happened with the little girls, I know I should have and I’m scared to even admit it, but I felt nothing. That’s when I think I started to realize that it was over, and it had been over for a long time.


[The New Heartthrob]

I’ve been seeing this new show, from France, called Les Revenants? Don’t give me that “oh you have a thing for accents then,” you don’t know what it’s like. It’s really sweet, thoughtful, considerate, deep. It’s like it has a fresh new perspective on everything I felt I had already seen before. Everything is so alluring now, so mysterious.

It introduces me to the most interesting people. First I met Camille; she’s young, but she’s been through a lot for her age. One day, she was riding a bus on some school trip and it lost control and crashed into a ravine. It seemed like she lost everything, but then she got up again and went back to town, no worse for wear, just a little hungrier. Poor thing doesn’t even remember what happened! But by the time she came to, it was four years later, and get this, her twin sister had hooked up with the boy she used to have a crush on and drinks with him all the time now! The nerve! But it was hard on Léna too I guess, hard on the whole family. Their parents, Jérôme and Claire Séguret, separated because of the grief, Claire started seeing Pierre, who’s new in town and works up at the shelter, Jérôme has been in group counseling for families of the bus crash victims, though I don’t know if it’s really helping. It’s all very complex, and to have Camille walk back into their lives like that wasn’t easy on them.

It seems like she isn’t the only one coming back after a tragic episode and all the time that has passed. There’s Simon, he used to play bass in a local rock band, and he’s trying to hook back up with Adèle, who used to work at the bar? He left her at the altar and disappeared. She and her daughter are living with Thomas, the police chief. And Victor, he’s a quiet little boy who doesn’t seem to have any family. He’s really taken to Julie, you know, that nurse who was stabbed in the tunnel by that serial killer seven years ago? They seem to care for each other, but strange things keep happening around Victor and I don’t think she knows what to do with him. And Serge, that creepy brother of Toni down at Lake Pub who used to hunt all the time? He’s back too, but he likes to keep to himself out at their family cabin deep in the woods. It seems like a lot of people are coming back now for such a small town, all the way up there in the mountains. People are starting to talk, asking why it’s just some people and not others and I don’t think anyone knows.

But listen to me ramble on about all these people when I don’t even know if you’ll meet them. I think you should, so I don’t want tell you too much, they should be given the chance to introduce themselves. Maybe I’ll talk about the places we go and the things it shows me— they all seem so alive when the camera is on them. There’s the tunnel, of course, there’s the mirrors, the water, flickering lights, all the animals out in the woods. There’s one window in the Séguret house that seems like whole character unto itself. And the shadows. People are always coming or going into the shadows and everything happens so quickly when they’re inside them. I feel it’s more than just for show, like it means something on a deeper level.

More than anything, I feel Les Revenants is challenging me, not in a mean way or like it thinks I don’t know any better and can’t tell the difference. It’s making me ask questions about myself and giving me room to grow. It doesn’t have that visceral thing like we had from before, it doesn’t feel like we’re fighting just to maintain our way of life, at least not all of the time, but less is more in some relationships. It makes me wonder about how I’m living, more than just death and all that stuff, I know some like to deal with that just to pretend they’re moody and troubled or profound.

But Les Revenants asks me about grief, asks me about the people that have gone out of our lives, whatever the circumstances, and how we deal with that and what we might do if they came back to us as if no time had passed. Would we reject some of them, keep others at our peril? What if they came back for everyone we knew, en masse? It makes me wonder if it would be worth it, if the consequences wouldn’t be greater now that we’ve moved on. Where do they even belong? How would they find their place in how we live now? I wonder they haven’t marked us in some way that we can’t move on from, if we ever really change at all. I think we do, but not everyone does. Maybe some people can, maybe some can’t.

Anyway, I know I’m probably just babbling now, puppy love and all. But I think this is the right show for me right now. We even like the same music, since we both listen to Mogwai. I’d really like to introduce you to it, I think you can find it on Amazon Instant Video or Netflix? I’d really like if you two gave each other a chance. It really seems to have ambition and is working hard on a second season, I hear.

