Review: River (S1 E3/6), Tuesday 27th October, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 20/10/2015 - Programme Name: River - TX: n/a - Episode: River (No. Ep 3) - Picture Shows: **STRICTLY EMBARGIED UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 20TH OCTOBER, 2015** John River (STELLAN SKARSGARD) - (C) Kudos - Photographer: Nick Briggs
(C) Kudos – Photographer: Nick Briggs

After two episodes of this well-made crime drama we had gone from cooing over the relationship between John River (Stellan Skarsgard) and Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson (Nicola Walker) and their perfectly meshed, affectionate chalk-and-cheese dynamic to not quite knowing who Stevie was or is anymore. Not quite an unreliable narrator, but certainly an unreliable character. So the question remained: who was Stevie?

She had been syphoning funds, logging shed-loads of extra overtime and booking cars out willy nilly. Why? It had certainly aroused the suspicions of Chrissie Read, and also River himself. Stevie’s construct was no real help because, well, she was restricted in her answers because she was part of River’s subconscious.

Still, River had Stevie’s second, secret mobile phone and, thanks to Ira, had partly unlocked it to reveal who she had been calling: her local kebab shop on numerous occasions, a sex line (“What, it gets lonely!” she protested in construct form) and, tellingly, her criminal brother, Jimmy. But the phone was only partly unlocked so most of the rest of the episode was taken up by River trying to figure out the PIN. When he did (it was her favourite dish numbers from the kebab shop) it led him back to Jimmy and, in turn, to Frankie. Both of them had alibis for the night Stevie died. They were in a knocking shop.

That was the first of a few dead ends tonight.

Chrissie ordered River to get his mind off Stevie’s case and onto investigating an accident at a building site, involving construction worker Jordy Merton.

All these side cases reference River’s own situation, and Merton’s was no different. As his wife kept a vigil by her husband’s bedside (he had fallen from a building site, his life now likely over bar the shouting), River noticed that he didn’t have his wedding ring on. It wasn’t in his affects either, which led River to believe he had been leading a double life.

Ah, a double life. Something that Stevie was leading, and something that Jordy Merton had been leading, too. Eventually it was found out that Merton was actually having a homosexual relationship with a Ukranian colleague, and as River left the hospital with his wife shouting blue murder at her fast-fading husband, you got the sense that River wanted to do the same to Stevie.

Especially after Ira had uncovered a new piece of CCTV, which showed Stevie and a mystery man having a snog outside her favourite kebab shop. “What? You thought you were the only one?” she asked River in construct form.

But the Merton case and the Jimmy Stevenson angle felt a bit pointless, and this half-way stage in the story felt like a lull.

In other news River miraculously passed his psych report and he was starting to get along rather well with Rosa, the psychologist who was beginning to get through to him. With his coping mechanisms and subconscious self now challenged for the first time, it fought back in the form of Victoria murderer Thomas Cream, who represented the darkest side of his mind. Cream began to terrorise him. Want to get better, River? Your mind isn’t going to let you do that.

Rosa had asked him to trust him, and he wanted to. So much so he followed her to a night at the theatre (creepy), where he was horrified to find her out on a date with Chief Super Marcus McDonald, the man who obviously wants River’s guts for garters.

See, you can’t trust anyone. Stevie was working on something and she had a fella, too. And was there something going on beyond the shish at her favourite kebab shop? Nothing is what it seems in this series, for us or for its characters. We even got a sense River himself wasn’t all that he seemed (he received £10,000 from Stevie in payment to look after her brother Frankie, if anything happened to her).

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here



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