I think by now we've all sorted out that I love a good BBC drama or eight, this one River stars both Stellan Skarsgard (sooooooo inappropriately crushing) and our Nicola Walker from Last Tango in Halifax! The cast reads like a Who's Who in the UK acting scene, and after another recommendation from a LTiH fan, I had to check it oot! Rolling episode one after the break.
We open with John River (Stellan Skarsgard) and Jackie "Stevie" Stevenson (Nicola Walker - hay gurl hay!) rolling into a drive-thru in a Mercedes. He muffs her order, staring out into the ether instead of listening but then they forgot to order a banana milkshake, soooo...
They sit and eat in the car, discussing Weight Watchers point values, salad points ARE all in the dressing. She want him to take a vacay down by the sea, do Karaoke like all Swedish people. ABBA, Roxette, A-Ha (Norwegian!) and speaking of, I already like the music on this show! Gillian, I mean Stevie looks odd, though, fuller in the face but has figured out what a hairbrush is, I gather.
A truly bad song comes on, but a perp's car gets in the way of all their singing and hand-dancing fun. The suspect parks the car, as River eases out of their car, Stevie warns him to take it easy, but doesn't appear to be following. River inspects the car, there's a dented front panel and he sets off for the store all grim-faced. He makes eye contact, though, and that guy is GAWN. Stevie follows now as River chases the (presumed) bad guy on foot.
El Bad Dude runs past a bunch of kids into an apartment building; why would he go home? River tracks him to his door and starts pounding while a much less winded-looking Stevie calls for backup. River bursts through the door as the perp jumps over the railing, grabbing hold of a steel bar sticking out. For a moment, anyway....then aaaahhhhh boom.
WHAT HE DOOO?? I hope it was really, really bad.
Turns out this is the third car River's called in all week, he didn't have plate numbers or positive IDs, just the insistence that this was THE car. The young man he was chasing was Christopher Riley (John Altin, who I know from Eastern Promises) and the reason young Christopher took off like so is that he deals weed and already had a couple of convictions under his belt. A third would have been a much longer stint in the knick. So he ran, and then he jumped and the Detective Chief Inspector (who I can't quite make out on IMdB just yet) yells that River isn't even on the case! He'll have to go through a psych eval in the morning and anyway, he can't bring Stevie back! Whuuuuut?
Stevie's right there! I checked IMdB two times! Ohhhhh, River walks away laughing with Stevie; we'll see what she knows! And we see the back of Stevie's head blown out. That's a weird wound, though, in freeze-frame. Not to be gross or anything, but how would you lose the back of your head and look completely normal on the other side?
I do like River's snort-laugh as they roll along into Cloud Cuckoo Land.
He's in a formal interview with the DCI, who I FINK is Chrissie Read (Lesley Manville); she forces him to back his story down to a more reasonable level; he "think" he saw a car that "may" be the one involved in the murder of Detective Sergeant Jackie "Stevie" Stevenson. She asks why he didn't call for backup, he says "we" did. Whoops. Who is he talking about?
River goes back to his desk to watch Stevie die brutally a bunch of more times on CCTV; eventually coming 'round when he hears Marcus McDonald (Owen Teale - from Game of Thrones! Apparently he always plays a bastage) holding forth with DCI Read. McDonald wants River removed from the squad, he's not even supposed to be investigating that murder! He's supposed to be on the Erin Fielding (Shannon Tarbet) murder. Read reassures McDonald that she's keeping an eye and will yank our River should he not be fit for work.
River gets his own pep talk from Stevie, then heads home, he needs to be get a bit of rest to do right by Erin. They made a promise to Erin's mother.
River reads a bit, listens to some classic vinyl, and then we cut to him in the morning, brushing his teeth next to his a young woman (? daughter?), who's probably dead too. I'm not looking at the back of her head, dude, feck that.
She asks for her suitcase down, but he doesn't fetch it still. She's got masses to pack! And knows he's been looking at her Facebook page again! He doesn't say anything, just leaving and freaking out on the train.