With affection,

Jay


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20 thoughts on “Get Onboard: Les Revenants”

  1. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    Dammit, Jay, you’ve got me wanting to watch yet another show, despite already having The Inside, Twin Peaks, and The West Wing piled up :o.

    Well, this one is pretty short. Maybe I can squeeze it in somewhere? I’m intrigued; I’ve never seen a French show before. Do you know French?

    Like

  2. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    Ooh, new blog. About a show I’ve never heard of.

    Hm. Zombies. Not a genre I’m too familiar with, outside of that one “Community” episode that deals with them and “Shaun of the Dead.” I know, I know. Bad Iguana, only watching the parodies without having seen the stuff they’re parodying. But they were still lots of fun. And I’ve seen “from Dusk ’til Dawn” once and that was once too many. Vampires, not zombies, but who can tell the difference.

    Anyway, this post is well written, it’s clever, it’s entertaining to read… but I have to say that the format makes it more difficult to follow you, Jay. I kind of feel like I need to read the whole thing again just to filter the facts from the padding. It doesn’t help that I never watched “The Walking Dead” (which I’m guessing is what the first part is about) so I was already extremely confused by the time I got to the relevant part of the post.

    Like

  3. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    – QUOTE –

    Well, this one is pretty short. Maybe I can squeeze it in somewhere? I’m intrigued; I’ve never seen a French show before. Do you know French?

    I took a full schoolyear of French in college and then crammed another one in over the summer, but I wouldn’t say I know it well and probablement je ne le parle pas si vous me demandiez. But the dialogue is written in a way that’s not really embellished or excessive, sort of a Hemingway approach at times, and so even with my entry level French, I can still understand it without the included subtitles 90% of the time and pick up on a translation slip here and there. But the episodes are nearly an hour long so be aware of that jumping in.

    – QUOTE –

    I kind of feel like I need to read the whole thing again just to filter the facts from the padding. It doesn’t help that I never watched “The Walking Dead” (which I’m guessing is what the first part is about) so I was already extremely confused by the time I got to the relevant part of the post.

    Yeah, a lot of it presumes that you’ve already seen The Walking Dead and it’s not a show that gets talked about here, nor would it deserve to be. It’s a mess, in part due to network and creative meddling, but it’s also a big draw for American audiences and I think has been consistently one of the most viewed shows over the past few years. I’m writing in large part to that audience and using a Dear John letter as a nonce form because it seemed like a fun idea.

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  4. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    [quote]Yeah, a lot of it presumes that you’ve already seen The Walking Dead and it’s not a show that gets talked about here, nor would it deserve to be. It’s a mess, in part due to network and creative meddling, but it’s also a big draw for American audiences and I think has been consistently one of the most viewed shows over the past few years.[/quote]

    Is the show specifically a response to The Walking Dead? The Wikipedia page doesn’t even make it sound like it’s about zombies, just “people who mysteriously come back to life.”

    Les Revenants is on Netflix, by the way, albeit under an English title, The Returned.

    Like

  5. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    Jay is simply bringing up his feelings regarding these two shows. Beyond some undead hijinks, they are entirely different from each other.

    Like

  6. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    Les Revenants is also doing stuff that I’ve never seen before conceptually from a show with zombies in it. The idea itself of things coming back, that’s nothing new, in fact I think Stephen King had a short story turned movie called Sometimes They Come Back, but this one moves beyond it being just a horror thing and turns it into more of a psychological mystery with horror elements. They’re dead, they’re constantly famished, and terrible events surround them, but each is executed in its own unique way.

    Like

  7. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    [quote]Jay is simply bringing up his feelings regarding these two shows. Beyond some undead hijinks, they are entirely different from each other.[/quote]

    Oh, woops. I misunderstood his post. I thought he meant Les Revenants presumes you’ve seen The Walking Dead, but he meant that his blog post does :p.

    Like

  8. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    Yeah, that’s it. On the other hand, if you haven’t seen much zombie media, your relief might not be as great to see something as well executed as Les Revenants, but I think it stands on its own, with or without it.

    Like

  9. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 10, 2014.]

    I highly suggest you take advantage of the “Preview Comment” button below the comment box. You’ll know if it looks wrong before you post it. I’ve edited your post to look the way you intended though.

