This episode proved that we have a few plots too many this season. This episode wandered through a bunch of them, before driving home that we'll be seeing a mob full of pitchforks before the season's out.
The big thing that we learned about the Returned this week is that, apparently, they share some sort of subconscious hive mind. Because we open with hospital-bound Rachael sharing a dream with Grandma Margaret. She sees a young girl watch people burn to death in the factory. Margaret is her usual creepy self, telling Rachael that she must be carrying a very special baby. Let's be clear: a magic Jesus-like baby will officially be way too many things this season. WAY TOO MANY.
In other news, Pastor Tom's wife, Janine, who was pretty much a non-entity last season, is in full "God wants us to have this baby" mode. She does not care how sick Rachel is, because God wants them to have the baby.
Rachael, on the other hand, is sick enough that she's headed for the permanent white light. Dr. Maggie could try Marty's medicine on her, but, as she points out, giving a sick pregnant woman a medication of uncertain provenance isn't exactly best medical practices. And then, she gets an extra dose of "don't do it" from Rachael, who is at peace with letting whatever happens, happen. Why? Because of the "dream" she had of the burning people. She said it reassured her. I have literally no idea how a dream of a little girl watching people burn to death and then coming face-to-face with Grandma Margaret's very intense brand of creepy is reassuring, but there you go.
Meanwhile, Pastor Tom is totally unwilling to just trust God and totally willing to ignore Rachael's wishes and give her the medicine. Thankfully, Dr. Maggie forgets her keys and comes back just in time to stop Marty and Pastor Tom from being irredeemable assholes about a woman's own medical decisions. As all three go outside to get yelled at (and so Marty can finally tell her that he's a Returned), Janine goes in to talk to the baby and pray. She is doing believers no favors by being a glassy-eyed loon in this episode.
But, score one for the glassy-eyed loons, because Rachael wakes up all healed! So. Magic baby, I guess.
Meanwhile, Rachael's dream friend is having a heck of a time of her very own. She goes out to dinner with Henry's suspicious business partner, Addison. At dinner, he gets her to infodump her past. She explains that her father was a foreman at the Langston factory and, after he died, she married the much, much older Langston man when she was just seventeen.
She goes on to add that she never loved her husband and when his alcoholism became a real problem (I think we've discovered where Sheriff Fred gets all his charming attributes!), she ran the factory. She also managed to give the man she never loved and married out of necessity two sons. I'll admit, it puts her need to control the factory and intense protectiveness of her children in a whole new light. Plus, Michelle Fairley really warms Grandma Margaret up during this conversation. You really feel like no one's bothered to even feign interest in her happiness.
Doesn't remove any of the intensity from her terrifying other actions, though.
And, when she goes home with Addison, to his "cousin's" place, she sees a picture on the wall of one of the men who burned to death in the factory. The grandfather Returned that Addison's been hiding, as a matter of fact. That makes her leave.
Addison's grandfather asks Addison why he brought her there. Addison responds that she was just a girl when whatever happened at the factory happened, and she doesn't remember it. Addison's grandfather worries that she can ruin whatever plan they have by recognizing him.
Which we know she did, because of the way she ran out when she saw the photo. In case we weren't clear, she visits Rachael in the hospital and introduces herself. Grandma Margaret explains that Rachael saw a memory, not a dream. And they both admit that they can still feel the man from the fire (the grandfather). Rachael says she can sense that he's angry. Which a) duh and b) being a Returned apparently grants you some Counselor Troi-like powers. Excellent.
- Carl, fresh off of letting his brother perma-die of the virus, has joined Ray's True Living proto-mob. It's kind of ruining the perfection of his little plot for me.
- Ray, meanwhile, is the first non-Returned to catch the virus. Which is going to be fuel to the True Living's fire, I bet.
- Angela tells Marty that, under no circumstances, is he to give the medicine to "living" people. (No clue what they categorize the Returned as) It's been tried on them, even though the disease has never jumped to them, and it had a horrible effect.
- The True Living have a list of Returned and where they are. They also appear to have somehow got knowledge of the government's hand in all this. Or, they just have the usual paranoid fantasies, which just happens to be true this time.
- Some homes are being marked with upside-down crosses, which is probably the True Living marking the Returned homes. For easier torch- and pitchfork-wielding, I bet.
Rachael's whole plotline puts a wrench in the earlier hint that "not wanting to live" anymore takes the Returned away. I guess Rachael didn't make that decision, instead saying that she was willing to leave it up to fate. And that kind of surrender saved her? I guess? Or is the whole "I don't want to be here anymore" like last season's "the Returned are connected to the water" discovery: a nice connection just sort of brushed past once we hear it.
Also, I kind of want Janine, Pastor Tom, and Rachael to go off and raise the kid in a three-way relationship. Pastor Tom can't choose between them and Janine's a bit obsessed with Rachael being the answer to her baby prayers. I don't want the inevitable Janine saying God wants them to have the baby and then trying to get Rachael to leave/give up the baby/die for real. Just live in threesome bliss!
And remember when the core of this show was the Langstons? I miss that. There are too many plots running around this season: disease, government conspiracies, Marty's past, the factory, the True Living, Rachael's pregnancy, Deputy Carl... I'm still sort of trusting the show to tie it all together, because they managed to do it last season, but I'm having trouble remembering the names of all the characters. Oh well, the show's still got some good performances and some interesting themes being explored. I just wish things like "Marty really died in the 30s and didn't know it" and "Janine's obsession with the baby" were given a little bit more room to breathe.