‘The River’ – ‘Dr. Emmet Cole’: Man vs. wild

A review of last night’s “The River” – the strongest installment of the series so far – coming up just as soon as I deflect your schoolgirl crush…

“The River” has done a surprisingly effective job so far at conjuring up Monster of the Week stories that haven’t made me impatient to focus more heavily on the search for Emmet. If anything, we were almost starting to approach the danger point where I lost interest in the Cole family altogether. The strength of last week’s Lena-centric episode really hung a lamp on how little I’d come to care about Lincoln and Tess, while Emmet to that point was still just a guy we saw on video now and again.

In “Dr. Emmet Cole,” he’s still only on video – but, given the found-footage structure of the series, everyone is only on video, and in this case it’s not just glimpses but virtually the whole episode devoted to the time between when he left Lena’s dad behind on the Magus and when the natives deposited him at that camp. And if the show hasn’t done a great job with Emmet’s wife and son, it did a fabulous job getting me to invest in the man himself.

It helps, of course, that Bruce Greenwood is so good. I don’t know that I’d want to watch an hour of Joe Anderson delivering monologues, first to the lovestruck camera operator, and then to the camera and/or the dog, but Greenwood made it compelling. In particular, the story about how “The Undiscovered Country” started as a coping mechanism after the death of their baby daughter suddenly informs a whole lot of the Cole family dynamic, and Emmet’s obsession with keeping the series going  at all costs. And Greenwood was every bit as emotionally naked as required for the scene where Emmet contemplated killing the dog for the protein he so desperately needed.

Based on the ratings, I suspect these next two episodes are the last we’re going to get. And given the structure of the series and the producers’ hope that they could make it work long-term, I doubt they’re going to reunite with Emmet before the season’s out. But I was glad the show finally got to take advantage of having Greenwood in the cast, and finally figured out a way to make the search at the heart of the show mean something.

What did everybody else think?