The River: Season 1, Episode 8 – Row, Row, Row Your Boat

We open with a sweet look back to 1988, where Lincoln sings Lena to sleep aboard the Magus. Life is but a dream.

Except on the present-day Magus, life’s sort of confusing. Looking for answers, the crew confronts Cole, who’s not talking about The Source. He mostly seems focused on rekindling relations with his wife and son.

And then, out of nowhere, Lincoln is dead. Shot. Conveniently, the power was out while Emilio fixed the generator, so on a boat that’s completely covered with cameras, there’s no footage of the murder.

For a second, it looks like an episode of Clue at sea. Was it Kurt in the galley with the long-range rifle? He says no and turns over his weapons. But I’m enchanted by the prospect—was it Jonas at the helm with a handgun? Lena from the port bow with a tactical assault rifle?

The River – The Experiment

At this late stage in the show, they’ve finally started filling out some of the characters. Here’s what we learned:

Kurt had a hot fiancé named Hana. She worked at the research facility. Also she has a magical sat phone: though it goes to voicemail after a couple of rings the first time he calls, the second time he calls, it rings for a while. Not that I’m pointing out plot holes.

Tess completely shut down when Dr. Cole went missing. Curled up on the couch with crazy hair. It’s not what I would have expected from her after what we’ve seen in the jungle—the never-give-up attitude.

Lincoln wasn’t always so morose—in fact, he had a girlfriend. The show opens with cell phone camera video of Lincoln finding out his dad is missing. I wish they’d have used more of this kind of thing—it seems more real than the glossy television-ready camera quality we’ve seen all season.

Lena was working at a sporting goods store before the expedition. That’s where she was when she fainted and had some kind of vision that Cole and his team were still alive.

Back to the Outpost. It’s been vacant for months, according to Cpt. Kurt. Inside the abandoned and ransacked buildings of the Outpost, there’s music playing. It’s sort of Klezmer-esque, and it’s played up to really disturbing effect. Actually, it might be the scariest thing on The River since those creepy dolls.

Once inside, the team decides to follow some bloody footprints, which lead them to Dr. Cole’s hat and a roomful of corpses … and flies. Ugh. Lincoln volunteers to go in there and make sure none of the bodies belong to Cole. (They don’t.)

As they continue their search of the Outpost, they find the body of a tribesman who is tattooed with the symbol from Lincoln’s necklace and Lena’s neck, and he’s floating in some kind of pickling liquid with some weird bone structures growing out of his back.

Just as they discover the body, Kurt shows up with Rabbit, the flirty cameraman who left Cole alone in the jungle. Today, Rabbit will be playing the part of XXX. She immediately tells they team that “they” are coming. And they’re hungry.

That’s when things go insane.

The River: Season 1, Episode 6 – Doctor Emmet Cole

In this episode of our favorite found-footage program, the characters stand around and watch some found footage of their own! It’s flashbacks within flashbacks within a concept that’s coming apart at the seams.

Before the recap, let’s cut to the chase. There were two major revelations in this episode: first, Dr. Cole and Tess lost their first child, Alice. In the face of that loss, they began making Undiscovered Country, mostly just to keep their minds off their loss. To me, this speaks volumes about their characters.

The second major revelation also changes the way we look at one of the main characters: Lena set off the beacon that led the team into the jungle. She wanted Tess and Lincoln to take up the search again, to provide the resources necessary to find her own father. I’m beginning to wonder if she and Jonas deserve each other.

The River: Season 1, Episode 5 – Peaches

This week’s episode begins on day 22 of the search for Dr. Emmett Cole. It’s something of an anomaly because it begins with some foggy footage aboard the Magus instead of with the flashback we’ve become accustomed to.

As the team sails on toward The Source (or Jonas’ best guess of where it is), Tess has everyone on “visibility” duty to fight the fog. Jonas, who recently spent months hanging from a tree by his neck, thinks that returning to his breezy perch might be preferential to holding a flash light and keeping watch for obstacles on the water. It’s an odd tone for the character to take, and it feels completely unrealistic. Where’s the PTSD, the crippling fear, the inability to sleep?

During the night, with Tess at the helm and the rest of the crew watching the water, they see another ship approaching them. The team honks the boat’s horn, lights flares, waves their arms … and are eventually forced to run the Magus aground to avoid a collision. Except, of course, when the creaking stops and everyone is back on their feet, the other ship has disappeared. Ghost ship!!

The River: Season 1, Episode 3 – Los Ciegos

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.

The River: Season 1, Episode 1 – Magus

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley who will be reviewing ABC’s thrilling new drama The River.

The River is a found-footage style genre mashup of science fiction, horror, drama and suspense, and its first hour is just as complicated as that description sounds. It moves quickly—too quickly. But here are the basics:

Beloved television personality and explorer Dr. Emmet Cole and his cameraman went missing six months ago, and even though the official search party has broken up, his wife and friends refuse to give up the search. They head to the Amazon, track down Cole’s insanely tricked-out boat and find the panic room welded shut.

Believing Cole to be locked inside, they open the panic room, only to be greeted by … well, we’re not sure what. But it moves fast, and it seems pissed off. You can tell because it totally starts destroying everything and generally making spooky noises. Oh, and it kills someone. That’s a big clue.

When the explorer’s family and friends are finally able to regroup, they manage to trick the bad thing into a bad thing lock box so that they can get back down to the business of trying to find Dr. Cole. And we can move on to episode two.

But before we do that, let’s meet the cast: