The penultimate episode before The River closes out its first season manages to almost entirely quash the momentum it has been successfully building these last couple of weeks.
Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
Frustration is the only word I can think of to describe this episode.
It started out well…it really did. We jump right back into the action from last week’s ending: exploring the abandoned commune where we last saw a very injured Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) being dragged to. The suspense builds as we enter the main building and follow the faint sound of a radio. Hey, we’ve seen it before: a normally upbeat song rendered extremely creepy as it gets louder and louder as we slowly approach its source. It’s atmospheric suspense like this that The River really excels at. The creepiness continues as The Magus crew finds a bunch of bodies chopped up and mid-decay in a now dormant freezer room. Lincoln (Joe Anderson) valiantly volunteers to wade through what’s left of the corpses to see if one of them is indeed his dad.
Cameraman Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) can no longer stand the smell of rotting flesh, leaving poor Lincoln to fend for himself behind the closed freezer door. Tess anxiously looks on and we the audience share her tension. After what feels like ages, Lincoln finally emerges to say that Emmet ain’t in that pile of bodies, but we can cheerfully deduce that those chopped up corpses were put in there for food. Yum!
Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann) wanders off amidst all of this, only to be followed by cameraman AJ (Shaun Parkes). (Side Note: If Kurt is supposed to be a badass, then why the hell does it take him so long to figure out he’s being followed by AJ?) We find out that Kurt’s fiancée was living on this commune via some flashback footage, which reintroduces the problems of this ‘found footage’ format yet again. Any flashbacks we get for the characters have to somehow be captured on film, resulting in a string of silly, misplaced bits of footage. We see Kurt using his camera phone to film his topless girlfriend in a hotel room, Lincoln’s presumed girlfriend films him via her camera phone in a lecture hall, and Lena (Eloise Mumford) is shown having a seizure via security camera footage while working a retail store. Frankly all of it just doesn’t work mostly because it stalls the momentum of the episode, not to mention it’s distracting wondering how the fictional producers got the footage in the first place.
But these gripes aside, the worst part of the episode has to be the introduction of zombies. Yep. You read that right. This week The River turns into a poor man’s The Walking Dead.
What. The. Hell?
Whose bright idea was it to decide to introduce zombies? Zombies! I’m flabbergasted. And finding out about how these zombies came to be is just as ridiculous as the zombies themselves. Lincoln discovers a laptop, and with the help of Lena, views a home video and deduces a crapload of intel on the zombies in a matter of seconds. Turns out the commune was actually full of scientists/doctors who were using unorthodox methods in order to find a cure for cancer. But their experimental virus turns deadly when Kurt’s fiancée inexplicable enters the operating room and opens fire, spouting some crap about how this work can never see the light of day. She accidentally shoots a vile containing the virus turning everyone into zombies (Editor’s Note: What is this, Resident Evil?). Pretty convenient how the whole shoot-out is uploaded onto that laptop, eh? Looks like these zombies could get jobs working at Apple’s Genius bar.
But the ridiculousness doesn’t stop there. These zombies inexplicably go to sleep in half hour intervals. Just enough time for our heroes to escape! Isn’t that just special? Oh, don’t let your head shaking stop there either because the best is yet to come. The team sees what they think is a signal mirror coming from another room. Tess (Leslie Hope) immediately thinks that it’s Emmet signalling them and puts the entire team in danger navigating through the sleeping zombies to go explore. Of course, the reflections were just mirrors on some wind chimes. At this point I wondered why NONE of The Magus crew didn’t bitch slap Tess for continually endangering them.
Just when all hope seems to be lost, a lone dragonfly appears. This very special dragonfly leads the team to an abandoned rooftop room where guess what? Emmet Cole has been hibernating in! Yes, via very convenient intercut footage from “The Undiscovered Country” we find out that “nature” allows dragonflies and butterflies to encase themselves in an amber-like substance where they can lay dormant for months, if not years. So that’s where Emmet’s been all this time. Rejoice! It took everything for me not to throw the remote at the television at this point. Really? Could we not have thought of a more plausible explanation? I would even settle for a more interesting explanation because obviously plausible has long since been abandoned on this show.
They drag the unconscious Emmet back aboard The Magus and drift off into the sunset. Unfortunately a couple of stray zombies manage to appear on the boat and start attacking. (How this happened, again, I have no idea especially when one of them is Kurt’s zombie girlfriend which only a few moments ago, we saw him eviscerate with his machine gun. But hey! Who needs silly things like continuity?) Just when it looks like Tess is gonna be eaten by the stowaway zombie, Emmet comes back to life and shoots it, saving her.
So I got my wish: Emmet is alive. Unfortunately the number of plot holes it took to get him back seriously diminishes any kind of excitement I might have had. I have only the teeniest glimmer of hope that Bruce Greenwood will be able to make the finale next week bearable.
Other complaints…erm, observations:
- As mentioned, Lincoln reveals to Lena that he’s got a girlfriend. Note to everyone: Don’t flirt with women if you have a girlfriend. I’m OFF Team Lincoln (AGAIN).
- As predicted, Katie Featherson’s Rosetta/Rabbit appears again, only to be eaten by a pirate zombie. Kurt finds her in the commune while looking for clues regarding his fiancée. How she managed to survive this long is, of course, not explained at all. Hello? Am I the only one who has a HUGE problem with this? She would have been there for months. I can maybe buy that she was able to evade the sleeping zombies but what about things like, oh I don’t know, FOOD and WATER?!
- The dog, Salsa doesn’t want to get back on the boat once the crew escapes. All Tess can say to this is “It’s okay, he’s done his job.” Um, how about you frigin’ pick the dog up and carry him on to the boat rather than leave him with a bunch of rabid zombies? I can only imagine the kind of childhood Lincoln had with a mother like this.
- I love how we can see some blurred-out side boob action in this episode but when Rabbit is being ripped to shreds by a zombie, the cameras conveniently can’t pick it up.
- Kurt reveals in a drunken stupor to AJ (via subtitles to us) that his sole purpose on The Magus is to kill Emmet Cole. This could be interesting but the way things are going it’s likely just going to be another preposterous, all-to-convenient plot device to create conflict later on. P.S. Have these people never heard of background checks?
So what did you think River watchers? Were you as angry as I was with the zombie plot line? Do you think Dracula or Frankenstein will drop by for a visit in the finale? Are you happy that Emmet’s alive or dissatisfied with how we got him back? Sound off in the comments section!
The River airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on ABC.