There are a lot of great shows on right now, and for my first post in this new series, I’m going to highlight The River. This post covers having seen the third episode, “Los Ciegos,”so if you haven’t seen it, quit reading and go watch. All three episodes are still up on Hulu.
The first thing that drew me to this show is that I’ve always had a fear of the Amazon River. Maybe it goes back to that Cosby movie with the piranhas, and of course back to Jaws, but I get really creeped out by murky water in the wild and all the ways the jungle can kill you.
I spent a semester in Australia and on a boat trip around the Great Barrier Reef our captain took us to an island to go snorkeling. He anchored the boat a hundred yards or so from shore and asked if we would like to swim or take the motor boat in. In my lust for adventure, I thought I’d like to swim to shore. We had full body suits on to protect us from jelly fish, flippers and snorkel masks. Well, as soon as I plunged into the cold water, looked around at the dark blue water, I panicked. Add to that having to tread water while trying to fit my mask on and I just lost it. Within seconds I was on the motorboat, thankful for the ride to shore. The biggest thing was being out in the wild without being able to see the potential threats underneath me until it was too late and they had me. It’s that same fear that The River exploits and I love it.
This is one thing about The River that has me hooked, and in episode three, there was a freak out moment where I said out loud, “Are you kidding me!” Depending on what makes you the most scared, there are plenty of options for what scene you could have freaked out from. Mine was when the private security guy pulled the blonde girl into the bushes to hide from the Watchers. As the Watchers walked by dozens of six inch long bugs that looked like massive leeches crawled over their skin. Having that happen in a moment where silence was key to survival was the type of situation as an observer that I wanted to jump off the couch and brush those imaginary bugs off my own skin. Excellent use of setting and tension.
Another great plot element was how the Watchers sneak into their camp while they were sleeping–you would think to post a guard after finding the dead body in the cave, but that’s besides the point. One of their group was missing and when they find him, he’s been blinded. From there, each member slowly looses their sight until the local girl, who’s become blinded, senses that the Watchers are in their boat and falls down a ladder hole to escape.
First of all, wow that would be scary falling down the hole blind, but then to have to find her way into a room to shut the door on time while trained killers chase her is another shock moment. The use of potential blindness plays to our natural fear of the dark and the monsters within that I mentioned in the murky waters above. When the guard, blonde girl and camera guy take the boat out after the mysterious plant that can cure their blindness, the potential for their becoming blind along the way, then being lost in the jungle with the Watchers on their tail, really drives the tension and interest in the show.
Add to all of the excellent use of camera footage, both for revealing what we should be scared about that the characters are unaware of (i.e. Watchers entering their camp while they’re sleeping, and the boat while they are down below), and to show us about their past. This includes the father figure whom they are searching for, so that we care about finding him by seeing his love for his family and passion for finding magic.
In searching for pictures to illustrate my points (ended up just getting my own screenshots), I found a critic of the show, who says, “The problem with The River is when you try to combine Reality TV, with Supernatural entertainment, the best one can hope for is humor, and the worst case is uninteresting boredom.” I didn’t think for one minute that the creepy stuff in here is humorous, and the Reality TV element is great for further making the show seem realistic. Maybe I’m biased because I believe in the supernatural, both good and evil, so I give the show the benefit of the doubt. Tribal magic has a lot of crazy testimonials, so in the deep dark of the Amazon, I expect them to experience the most realistic magic our world has to offer.
What do you think about The River so far?