Navigating “The River”: A Finale Review

Written by Mitchell B March 27, 2012

Last night’s episode of “The River” marked the eighth, and final, episode of the show’s first season. Much like the previous seven, last night’s was pretty underwhelming and lacked any real sense of closure. The entire journey thus far has been motivated by one thing: finding Emmet Cole. Well, the Magus crew certainly found him, but what followed was a pretty disappointing conclusion to the season.

Each episode of “The River” has dealt with a different spirit or monster, which,  for the most part, were unimaginative and didn’t inspire any fear (somewhat essential for a horror/thriller show). Last night’s finale improved upon the monsters of previous episodes by introducing zombies (“28 Days Later” style). The zombies were a nice change from the previous monsters, largely due to the fact that we could actually see them. Clouds of smoke or bushes rustling don’t send chills down my spine, but throw a virus-infected, flesh-eating person running at me and I’m terrified.  Apart from the more enjoyable monster, however, the finale was pretty messy and ultimately a disappointment.

Throughout the season we’ve been clearly told that Kurt is not who he says he is; phoning home and telling someone he’d kill Dr. Cole if he found “the source”. Last night added more suspicion, throwing in Kurt’s former love interest turned zombie, apparently working at the research facility where Dr. Cole ended up. As far as answers, though, there was nothing. Kurt admitted to being there to kill Dr. Cole, but didn’t explain why. The introduction of his girlfriend served no purpose, other than to develop his character a little, but to do that in the finale is too little too late. Kurt’s story, however, doesn’t compare to the explanation of Dr. Cole’s disappearance and strange findings.

When the rescue team finally comes across Dr. Cole he is in a cocoon (literally), which doesn’t seem to surprise anyone. They simply cut him out and take him back to the boat, where eventually he wakes up and reveals absolutely nothing about what happened to him. What we saw from the tapes over the course of the season was that Dr. Cole learned there was more “magic out there” than he initially thought so he went and found it, became magical himself but then almost died. That’s about as basic as it gets. He didn’t explain what happened at the research facility, or why he was in a cocoon, but that didn’t matter because when it came time to question him one of the crew members attempted to kill him but missed and instead killed Lincoln.

Anybody with some common sense knew that in a show like this Lincoln would come back to life somehow, and sure enough, five minutes and a magical spell later, Lincoln was alive and well, but also….evil! So evil Lincoln (inhabited by a demon) walked around the boat, killed Jonas, and told his father he loved him (which tipped off Dr. Cole that Lincoln was not Lincoln anymore). Fast-forward to Lincoln strapped to a table, convulsing like Linda Blair, with Dr. Cole exercising the demon with loving remarks about his son. As demons hate fathers and sons bonding, it retreated back into the Amazon and left the entire Cole family relatively unharmed and together. But wait, there’s more!

In the closing moments of “The River” the crew floats down the Amazon heading back home, when suddenly the GPS no longer indicates that the boat is where it should be. To get a better feel for where they are, the crew releases a drone with a camera attached to head up to the sky. What this drone sees is that the river itself is changing; forest being moved and new water passages created, all to stop our crew from leaving. To clarify to the viewers what is going on, Lincoln states: “It’s never going to let us leave.” It couldn’t have been any more “Lost” if it tried! I’m sure it’s tough to fix the recurring problems with the show (ridiculous musical accompaniment, cameras EVERYWHERE, stale dialogue, etc.) when you have to shoot all eight episodes before anyone even sees the pilot. However, based on the lack of improvement from pilot to finale, and the mediocre ratings (about 4 million/episode), I don’t see ABC renewing “The River” for another season, which I can’t say I’m overly disappointed about. Good luck finding a replacement for “Lost”, as “The River” surely isn’t it.


My Rating: 6/10

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