The River: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
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The River: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

If “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is the last ever episode of The River—and it almost certainly is—it’s an appropriately underwhelming conclusion to a frustrating series that only sporadically delivered on its initial promise. While last week’s episode brought us a tribute-band version of The Walking Dead, this week’s installment reaches all the way back to The Exorcist for its special brand of rehashed and watered-down horror. As has been the case for most of our excursion down The River, there are a handful of effective moments surrounded by talky soap-opera segments and forehead-slapping stupidity.

The hour begins promisingly enough, with Lincoln getting shot in the neck and killed. I’m sure I was not alone in rejoicing for half a second before remembering that this is The River, and that he’d surely be alive again before the next commercial break. That is indeed what happens, thanks to Jahel, who has apparently had a full personality transplant since last we saw her. She’s still The Spanish Exposition, of course, informing Tess (and us) that Lincoln can be brought back to life with the help of the Boiuna, which is not just the name of the region through which they’ve been traveling, but also what the God of All Demons likes to be called when he’s relaxing at home. (Other nicknames include The Black Snake and, my favorite, The Boat Eater.)

Jahel conducts some sort of black-magic ritual in order to summon Boiuna and bring Lincoln back from the dead. All of this seemed completely out of character to me, as did a later scene in which Jahel tells her father that she’s not scared of all the creepy stuff that’s been happening, unlike him. It’s funny, because I remember Jahel as the one who was always panicking, running around telling everybody that they had to get the hell off the river and stop messing with all these dark forces. The writers have also decided that this would be a good time to feed us a lot of back-story about Jahel and her mother, as if we’re now supposed to believe they’ve actually cared about her as a character all this time.

The episode gets lively for a few minutes in the middle, as the now-possessed Lincoln sheds his whiny persona and starts acting like badass. I have to say, I much preferred this post-death version of our hero to the original. It may have been unintentional, but I was reminded of the series finale of a far superior supernatural-inflected show, Twin Peaks, and its final moments with the evil Agent Cooper. That is, before Emmet figures out what’s going on, and Lincoln goes the full Linda Blair, taunting and contorting and rasping like a third-rate Tom Waits impersonator.

In the end, however, The River returns to its roots as a pale imitation of Lost, with the resolution of daddy issues serving as the cure for what ails Lincoln. Once again, Bruce Greenwood deserves all the credit in the world for fully committing to the cringe-worthy dialogue when Emmet apologizes for missing out on his son’s entire life up until that point. He almost manages to sell it.

The final “cliffhanger,” in which the course of the river morphs, trapping the crew of the Magus as permanently as the crew of the Minnow before them (without anywhere near enough episodes for a syndication run), works as an ending for me. I take perverse glee in thinking that these people are trapped together forever, as long as I don’t have to see anymore of it.

Stray observations:

  • Thanks to Hayden Childs for filling in for me last week. I owe you a beer or six, Hayden.
  • How about one last nitpick about the found-footage gimmick? We see Lincoln kill Jonas through the ship’s cameras, from several angles, but when Emmet looks at the footage later, he sees Jonas walking away unharmed, followed by Lincoln glancing up at the camera. Obviously, the implication here is that the Boiuna-Lincoln has cast some kind of spell, thus changing the footage, which is fine, except… where did the footage we saw earlier come from? We shouldn’t have been able to see what really happened, right?
  • “Day 35—The Search for Emmet Cole.” Except… the search for Emmet Cole ended when he was found, no?
  • Nothing much ever came of Lena’s birthmark. Or Kurt’s secret mission. Or “The Source.” I guess the producers are saving that for the second season. Let’s not hold our breath.

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