‘The Return’, a Lebanese series that links unfolding drama to the past
Lebanese series “The Return” (Al-Awda) is a drama and mystery-filled production about a serial killer who skillfully selects his victims from among young girls and women.
The series, currently broadcasting on the MBC Drama channel, was directed by Elie Saman and written by Raed Bou Ajram. Writer Tariq al-Suwaidan also contributed to the series’ dramatic effects.
Lebanese actors Daniella Rahme and Nicolas Mouawad star in the series and numerous other Lebanese stars make appearances, such as Wissam Fares, Rodrigue Sleiman, Nagham Abu Chedid, Lisa Debs, Reem Khoury and Assad Rashdan, in addition to Syrian star Ehab Sha’aban.
Daniela Rahma plays the role of Naseem Hajjar, a writer and novelist based in Australia. Naseem returns to Beirut after receiving a call from her stepmother (Nagham Abu Chadid), informing her that her father has been in a car accident and is lying in a hospital bed between life and death.
The writer returns after seven years of absence. With her return, mysterious events begin to unfold, including her old friend Mona committing suicide by throwing herself from the top of a building.
While the police investigations determine that Mona’s death was a suicide, investigator Karim Maalouf, (played by Nicolas Mouawad), appears to question this assumption, suggesting foul play instead.
Karim’s suspicions are confirmed after the killing of another young woman related to Mona. What strikes him is that the two victims were close friends of Naseem, who had just arrived in Beirut.
In light of her shock after the accident that seriously injured her father, who is clinging to life in the hospital, Naseem begins to discover changes that have taken place in her family and social surroundings, including in her relationship with her sisters (Nagham and Naela), who blame her for suddenly leaving after their mother’s death.
She also communicates again with old friends, reconnects with previous relationships and meets by chance with her ex-lover Youssef (Ehab Sha’aban). She finds out that he has linked up with another girl, but despite that he remained committed to her love all the time.
Meanwhile, Naseem’s friend Diala is killed, becoming the third victim among her friends.
In each case, the killer targets someone close to Naseem, and stages the death as a suicide or natural death.
Suspicions centre on a number of people, including Naseem’s former lover, Youssef. Detective Karim tries to solve this mystery and uncover a link between Naseem and the three victims’ murders.
Naseem suspects that her father’s accident had been orchestrated, and that it is related to some investors and business partners. As she researches the matter, she makes surprising discoveries related to her father’s work.
She tries hard to address some family matters and ease her tense relationship with her two sisters, but discovers that her sister Naela’s husband is linked to a smuggling gang, and discovers a secret relationship between her younger sister Nagham with a married man.
Naseem tries to address all of these matters, while her past and mysterious memories haunt her.
We learn through the events that Naseem, who frequently suffers from nightmares and hallucinations, initially fled Lebanon for mysterious reasons.
The series is based on a police plot and suspense that is marred by a lack of attention to detail regarding some of the characters. The heroine, for instance, is portrayed as a writer so famous that people recognise her in the street, but those close to her are somehow unaware of this.
The pace of the series is quick in the beginning, but later slows down with artificially protracted dialogue and scenes.
The work is to be credited for keeping the viewer’s attention throughout, however, due to the mystery surrounding many of the characters, including the heroine of the work Naseem, who is revealed during the final episodes to have an indirect connection to her friends’ murders.
Viewers are surprised to discover during the final episode that Naseem is not the true author of her novels, and that the real writer is an unknown figure named Bilal Zidan.
Naseem came to know this obscure writer prior to her travels, and later discovered that he suffers from various psychological problems.
Zidan tried to assault one of Naseem’s friends, who killed him and secretly buried his body. After Zidan was killed, Naseem acquired the drafts of his novels and attributed them to herself.
Detective Karim discovers all of these details and succeeds in discovering the identity of the true killer, which is major surprise in the series.
The killer is the son of the obscure writer Zidan who decided to avenge his father, one of the work’s central characters. Viewers also discover the relationship that bound the stepmother to Zidan.