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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Horror Episode Review: The River, Episode 6

Episode 6: Doctor Emmet Cole

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

Directed by:
Michelle MacLaren

Joe Anderson
Leslie Hope
Eloise Mumford
Paul Blackthorne
Daniel Zacapa
Pauline Gaitan
Thomas Kretschmann
Shaun Parkes
Bruce Greenwood
Scott Michael Foster

            After finding out from Lena’s father a possible location to find Emmet (Bruce Greenwood) the crew sets off. They find Sahte Falls, and some evidence that Emmet was there, including a pocketknife and a bag containing some of his tapes. Taking the tapes back to the Magus, they see the last leg of the journey Emmet embarked on.
            The tapes show him leaving Russ on the Magus, and setting off on a long trek on foot with two other crewmembers and his dog. He went on some type of spirit journey and found “them,” a tribe that he believes guards the Source that he hopes to find. Soon they encounter a threatening “spirit” (though upon viewing the tapes Jahel, returned to her role as mystical exposition provider, recognizes it as a demon,) that he insists is merely “testing them” to prove they are worthy, and that all the other unexplainable things they’ve encountered have also been tests. He apparently believes that The Source is some kind of cure for death, that it creates magic but that the spirits of the dead can be found there as well. (He hopes to find the friends and crew he’s lost, as well as his and Tess’ first child, a girl who died in infancy.) He believes that members of the Zulo [I don’t know how to transcribe the name he’s saying, so my apologies if that’s wrong] tribe are angels on earth, and that they guard the Source. Eventually one of his companions is killed, and the other runs away in the middle of the night with their provisions, leaving Emmet alone and still followed by the demon. He continues on foot, filming as he goes. He addresses some of the tapes to Lena, insisting she’s “marked” and special. But Emmet starts growing weaker and sicker, and eventually seems near-death. But just as the demon comes for him, members of the Zulo tribe find him and carry him to some type of (military?) outpost, leaving him outside the gates.
            Lena discovers the birthmark on the back of her neck, the mark that matches the necklace Emmet gave to Lincoln.
            The current crew goes to find the outpost and Emmet, but when they arrive, it appears deserted.
            The other plot-relevant bit we get, which is also a spoiler: Lena reveals to Jonas that she used a remote satellite link to set off the beacon that brought everyone to find Emmet. She wanted someone to try and find her father because she believed the crew was still alive. End spoiler.

            At least the plot is back? Finally there’s some forward progress, now that we’re two episodes away from the end. For that reason alone, I’m inclined to say this is one of the better episodes.
            There’s actual development of some of the characters; Lena, Tess and Lincoln, Emmet himself. There’s progress made toward understanding Emmet’s goal, and towards the current crew’s goal of finding him. It was pretty competently acted, or at least I remember fewer cringe-worthy moments.
            Still, it’s not managed to shake the problems with the series as a whole or the individual episodes. Some are just seeming plot holes, which could maybe be resolved in the future. If the Zulo took Emmet and his camera (still filming!) to the outpost, why did they then take the tapes back to where the crew found them? For that matter, why did they continue filming him, from multiple angles at points? How has Lena made it to her early/mid-twenties and not noticed a pretty major birthmark? Since the first episode featured them finding a demon sealed in a room on the Magus, when will that fit into the timeline? It didn’t appear to have happened yet at the point when Emmet leaves the Magus.
            Some issues are with the writing and story, like why there are typical Judeo-Christian angels (basically winged humans) found in the middle of the Amazon? (And yes, the people don’t appear with wings, but Emmet tells us they scar their backs “as if removing wings.”) It just feels like it’s largely about moving Euro-centric mythology into an exotic location, which feels… shallow at best, and shittily appropriative more likely.
            It also felt like the horror was absent from this episode. Emmet was running away from a demon, but minus one shot of the demon having skinned a monkey to threaten them, and the largely uncharacterized companion being killed, there wasn’t anything “scary” that happened. There’s the more “mundane” horror of being alone and sick in the jungle, too far out to get help, but that’s a very different kind of horror than the supernatural or paranormal feel that the show had up until this point.
            Basically, I am glad to see a return of the plot, and it’s reignited some of my interest in the eventual resolution. But at the same time, it still fails to really pull together as a whole. Plus that eventual resolution feels increasingly like it’ll probably be very anti-climactic.

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