Thursday, March 22, 2012

At The River's end

ABC's The River brings its eight episode freshman run to a close this week. The series follows Tess Cole (Leslie Hope, The Mentalist, 24) and her adult son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson, Across the Universe), as they set off into the Amazon, trailed by a camera crew and old friends, to find Tess's missing husband, TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek, John from Cincinnati, Knots Landing). But the jungle is haunted by a dark spirit, and they path they follow is an arduous one.

Seven episodes in, they find Emmet Cole, alive and well. So the eighth episode, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," is just the characters sailing happily home, right? Of course not. The demon of the river is not ready to let them go just yet. It gains entrance onto the boat when jilted cameraman Jonas (Scott Michael Foster, Greek, Californication) shoots at Emmet, but kills Lincoln instead. Grief stricken, Tess asks Jahel (Paulina Gaitan, Trade) to bring Lincoln back, but the evil one comes with Lincoln, possessing his body. 

The River hits many of the right notes for a horror series, cycling through a lot of different tropes of the genre. There is a supernatural element, of course. Mixed in are some generic spooky scenes, exorcism rituals, and slasher bits. There's also a little bit of mystery and mythology included for good measure. Because this is network TV, there isn't a ton of sex, something many horror films use, but there is plenty of blood and violence.

The River is not as good as FX's American Horror Story. The performers aren't as talented, the plot has holes from time to time, and certain situations seem set up just to build suspense, rather than further the story. But it's a decent series for network television, and, if allowed time to grow, could become something great. There isn't a lot of the horror category currently on broadcast television, so any attempt has to be given some credit, and this one is a serviceable effort.

There are also some similarities between The River and Lost. Again, The River is a far inferior series, so they should not be held up together, as that doesn't do this new show any favors. But some of the mystery and back story, as well as flashbacks and tone, contribute to the comparison. Not to mention both shows share a network.

As The River brings season one to a close, the crew is almost home free, demon banished, but then, in a very Lost-like moment, the streams begin to rearrange themselves. Had this not happened, the eight-episode run would serve as a relatively complete, enjoyable mini-series. Since the creative team choose such a cliffhanger, the show is begging to be brought back next year. There are plenty more stories to be told about these characters, so why not give them another chance?

The River deserves another season. While not a work of genius, it's pretty exciting, and original enough to merit more installments. Should it be renewed, The River will return to ABC next year.

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