The River: ZOMBIES!!

By Price Peterson

Mar 14, 2012

While zombies may still be a novelty when it comes to primetime television, as a horror device they're about as played out as Tyra Banks. That's why it's important for any new zombie portrayal to bring a fresh spin to the meme. Running! Speaking! Rage viruses! We've basically seen it all. So congratulations to The River for introducing a zombie innovation of its own: Napping! That's right, the zombies of The River stop for a nap every ten minutes or so. That sounds ridiculous—and it definitely is—but like much of the rest of "The Experiment," it oddly just worked. I'm just as shocked as you are, but this was a pretty solid episode of The River! This was certainly the first episode where I thought to myself, "You know, I could watch a whole movie of this." A high compliment for a TV show with such an unrepentant crush on horror films.

We picked up right where we left off last week: The crew of the Magus emerging from the jungle wide-eyed at an eerily abandoned facility of some kind. I'd guessed the place was related to deforestation but the truth was far more Dharma Initiative: It was an abandoned research facility. Mysterious German Kurt decided the place had been empty for months and its dark, disheveled interior suggested foul play. At this point The River turned into BioShock as old-fashioned music echoed through dark, sinister hallways. It was genuinely scary! And I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed not having to deal with the Magus' security camera footage for most of the episode. The handheld footage of Lena, Tess & Lincoln looking terrified in darkness felt more organic and believable than any of the found footage we'd seen so far.

Needless to say, not ten minutes went by before Lincoln definitively concluded that the research facility had been attempting to find a cure for cancer before everything went to heck. Suddenly everyone was following a trail of bloody footprints and a terrible odor toward a mysteriously "buzzing" walk-in freezer. And before you could say, "Um, don't?" Lincoln opened the freezer to unveil one of the more horrifying images ever seen on primetime television: Dozens of rotting corpses! Seriously: Though it was artfully framed to obscure the full horror, I can't recall seeing such casual carnage on TV since, I don't know, the mass grave scene from Lost? Seriously scary stuff, and I immediately respected The River for going there. And go there they did, as what followed was as logical as it was appalling: Lincoln and Jonas had to go GO INSIDE and see if any of the rotting bodies were Emmet! Cue flies and puking. "Is it Friday yet?" - Everybody involved.

Meanwhile Mysterious German Kurt had snuck off to investigate the living quarters, and though he seemed to be using his best instincts to detect the presence of life, he somehow missed the man with the huge camera tailing him. Fortunately for us, A.J. got the scoop: Kurt was looking for his fiancée Hana, who we'd learned in a (surprisingly risqué!) flashback had been stationed in the Amazon to do some nefarious security work of her own. Kurt was disappointed to learn that Hana wasn't in her bedroom, but he DID end up discovering the demon lady from Paranormal Activity hiding in the bathtub. Really not much a consolation prize, if you ask me. Since we last saw her abandoning Emmet in the Amazon, Rabbit had gotten a makeover into a shivering crazy lady who knew just enough to clue in the Magus crew but not enough to give anybody definitive answers about Emmet's whereabouts.

And that's when the zombies attacked!

Now, these zombies are closest in nature to the 28 Days Later variety: They seem to be technically alive and they're also fond of running. After the first attack, our heroes barricaded themselves in somebody's office who just so happened to have the research facility's security footage on his or her laptop! And the battery was still charged! A month later! (Oh, The River.) Anyway, then we got the exposition dump: These researchers had kidnapped and dissected nearby natives (the ones who believed themselves to be angels) in order to isolate the gene that gave them their youthful good looks. Then, immediately upon creating a retrovirus version of it, Mysterious German Lady Hana busted in and shot everybody all up! If you ask me, you should probably wait to shoot up a dangerous lab facility until AFTER the virus has been placed in a sealed container, but that's just how Hana rolled apparently. As a result, she and the doctors' faces began to bubble and melt and so began the facility's zombie shenanigans. Cool plan, Hana!

