Please welcome back Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley with her recap of the 2nd episode of The River
Starting off with another flashback to 2002, the team is working on a show about sharks, specifically focusing on their penchant for eating each other. What a great topic to explore on a family show about the wild!
From there, we head into the present. The show has clearly slipped into a format: this episode once again begins with the team crowded around a table, using clues from Dr. Cole’s video tapes to determine where they should look for him next. This time, they’ve picked a cave somewhere in the mountainous region of the Amazon.
As they prepare for their trek “at least a day’s hike back into the jungle into hostile territory,” as Lincoln tells us, the show uses the documentary style to ask the questions we’ve all been wondering about: why haven’t these people run screaming from this expedition. Their answers don’t provide much insight.
After a walking montage, the team finds the cave. But Jahel has some more bad news for Lincoln: a tree near the cave bears the mark of Morcegos, a tribe of warriors who are sworn to protect the forest. This should be interesting.
After being trapped by a mining accident, A.J. doesn’t do caves. So the team (minus A.J.) heads down into the darkness without him. Inside, they find the body of a Peace Corps missionary (is that even a thing?), with his internal organs and eyes removed. And a large colony of bats.
Chased from the cave and covered in guano, the team (again minus A.J.) sets up camp for the night, presumably planning to head back into the cave in the morning. But while they sleep, their camp is redecorated by the monster-of-the-week, the Morcegos.
These guys absolutely qualify as spooky. They look sort of like Voldemort in a short skirt, and they have the power to remove the sight of anyone who “doesn’t deserve” to see the forest—including, it seems, Emilio. As they bring Emilio back to the relative safety of The Magus, Tess is also taken by the blindness.
The episode title, translated from Spanish, means “The Blind,” and that’s what our protagonists are here. Slowly, one-by-one the whole crew starts losing their sight. In the confusion, Lincoln overhears Tess and Clark alluding to their love affair, and Captain Kurt accidentally stabs Clark. Lena, our intrepid marshmallow, discovers a potential cure among Dr. Cole’s journal, so she heads out (a whole half day’s hike into the jungle) with A.J. and Kurt to find the root of a flower that grows under a specific tree.
As the Morcegos board the ship, the rest of the team blindly tries to help Lincoln patch up Clark, even though a gut wound in the Amazon means you’re as good as dead. While they’re alone, the two of them have a heart-to-heart about the affair. Sort of. Turns out, Dr. Cole and Tess are separated—their affair wasn’t an affair at all.
For reasons I can’t quiet explain—maybe shame or guilt or certain death from his wound—Clark offers himself up to the Morcegos, admitting his sins, begging their forgiveness and asking for the lives of his friends. Slowly, the baddies retreat, leaving Clark and the rest of the family alone on the ship. Still blind. But not gutted.
Out in the jungle, Kurt, Lena and A.J. are chased by the Morcego, covered in millipedes and robbed of their eyesight, as well. In the end, only A.J. is able to see. Back to the first scene we saw: our little family of sharks is eating their own. A.J. spends most of the episode largely ostracized from the group: he won’t go in the cave, laughs at the team when they are scared of the bats and shoots a wild boar in the forest. He’s generally smug and miserable. And once he realizes he is the last man standing, he leaves Clark and Lena to fend for themselves. Alone.
But of course he doesn’t really give up on them. He finds the magical tree and, of course, the flower grows under the tree … in a cave. He crawls in after the root and almost immediately begins choking on—drowning in—the dirt. Just as we’re sure this is the last we’ve seen of A.J., Clark makes his confession aboard the Magus, and The Morcego pull A.J. out of the cave with the root!
Back on the ship, Clark is doing better, the root is helping everyone see again, and Tess tells Lincoln that, when they find Dr. Cole, they’re going to be a family again. Clark sees the whole thing. Saddened, he shares a tense moment with Kurt. Hopefully we’ll see that come to a head in the coming weeks.
Now that we’ve seen three episodes, it seems clear that this show is relying on a monster-of-the-week to move the drama forward. This is a familiar formula, especially in supernatural dramas: introducing a new antagonist every week, to give our cast a foil to battle and defeat. We’ve seen it in the X-Files, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and countless other shows. Stargate built an entire franchise on it!
When The River was billed at the next Lost, I was hoping for more overarching storylines, subtext, and deep mythology. I was hoping to get to know the characters a little better than I have in the seconds-long crew interviews we’ve seen so far. Who is Lena? How does Jahel know so much? How did Tess and Dr. Cole end up together?
What we end up with here is fun and sometimes even truly spooky, but it’s not Lost.
Mortal Wounds: 1 Cumulative Mortal Wounds: 1