We're at the psych evaluation next with Rosa (Georgina Rich) and I'm super glad she's just gotta tick 12 boxes, the less time spent in that melon, the better. And they're Yes / No answers, woo hoo! You got this, River! Smile and nod, you don't even have to scare them, like Catherine in Happy Valley
He doesn't know why he's there, though, although of course he does. His colleagues are all concerned about him, but he walks out at that point. He goes and hovers in the hallway outside the task force meeting on Stevie's death; Christopher Riley's car just may have been THE car, what's the motive? He walks in and they part like the Red Sea.
Back in his office he talks to Stevie some more, but unfortunately, he doesn't rate walls, so he's talking to her out loud while colleagues (perhaps some of the ones mentioned above!) clock him while getting coffee and wonder just how many marbles he has left. I am no expert, but I did recap the first season of Mr. Robot so I'm pretty sure you're supposed to talk to your imaginary helper friends in your HEAD. Spoiler alert!
Life moves on (apparently) and River's getting a new partner, since he's so clearly ready for it. It's Ira King (Adeel Akhtar), which is Ira from the Hebrew "watchful" and there's Muslim in there as well, he's the original Gaza Strip. River doesn't find that funny, looming over top of his tentative new partner.
When asked to fill King in on the Erin Fielding case, he gives a one-liner: boyfriend Atem Olama confessed two and a half months ago and now they just want the body. Er. Why are they waiting for a trial if there's a confession?
Most weeks the Erin Fielding's mum sends care packages of Erin's things as reminders, this time including a videotape, she would really like to bury the body. I can't imagine that situation whatsoever.
River asks Read if King's his new babysitter? And she asks how it went with Rosa. Oh great, great, good progress, but she knows better. And Christopher Riley's car had BETTER have been the car involved with Stevie's shooting, since River chased him off a balcony ("he jumped!") and he left behind a pregnant girlfriend who may or may not have been to the press already. She comes in close for the pep talk, get it together, will you? He slumps a bit, looking like a tragic Swedish bear, all lips and pasty sadness. And NO, he can't be there when the DoC arrives, sod off.
King tries for a conversation about the book "The Trial of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream", there will be none of that. River collects some things and off he goes, with the narration of the book over his acts. I gather Dr. Cream was an earlier Dr. Kervorkian, either Angel of Death or Mercy, depending.
Oh and we've got Dr. Cream (Eddie Marsain) as a vision, too! It's not just close friends murdered brutally, it's literary (possibly historical) characters as well! This one is exhorting him to "kill them all at birth" and I can't tell if that's a racial allusion or criminal reference. I think it would be very difficult to pick out criminals at birth, or we'd all start rehabilitation with preschool.
Stevie thinks someone named River; probably that cow in Accounting that always hated him. And no, she "caan't" eat chocolate *poof disappear-o* while the photographers cluster outside the parking garage. She pops up in the car, advising him that they're worried about him, but they also have no idea what to do with him. Especially the one that drinks coffee all the time so he can eavesdrop on River chatting over case files with the invisible Stevie. This wasn't a new thing, though, he always talked to himself and he's ALWAYS been odd, Stevie used to cover for him. So. That brings up an interesting point: did he always see dead or imaginary people, or is this from the trauma of Stevie's death? I BET IF WE KEEP WATCHING, WE'LL FIND OUT!
King jumps in, there's some confusion as to who / what Mr. Magoo is / was, then they're off to the prison to see Amet Olama (Fady Elsayed). Good looking young kid, King wants to know if they're waiting for his lawyer? I guess not!
River asks Olama how it's going in with the big boys? Olama doesn't answer, but if stress and terror had a baby, it just threw up all over his countenance. River advises him to keep his head down, he'll be fine. Olama asks for his lawyer, she's on her way, no stop in the questions, though. Given my extensive background in watching Law Enforcement on TV, backed up by the zillion books I've read, doesn't this whole conversation become null and void now?
