This week’s episode of The River veered off the formulaic path that gave us some effective emotional punch and even a little narrative progression in the search for Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood)
Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
Deviating from the paint-by-numbers, angry spirit of the week formula, The River changed things up a bit by focusing on Lena (Eloise Mumford) this week. She reminds us that we’re not just searching for Emmet, but also her father Russ (Lee Tergesen) Emmet’s lead cameramen. Through some personal interviews and archival footage, we see a sweet relationship between father and daughter – even the casual use of a cute pet name that he gave her – the titular “peaches”. I couldn’t help but empathize a bit with Lena and how difficult it must be for her because all everyone else seems to talk about is Emmet. Kudos to Mumford for showing another side of Lena that didn’t come off overly sentimental or trite.
New cameraman, Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) who joined the crew last week finally gives the team some good intel, telling everyone that Emmet was in search of the “The Source”. He vaguely describes “The Source” as the singular point where all the crazy shizz they’ve experienced originates from. He says it’s located in the “horseshoe” of the Amazon, incidentally one of the most dangerous places ever and likely where they’re going to find Emmet. Finally with a pointed location to head to, Tess (Leslie Hope) takes charge as captain, barking orders at everyone as the Magus barrels ahead to the horseshoe.
As they travel at night they encounter another ship in the river, hell bent on hitting the Magus. Despite their efforts they smash into the mysterious boat, which vanishes immediately after impact. The Magus is damaged and therefore everyone is left stranded. I repeatedly scoffed at how idiotic the crew is going into uncharted waters without an emergency strategy should something happen. All they can do is go on the radio and hope that some one hears their maydays. Fortunately (and conveniently) some one does pick up the distress call – a boat called the Exodus, whose crew apparently, (and innocently) is in search of illegal loggers.
It appears there are only four members on the Exodus who happily board the Magus and are all too happy to lend a helping hand. Lena and Jonas break from the main group while the Exodus crew joins everyone for dinner (Awee isn’t that neighbourly?). They see glimpses of other people aboard the Exodus, which raises their eyebrows. They sneak over to investigate. Of course, nothing is as it seems as we soon learn that the Exodus crew is looking to kidnap members from our team for their own ominous purposes.
Here lies the strength of the episode. Up until the third act, we really don’t know what the Exodus is all about, but the danger and tension is still quite present. It was refreshing to see a threat that wasn’t marred by the supernatural – there was no running around, no static blips or jumpy scares – the threat here was primarily human. At least for a good half of the episode. It was nice to return to the suspenseful atmosphere that, frankly put, wasn’t gimmicky as it has been in the past. Heck, even Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) didn’t have a clue what was going on! (Finally!)
Eventually we learn that the Exodus is really a ghost ship and its crew members are doomed to stay on the ship for eternity unless they find living people to replace them on their ship. Since Lena and Jonas head over by themselves, they only need two more. While on the Exodus, they discover a surprise – it’s Russ, Lena’s father! We see a touching reunion that’s cut short when Russ realizes that Lena is on the ship and will soon be doomed to his fate of being trapped forever. He starts to freak out. Here’s where things start to fall apart a bit – apparently, anyone who comes aboard the Exodus still has a chance to get off of it IF they’re able to do so before sunrise. I don’t really understand why that is since it’s not explained- just kinda said. I saw it primarily as a narrative device to add tension. So for the latter half of the episode, it becomes a race against the sun to get off the ship.
It gets even sloppier as Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann) magically appears on the boat after getting into a brawl with an Exodus crewmember while still aboard the Magus. I’m guessing all the Exodus members have to do is touch some one? Or maybe that crewmember knocked Kurt out and dragged him over? Again, none of this is explained, Kurt literally shows up there after a commercial break. I suppose we could make the argument that there are no cameras available to capture how he got there, so there’s no need to show it. I still think it’s sloppy, but whatever.
Tess goes over as well, but at least we’re shown this. She gets coaxed over with promises of being given a better map of the Amazon. Now there are four new people on the Exodus, so it starts to high tail it outta there, leaving the leftover Magus crew scratching their heads as to where everyone went.
By episode’s end Lincoln (Joe Anderson), A.J. (Shaun Parkes) and Clarke (Paul Blackthorne) race over to the Exodus to save the day and end up burning it up with flares. Everyone safely exits the boat before sunrise but unfortunately Russ can’t leave. He’s dead like the other Exodus passengers (I guess if you’re on that boat at sunrise, you turn into a ghost) and has to burn with it. He’s thankful to have had the chance to say goodbye to his daughter. He poetically burns as Lena is pulled off the boat in tearful protest. Daylight slowly materializes as we see her crying and struggling, making for a surprisingly emotional and poignant scene. The background Lena/Russ lead up we got in the front end of the episode definitely helped make this ending more resonant. I hope more genuine relationships are explored in the remainder of the season’s episodes.
Some other observations:
- As if Lena wasn’t already hot enough, we learn that she plays the accordion.
- We didn’t get the traditional innocent flirting scene between Lena and Lincoln this week, but instead Jonas got in on the Lena flirt action. Lincoln did a good job pouting about it, but I had little sympathy for him. He should man up and get some balls.
- Lincoln didn’t catch much of a break about not manning up as both Jahel and members of the Exodus crew were on his back about it.
- Kurt shot that Exodus crewmember on the Magus like THREE times. How did no one else on the ship hear that?!
- We got some more static blips when we see the ghostly (aka scary face) Exodus crew in night vision. Looks like the supernatural doesn’t want to cooperate with technology. No HD here.
So what did you think River fans? Was this the strongest episode for you or did you prefer how the other episodes were structured? Do you think Lincoln will man up and finally make a move on Lena? How do you think Lena feels about him, or is it better that show just not go there? Let us know what you think in the comments section!