The River recap – 1×08: “Row Row Row Your Boat”

Courtesy of ABC

After the preposterous narcoleptic zombies last week my expectations were at an all-time low for The River’s season (likely series) finale. But Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) is back! Can he alone redeem the series?

Let’s take a closer look after the jump:I kind of knew The River was too far-gone after last week’s offering, so I can’t say I’m particularly surprised that it failed to deliver in the finale. Last week it was a cheap replica of The Walking Dead and this week the show piggybacks on The Exorcist. Not to mention how the whole series is essentially Paranormal Activity/Blair Witch Project on a boat. To a certain extent, it truly is a wonder that a vampire or werewolf never managed to pop up this season.

We begin with a lot of meandering considering that Emmet has essentially returned in the most crazy way imaginable. With all of the danger that the Magus crew redux went through to find him, I’m shocked that we didn’t immediately get an interrogation session with dragonfly boy. Instead we get vignettes of the crew members talking about the journey thus far and their thoughts on Cole’s return ranging from hate, fake forgiveness, and relief. Thankfully it doesn’t take long before we get Emmet answering to everyone. Greenwood doesn’t disappoint as he believably plays up Cole’s remorse for the body count he’s left behind in his quest to find “The Source.” He has given up his quest because it isn’t worth the price he’s paid.

Following this we get what, I’m guessing, is a lame attempt at a ‘game changing’ moment. During a heart-to-heart with Lincoln (Joe Anderson), someone on the boat tries to put a bullet in Emmet. Lincoln pushes him aside only to catch the bullet in the neck and, in a matter of seconds, is pronounced dead by Emmet. I will admit, I was surprised momentarily, but the way the show has gone thus far, my shock is very quickly dissipated. I know this particular show isn’t smart enough to deal with the quick loss of a major character. Some mystical “Source” action will surely bring Lincoln back before the next commercial break. I mean, c’mon, Emmet was cocooned for months without food or exercise and he managed to spring back to life in a matter of hours. Lincoln’s death happened way too fast and the grief expressed by Cole and Tess (Leslie Hope) is just too swift. We have stages of grief for a reason.

Of course, I am proven right as Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) hears the voice of Lincoln’s lingering spirit and offers to do a séance to bring him back. This has Monkey’s Paw and Pet Semetary written all over it: be careful what you wish for because I’m sure when Lincoln comes back, he ain’t gonna come back right.

And again, I’m right. How do we know this? Lincoln comes back wearing a tight black shirt. I rest my case. Apparently he’s possessed with the head honcho spirit of the Boiuna – the Black Snake. His first order of evil business? Publically identifying Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann) as the shooter. This turns out to be lie so that he’s free to take out the real shooter. While making a sandwich in the kitchen, Evil Lincoln tells Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) that he knows it was really him who pulled the trigger (apparently he’s still pretty pissed that Cole left him to hang for all eternity). After taunting him with a butter knife (which he eventually puts down), Evil Lincoln surprises Jonas (and us all) with swift pass to the jugular and Jonas drops dead on the spot. Boom – killed gruesomely with his bare hands! Where have scenes like this been all season? He then goes and pays a visit to muscular Kurt  and throws him around like a ragdoll in order to get information. Spirit powers have turned Lincoln into a supernatural Jack Bauer and after all of “regular” Boring Lincoln’s inactivity, it is pretty awesome to witness.

Courtesy of ABC via io9

It takes awhile for the crew members to catch on that Lincoln is now a badass, but Emmet is the first to figure it out after being pretty adamant that he not be brought back from the dead in the first place. Emmet takes a look at the sandwich footage but is suspicious when it turns out to be nothing. Evil Lincoln cast a spell on all the cameras, but Emmet’s spidey senses are tingling – he knows something is up. Which brings me to our inevitable River plot hole: how the hell do we, the viewers, get to see Jonas being killed (via multiple camera angles) if the footage was supposedly erased by the spirit? I suppose we’re not supposed to care about these things…I mean we did get sleepwalking zombies last week right?

