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Friday, March 16, 2012

Horror Episode Review: The River, Episode 5

Episode 5: Peaches

Overall: C+
Acting: C
Writing: C+
Story: C
Technical aspects: C
Effects: C-

Directed by:
Rob Bailey

Joe Anderson
Leslie Hope
Eloise Mumford
Paul Blackthorne
Daniel Zacapa
Pauline Gaitan
Thomas Kretschmann
Shaun Parkes
Bruce Greenwood
Scott Michael Foster
Lee Tergesen
Don McManus
Karen LeBlanc
Walter Perez
Kelemete Misipeka

Well, I speculated last time that Lena (Eloise Mumford) was a non-character because they wanted to push her into the background, but that’s proven wrong, since this episode focused mostly on her.

The Magus and crew are continuing on, hoping that they can use Jonas’ (Scott Michael Foster) recollection of Emmet’s (Bruce Greenwood) plans to find him. All Jonas can really tell them was that Emmet had become obsessed with the idea of “The Source;” a single thing responsible for the real magic in the world. On the journey, the boat is sideswiped by another vessel in the dark, leaving them stranded and in need of parts to do repairs. Meanwhile, Lena seems to be growing very upset over the focus on Emmet. Her father, Emmet’s cameraman, is missing too, and she feels like the only one who cares about that.
Fortunately, the Magus is contacted by another boat named the Exodus. Their four-person crew is on an ecological mission to fight logging and protect indigenous people, flora, and fauna. They agree to sell some spare parts to the Magus. As the crews mingle and chat, Lena and Jonas realize that it looks like there’s someone else over on the Exodus, and they decide to investigate.
Spoilers for the episode: It turns out that it’s Russ Landry (Lee Tergesen), Lena’s dad, that’s on board the Exodus, which appears run down and abandoned. The Exodus is a ghost ship, and the crew is trapped on the boat unless they can capture living people to replace them. Eventually, Lena, Jonas, Tess (Leslie Hope), and Kurt (Thomas Kretschmann) are all captured, and have to be rescued by sunrise in order to be saved.
In the end, Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) is able to tell Lincoln (Joe Anderson) where to find them, and they are rescued. But Lena’s father is now one of the ghosts, so he can’t leave with them. End spoilers.

I feel like I’m running out of things to say. The flaws are just so frequently getting more and more apparent. The writing for the individual episode was pretty good, but it’s rather obvious that each episode is written by a different person. So, conveniently, the episode where Lena is upset about her father is the same episode in which we find out his fate, when there’ve been few mentions of him before. (We know he’s missing, and that Lena wants to find him, but she hasn’t been especially emotional about it prior to this episode.)
The effects in this one were bad. The “fuzzy static, off-color scary ghost-face” thing just isn’t scary.
The acting was… inconsistent. Parts were pretty good… other parts were too ridiculous and over-acted to take seriously.
And in episode 5 out of an 8 episode series, do we really need to shoehorn in an awkward love triangle subplot between Lincoln, Lena, and Jonas? I mean, I guess it was set up in the last episode a bit, since Lena hired Jonas in the first place and flirted with him in his audition tapes, but seriously. More subplots in a show that can’t seem to focus on the main plot is not what we need.
Which leads to the biggest thing that still bothers me; again, with the possible exception of episode 4, every episode has felt unnecessary. This one too. While it provides emotional development for Lena, and lets them know what happened to Russ, the overall plot is no closer to being resolved. It’s not that an episode focusing on a single character’s development is worthless, far from it, but this is such a short series! We’re more than halfway through, and it seems like they have yet to really move forward. This episode was about the crew being literally stranded and unable to move ahead.
I also really for some reason noticed during this episode that this show has a severe case of Missing Mother Syndrome. Lincoln’s mother Tess obviously features prominently, but the other two young members of the crew, Lena and Jahel, both have fathers who show up and are important to the story… but neither of their mothers have been mentioned to my recollection. It’s like watching a Disney movie!
There are some positives for the episode. I complained a lot in my last review about Jahel’s character being reduced to the mystic exposition fairy, and she actually had a better role this time, in my opinion. She was primarily responsible for helping out as mechanic, and then later for receiving Lena’s transmission and directing the others on where to go; something done without some kind of mystical knowledge.
There were also at least two moments that I thought were actually pretty funny, both in kind of a meta way. One was where one of the ghosts was trying to get Jahel back to the Exodus, and she remarked that no one on the Magus joked with her, because they were afraid of her. The boy said she didn’t seem scary, and she replies with “You don’t know me.” The delivery was pretty funny, and was even a decent bit of foreshadowing, as she’s the one who ultimately led to the failure of the Exodus crew’s plans. The other moment is when Jonas and Lena go on board the Exodus, and make fun of Blair Witch style found footage camera work. I mean, in some ways that joke falls flat because The River isn’t really any better at the “found footage” thing, but at least it gives it a little self-awareness.
Despite the good points in the episode, the flaws are still way more prevalent. The individual episodes still feel too isolated from each other, like they have almost no bearing on the entirety of the plot. Considering there are only three more episodes to go, it’s going to take some kind of masterful finale to tie this together in a way that really works or makes the individual episodes feel relevant. I still don’t think it’s “THE WORST THING EVER” as a lot of angry internet comments say, but as is, it seems stuck around mediocre.

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