They go over the murder anyway, but it's still confusing me. Olama insists he killed her, so why is there a trial again? Why does he need a lawyer? He won't say what happened to Erin, though, or where she is, but River goes through every bit of forensic evidence they have on him, skin under the fingernails, etc etc, while Olama cries. This kid hasn't got a chance in prison. It veers off a bit, though, River talking about what it's like to hold on to someone you love while they die, and that puts my ears up a bit. Were he and Stevie romantic partners as well as work partners?
River tells the story of Dr. Cream then, he loved women too. He killed 9 of them, the last four in only 7 months. My Criminal Minds background tells me that's devolving *sage nodding*. Olama doesn't understand the connection. But River doesn't believe that Olama killed Erin after all. He was clearly there when it happened, and maybe Olama's crying because he wasn't able to save Erin, and his confession is a way to punish himself for not protecting her. But River really want to find her body, that's what he needs. The lawyer bursts in then, terminating the interview.
King is flabbergasted while River puts his head down on the table, he was close then.
They're at the same drive-thru as the beginning. King goes to clean up mess (I like this King so far! Keeps his mouth shut, eyes open and a sense of humour, as well as being tidy: approve!) and ewwww creepy River is keeping Stevie's banana milkshake cup from before she died, with her lipstick prints on it. Ewwwww!
King wants an explanation for why River thinks Olama is innocent. River shunts it over to King; what was he like as a teenager. King didn't get out of bed most days, listened to a lot of Smiths (pfft), aren't all teenagers depressed at some point? Stevie's been relegated to the back seat, now, piping in to clarify River's thoughts here and there. King watches him talk to himself from the outside of the car, confused.
On King's return, River states quite clearly that mosquitoes have 47 teeth. River is almost TOO deep and Matthew-McConaghey-in-True-Detective sometimes.
They're visiting Erin Fieldings's mother Marlena (Cathy Murphy) now. She works at an electronics store in a mall, so River buys a TV? Oh, to watch the tape she sent! And OH!! The young girl brushing her teeth and asking for the suitcase down with River near the beginning was actually this Erin Fielding, why didn't she pack for her trip, River asks Marlena? Hold on, River told Marlena to ask the university to hold Erin's place at school? And WAIT, Marlena has Erin's train ticket? Why would Erin go to the train station with Atem; unpacked with no ticket? None of that makes sense.
Did Marlena kill her daughter? Over Atem? Marlena says "She's mine. I made her. And now I need to bury her" and I know a lot of parents feel that way but. That's also a sign of control and ownership, innit? Her next question applies to River exactly "how can you let go of a person if you don't know why they've gone?"
King and River are at River's apartment now, setting up the TV, so he can watch the tape Marlena sent earlier. King asks why River doesn't download all of his records onto his phone and King's not really young enough for that question. You need a 25-year-old kid for that kind of ageist shite. Someone King's age ought to understand about vinyl, for chrissake. Sergeant Pepper's? Nothing, right, King's off.
Stevie asks River: Linda or Yoko? River goes with the blonde Linda, I don't think I'd pick either, sorting out spouses for other people is impossible. I mean, what if John Lennon really needed the challenge to bring his art up a notch? And surely Paul Mediocre McCartney (who has admittedly accomplished more in his life than I will do in twenty such lifetimes) needed someone to soothe him whenever he almost did something that wasn't pablum, to steer him back to the middle of the road.
River goes back to Erin's Facebook page while the ghost herself munches on cereal next to him. He drags out his old VCR and watches the home video while she chats a bit and reminds him to feed Stevie's cat.
I wish my conscience was as useful and convenient as all the people kicking around River's head! Mine just nags me endlessly "what was that song on the radio? What was it? Do do dooo dooooooo. Damnit! What was it?!" It never remembers the qualifications of psychologists or that someone's cat needs feeding like River's.
He's at Stevie's apartment now, touching her things and sleeping on her bed. Not creepy in the least. Oh and someone's there! It's Bridie (Sorcha Cusack - I know her from Snatch! Um. The movie), Jackie's mum and she's here to give the place a bit of a cleaning. River agrees to take the cat, Frankie's delicate.
They visit and "we're all sad, John. We're all broken" but she's glad he was there, by Stevie's side when she died. River's face says he understand the burden and blessing that it was.
