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The Returned recap: Virgil

Not all who return are wanted.

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The Returned

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Pierre Perrier, Yara Pilartz
Sundance Channel

When Virgil — the stylish, brooding teen who showed Camille and company the site of their death — revealed that the horde is made up of dead people who didn’t have anyone waiting for them to come back on the other side, he was evidently speaking from experience: He returned to his parents once, but that… well, that didn’t end well.

In a flashback from — you guessed it — 35 years ago, Milan talks to Virgil’s parents about how he’s going to help them get their kid, a thief, back on the straight and narrow. And by that, he apparently means he’s going to imprison Virgil in a chamber, where he eventually escapes from with the help of a little Serge. This also doesn’t end well — Virgil dies when Milan finds a battered Virgil in the woods and shoots him to death right in front of Serge.

Maybe Virgil was just a troubled teen, or maybe he’s genuinely bad news. Later, he sees Léna in Camille’s living room and asks who she is. She responds by lying, claiming she doesn’t know her, obviously a tactic to protect her injured sister. But Virgil sees —or rather feels — right through that. He tells Camille exactly who Léna in, and also lets her in on a little secret: The dead can feel things that others try to hide.

She holds his hands to try this out herself and ends up learning that his name is Virgil, that he drives a moped, and how he died. The last tidbit shocks her so much that she immediately lets go of his hands and backs away from him in what looks like a combination of fear and disbelief. (His death is indeed gruesome as we see in the flashback that follows this interaction, so her reaction is completely justified.)

Although Camille cuts off that conversation, Virgil returns through her bedroom window later in the episode, giving us a glimpse of what The Returned would be like if it were a teen drama. The answer? Pretty captivating, of course. Virgil reveals that he knows how to get Claire and Léna back to the other side, but that he would have to leave Camille behind because those two “must stay together.”

Camille has a hard time understanding this, and Virgil complicates it even more by saying that Camille hurt Léna because Léna rejected Camille when she first returned. He’s not specific about how Camille harmed her, but it seems like he’s referring to that mysterious gash that appeared on Léna soon after her sister’s comeback. He implies that he also harmed his relatives upon returning, when he came back to his less-than-welcoming parents: Another flashback sees both of them lying dead on the couch, the wall behind his father completely bloodied. “We cause the death of those we love without meaning to,” Virgil explains.

This would also help explain Mr. Costa’s decision to end his life upon Mrs. Costa’s return. Waiting for someone to come back doesn’t necessarily mean they want that person to come back. Denial is a well-known symptom of grief, one that implies the left behind are aching for their dearly departed to return — and that is often the case, though it becomes more complicated the farther along in the grieving process one gets. Mr. Costa was surely traumatized by his wife’s death so many years ago, and her return among the living suggests that his trauma was all for naught. We want our feelings, our experiences to mean something — but what if there were no reason for him to spend so much time in pain? What if Mrs. Costa was there all along? Did he just waste his life aching for no reason at all? This isn’t to say these are the feelings that caused Mr. Costa to commit suicide, or that he even felt them. But they are possibilities, which are all we have in the consistently vague world of The Returned.

NEXT: One person — one! — likes Milan