The River: Season 1 Review

Charles H
Charles H's picture

From the writer & director of Paranormal Activity and the man who brought us Amazing Stories, Seaquest DSV, and Terra Nova comes The River on ABC. Steven Spielberg and Oren Peli team up to bring what ABC hoped would be there new “Lost”. Was it? Let’s take a look at season 1.

The River is a found footage / sci-fi / horror / fantasy / mystery / reality-styled show. It stars Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Nowhere Man) as Dr. Emmett Cole. Leslie Hope (24) plays Emmett’s wife Tess Cole. Lincoln Cole, Emmett’s estranged son and research doctor, is played by Joe Anderson.

Others along for the ride include security expert Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann; The Cape & Flash Forward). Eloise Mumford plays Lena Landry, the hot daughter of Emmett’s camera man Russ Landry. Daniel Zacapa is the ships mechanic, Emilio Valenzuela. Emilio’s daughter, and seer of the supernatural, is Jahel Valenzuela, played by Paulina Gaitan. Shaun Parkes is camera man A.J. Poulain.

The River is about the search for Dr. Emmett Cole. Dr. Emmett Cole and his family were the stars of the nature show, The Undiscovered Country. Dr. Cole goes on one last journey into the Amazon looking for the Source, magic according to Dr. Cole. Dr. Cole and his crew had been missing for six months and presumed dead when his beacon is activated. The activation of the beacon leads Tess to Emmett’s former producer, Clark Quietly (played by Paul Blackthorne of The Dresden Files fame. I miss that show; the books are awesome!) He agrees to fund an expedition to look for Dr. Cole under 2 conditions. 1) The entire journey is filmed and made into a documentary and 2) Lincoln has to come along.

Spoilers Ahead…

Episode 1: “Magus” – The premiere episode sets the stage and takes the group out onto the Amazon. They find Dr. Cole’s boat, the Magus. On the boat, they find a bunch of tapes that Emmett and his crew made. These tapes provide clues as to what happened. There is also a room welded shut with noises emanating from it. Believing Emmett and his crew are behind they door, they open it. There is a creature that we never really get a good look at. The creature kills a red-shirt cameraman and destroys the engines. Lincoln shakes off his whiny son persona momentarily and helps lure the creature into a trap. The engine man and his daughter fix the engines and they are off. The daughter, who only speaks Spanish, is nervous about the journey and is constantly warning the crew of all the bad things that lie ahead. (A nice beginning.)

Episode 2: “Marbeley” – An enchanted dragon fly enters Jahel’s mouth and she becomes possessed with Emmett Cole. She (he?) approaches Tess and the crew heads off to the jungle in search of Emmett. They stumble upon some really creepy dolls hanging in he trees, including Marbeley, Lincoln’s old stuffed bear. Lincoln tries to take the bear. The jungle takes his Mom. She is eventually given back. During one of the flashbacks, Emmett gives a young Lincoln a special necklace with a symbol on it. That symbol is also a birthmark on the back of Lena’s neck. (Creepy imagery in this episode.)

Episode 3: “Los Ciego” – The crew is back in the jungle. This time they stumble into the area of the Morcego. While camped out, the Morcego mark the campsite and the crew starts to go blind. They head back to the ship. Jahel says it is a curse of the Morcego. The entire crew goes blind and the Morcego attacks. Producer Clark apologizes for invading their territory and the Morcego retreat and the crew regains their sight. (Not as strong as the previous 2 episodes. Although Lincoln gets a haircut and becomes a better character for it.)

Episode 4: “A Better Man” – Lincoln and Lena are playing music when they come across a man hanging from a tree. They think he is dead until he starts to flail around. The crew pulls him down. It is a camera man from Emmett’s crew, Jonas Beckett (Scott Michael Foster). Emmett threw Jonas off the ship after Jonas filmed, on his phone, the death of a local tribesman thereby stealing his soul. The jungle started retaliating. Because he stole the man’s soul, Jonas is doomed to die but never experience death, so he was hanging between life and death for 3 months. Although Jahel warns the crew to throw him back to the jungle, they don’t listen and move on. The jungle attacks, Jonas tries to surrender himself, Jonas’ camera-phone breaks and frees the soul. The jungle lets Jonas and the crew go free. (Similar story but even weaker than last episode, but we get a new crewman.)

