Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: The River "A Better Man"

Non Spoiler Review:
The question of who's captain on the Magus comes up when the trail on Emmet runs cold and the crew finds a mysterious survivor in the jungle with ties to the expedition. The survivor brings a host of problems with him, leading to some tough decisions about his fate.

A Better Man was a decent episode that had more supernatural shenanigans for the crew to deal with (and take pretty well, considering). There's a tendency sometimes to throw really crazy paranormal stuff at the camera just for effect, rather than any actual purpose. Nothing spectacular this time, but the series is likely saving its big stuff for the final episodes and seems to be focusing on developing the cast of characters.

Spoilers Now!
The crew rendezvous with a boat of supplies to restock. Tess has run out of possible leads in the search, so they opt to head into an uncharted region and draw the map as they go. Clark notes there's an absent of leadership—just a bunch of suggestions from everyone. Tess declares she's captain. Clark muses that something will happen to make everyone show their true colours. 

Suddenly they spy a man hanging from the trees—one of Emmet's cameramen, Jonas. The body is recently dead—only he's not. He starts freaking out in the tree. They bring him aboard and find him suffering from malaria, among other problems. Tess realizes Jonas' cellphone might contain the GPS coordinates to find Emmet. 

A flashback to 2010 shows Jonas audition video to be Emmet's cameraman. It was Lena who interviewed and hired him, and there seems to be some flirtation going on. Clark reviews Emmet's footage and finds some dealing with a tribal funeral. Jonas had wanted to film it, but Emmet orders him not to. Jonas uses his cell phone camera to take a video anyway.

Kurt knows how to treat malaria and has survived it himself, so takes over Jonas' care. Lena can't reach anyone on the radio for a medevac so Lincoln wants to head back to get to a hospital. Tess is reluctant, though ultimately opts to go with his decision and turn around. A splatter of blood suddenly appears on the window. It's a bird. Then the whole boat is bombarded by a torrent of dead birds. 

Lena says there's a major storm nearby that could have caused it. That means they're stuck where they are for the time being. Jahel seems to be unnerved about something and Clark sees her and her father arguing in the engine room over what appears to be a tarot card and the word el colgardo. He asks about it and learns it's the hanging man. She warns it's no storm that's coming.

Jonas is missing from the infirmary and turns up in the editing room reviewing old tapes. One of their crew was snared by a vine that appeared to try to drag her away. Emmet is on film yelling at him for putting all their lives in danger. He takes the tape and leaves.

Lincoln tracks him down and he explains he doesn't know how or when he got lost in the jungle. He's reunited with Lena, but then asks where Emmet and the crew are, only just learning that they're all missing. Jonas was the first to get separated months ago. 

All Emmet told his crew was that they were on a path, and otherwise he wasn't part of the inner circle. Emilio calls everyone out to look at the approaching storm. Jahel spies Jonas about to toss the tape overboard. The storm is actually a swarm of bugs that forces everyone inside. Lincoln figures the storm blew them in. Clark suggests Jonas is causing it. Tess asks Jahel her opinion. Jonas abruptly has a seizure but Lincoln brings him out of it.

Jahel gets Lincoln to pick a card and he draws the hanging man. She tries again and he picks the same card. And again and again. Tess retrieves Jonas' cell phone from outside and brings it to Clark, which has the incriminating video of the tribal funeral. Kurt has heard the story of the hanged man—a grave robber punished with the torment of dying but not the satisfaction of death. Then a noose of vines falls from the trees outside. Everyone reviews the video and Jahel says they won't stop until they get Jonas. Lincoln takes Jonas' side.

Clark demands to see the missing videotape, so Jonas produces it. The rest of the footage shows that Emmet left Jonas in the jungle to save the crew from the wrath of the Bio├║na. The vines came down and hung him, and he was hanging there all this time without dying. 

The ship is battered by the storm. Lincoln is still defending Jonas while Kurt wants to return him to the jungle. Tess knows Jonas is their best hope for finding Emmet, so wants to know what he was doing there. He was looking for magic, theorizing that it comes from a single source. He points to an area on the map he was heading and says that's all he knows. Tess orders him off the ship despite her son's protests. Lincoln pulls a gun and tells them he doesn't deserve to be tortured for his mistake.

Jonas grabs his phone, runs out and says he won't let anyone else get hurt. He climbs up and puts himself into the noose after smashing his phone. A light rises from it (the freed spirit) and Jonas is released, still alive.

The next day the skies are clear and the boat is back on the move and everyone seems to be getting along again. Clark asks Jonas to be his cameraman. 

Tess joins her son as he reviews the lost tape. Lincoln is still shocked his mother would sacrifice someone. They're surprised when one of Emmet's videos addresses them both and says he needs them to understand why he went there without them. He knows Lincoln didn't love the exploring and Tess always held her tongue. He regrets leaving Jonas behind and wonders if a better man could have found another way. He doesn't expect them to forgive him.

The Verdict:
Not too much to comment on this week. Nothing really great, nothing terrible. The plot served to introduce Jonas and provide a direction for the search in coming weeks. He also seems like he'll be a source of some jealousy for Lincoln. His sudden sacrifice at the end really wrapped things up conveniently for everyone else and avoided a nasty confrontation (for the writers) to resolve.

It looks like Tess is in charge until someone says she isn't. After all the conflict over leadership, everybody apparently woke up the next morning willing to let everything slide and be friends again. Almost as much as a stretch believing that the crew immediately looks to a supernatural explanation to whatever they encounter now.

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