The best part about the zombies retreating from pounding on the door so that they could lie down and take a nap was a seriously suspenseful moment when the crew had to gingerly step over their sleeping bodies in order to bypass them. The second best thing about the napping zombies was an intensely bad-ass moment where Kurt single-handedly massacred them all with a submachine gun. (Well, all of them except for Hana, who to everyone else was just another ugly face in the ugly crowd.)

After a false lead led the crew to suspect Emmet was hiding out in the infirmary (seriously, mirrored wind chimes?) we suddenly came to a scene that, to be honest, I may have dreamed up? I mean, did the cocoon thing really happen? It couldn't have, right? That was just my imagination? Anyway, in the infirmary a CGI dragonfly caught Lincoln's attention and led the team outside and onto the roof where they found a utility closet (?) full of cobwebs and tons of dragonflies and, oh yeah, a HUMAN-SIZED GELATINOUS COCOON. In another tiny flashback, we saw Emmet talking about how dragonflies and butterflies will often retreat into a "nympha state" chrysalis when they're endangered. So, um. Basically... Emmet sensed a zombie outbreak and created an enormous, translucent, presumably mucus-based shell which he then HID INSIDE. At this point? Fair enough.

But The River wasn't over! In what would seal this episode as being remarkably jam-packed, the crew fished Emmet from his shell, dragged him back to the ship (while Kurt shot up all the zombies) and then enjoyed one last terrifying encounter: Zombie stowaways! The intruders included Hana, who immediately ate Rabbit but annoyingly did NOT eat Tess. After a presumably emotional moment (I have to presume since Kurt is a Mysterious German after all), Kurt finally shot Hana in the face. Then after a second zombie busted in and attacked everyone else, a suddenly awakened Emmet emerged from his cabin, murdered that zombie good, and then gave the laugh-out-loud action movie one-liner of our time: "So how was my funeral?" Perfect. And I mean that: That would've been my first question too!

So now there's only one episode of The River left (possibly ever) and ABC promises it'll be the most terrifying yet! Honestly, this episode definitely gave us reason to trust that claim. It was just the right amounts of terrifying and insane, with little dashes of genuinely compelling moments (like that seemingly random flashback of Lena having a seizure at a Foot Locker). Tess remains awful and Lincoln is still a pretty bad character, but at least everybody seems realer now. And we learned that Kurt's primary objective is to kill Emmet, which is quite a plan. Speaking of whom, it'll be nice having Emmet Cole as a living, breathing character instead of a walking myth. Fingers-crossed the finale will finally capitalize on all these threads!

Please no cliffhanger, please no cliffhanger...



... Best episode yet?

... Seriously, did that cocoon thing really happen? Be honest.

... Is Lena literally an angel or what?

... What do zombies dream about?

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  • mad-pac Mar 18, 2012

    Rabbit!?! Nooooooooo! Poor little thing...

  • mad-pac Mar 18, 2012

    - Not sure the best, but the most absurd for sure.

    - I don't know if the cocoon happened. I found the scene so scary I retreated to my cocoon.

    - I don't know is she's an angel, but she's certainly adorable.

    - Zombies dream about electric sheep. No, wait, that's androids...

  • thorthorsen Mar 18, 2012

    TV writers really need to come up with a new way to write the role "the wife of..."

    I don't even know who I hate more...Tess or Lori from the Walking Dead...Ugh...

  • cpicado Mar 17, 2012

    ... Best episode yet?

    Second to Marbeley episode

    ... Seriously, did that cocoon thing really happen? Be honest.

    What's that a cocoon? I thought it was a cesarean operation on some giant womb.

    ... Is Lena literally an angel or what?

    She may just be. Spell angel backwards and remove the g as in God (because she's no God, she is an angel)

    ... What do zombies dream about?

    Being killed by a deranged German dude.

