Review: River (S1 E4/6), Tuesday 3rd November, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 27/10/2015 - Programme Name: River - TX: n/a - Episode: River (No. Ep 4) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL TUESDAY 27TH OCTOBER, 2015** Stevie (NICOLA WALKER), John River (STELLAN SKARSGARD) - (C) Kudos - Photographer: Nick Briggs

(C) Kudos – Photographer: Nick Briggs

Straight away the pace and the intensity of this episode was a notch above episode three, mainly because the search was on for Haider – the man who worked at Crystal Kebabs and the man Stevie was spotted in an embrace with on CCTV. The investigation took River and Ira (and Chrissie now) into the world of Somalian refugees. What could have been a hackneyed view of these economic migrants panned out into something sensitive and heartbreaking.

But that didn’t stop River from forming his own opinions, or new manifests. Up until now all of his subconscious manifests have been based on dead people, but with Haider sneering and goading him at regular intervals, River was confronted with his mind having a go at him because he was essentially jealous of this man for having the kind of relationship with Stevie he had always wanted. Or at least didn’t have the courage to pursue.

The lead to Haider came from a colleague at Crystal Kebabs, Khalid, and his young son, who saw kindness in River’s eyes during the policeman’s visit to his family home and wanted to help. Khalid and his family had been hiding Haider who had been in fear of his life.

Finding Haider had become a race against time, and against River’s wishes an appeal went out on TV. One of the respondents was Stevie’s uncle, Michael Bennigan, an amiable Irishman who, unlike the rest of the Stevensons, had time for River and wanted to help catch Stevie’s killer. Bennigan owned a car company, and told River that Haider had worked there, briefly. He also said, more or less, that he was disgusted that it seemed like this man was having a relationship with his niece. His brother would have been turning in his grave. Another detail: Stevie’s younger brother, Frankie, worked there and was purposely keeping his head down. This was, after all, a legit business.

I just get the impression that although all the Stevenson angles have been rinsed, something is there with Michael Bennigan. I’m not sure what yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays some part towards the end of this story.

When River finally worked out that Haider was an educated man trying to make money for his partner and family back home and he would likely be at the library, it was too late. Someone had stabbed Haider in the back and he died in River’s arms. It was touching and heartbreaking and River was angry that he didn’t see this relationship for what it really was – Stevie was helping Haider, not having a romantic relationship with him.

And these are the benefits of the manifests in a story like this – they do indeed act like unreliable narrators, leading us this way and that. By asking River in the last episode ‘you didn’t think that you were the only one?’ Stevie’s construct had led us down the route of thinking that she was having a relationship with this man. This led River to be jealous and angry with himself and Stevie. The reality was very different.

There were other story strands, too. River tearfully admitted to Rosa that he was losing it, and she asked him to come to an open session later that night that comprised people who heard voices. River pooh-poohed it, although he did end up going, shuffling into the hall nervously. Another sign he was starting to let go and concentrate on the realities around him.

We also saw more of Chrissie Read and her family, including judge husband Tom. River and Ira went round after work to go through the case around the dinner table. Tom popped out for a spliff, while the others drank wine. A lot of wine. So much so Chrissie made a huge pass at River, explaining that her family was falling apart and that she hated now London – it was so hard to make and keep relationships in this teeming mass of urbanity. She was also looking for connections, the kind of emotional mesh that had been ground down by her job and by raising children.

Making and holding onto relationships, relationships not being as they seemed… these are all key themes in River, each of them feeding into and out of River’s own relationship with Stevie. Each little strand, each little side-story, it all rippled inside River’s anxiety-ridden brain.

The final scene in the episode saw River follow Tom after Chrissie told him he had been spending less and less time at home and more and more time ‘working late’. The owner of the final number in Stevie’s phone had yet to be revealed, but when River telephoned Tom on Stevie’s phone on a hunch, he picked up.

It seems Tom had dealings with Stevie. But what kind of dealings?

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here

For our episode three review, go here



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