The River: Episode 4 “A Better Man” (contains spoilers)
Creators: Oren Peli, Michael R. Perry
Director: Dean White
Writer: Aaron Eli Coleite
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
The River continues to impress with episode 4, cleverly titled ‘A Better Man’, and for good reason. This is the episode where poor old Lincoln puts himself in harm’s way as he tries to do the right thing while battling with both his conscience and the other crew members of the Magus. This is a little slower paced to the previous episode, however we head into full on spook territory here as an ancient curse threatens the entire ship. More and more as the show goes on, The Amazon appears to be getting more menacing, more scary and there are things going on here which will unsettle and disturb in equal measure. I do enjoy the ideas being thrown into this series, and for the most part, much of it is actually very believable. Granted vines coming alive and trying to stop the boat moving, and suddenly re-appearing after being chopped off, is farfetched but fun, however it is the curses and creepy undertone’s that are making this show really quite exciting.
The crew manage to buy some fruit off a passing boat, and very quickly we learn about not filming the natives. Clark attempts to film the native selling goods, and is quickly told to stop. Later on though, as a new member joins the crew, we find out filming locals can have dire consequences. We get a little one on one time with the crew in this episode, as Clark goes around filming each person and conducting mini interviews where they discuss what brought them here, and if indeed they feel they have a Captain leading them. Clark later has his own confession as he complains about human nature, and people in general and how you will always get to see the ugly side of humans. Clark, it would seem, is a very damaged man, angry at the world, and angry at the situation he and Tess are in. He is filled with jealousy, and it seems he feels cheated by Tess who happily led him on, and now ignores him as she hunts for her missing husband. Clark appears to be a ticking time bomb, there’s gonna be fireworks ahead!
After a rather pleasant sing-a-long to the classic Decemberists song ‘Sons & Daughters’ the mission is about to head into uncharted waters, and they intend to draw the map as they go. On the way, and out of the blue we suddenly see a man hanging from a tree, and somehow he is alive. Turns out this man is Jonas, a former cameraman for Emmett’s crew. They bring him aboard the ship and fear he has malaria, and they decide to turn around to get him to a hospital, something which irritates Tess. However, it seems Jonas has brought bad luck, and once again Jahel is spooked by something. She offers her Dad a deck of cards, and finally while showing the whole crew what she showed her Dad, she proves they are in danger. Lincoln pulls three cards, and all three are The Hanging Man card, proof that an ancient curse may have engulfed them. Known as ‘El Colgado’ or ‘The Condemned Man’ curse, Kurt explains that the curse was put on a man who stole from the dead. He would forever feel death, without actually being allowed to die, spending the rest of his life dying every day, but always regaining consciousness just as his heart is about to give in. Pleasant these curses, aren’t they!
The bulk of this episode is made up of Jonas and how he came to be hanging in the jungle. He was kicked off Emmett’s ship for bringing the El Colgado curse onboard, and we find out how. During a native funeral, a village elder has brought himself to the forest to die, with the villagers watching. Jonas attempts to film it, and Emmett quickly stops him saying it is against the rules. Jonas, desperate for fame and fortune, continues to film on his phone, and this is how he becomes cursed as the elder’s spirit leaves his body and comes for Jonas. In some truly awesome scenes, the curse attacks the new crew of the Magus with some really superb special effects. Birds drop out of the sky, a storm brews and massive bugs fly in and attack the ship. It is all wonderfully creepy stuff, and this leads to Lincoln trying to stop Kurt and Clark throw Jonas overboard to save them. The same thing happened to Emmett, which is why they threw Jonas off the ship too.
In an attempt to save himself, Jonas tries to give an idea of where Emmett may have been heading, and the crew head in that direction. Emmett had been talking about “magic tribes”, but was very cagey about it. This is where we are now heading, to find Emmett and his magic tribes. After all we have seen so far, I can only hope that as we get deeper into the Amazon, things are going to become even more interesting, even more creepy, and even more brilliant. The River is gaining momentum on an epic scale, it is turning out not quite as scary as I’d hoped, but certainly as interesting as I was expecting. This brilliant episode finishes off with a heart-warming confession by Emmett caught on camera, a confession aimed at his loving wife and Son. Mother and Son watch it together, a look of acceptance and forgiveness on their faces, and for the briefest of moments, they are happy.