    Read more:

  • MissZag Mar 17, 2012

    I wonder if the jungle tribesmen who saved Emmett and dropped him off at the compoound knew about what was going on inside of the building. That their tribesmen were being experimented on..... are they just so good that they didn't care and wanted to save him anyway (being angels and all)? If this turns into some big metaphore about the lack of morals in society, I'm gonna be ticked!!

    I love this show as a horror miniseries, and would love if they did another season (although I read it was specifically written as miniseries). Maybe they could do another and change the cast and location?? Maybe the dog could be the crossover character :-)

  • Acrobit Mar 16, 2012

    I do hope the dog's back soon. I don't know what the show's gonna do without it's star character (not sarcastic, actually).

    It saddens me how much faster I turn to this show before I hunker down to get through an episode of The Walking Dead, but I'm really not hating it. I rooted for Tess's death, as usual, but this was a good episode. I did wonder what the new character was doing sitting out alone on the boat, but it was quickly answered.

    Still, I didn't expect them to find Emmett so quickly...and I still don't. Evolution is not our friend.

  • dazednconfuuzed Mar 16, 2012

    Best episode yet for sure..even tho there were a few moments that I thought were a lil bit much...the cocoon for one, and the friggin mirror windchimes...I actually started laughing out loud. Oh yeah and did anyone else think wtf when Lincoln and Tess just barge right into that room emmets in without a gun? I mean you just got done running away from a bunch of zombies but oh sure we'll just follow the magic dragonfly into a room with no thought to our safety...

    Oh yeah and I think there was something up with Rabbit...she made that creepy comment when they locked themselves into that room in the facility "you should just go ahead and let them in, its easier that way" or something of the like... Maybe shes not really dead from the attack by the mercs gf (Hanna), maybe she was already infected. It seems strange to me that she could have survived in there for that long and she looked pretty sickly. No one else in the group was really exposed so they dont know if it was contagious or not. It was a virus so I would assume it could mutate and become contagious. I thought it was weird that it was never brought up in the episode. In fact before I found out the merc's gf was aboard the magus I had thought that the dog didnt wanna hop aboard because Rabbit was gunna eventually turn into a zombie or something (not to mention the comment she made about how "maybe they should have left her there" when Tess reamed her out.) Of course it may also be because "its not really emmet" or theres something wrong with him. I'm feel like its the real Emmet tho...I dunno.

    For the most part it was a very good episode, and I was def happy to leave behind the security cams on the magus for a while. I'm also excited they finally addressed the german merc and at least part of his ultimate role in all this. I think he and his woman are like protectors of the source, I think everything ties back to the source like maybe thats why theres so many powerful spirits around, because they can in a way tap into its power. I think the german and others like him are supposed to keep it hidden and not allow its power to change our world. Because of things like the lab they were in today. I think those "angel" people also protect and use the source, thats probably what their tribes all about (not to mention why their bodies appear to have special qualities?), and when those doctors abducted them and did experiments on them that zombie stuff was the consequence. I think the german had probably planned to kill all the magus crew if they got too close to figuring the source out because if they ever told anyone back home obviously more people would come and try to abuse the source, which as we've seen can have catastrophic consequences. Thats just my thoughts I may be way off but thats the fun of it..

  • Big_Pecks Mar 16, 2012

    Very good episode. If the show can explain the mark and the magic stuff next episode, this show could be over this season. Better than getting cancelled, of course.

  • DavidJackson8 Mar 16, 2012

    Aside from Tess -- I thought at some point she was going to step in poo and declare: "That's Emmet's poo! He's here and still alive!" -- I thought this was a very good episode. It was maybe the first of the series so far where I didn't necessarily like an episode for it's silliness but actually enjoyed the thrill and action.

    And yes, that cocoon thing really happened... after eating one, maybe the dragonflies thought of him as one of their own... and created a HUGE dragonfly-cocoon for him to keep him safe. Crazy: sure, but this show is all about crazy.

    And I think zombies dream about sex... cause, you know... zombie sex would be cool...?

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