    Also, the [quote=”Somebody”] functionality won’t work in here — you’re thinking of the forum.

    Just do [quote ]text[/quote ] (without the spaces obviously).

    Like

  10. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on October 11, 2014.]

    This show didn’t really work for me. I just didn’t feel connected to anything that was going on, or really care much about it. For a show with such a natural hook, I just didn’t find it interesting.

    The Walking Dead on the other hand, I will readily acknowledge is not a fantastic show. But it is capable of being great at times, and when it fails it fails in really interesting ways (it’s not unlike the things I hear about Twin Peaks in that regard). It always seems to be on the cusp of fixing all that ails it, but as soon as it fixes something, something else goes wrong somewhere else. There’s clearly lots of different voices with lots of different ideas of what the show wants to be, and when they actually agree you get an episode like “Clear,” or other great episodes of the shows run.

    It’s far from the best show on television, but it is one of the ones I look forward to most each week.

    Like

  11. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 11, 2014.]

    If we’re going to have a full discussion of this, we may as well move it into the forums because I don’t know that this is the right venue for us to have an extended back and forth about The Walking Dead. I’m interested about what you’re saying about TWD failing in interesting ways because I’ve never had that response. I recognize that there’s a bit of creative turmoil going on behind the scenes (along with debate over production costs, which got us season two), but aside from the production and effort that went into establishing the setting, I’ve never reacted to its ambitions in a way that would allow me to forgive it its faults. If anything, my attention invariably drifts to the limited means they have of generating believable dramatic tension, the recycling of character arcs, and all they do, from scripting to shooting, that I find to be manipulating me into reactions the show has not earned.

    (and I’d probably say Les Revenants is way more like Twin Peaks in that it creates a mood and an array of symbols and tries to keep you there, though the tone of TP is more varied and builds conflicting emotions into many of its major scenes. Les Revenants definitely shares another thing with TP though, it’s a slow burn and there isn’t a whole lot of action as such. Not for everyone by any means)

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  12. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on October 11, 2014.]

    Word. I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while, mainly to brush up on my French, after having ruined 7 years worth of it with a single year’s study of German.

    No more excuses, haha.

    Like

  13. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on October 11, 2014.]

    Just watched “Camille.”

    Jesus Christ.

    Way better than I expected, and I was expecting greatness.

    Like

  14. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 12, 2014.]

    – QUOTE –

    Just watched “Camille.”

    Jesus Christ.

    Way better than I expected, and I was expecting greatness.

    It’s an intense little season and while its emotional qualities are somewhat muted, it does reward re-watches. In seeing the season ~three times, I’m always picking up on new little character things that you don’t necessarily get on the initial view. It makes sense too in that there’s a strong sense of directorial control, what with similar shots being used frequently and the creator co-writing all the episodes and directing or co-directing 5 of the 8.

    Fair warning though, episode six can be a point of no return. The pace is no less deliberate from there out, but it really starts the plot train chugging and contains some of my favorite material of the season. Were I to rank the episodes, six would probably be #1 and “Camille” #1a or maybe #2.

    I had seen up through #5 before showing it to MJ (which I remember specifically for the couch debate we had over what it was going to do in a certain ep6 scene). Once I did show it to him, we either shotgunned it in a single day or took two days after pausing at 3 or 4. In any case, there was 5-6 hours of us watching it uninterrupted.

    Like

  15. [Note: StakeAndCheese posted this comment on October 13, 2014.]

    And now “Simon.”

    Damn. This show is just magnificent. So, so sad, but beautifully so.

    (I’m going to be doing this for every ep, frankly).

    Like

  16. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 14, 2014.]

    (I’m going to be doing this for every ep, frankly).

    Hey, feel free, it might get someone else who reads this to take the argument a little more seriously 😉

    Like

  17. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 22, 2014.]

    Well, I wasn’t going to, but then Dutch TV started broadcasting this, and… okay.

    Seen the first episode. Freaky. Fascinating. More adjectives starting with F.

    I have -no- idea where they’ll be taking this, but it’s definitely promising. And the twist at the end really took me by surprise.

    Wouldn’t have watched it without this article, either. So thanks, Jay.

    Like

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