And here we are: at the denouement of the excellent River from BBC One. I've quite enjoyed it, however perplexed I've been and I will miss our sad Swedish bear and his melancholy detecting. I will also miss Nicola Walker as the mischievous (probably not the right word) Stevie, but I have a line on her in Unforgotten next. On we roll:
We've switched our focus to large-scale Immigration crime and arrested Tom, Chrissie's husband now; are we sure Uncle Mike isn't involved? I know Stevie's got more to arrest than just her own family, it's just that I've always assumed cab stands would tie in famously with immigration irregularities.
And what's the deal with Stevie and River? Were they sweethearts or not? Karaoke buddies? What's the significance of those songs, anyway?? And I just want to bring up that white van again? Maybe?
We open in blue London again, nothing but steel and glass. River's watching his interview with Chrissie about Stevie's death, good thinking! We distort our memory impossibly through the lenses of time and emotion. He couldn't see her being shot, the white van obscured his view but he remembered he last thing she said to him. With a rueful laugh he shares:"Screw you Mister Magoo." Didn't he say that to Stevie and Ira overheard?
This is immediately after Stevie's death, he still has blood all over his shirt. What was he blind to? Reviewing the CCTV in his head again, watching the smile of recognition.
Outside in the hallway, Stevie explains the paradox of his investigation. The closer he gets to what happened, the further he'll be from who she was. And then he'll see who she really is. Solve it, Mr. Magoo!
Dr. Cream's at his elbow again, insinuating that the good detective feels guilty and that's why he's been retracing his steps so repetitively. River's been replaying that shot over and over, his kneeling by the body. If only he had taken Stevie in his arms. "If only. If only" and then Stevie would still be alive and a part of River wouldn't have died with her. Don't worry though, the Doctor will be with him forever! Lalalalalalalala River and I can't hear you!!
Technologically proficient Ira has narrowed down the three companies Stevie was the most interested in according to her internet search history. They are: Office Work Solutions, a temp agency for cleaning staff; TPA Waste Management which handles recycling contracts, E&F Car Services, which has ties to Uncle Mike's company. There are 109 thousand employees, and it seems a lot of them are immigrants that have had their cases approved by Judge Tom Read and it all ties together nicely under the umbrella company of E6 Holdings. Ira's looking for a list of shareholders, but River knows one: Uncle Mike Bennigan.
River and Ira take it to McDonald, since Chrissie is (understandably) not in. He doesn't think there's enough to arrest Bennigan. River's already applied for a search warrant to see what else they can find. I'm worried that McDonald is part of it; for sure they'd need police help and he's kind of an arsehole. He also did NOT want River on the case, or even in the station, could it be because he was involved? You see what Game of Thrones does? It ruins actor's reputation, one show to the next. I couldn't even feel bad for poor wrongfully executed Walder Frey in Broadchurch after the Red Wedding and if that makes any sense to you, I love you.
McDonald is skeptical, there are procedures in place to stop companies from hiring illegal immigrants, but River says the quick fix gets them in, which means that someone must get something in return. Companies like Bennigan Cars get really cheap labour, who else wins? McDonald sends Ira after Uncle Mike, River's got to deal with Tom yet.
River asks about Chrissie, who's on Compassionate Leave, arguing "you're going to let her get away with that? She needs to be here" and I fink she has 4 ungrateful kids to sort out first. That appeared to be the only thing Tom and Chrissie agreed upon, their ungrateful kiddos and do you think that sort of thing happens overnight? Or is there a lead-up period where you can take them aside and say "listen, pal, you start saying please and thank you or the stuffed giraffe is getting a one-way ticket to Gone"?
So far it looks like all Chrissie's doing is staring at boxes of tea in the Supermarket. River's call snaps her out of it; she's forgotten what tea she drinks. He walks over and grabs a box "tea's tea" and I just heard a collective gasp from all across England. Her daughter told him where she was, but she hasn't explained to them about where Tom is, so...
She's not coming back. She can't. Her husband is 4 floors behind her and she can't face anyone because he's GUILTY. He asks where her balls are; her response makes my heart sing... when did she ever need balls? 33 years and she did it all without a sodding part of nuts, fank you very much! She doesn't want to go with him, she doesn't want to hear what Tom has to say, here! Here is where she should have been all along. 33 years of working and sweating out cases and not being home, and mistakes and all of it, and now she can't even say it was worth it.
His morose countenance allows for no self-pity, though. She grabs her purse, repeating "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you" in a chant that is partly resigned and partly still angry. Ah this show. Short cry break.
Ira's serving the search warrant on Bennigan Cars, staring in disbelief at Michael's screen while the man himself is on the horn.
Tom's waiting in interview with his lawyer, looking ready but slightly surprised to see River. Chrissie stomps into the back room, surprising McDonald, but she's just humouring River. Suuure.