Outside is Frankie (Turlough Convery - what kind of a name is that?? It sounds like a chemical compound!), Stevie's brother wants to know if the guy he chased was the guy? And did Stevie suffer? He hopes so, and no, no. Do you tell the truth in those situations? I would guess not.
River walks back into the precinct accompanied by Dr. Cream, who says that all murderers must be punished, except those that kill in large numbers to trumpets, he must mean war.
Oh yay!! The car Christopher was driving has tested positive for Stevie's DNA, which means it WAS the right car, whew for River! Press conference time! McDonald starts, then hands off to DCI Read.
The first question is to DI River, whuuuut the Sam Hill is this guy doing in front of cameras and with a microphone handy?? You've got to be JOKING! Anyway, he's asked about identifying Christopher Riley and he holds it together for exactly one second until he sees the dead Riley smirking from the back of the room. He gets pressed by a reporter for an answer about whether justice has been served and decides to go with the Dr. Cream quote "All murderers are punished eventually, unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." WHO LET THIS GUY IN FRONT OF A MICROPHONE??
Psych evaluation time again! Box Ticking Time! And they get past the first: has to been exposed to or part of a traumatic event? Now the interesting part: does he hallucinate or see those believed dead? That's a real question on a checklist? This happens that often? Outside of M. Shamallamadingdong movies?? Really?
He says yes. He says yes? But calls them Manifests, not ghosts. He denies any inappropriate feelings towards Stevie, but she says even if that were true...she says that twice, so I'm guessing she REALLY doesn't believe him. He protests that he's never been in love, one time he thought maybe, was like food poisoning. Was he in love with improperly stored sushi then?
And now a discussion about love; I mean. An essay on love is about as interesting as a rom-com, just different sides of the coin. And then he gets up and leaves again, but hey! Progress! Perhaps the talk of love has triggered some note about Erin's case.
He returns to his desk, finding her copy of Romeo + Juliet, she's marked a line with "Heaven is here" with a very small red dot, which she also wrote on Facebook, on a picture of what looked like a train station or highway overpass. He pulls up the picture on Facebook and listens to her last voicemail to her mum, ohhhhh, was it suicide? Was this a suicide pact? And Amet is crying because he didn't have the wherewithal to go through with it?
He goes to the place in the picture, seeing not Heaven, exactly, but finds a wooded area behind, which he searches. A murder of crows takes off from an Important Looking Tree ahead of him, so he CLIMBS IT, this sad Swedish bear, and walks out on a limb far, far up. That's where she is, her body hidden by the foliage.
It was a suicide pact, and he couldn't go through with it and that's why Amet's in jail, because he couldn't stop her in time.
River tells Olama he knows what happens and that he will be released. I am worried that now he'll be killed, that's a vulnerable time, right? Amet cries and cries walking through the jail and I wonder about his ability to get out of there. Not from other people, though, Amet's gone to see Erin after all, trying to kill himself in his cell. River gets there just in time, shouting that Amet must live! It's better to live than to die. He holds him as he cries.
Back at the precinct, Dr. Cream tries to bait River into something rash (I fink?) and River attacks him, to be found pounding bloody fists against a wall in a room in the basement. OUCH! King says "there's no-one there!" and River knows.
River's off for a night out, somewhere offering two-for-one vouchers and aquariums and Stevie, wanting to know "Whitney or Beyonce?" Pfft: Whitney. And it's karoke, those wacky Swedes all DO love to sing! Sure. And we're oot and that song is gonna bounce around my brain. He's pinned Stevie's milkshake cup to the wall of the studio.
River's awoken later by Christopher; he didn't do it: want him to sing River to sleep? We're oot!
So. I liked it! I was unsure at first, but I love shows that solve as they go along. You can't just give me one overarching mystery and nothing to play with in between, that's ain't right. I also like shows with super-helpful er, Manifests, like Medium and Seeing Things (the best Canadian show OF ALL TIME), so those two things combined with my completely inappropriate crush on Stellan Skarsgard should keep me in for the long haul! I hope he and the hilarious Stevie keep snort-laughing. Until next time, cheers!