TV Series Review: ‘River’

John Thomas
RIVER STARS Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgard.

Detective Inspector John River (Stellan Skarsgård) of the Metropolitan Police Service, London, has just finished dinner with his partner “Stevie” Stevenson (Nicola Walker) at a local Chinese restaurant. They say good night at the curb.

While River waits for her to cross the street, a van passes between the two. Someone in a blue sedan, heading the opposite direction, shoots and kills Stevie as she stands in the middle of the street. River does not see it happen. The police department is devastated by her death, especially Detective Chief Inspector Chrissie Read (Leslie Manville), who is oddly more concerned for River’s mental well being.

Weeks later, River sits in his car thinking about his latest case – Stevie is seen in the passenger seat discussing the case with him. He receives word that the suspect of a recent crime has been located so he drives off to question him.

On seeing the police arrive, the suspect takes off running, finally ending the chase at the edge of a balcony from which he falls to his death. River has no chance to interrogate the young man. When the suspect appears in River’s flat that evening he professes his innocence as he does on several occasions later.

Chrissie has noted River’s recent unusual behavior, especially his talking to himself or someone not visible to others. She suggests/orders him to visit the police psychologist, Rosa Fallows (Georgiana Rich), stating it’s procedure for a police person losing a trusted partner. River endures about ten minutes of his first visit with Rosa, then leaves.

River’s many visits to Stevie’s estranged and criminally inclined family offer him little or no help solving her murder. Much earlier she had put one of her family members behind bars.

A new partner is assigned to River, Detective Sargent Ira King (Adeel Akhar), a man skilled in the use of computers. The two men review surveillance footage from the crime scene hoping to find new clues. Through the use of the internet, the number of suspects in the investigation grows as the two men collect and evaluate new information.

They finally conclude that Stevie had been privately conducting her own investigation. Some sort of criminal activity that led to suspects well connected and prominent in the community is the reason for her quiet and carefully guarded inquiries.

More mandatory sessions with Rosa finally allows River to confide some of his personal information. He reveals that from the age of 14, he is visited by manifests [word used in the film]. They come to him unannounced and in unexpected places–occurrences over which he has no control. She encourages him to attend the group sessions she conducts for others with his same condition – at the outset, that doesn’t go well for him either.

He and Ira continue to reexamine evidence, add new suspects and remove previous ones, interview people again and take closer looks at the filmed footage. All these efforts have few results. Finally one evening, while once more examining a closeup of her murder surveillance footage, River notices a warm smile of recognition appear on Stevie’s face as the blue sedan moves towards her. River now knows who did it.

River” is a “should see” British TV series.


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