Last night the sixth and final episode of the gripping crime drama River was shown on BBC1. At the end of episode four I went around telling everybody how utterly brilliant I thought this programme was. Therefore, I was shocked when a TV critic sent me a tweet saying how much he hated it. He was wrong and I was right I thought to myself. However, as the series ended last night, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with episodes five and six. Overall, it was still a great watch but no longer do I view it as a faultless piece of television like I once did.
Last night we finally discovered who killed DS Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson(Nicola Walker). The narrative about her murder started to lose me towards the end of episode five, and I found myself finding it a bit tricky to follow again last night. I like a challenging watch but to me it felt somewhat rushed as it progressed. It was a bit too convoluted for me. Do not get me wrong though I still founding it extremely gripping TV to watch, I just think the story about Stevie’s murder could have been better written.
I got a bit lost with the immigration part of the story. There were too many new characters in it to take in. I got that people were being granted visas to live in the UK when they should not have been, but it jumped around too much. There was a ‘dodgy female solicitor’ working on behalf of these immigrants. I cannot even remember her name nor did we ever see River(Stellan Skargard) bring her into the station for questioning. What about that young female solicitor who was having an affair with Chrissy’s(River’s boss) husband? What about those cleaners in the library, I assume they killed that Nigerian man because they worked for Michael Bennigan(Jim Norton) did they?
Last night muddled me with regards to the Michael Bennigan character. He fathered Frankie and got Stevie pregnant at fourteen years old I got that. I got a bit lost however as to why he was employing so many immigrants? I assumed it was for cheap labour but it should have been made clearer. Furthermore, when Frankie admitted to River that he had murdered Stevie, I was unsure whether he did know that she was his Mother after all? Moments earlier I thought we had just seen Michael Bennigan and Bridie Stevenson tell River that Frankie had no idea. I think Frankie did know that Stevie was he Mother, however it did confuse me a bit as you can see.
Despite these slight criticisms of mine I still really enjoyed episode six and the series overall in general. The true nature of love story between River and Stevie was fully revealed in this final episode. It moved me to tears as they both confessed their love for one another at the end. It was truly exceptional acting by Stellan Skarsgard and Nicola Walker. They conveyed so much longing for the other person that it was almost heartbreaking to watch. I sat there being happy that Stevie loved him too, yet also really sad that she was now dead.
I need to highlight here just what an incredible acting performance Stellan Skarsgard gave as Detective Inspector John River. It was he best bit of acting I have seen by a man in a TV crime drama for many a year. River had so many different sides to him which Stellan captured perfectly. River was funny, eccentric and socially awkward. It was his excellent portrayal though of a person suffering from mental health issues that made it such a standout performance in my book. In connection to this, his mourning for Stevie was so movingly acted. It was this examination brilliant of ‘grief’ that had me hooked from episode one. The writing by Abi Morgan needs to be praised in this respect. It was a crime-drama that had an original fresh feel to it due to this focus on grief which was different.
As well as Stellan Skargard, I thought there were some other great performances in it too. I thought Georgina Rich gave a beautifully understated performance as Police Psychiatrist Rosa Fellows. Lesley Manville as DCI Chrissie Read really impressed me, together with Eddie Marsan who was brilliantly irritating as Cream(a character in River’s manifests that mentally and continually tortured him).
I think some of the mise-en-scene aspects of River needs commending upon too. I loved the large panning shots we saw in every episode of the large glass building opposite to River’s office. Last night with the sunlight reflecting off it, it added a certain something to the episode. With emotive background music playing as we saw this shot, I think it added both suspense and also a contemplative feel to the drama. In an earlier episode this same shot was shown at night time. The bright office lights juxtaposed against the black darkness outside, it really looked an impressive spectacle. It was modern urban architecture looking at it’s finest which suited the feel of this modern stylized crime-drama.
In conclusion then, although this programme dipped in terms of quality towards the end of it, I still think it is one the best TV shows that I have seen this year. I had some issues with of the murder plot as I have explained. What I loved however was how it moved me to tears every episode. I found the focus on grief and mourning very original. I loved the chemistry on screen between Stellan Skarsgard and Nicola Walker. I believed their characters, their acting and most of all their love story. I would love to see a second series of River next year………………but somehow I fear it might not have ticked enough mainstream boxes for this to actually happen! 4/5.