Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Joe Anderson, Leslie Hope, Eloise Mumford, Paul Blackthorne, Thomas Kretschmann, Daniel Zacapa, Shaun Parkes, Paulina Gaitan
Michael Green & Zack Estrin, series created by Michael R. Perry & Oren Peli
Jaume Collet-Serra
ABC, Tuesdays @ 9 PM
Original Broadcast:
February 7, 2012

You know how creepy old dolls can look? Yeah, so do the makers of THE RIVER, who give us a whole tree grove full of the things in the second episode “Marbeley.”

Flashbacks via video clips show us Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) with his then-young son Lincoln. Emmet is an adoring dad who tells Lincoln that an ancient couple he met gave him a talisman that is for the person who will change the balance between life and death, so that the two will no longer be the same. Emmet says it’s his job to give the talisman to that person, and bestows it on Lincoln. Young Lincoln is also enamored of his teddy bear Marbeley (named for the ghost Marley in A CHRISTMAS CAROL). We also see young Lincoln playing with young Lena.

As an adult, Lincoln (Joe Anderson) confides in Lena (Eloise Mumford) that he threw Marbeley into the Indian Ocean when he was sixteen, vowing never to set foot on Emmet’s ship the Magus ever again. And yet here he is.

Spiritually-attuned Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) appears to sleepwalk in the middle of the night, right into the room on the Magus where Emmet’s wife Tess (Leslie Hope) is sleeping. However, when she wakes up, Tess hears Emmet’s voice coming from Jahel. Emmet-in-Jahel tells Tess to stop looking for him – “They have me.” As Tess tries to ask questions, Jahel goes into convulsions.

Tess is convinced that Emmet is nearby. Leaving Jahel on the Magus in the care of her father Emilio (Daniel Zacapa), the rest of the expedition head out into the forest. There they come across and old Colonial graveyard and then the “doll trees,” where innumerable dolls are strung up like hanging victims. Among the dolls is Lincoln’s old teddy bear Marbeley. How it got from the Indian Ocean to here is a mystery.

Tess insists Emmet must have retrieved the toy and brought it with him, and its presence is proof that Emmet came this way. The group sets up came near the dolls. In the middle of the night, there’s a disturbance – a hand reaches up and grabs Tess, nearly drowning her in a few inches of water.

Lenare calls a local tale about a little Colonial girl who drowned in the river trying to retrieve her doll. Lonely, her spirit is said to have pulled the living into the water – the dolls were left as offerings so she’d stop harvesting the living. Tess is pulled into a muddy pond, where she apparently vanishes, despite Lincoln,Lena and security chief Brynildson’s (Thomas Kretschmann) efforts to pull her out.

Desperate,Lincoln believes that if the little girl can be reunited with her own mother, perhaps she will return Tess. Lincoln and the others find the tombstone of a woman whose child drowned, dig up the bones and put them in the river. They then find Tess, covered in wet mud, in the empty grave.

Back on the boat,Lincoln goes to Jahel, who says she tried to hang on to Mr. Emmet’s spirit but could not. However, she is sure he is alive.Lincoln realizes that what he supposed was his father abandoning him in favor of work was really Emmet trying to protect his wife and son from the supernatural things he had found.Lincoln puts on the talisman his father gave him long ago.

In old footage, we see Emmet recognize the shape of the talisman – as a mark on the back of the unaware young Lena’s neck.

How does this all fit together? That’s unclear, but since the first season of THE RIVER is only eight hours long and this is hour two, it’s reasonable to believe the show’s makers know where they’re heading. The human elements are affecting –Lincoln’s nostalgia for the loving father he knew in childhood, cameraman A.J. (Shaun Parkes) standing up to Clark (Paul Blackthorne) – and the ambience is suitably unnerving. There’s even the equivalent of a cat scare that pays off because it is superbly freaky – what seems to be a crying child turns out to be a monkey playing with a doll’s face. Now there’s something we don’t get startled by too often.

There are a couple of moments that aren’t imaginatively on par with the rest of the show. Digging up the bones seems to be borrowed from any number of other series past and present, and Lincoln comes to the correct conclusion about this in record time (considering he presumably doesn’t spend his time watching genre TV), but it moves things along with satisfying swiftness. There’s also something aptly weird about Tess returning in the grave without being able to say how she got there.

And those doll trees are very spooky. Again, THE RIVER so far is a fine, frightening series.


Related LInk: TV Review – THE RIVER – Season 1 – “Los Ciegos”

Related Link: TV Review – THE RIVER – Season 1 – “Magus” – Series Premiere

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with THE RIVER star Paul Blackthorne

Related Link: ABC says THE RIVER can exist beyond Season 1

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Article: TV Review – THE RIVER – Season 1 – “Marbeley”


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