Eventually enlisting the help of Lena (Eloise Mumford) the crew manages to restrain Evil Lincoln to a table in order to exorcise the Black Snake out of him. (Considering the power he had in taking out Jonas and throwing around Kurt, I wondered how those little hand and foot ties managed to keep Evil Lincoln down, but I digress…) When forcing a magical dragonfly down his throat doesn’t work, Emmet asks Kurt to find out how to save Lincoln. It’s then that the crew finally realizes that Kurt isn’t exactly who he says he is, but with all the exorcism crap going on in tandem, all we get is a glossed-over explanation. Kurt is a supposed expert of the Boiuna and was sent to kill Emmet lest the secrets of the Amazon be revealed. He tells Emmet and Tess that the only way to get Boring Lincoln back is to talk to him and not the spirit because only Lincoln is capable of expelling it from within. Emmet makes an impassioned plea to Lincoln to come back as he promises not to be such a shitty father anymore. In the hands of another actor, we would most certainly be breaking out the wine to go with all that cheese, but Greenwood again makes it believable and heartfelt.

And so, the evil spirit is released back into the river and the Magus crew redux is now able go home with Regular Lincoln. But wait! The final twist shows the ominous river moving like a shifting maze making it impossible for the crew to navigate out of it. Turns out the spirits are still pissed off at everyone for trying to “steal their secrets” and won’t allow them to find their way home. With the possibility of a second season slim to none, it looks like we’ll just have to picture our Magus crew aimlessly drifting on the river for all eternity. But how did the found footage ever get found? I guess we’ll never know…(or care).

Other observations:

  • Continuing the trend of cramming in every possible cliché of the horror genre into the show, ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ opens with a flashback of little Lincoln singing the titular children’s song to bunk bed roommate Lena. It’s pretty clear that since a child sings this song, slowly and creepily, it’s going to come up again before episode’s end (and, once again, I’m right).
  • Turns out that cameraman AJ (Shaun Parkes) is gay. It totally comes out of the blue and is completely irrelevant to the narrative. When asked by Clark (Paul Blackthorne) why he didn’t reveal it before, AJ shrugs and tells him to stuff it. It comes across as a thinly veiled attempt to show inclusivity. Note to writers: Try harder.
  • It is mind-boggling how accepting the crew is after Lincoln comes back from the dead after several hours. They pretty much walked around in shock but within a few minutes shrugged it off. I would have jumped the eff off that boat then and there. Dudes, he came back from the DEAD.
  • We never find out what the hell is the deal with Lena’s ominous birthmark, the symbol of the all-powerful Boiuna. And I’m totally okay with never knowing. Strike it up to “do not care” syndrome.
  • Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) proves to be the only sane person on the boat. When asked if he would “do it all over again” he shakes his head and walks away. Totally the only answer that is acceptable by any normal person who went through all the shizz that this crew did.

So that’s it, River-watchers. What did you think of the finale? Do you think the evil spirit was really exorcised from Lincoln? If the show, by some miracle, returns for a second season, are you like me in thinking we’re definitely going to get some vampire action? And are you okay with the dozens of loose ends that will never be addressed? Sound off in the comments section below!

The River finished its first season last night, but episodes are available on ABC’s website or on CTV’s in Canada.

About tvangie

Angie is a TV addict currently pursuing a PhD in media studies. A freelance researcher and writer on the side – she really misses talking about her favourite shows because none of her friends watch them. Help her out.

2 thoughts on “The River recap – 1×08: “Row Row Row Your Boat”

  1. I wouldn’t say the episode was a COMPLETE letdown. The River is nowhere near being an excellent tv show but I continued to watch it because it was entertaining, not because I wanted to watch quality tv. The show got progressively better with each episode, the weird zombie thing was questionable but i’m glad that only lasted a few minutes.

    Overall, i enjoyed the show and would be happy if they decide to bring it back or not. Loved your bullet points, they made me laugh