by Chris Saccaro
After “The River’s” shocking departure from its own monotonous episode structure in
last week’s episode, one may be pleasantly surprised at the direction this week’s episode
takes. In “The Experiment”, the writers change up the format of the episode a bit to allow
us to delve deeper into the background of the characters. Unfortunately for the show, it’s tough to care about these characters.
The episode opens up directly where last week’s episode ended, which is good for
the sake of a serialized story. The interesting thing about the episode is its the use of “flashbacks” via old footage from before the expedition. With these flashbacks, we go back to view each character’s reactions to various happenstances. For example, we see Lincoln first finding out that Emmet is missing through his classmate filming him in class, which seems like a pretty big stretch.The other characters all get their own back-story, but by now, nothing can make them seem more interesting.
The most important flashback we see is Tess’ spiraling depression, and how
the news of Emmet’s rescue beacon pulls her out of it. This gives some basis for her
insistence on finding Emmet. We saw how tragically lost she was after Emmet died, and
finding him has been the only thing keeping her alive.
All of the necessary elements are there to make us feel for the character, yet it just
doesn’t click. Tess still comes off as bossy and crazed, forcing the entire crew into
danger time and time again, just to run into another dead end.
This is why it was crucial to find Emmet in this episode– dead or alive. It could
have (and should have) happened earlier. But this was the latest it could have happened.
It was becoming a chore to watch the crew fail to find him. Thankfully the writers
realized this, and by the end of the episode, the crew finally discovers Emmet,
unconscious, but safe, in a caterpillar style cocoon. They bring him back to the ship, and
he wakes up, but not before cannibalistic zombie experiments gone wrong attack the
Emmet’s safe return is crucial for setting up next week’s episode–not only to give the dwindling audience some sense of purpose for watching “The River” week
to week, but also to answer some of the key questions of the show. It’ll also be
interesting to see where the writers will take the next episode (and the unlikely future of
the show) now that “The River’s” primary objective is complete.
A few plot elements were haphazardly planted throughout this and past episodes to help heighten excitement for the finale. With Lena being “marked” and Kurt’s plan to kill Emmet, the finale has enough “character” driven drama to make it an interesting episode. Yet, it wouldn’t be an episode of “The River” without unnecessary mystical forces to distract the crew from having actual human interaction.
Chris Saccaro is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.