The River: Season 1 Episode 3


Week three, well, episode three, week two of The River, shambles on to the screen looking to somehow justify its existence. If it wants to survive, the series really needs to stop with the "Aha!" moments and develop characters that are smart enough to solve problems using their own skill sets, not randomly found pieces of information. Those types of moments are effective when used in small doses to shock an audience, something creator Oren Peli did very effectively in the Paranormal Activity films. Sustaining the momentum of an entire series takes more than a shaky camera and lucky characters. With that in mind, let's take a look at episode three.

We get a little character backstory, most importantly, camera man AJ used to be a miner who was trapped in a mine collapse. I wonder if that will be important later on? Everyone else questions why they are still there. I ask myself the same question about watching the show. Aha! Sleazy producer Clark Quietly notices that the same cave pops up a lot on the raw footage Dr. Cole shot before he vanished. Seems like as good a place as any to go next. Everyone is along for this journey for some reason. Explain why the ships engineer and his daughter wouldn't be more useful trying to fix the ship? As they move into the jungle, Jahel, the ships engineers daughter, points out a mysterious marking on a tree. It's and eye and it symbolizes the Morcegos tribe, and they do not like outsiders. Time to get scared.

Easily finding and entering the cave. They find it very dark and cramped. AJ of course refuses to go down, the whole mine collapse thing and all (it took about five minutes to pay off that back story). Down in the cave the group stumbles across Chester Copperpot, er, some nameless explorer who is definitely not Lena's father. A screech startles them. It's coming from the tunnel ahead. So naturally they run for it. They find the old Moss Garden Wishing Well (two Goonie referneces in one paragraph!). It's actually a room full of bats. The bats chase them out of the cave and shit all over Lincs hair. AJ thinks white people are crazy.

At camp that night, Lena and Linc flirt over cutting his hair, which comes out surprisingly good considering it was done with a pocketknife. Each person goes goes to sleep in their own little mosquito net. AJs cameras pick up some natives invading the camp while everyone is asleep. Morning brings a mysterious eye, similar to the one on the tree earlier, on the ground in the camp and Emelio, the ships engineer, is missing. A (very) brief and panicked search finds that Emelio awoke to take a piss (his words) and found himself struck blind. I was told blindness came from doing something else with your wiener, but let's go with it. His daughter begins raving in Spanish about the Morcegos. Linc decides it would be a smart idea to head back to the ship. Clark disagrees, thinking blind people wandering around the Amazon would make a great reality show (that would be pretty cool, I'd watch it). He then shoots a wild boar that he thought could have been a person. Jahel says that is a very bad thing. The Morcegos are going to be even more pissed. So Linc wins and it's back to the ship we go.

Back on the ship, everyone starts to go blind. Jahel, Tess and Clark all join Emilio in darkness. Clark and Tess comfort each other and elude to the fact they might have been rolling around together. Unbeknownst to them, Linc, who can still see, is standing right there and he is none to happy. Aha! Lena discovers a cure to the rapidly spreading blindness in one of Dr. Coles journals. Turns out there is a root that will cure all of it. It's found below a special tree back in the forest that Dr. Cole just happened to sketch out in painstaking detail. Lena, Kurt and AJ are selected to retrieve the cure, but not after Kurt stabs a blind Clark on the deck of the ship when he's startled. Linc attempts to save him by stitching him up with some fishing line. But first he has to confront him over diddling his mom. Clark says it was Dr. Cole that left Tess not the other way around and he was just looking to get laid. Linc is satisfied with this explanation. The stab wound will need to be cauterised though. One big problem, Linc has now gone blind as well.

On land, Lena and Kurt have now also both gone blind. AJ says fuck this I'm going to the Four Seasons (yes, that is exactly what he says). I don't know how much a camera man makes, but I'm guessing it's not enough to stay at a Four Seasons, maybe a Courtyard, but not a Four Seasons. Curt makes a call on his cell phone in German, so you know it sounds evil. He's begging the person on the other end to come get him. He also mentions something about the source and how they will never find it.

The Morcegos have boarded the ship and are proceeding to freek everyone out. They pound relentlessly on the doors and windows, yet they never seem to get inside. Blind Linc manages to cauterise Clark's wound as the Morcegos make the shaky cams even shakier.

AJ is still muttering to himself about not wanting to help these crazy white folk when (Aha!)he stumbles upon the very tree that holds the blindness cure. He figures, as long as he's here why not be a good guy and help everyone out. He finds the bulbs, but surprise, surprise he has to go through a small tunnel to get there. If you didn't remember that AJ was Ina mine collapse he will thankfully remind you now, over and over again. He crawls in. For someone who was dreaming of the Four Seasons thirty seconds ago his about face is rather sudden. Of course, the tunnel starts to collapse. He panics, thinking he's going to die, he says goodbye to his family on the camera that is somehow underground with him.

Meanwhile Back At The Hall of Justice! I mean, the Magus, the Morcegos continue to shake the shit out of everything. Clark has had enough. He limps up on deck and offers himself as a sacrifice to the tribe. This apparently works as the shaking stops, and ship is quiet. On land AJ is suddenly pulled out of the ground, still clutching the bulbs. No word on what happened to the camera. AJ finds blind Lana and Kurt and leads them back to the ship.

After everyone can see again, Linc and Tess bond over her boning Clark. She tells him that she loves Emmit, that's why she's out here. Of course Clark sees this on the camera and gets pissed. KurtC tries to apologize to Clark who tells him he knows he's full of shit and tell him to fuck off. End Episode.

One of the frustrating things about this show is the lack of a big picture. Each episode is a self contained beginning middle and end. There are a couple of allusions to a "source" but nothing is ever expounded on. You can be coy and sly about such things when you are Lost and have six seasons to sort shit out, but there are now only four episodes left here. There needs to be some coagulation of an end game. Now it's just characters on a boat, and off a boat and back on a boat after something scary happens. They've built the Kurt red herring effectively, if not bluntly, but at the same time they killed off the Clark red herring. A sub plot revolving around Clark pushing the group in situations strictly for the good of the show added depth to the otherwise thin story.

The show is also missing a huge opportunity when it comes to the way it's shot. The hand held "found footage" motif is supposed to add a sense of realism to the story, which is fine. But the story you are asking the viewer to buy into is extremely surreal. Ditch the silly cameras and just tell a narrative, the show would be a hell of a lot better. Plus you are missing out on the jungle, having a camera three inches away from everyone's face really inhibits what the scenery can do for a show. The Brazilian rainforest is one of the most stunning and awe inspiring places in the world, let it become a character in itself. It would open the scope of the show up so much more and give it the epic feel that it is sorely lacking.

The acting is fine, it still feels like there are too many characters. Certain people get lost in the shuffle. Linc and Lana took a backseat this week to AJ, Kurt and Clark. It's hard to really get to know any of the character, especially given the confines of a seven episode season. Moving forward, the story arc needs to come together more cohesively for the show to become anything worth noting.

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