Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The River

The River
Season (Series?) Finale
By: Carlos Uribe

The River is a supernatural drama shot like a documentary (or reality series) about a search in the Amazon for some legendary explorer.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The season has now ended. The ratings haven't been very good so it's very likely to serve the series finale. This episode doesn't function as a series finale and isn't a very good season finale. It honestly felt more like an average episode of The River rather than anything else. It didn't really answer any questions and nothing too drastic happened. This is very disappointing as I was hoping for something to really happen. The finale did have some good scenes. Having Lincoln get shot in the beginning of the episode was very well done while his possessed self made him pretty badass. The finale also had some rather terrible scenes such as pretty much the entire exorcism event and having Jahel out-of-character. This entire season she's been fighting the spirits and warning the crew of the Magus about the darkness that's going to destroy them. This episode she was embracing the darkness. As an episode of TV, this would have been fine. It's just that I expect something important to happen on the River. At the end of the episode, Jonas might be dead but it's pretty much the status quo with just one difference. The only difference is that instead of them looking for some legendary explorer, they are now stuck in the River.

I remember back when the series first began that I said it was a “good show.” I think I'm going to revise and state that this is a below average show. It has some elements that work, but it mostly doesn't. Some of what did work in the pilot have stopped working as the series continued on. The one thing that the show did improve on was with Emmet Cole. I was impartial to him for most of the season, but the episode “Doctor Emmet Cole” made me care about him and I was interested in the crew finding him. The series also had some entertaining moments. This wasn't a painful series to watch but it was also largely forgettable. If the series had lasted a long time, I could have seen myself watching reruns as it was syndicated. There were also signs that the show was starting to improve, such as the episode that made me care about Emmet. There were also signs that the show wasn't improving, such as last week's episode when it had Emmet in a cocoon or this episode with inconsistent characters and some terrible dialogue.

I noted in my first review that the show wasn't scary. It still isn't scary because I'm not afraid that any of the main characters are actually going to die. The finale actually has a perfect example of this. Lincoln gets shot in the beginning of the episode. This surprises me but the show didn't go through with it. He's brought back to life and the status quo isn't really threatened. He might be possessed by the river, but the demon is predictably exorcised out and Lincoln is fine. There was never any real danger that Lincoln wouldn't be back to normal once he was brought back to life. The series does kill someone, Jonas, but he wasn't a main character. His death was expected and I didn't really care about him. If the show was to have worked, it needed to kill someone who I wasn't expecting to be safe. In order for this show to have been any good, it had to have created the atmosphere that anyone can die, not just the actors who don't have star billing.

I also had brought up the camera work. I was surprised that the camera work didn't make me dizzy. This is one of the few things that the show has managed to continue to do well. The whole “found footage” gimmick ended up hurting the show in another way. There's a scene in the finale, for example, where Lincoln kills Jonas. The viewer sees this from multiple angles. Emmet happens to come across the cameras where Lincoln kills Jonas. He sees the tapes but he doesn't see Jonas getting killed. He sees Jonas walking away safely. The implication of this is that the demon has magically changed the tapes. If that's the case, then how did we see the tape of him killing Jonas? It doesn't make any logical sense. There were also other scenes throughout the series that had logical gaps created by this gimmick.

The characters on the show didn't really work out like I expected. I liked Tess in the beginning of the series, but I now see her as a one-note character. She seems to now only be defined by her search for her husband or the safety of her son and not much else. Lincoln remained a charmless protagonist that was dull throughout the series. Lena was a decent character and she was one of the few characters I was starting to like. Clark has been written inconsistent that it's hard to get a grip of who he really is. A.J. is a character who was barely developed. The series tried to develop him further in the finale by making him gay. It felt more like a sudden development that the writers forced in rather than a natural one. Emilio has come across as someone who solely exists to confine and protect his daughter while Jahel largely exists to talk with spirits. Those two weren't characters as they served their role in the show so rigidly. I had no idea who Jonas was so when he ended up being the episode's bad guy, it didn't shock me. The only character I liked just happened to be Emmet, a character who was only in flashbacks until this episode.

The River is a show that has left the airwaves without answering any significant questions. What is the source? What is the big deal with Lena's birthmark? Is Emmet a dragonfly? The series largely ignored these questions. It felt like the writers had come up with many questions, didn't have the answers to them, so they decided to wait until next season. There's not going to be a next season so any fan of the show isn't going to be happy. There's no closure as a series finale. The cliff-hanger wasn't very good in the series finale, since it essentially just created a reason on why the status quo is going to continue to exist rather than something that challenges the status quo.

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