River starts soft, has Tom ever visited the lockers by the car wash of iniquity on November 14 and several other occasions? Tom's not answering, he's there to find out if Chrissie's here, as though he has a RIGHT.
Tom does answer, oh but he was there to pick UP payments, not drop off for murderous immigrants with expired visas, so he's just one of the chess pieces. He wants to talk to Chrissie, so River tells him to go ahead, she's listening.
Tom received a text message (he won't confirm it was Michael Bennigan for River), he was supposed to fast-track a number of immigration cases or incriminating photos would be shared with his family. He refused at first, but photos starting arriving and let's make it clear that there was more than ONE affair to be photographed.
Tom doesn't understand how they think this connects him to Stevie's murder? But four phone calls, reminds River, the last on the day of her death, for 19 minutes. So what was that about? Stevie told Tom to tell Chrissie, and if he didn't, she would; that day. Ah so that's what Stevie wanted to talk to Chrissie about then. Tom was planning to tell Chrissie that night, but he put it off until the news of Stevie's death, whew, saved by the bell, hey, Tom? Who's a lucky bloke? What a coinkidink! And then they could go to bed and cling to each other and everything was fine and they loved each other and he still didn't know if Chrissie knew or not.
Chrissie storms out of the back room at that point, shouting "charge him!" tightly. Hm. River meets her in her office, did she know? Hm. Chrissie says she told Stevie she'd talk to her in the morning, which is what she said while drunk, but Tom also said she'd cooked supper and sent away the kids, which sounds like exactly what I'd do if I was about to confront an adulterous spouse. Well. The sending away kids part, anyway. She leaves to join the retirement party in progress. Hm.
Ira bursts in as River accepts a glass of champers, I don't know why I was so worried when I saw him lift the glass. I just think maybe drunken manifests would be even more difficult to control and River's completely unable to use his inside voice with his phantasms while sober, so.
Ira's sent over a bunch of information from Bennigan's computer, it looks as though someone's tried to get rid of evidence; he'll be asking Tech to try and restore. Across the room, River's anger lurks, sipping champagne.
River's scrolling through the personal pictures left on Stevie's laptop. They're all of Frankie, Stevie's younger brother, so far. Dr. Cream goes on and ONNN about the secrets of the heart and then there's a little boy? OH!!! Frankie wasn't Stevie's BROTHER, that was her kiddo! That explains the 10k she gave River for him a little better.
Dr. Cream's choosing to take this personally: Stevie was keeping secrets from River! You know, or just HAVING A PAST BEFORE HIM THAT THAT NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM.
River's checking on Frankie now, who isn't following his diet, but he isn't getting weighed until the next day, either, fanks River. Lose hate not weight, dude. River hands over the whole 10 grand; he doesn't want it, pushing it back. He doesn't want it, but River's trying to figure out how he's supposed to help Frankie. Oh but now he has some of Stevie.
Frankie's not been sleeping. He walks and walks all night and he's just...drowning. River knows what to do. He takes Frankie to an outside swimming pool and they float and play with Stevie's ghost.
He takes Frankie home then, probing around the edges of Frankie's lineage until Bridie sends the boy away. Frankie's been asking about staying at Stevie's flat, but she wants to sell it. What will bricks and mortar and a pasta machine do for anyone? Stevie didn't cook anyway, but River disagrees. Stevie made great scrambled eggs, and could laugh until she pissed herself and more than anything else... she loved Frankie. Why is that? River is blocked by a phone call.
We see Bridie in interview next, watching the incriminating video, asking them to turn it off, TURN IT OFF!! Oh. I have a very bad feeling about this. Bridie killed her daughter?? Who was the father of Frankie?
River asks about E6 Holdings. Bridie has no comment but is quick to hold forth on Stevie's supposed looseness and / or sex worker backstory (THOSE ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS). Oh I just feel sick, so much bile and anger directed at Stevie; she should never have told them she was thinking of an abortion, there is no way this family would understand.
Stevie was investigating Bennigan Cars because of Frankie, of course. That makes sense, if she was looking out for her wee lad. Bridie has no comment on that. Similarly no comment on the car that was used in Stevie's murder, which River can connect her to dumping.
Bridie asks if it's March, when the mad hares breed? But "madness can bring it's own clarity, Bridie" can't it? Did you shoot your own daughter? Did Michael kill Stevie? No comment again. Now I'm wondering if FRANKIE did, even with his prostitution alibi, why he's not sleeping?
They've been able to clean up some of the CCTV on Bennigan's computer, is that Frankie walking up?
River's furious, screeching across town to Bennigan's mansion. The one thing Stevie asked is that they left Frankie out of things, did they have him running money to the boxes?
