reviews\ Feb 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

The River 'A Better Man' recap and review


The River, now in its fourth episode is a bit lighter on the scares, but does introduce us to one of Emmet's lost crew members, who may or may not know about his whereabouts.

Remember, if you want to skip the spoilers, just click HERE and go to the actual review.

Episode Recap *Spoilers ahead*

The episode opens up with yet another Undiscovered Country segment, though this time it's not one that's aired, instead it shows the crew along with Emmet, trying to get the Magus mobile, as it's being completely tied by vines. Even after Emmet gets the vines loose, they immediately wrap around the boat once more, not letting them leave.

Cutting to the present time crew, we witness Tess and Kurt debating on which way to take in the upcoming fork in the river. With no clear leader, or Captain of the ship, A.J. the cameraman decides to go around the boat and ask each member who they think the Captain should be. Of course Tess and Kurt both think they're qualified, while the humble Lincoln admits that he's basically the ships lackey, and Lena is as indifferent about it as ever. Clark realizes that even though people are getting along together now, it's only a matter of time until they start becoming a**holes to each other later on.

After a very brief, and quite odd musical segment where Lincoln plays on the guitar and Lena plays the accordion (seriously?), they witness a young man hung by his neck on the vines. The crew immediately brings him on board and finds out that he's a cameraman named Jonas (played by Scott Michael Foster), that Emmet hired to take along on his last expedition, and might be suffering from a bad case of Malaria. He also doesn't seem to remember anything which leads the crew to assume that he's been lost in the jungle for so long, that he just wanted to end his life. We also get to see another flashback which shows Jonas trying to film a jungle tribe's burial ceremony, for which Emmet immediately reprimands him for, since it's a sacred ritual. Jonas then takes out his iPhone and keeps on filming the ritual, despite Emmet's orders.

Outside of the Magus, Lincoln finds a dead bird on the ship, and assumes it broke its neck flying into the ship and in that instant, dead birds start raining from the sky. This of course leads our resident curse expert Jahel into a scare, and tells her father that it's El Colgado or 'the Hanging Man', while the rest of the crew just thinks a storm is coming. After Clark finds the footage of Jahel, he questions Emilio about it, who dismisses it as a tale to scare children (as if encountering ghosts, a dead ghost girl in a river and an eyeless tribe wouldn't be enough to make him a believer).

Jonas, now out and about, encounters Lena on the boat, who seems to know him a little too well, which shows Lincoln to be slightly jealous. The boat then gets attacked once more by a humongous horde of bugs which cover the ship. Clark, who seems to be the only smart guy on the ship realizes that if Jahel gets scared about something, it means they should obviously be listening to her. She then makes Lincoln pick a random card out of a deck multiple times, which always ends up being the El Colgado.

It is then explained that the Hanging Man is known as the condemned man because he steals from the dead, and is then cursed to suffer forever. We then get to see the footage from Jonas' iPhone which shows him finding the dying Tribesman. Since he didn't leave him in peace and disrupted the ritual, the tribesman's soul passes onto Jonas, which makes him a thief. Jahel then deduces that the Jungle wants him back.They come across the footage which shows Emmet and the crew being attacked by the vines, and then shows Emmet tossing Jonas off the boat and the vines hanging him immediately, which means he was hanging there since Emmet got lost.

This splits the boat up as they take a vote on tossing Jonas off the ship once more so the Jungle can take him once again, and leads to Lincoln pulling a gun on Kurt who is determined to toss him overboard immediately. Jonas then realizes himself that he must atone for what he did, so he goes outside and puts himself inside a noose made out of a vine and hangs himself. His iPhone then drops to the floor, which releases the captured soul of the tribesman and therefore vindicates Jonas, as he is then allowed to live.

The episode ends with Clark extending an invitation to be another cameraman for the expedition, which Jonas reluctantly agrees to. Tess and Lincoln then find a tape of a very remorseful Emmet, which was taped after he tossed Jonas off the ship, explaining that he wasn't proud of it and that it will haunt him forever.

What I thought about the episode

I'm all about introducing new cast members to further the story along and provide some much needed exposition, but it turns out that Jonas was more of a useless character to begin with, and seemed like he was just added to increase the cast size by one, instead of providing some useful information to further the story along.

I was hoping for Jonas to provide some more exposition on Emmet's last expedition which would shine some light on not only where he was going, but what was his ultimate goal. We all know he was looking for magic, but he obviously stumbled onto something much bigger, and nothing was really revealed this episode, besides the fact that he was looking for something called 'the source'. It's a bit of a miss since now Jonas essentially becomes a 'non-essential' crew member, which means I could care less if his fate is short lived on the show.

The most interesting dynamic, which I'm sure will be explored with upcoming episodes is the connection that Jonas has to Lena. There was a bit of a spark there when they had their encounter on the ship for the first time, which even led to Lincoln looking a little jealous as well. This could definitely prove to be a good source of upcoming drama for the coming episodes.

This episode was definitely lighter on the chills and thrills this time around. The dead birds, horde of bugs and vengeful vines just weren't that creepy, and definitely didn't provide any jump moments. By no means do I think the show needs to be scary all the time, but I feel like for a show that markets itself as being one of the scariest on TV, it should have some sort of consistency with scaring its audience every episode. Hell even Supernatural, which knows how to balance horror with comedy has some intense scares each episode.

The resolutions also always seem to bother me each episode, as they always tend to have one moral compass of having the wrongdoer atone for his mistakes, which always allows for that person, and through extension the crew to live and move on.

With the only plot point at this time being 'find Emmet at all costs' I'm wondering what that cliff hanger is set up to be at the end of this season. We still have four episodes to go, so I'm hoping that the show picks up some speed.

About The Author
Mike Splechta GameZone's review copy hoarding D-bag extraordinaire! Follow me @MichaelSplechta
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