While Mr. Donald Trump arrived in Sarasota yesterday, I gave him a pass. Actually doing things like getting the car washed and having a haircut seemed infinitely more important to me. Plus I had the three remaining episodes of the Netflix-BBC TV drama called River to watch.
River is the name of the series which runs for six one hour episodes and you can view it on Netflix now. DI John Rivers is also the name of the senior detective working for the London Metropolitan Police. There’s not a single mention or even a hint of Scotland Yard in this one. In fact this London is the new London, all steel and glass skyscrapers. Even the famous London Underground trains have been updated – you won’t hear ‘Mind the Gap’ even once.
River’s forte is homicide, and early on we watch as his Detective partner Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson is gunned down in the streets.
Now Rivers may be a brilliant detective, but he has a certain quirk to him. Watch this brief (41 seconds) trailer and you’ll learn what it is:
River is played by Stellan Skarsgård who you will recall played the mad killer, Martin Vanger, in David Fincher’s version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo released just before Christmas back in 2011. Here, we have Skarsgård as yet another brilliant detective only, to an outsider, he seems to be talking to himself, or arguing with an invisible person.
River is visited on a regular basis by either victims of some cases he worked, his former partner Stevie, and even a historical serial killer from the late 19th century called Thomas Neal Cream. Cream functions as both a Greek Chorus, and someone who is always pushing and prodding Detective River.
As Cream tell us – You can tell the measure of a country by how it treats its insane people rather than the sane ones. He tells River that he will always be with River, helping him in perpetuity to get a feel for hell.
While Detective Stevenson, (played marvelously by Nicola Walker above) was shot dead in the street less than three weeks ago, she appears with regularity in this mini-series. She’s there to goad and push River. She’ll pop up in the most unexpected and often inopportune times. River has no control over it.
Behind his back, he’s called the office loon – and why not. He’ll be seen gesticulating, waving his arms, or punching a wall, and even heard arguing vociferously only to the rest of us, there’s no one else in the picture besides River.
Police protocol requires that when a cop’s partner is killed, the survivor must attend a set number of counseling sessions. Basically the counselor is to make a professional assessment on whether or not, the surviving policeman is deemed in good enough shape to stay on the job.
Of course River is resistant. He’s asked if he hallucinates, if he sees ghosts. River calls them manifests. Truly he’s a complex dude.
Wrapped around River and his inner demons, is the actual mystery itself. What was Detective Stevenson investigating? A second, off the books, mobile phone is found, and it is hers. River thinks he sees the car from which the drive-by shooting of Stevie occurred and gives chase. This doesn’t end well for the suspect and that in itself gives River even more problems than he already has.
Suspects are developed. But one is killed. Is there a conspiracy? Can River do his job? Will the mystery of Stevie’s death be solved?
As I said, this is just a six-episode mini-series. But it is choice. The series will pull you in, and get you invested with no problem. Yes, the show is talky when not brooding, and sometimes we can even say slow-paced. But this is about much more than being a simple police procedural. These are cops who we see at their homes, as well as in their personal lives. Nothing and no-one can be taken at just face value, because as we will see, everyone has shades, and degrees, as well as secrets.
River is not about chases (there are a couple) and shootouts. It is not about smart detectives and blundering bosses. It is about families and families with substance – which is to say, that you shouldn’t be expecting some thinly drawn stereotypical characters.
Skarsgård is superb, but I must say he’s outperformed by both Nicola Walker as Detective ‘Stevie’ Stevenson, and Leslie Manville as Senior Inspector Chrissie Reed. She’s River’s boss. Eddie Marsan who has appeared quite often on tv (Ray Donovan) as well as film, is suitably creepy and profound as the serial killer Thomas Cream.
And there’s two other fabulous performers. Watch for Georgina Rich as the sympathetic and steady shrink, Rosa Fallows, who is tasked with finding out if River can ever be free of his demons.
The cop who is assigned to work with River, Ira King, is great at doing the grunt work, and is intriguing in his own right. He’s half Jewish, and half-Palestinian. As he describes himself – he’s the Gaza strip of the London police force. Adeel Akhtar has the role.
I found this show, River, quite compelling and I strongly recommend it. There’s just six episodes and I watched all six in just two days. This is a BBC production (as was Luther) which means that there’s a certain trademark of excellence. Truly, River and Luther are about cops, but beyond that, the series differ. Check this one out for a smart and intelligent TV series that will keep you on edge as well as involved.