The River – “Los Ciegos”Posted: February 14, 2012
Wellll, this week’s episode was not so great. Which is kind of surprising, after the pilot showed us that The River was capable of some pretty cool stuff. And “Los Ciegnos” had some cool stuff in it, it’s just that the show doesn’t know how to present it. Mainly because at this point it’s still populated with Post-it notes with things like “hot female lead” and “hardass” written on them instead of actual characters.
And while I can deal with “hot female lead,” a few of the others kind of have me rolling my eyes. The show’s biggest repeat offender has to be Jahel, who’s comes off as the answer to the unasked question, rattling off the supernatural significance behind every twig or bug the crew steps on. What a tortured effing existence that girl must live, with those dead eyes of hers. I’ll be happy just to hear her talk about something other than magic. But judging from the show’s ratings, it’s entirely possible it will have been canceled before then.
Coming in behind Jahel is Kurt Brynildson, who handles security on the boat. You may know him as the guy with the guns who’s always glaring at everyone, who’s obviously up to no good with that sat phone he keeps stashed in his bag. If there’s a bigger mystery to what this guy is doing on the expedition, then the show should drop hints about it. I just wish he was able to do it and not come across as so one-dimensional. And if that’s as complex as some of the characters are going to be, I wish the show would give it’s subject matter due deference. This week’s episode had the gang stumbling onto land claimed (Owned? I don’t know.) by a tribe of natives called the Morcegos, or the Guardians of the Forest, while searching for Emmet. They wake up one morning to find that their camp has been visited in the night, with the tribesmen having left small altars of stones in the night. And very mysteriously, the crew begin losing their sight.
Eventually the Morcegos make their way to the Magus, pounding on the doors and windows while the blind crew cowers inside. Lena, Kurt, and A.J., the only ones unafflicted, take off into the jungle to hunt down the plant that will reverse the blindness. And this is where the episode most noticeably stumbles. Most characters in shows like these are supposed to grow, hopefully becoming better people than they were when we first met them. We learn about who they are, and then watch them as they confront and overcome their fears. So when we learn in the beginning of the episode that A.J. was a miner before becoming a cameraman, and that he had once been trapped inside a mine that had collapsed, a giant neon sign floating above him began flashing: PAY ATTENTION. And it comes as no surprise when we see him have shimmy his way underground when he finds the tree they’re looking for, after leaving Lena and Kurt for dead of course. Yes, A.J. should make the right choice, jump down that hole and get the magic plant that will give everyone their sight back. It’s just that that journey should last more than 20 minutes. But then again, I’m an English major. So what the hell do I know?
We see similar problems on the Magus, with producer Clark running out, putting himself in between the Morcegos and everyone else like a human shield. This is the guy who, just last week, was smirking to himself, rubbing his hands in anticipation as he watched that look of uncertainty wash over Lincoln’s face when he heard his father might still be alive. Sure, the revelation (it wasn’t a revelation) that he and Tess used to have something going on the side makes things a little more believable. But only a little.
The biggest problem with all of this — race-to-the-finish character development — was that the episode took its scariest element, the Morcegos, and relegated them to a few fleeting glimpses at the edges of the cameras that ship is strung up with, instead focusing on the House-style mystery of everyone going blind. And we all know the House-style mystery is really no mystery at all. There’s always some magic plant or whatever. Hopefully, going forward, the show won’t always resort to taking the easy way out. I think there’s an opportunity for a really good uber-arc about what the ultimate fate of these people is. I noticed that in the very beginning of the episode, after introducing the premise and the search for Dr. Cole, we see the words, “This is the footage they left behind…” implying that these people, too, go missing. That story is going to be a lot more interesting than those tree roots.