Episode 5: “Peaches” – Peaches is the nickname that Russ Landry (Lee Tergeson) gave his daughter Lena. The Magus is hit by another boat leaving it stranded. Another boat (actually the same one) pulls up to help. The other crew offers parts and a hand in fixing the Magus. Jonas and Lena sneak aboard the other boat and find her father. The other crew tries to lure the crew of the Magus to their boat. The other boat is a ghost ship and the only way off is to find a replacement before the sun rises. Russ helps the Magus crew escape back to their ship but he doesn’t go with them. Russ is also a ghost. (Things are picking back up and it was nice to remember it was not only Emmett they are looking for.)

Episode 6: “Doctor Emmett Cole” – This episode is about exactly what it says it is, Dr. Cole. The episode explores Emmett’s back story as well as more of what happened to him. He is search for the Source. Russ refuses to go along into the jungle, so it is Emmett, 2 camera operators, and Emmett’s dog. The first camera man is skinned and hung in a tree, (kind of creepy). The other is a young college girl who has a crush on Emmett. It is not reciprocated and she ends up heading back to the river. Emmett breaks his leg. He is stranded in the jungle and starving. He looks hungrily at the dog (you just knew Emmett was going to chow down on the dog, but he doesn’t.) After Emmett passes out, some tribesmen pick him up (and oddly his cameras) and take him to an outpost facility. The crew heads out in search of the facility and Emmett. (Strongest episode to date.)

Episode 7: “The Experiment” We finally get some background on security man Kurt. He had a fiancé and she worked at the outpost the crew is headed to. When they find the outpost, it appears to be deserted. They go searching and find a bunch of rotting corpses. After searching the bodies, they learn that Emmett is not among them. Then they find ZOMBIES!!! They learn the medical research that was occurring there went horribly wrong. As they flee the zombies, Kurt discovers one is his fiancé. He kills her. They escape to the roof and an enchanted dragon fly comes by. They follow it and discover Emmett in a cocoon. They get Emmett back to the ship and the zombies follow. Kurt rids the ship of most of them and Emmett kills the one that is attacking Tess. (Another strong outing.)

Episode 8 (Season Finale): “Row, Row, Row your Boat” – Emmett is alive and talking to Lincoln. A shot rings out; Lincoln pushes his Dad, takes the bullet for him, and dies. Jahel says they can call on the spirit of the Bouina to bring Lincoln back. Emmett says no, but Tess ignores him and tries to bring Lincoln back. Lincoln is back and fingers Kurt as the shooter, so they confine him. When Lincoln and Jonas are alone, Lincoln says I know it was you, Jonas admits it and Lincoln kills him. However, this Lincoln isn’t our Lincoln; he has been possessed by an evil spirit. They tie Lincoln down and free Kurt to help. Kurt says Emmett must talk to Lincoln and not the creature so he can fight and get his body back. The creature tries to anger Emmett by bringing up everything the father missed, but Emmett and Lincoln win out. With Lincoln back to normal, the crew is ready to get out and get home. They plot a course only to have the river change shape and not let them go. The End. (Another very fine episode.)

• Overall, I enjoyed the series. It was not ground breaking or anything but it was fun and something you don’t see on network TV everyday.
• A problem with shows like this on network TV is the commercial breaks. It breaks the tension the show is trying to build when we break and see Ellen at JC Penny.
• The series started off ok, went downhill and finished in a very nice fashion.
• Ratings have not been very good so we are unlikely to see a season 2. While a little disappointing, the story of finding Dr. Cole came to an ending and we can speculate on what happened to the crew. It was not like the Bruce Greenwood vehicle, Nowhere Man, that completely changed things with a wonderful cliffhanger and then was cancelled. Remember Nowhere Man? Remember UPN?
• Latest word is Netflix is looking at a season 2. Netflix – life support for discarded Steven Spielberg TV shows.

Will Conservatives Like This?
I don’t see why not. There is nothing political here. Enjoy.