The River delivers another strong episode this week, changing up the format and showing us some significant narrative progression. With only two more episodes left this season, the show is definitely setting the stage for a potentially explosive finale.
Let’s take a closer look at this week’s episode after the jump.
The title of the episode was enough to get me excited knowing that this week’s episode would deviate from any conventions it established in its earlier AKA weaker episodes. ‘Doctor Emmet Cole’, in addition to last week’s strong installment ‘Peaches‘, shows us how The River can work within the confines of an episodic narrative structure and still be interesting.
This week the search for Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) advances significantly after the crew arrives at Sahte Falls and finds Emmet’s pocket knife and backpack with tons of juicy footage of his presumed last days. The episode is told primarily through this new found footage. Remember The River frames the entire series as footage of the search team, so when that very team finds even more video tapes, it adds yet another layer of representation and filtration. Very postmodern. Although it seems like we’ve replaced our crew with Emmet’s (since the footage quality, camera angles, editing etc. are identical to what we’ve seen in previous episodes), Greenwood is so engaging that it’s easy to get lost (pun intended) in Emmet’s narrative.
The crew brings the tapes back aboard The Magus to have a little screening party. The tapes reveal that Lena’s (Eloise Mumford) now deceased father Russ (Lee Tergesen) refused to follow Emmet to Sahte Falls (whether this is where The Source is located, or it is The Source is a bit unclear to me). Russ believed that going to Sahte Falls was a suicide mission. Emmet was determined to go after swallowing presumably the same dragonfly that possessed Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) a few episodes ago.
Eventually two camera operators (and dog Salsa) accompany Emmet only to find out they’re being stalked by a whistling demon named Tunchi. Jahel chimes in earlier than she normally does, saying that the demon is pissed off and is intent on killing (oh gee – big surprise). Jahel suggests that they stop watching the tapes because it’s gonna get ugly. Of course, after that endorsement everyone stays put in the screening room, save Lena.
Initially I had questions like “Um, how the hell did Clark (Paul Blackthorne) edit the footage so well and so quickly to show to the rest of the crew? Isn’t finding Emmet the priority rather than making a nicely packaged, coherent video?” But even I acknowledged how unreasonably nitpicky I was being, especially since Greenwood does such an amazing job as Emmet. Seeing his journey deeper into the jungle to find the mystical “Source” (the border between the living world and the dead) is truly compelling and that’s primarily thanks to Greenwood’s performance. Make no doubt about it – this is Greenwood’s episode to carry and it plays out like a master class in acting. We get such nuances in his performance it’s hard to look away. My favorite sequence is Emmet’s touching speech about how he began his show, “The Undiscovered Country,” which follows immediately with the horrendous discovery of one of his cameramen skinned alive by Tunchi. Such a stark juxtaposition would normally be jarring, but Greenwood seamlessly bridges the two contrasting emotions by grounding them in Emmet’s passion to find “The Source”.
Barring these developments, the other camera woman, Rosetta (Katie Featherston of Paranormal Activity fame) decides to get the eff outta there and abandon Emmet in the jungle. Oh, and because she’s a beyotch, she takes all the supplies with her (Side Note: Something tells me that Featherston will be back in a more substantial capacity considering her connection with show creator, Oren Peli). What follows is Cole’s attempt to channel Bear Grylls (ala Man vs. Wild), but he still slowly succumbs to starvation. Greenwood plays out Emmet’s resilience to get to “The Source” through to his eventual surrender to the elements beautifully. After he tragically breaks his ankle while trying to get some mangos from a tree, we get another touching scene where he despondently calls up Lincoln (Joe Anderson) on his SAT phone for what will likely be their final conversation. It pulls on the heartstrings, but doesn’t seem out of place or tacked on. Reaching his ultimate low in almost killing poor little Salsa for food (!!), Cole passes out. Conveniently he’s discovered by some natives who nurse him back to health and drop him off at an outpost (again, I’m convinced that the footage shown here would never have been captured in real-life, but I’ll let that go for now). After seeing this, The Magus crew races into the jungle to find the outpost (which is apparently is really close by), but unfortunately it’s now abandoned.
Fade to black.
An exciting cliffhanger to end on as we feel closer and closer to finding Cole (or what happened to him).
I really hope that they find Emmet alive because it would be great to see Greenwood in a leading role should the series be picked up for a second season. (Side note: based on the decreasing ratings this doesn’t look likely). Nevertheless, this week’s installment was an extremely strong lead-in to the final two episodes of the season, if not the strongest episode of the series thus far. I think The River is finally showing some real potential. Let’s hope it can carry through with these recent developments.
- Lena admits to Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) that she somehow was responsible for getting the crew out into the Amazon in the first place. She had a “feeling” that Emmet & Co. were still alive.
- Thankfully, Lena’s grief in losing her father is still very much present in this episode. I appreciated this carryover as it would be pretty hard to swallow had it been diluted.
- After it’s revealed to the crew that Lena is “marked”, she goes to her quarters to discover the weird birthmark on the back of her neck. Could she be the key to bridging the world of the living and the dead at “The Source”?
- Joe Anderson shows some great emotional beats this episode. He longingly looks at Lena which is complicated with compassion for her loss and his feelings for her, but it’s not done in an obvious (i.e. annoying) way. Furthermore his regret in his last phone call with Emmet is palpable. I’m back on Team Lincoln.
- Salsa ends up being alive! When the team finds the abandoned outpost the perky pooch greets them happily. Let’s hope he turns out to be a Vincent from LOST rather than a Sam from I Am Legend.
So what did you think River watchers? Are you excited for the final two episodes? Do you think Emmet is alive or trapped in between worlds? Do you have any theories on what Lena’s birthmark could mean? Sound off in our comments section!
The River airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET on ABC.