Bennigan's holds forth about the pictures of slaves being beaten that River is staring at, some find them a little macabre...REALLY? But when he and Eric (Stevie's dad) came to this country, there was no room for Irish OR Coloureds, you had to fight for your way in. He's just doing his part for the next generation, so he's got his defense set, anyway.
Bennigan's been checking around, they DID have that blue car kicking around! There it was on the back lot, there's CCTV. Oh. And it was Frankie who killed Stevie, and it was set by Bridie and Michael so Frankie would never know who his mother is. This whole thing is one long Pro-Life commercial, but it's worse than that. Who was the father? Uncle Mike of course. Stevie was only 14 at the time. So. They were holding the fact that Stevie wanted an abortion against her, even though NON-CONSENSUAL SEX WITH A RELATIVE (I doubt she could consent at 14, even if she wanted TO SEX WITH HER UNCLE) is pretty much one of the givens for abortion. Now it's in River's hands, this incestuous murderous stew where Bridie hated her daughter and conspired in her murder instead of holding her grown adult brother-in-law responsible. I kind of feel as though I want to cry and throw up at the same time.
There's a lot in River's head as well right now. He walks as Dr. Cream and Chrissie and Frankie all compete for headspace and as always: Stevie. He's walked to Rosa's meeting.
Want to hear his story? I think so. I may need a wee breather. I hate everything I just found out. Of course it makes sense, much more sense that it was personal, but so, so gross.
Okay. He's six, on a bus with his mother then his grandmother tells him to go swim in the lake. He swims and swims and when he comes back, his mother has gone. He doesn't see her again for 8 years, and she's stoned. And everything he wanted to say to her went away, how all the air went out of you when they left. How you never breathed fully again, how you miss them until your teeth ache. Stevie watches and cries and they smile at each other and it makes Rosa uncomfortable. She calls it, just as Dr. Cream comes out and I'm so tired of Dr. Cream.
I'm also so tired of watching River fight with his anger, his despair. He never wins, just punches air and throws chairs in a corner and yes, I understand that it's to show the duality of River's capacity for both love and anger, but I still would rather not see Dr. Cream ever again. I get it. Got it. I'm good.
Back at his apartment, he brushes his teeth (where he once brushed with Erin of the Romeo and Juliet death in the beginning) and meets Stevie outside a door. When he was 14, he was riding buses and playing records, she was... Where we come from, it can't be all we are, can it, she asks? He doesn't know what she wants from him.
He goes in the door he's next to, it's Frankie's Weight Watchers meeting. He tells Frankie he knows, he knows all about it. Frankie talks about running into an old friend with kids, that's what a real man is. What? Why? Why did he do it? Bridie put him up to it, but he was the one that put Stevie up to it, telling her about Michael because Stevie always made things better.
Frankie's got a gun, though, and it gets really screamy just then. He resented Stevie for leaving him with Bridie, "YOU WEREN'T THERE!!" so he knew anyway. Sigh. River doesn't even seem to notice the gun, arresting Frankie and that's it for that that.
Or is it? River's sitting in Chrissie's back yard, her cleaning lady let him in. Chrissie wants River to go, Tom's on his way home. Did Chrissie know that her cleaning lady is Colombian? Er, no, but Chrissie will be resigning. And she has to tell the kids. Whatever will she say? I thought I could see the edges of the trap he was setting for her, but I was mistaken.
We get a montage of tying up loose ends, notifying, crying, screaming, arresting, all of it. Ah jeez, Erin's back in his apartment, to think I JUST remembered her! How odd is that???? Ah Christopher's there too, telling River with his giant bouquet not to be nervous.
Ah. He's having supper with Stevie, but all alone still. They're re-creating their last supper together? She reassures him about his mother, and tells him say out loud that he loves her, but then they're drawn outside for the "next bit." He still couldn't say it, so he walked out into the middle of the road and shouted "screw you, Mr. Magoo" and then she's shot and he is finally able to say it. " I love you. I love you more than life" and then he sings "I Love To Love" and then they dance and dance in the street. The scene with her cuddling his back. All the tears.
Ira find him about to kiss Stevie in the middle of the road; has he eaten yet? He gets takeaway while Stevie tells River she loves him too. He smiles and she's gone.
It's the next day, River's at the station cuddling that adorable giant bebeh of Ira's while Marianne unpacks lunch for three. Chrissie (who hasn't resigned) and Rosa watch while River laughs and we're out.
I don't know what else to say. I guess we're done, anyway. Stellan Skarsgard was so very good in this show, but it was stolen by Nicola Walker. Special mentions have to go to Adeel Akhtar, who made a lovely Ira and Lesley Manville, who made Chrissie complex but interesting. I will be watching for Lydia Leonard, whose riveting scene as Ira's worried wife stole that episode. Thanks to all of you who were reading, and to J from Facebook who pointed me towards this series in the first place. Imma go have a hot toddy and whimper in the corner for a bit. Cheers!