It would be easy to label the BBC/Netflix original six part series, River, a cross between The Sixth Sense (1999) and a classic detective drama. It would also be selling the show short. This brooding, often slow-paced, but always intense story seems to be unraveling before our eyes. Like a clock wound too tight, Detective John River (Stellan Skarsgård) looks as if he might break any moment, but the more we get to know how, the less me want it to happen.


Review and recap River

The episode begins with an action sequence, in which River sees a car he is sure was involved in a recent shooting, and chases the driver on foot until the suspect jumps to his death. Was River right? Was that the car? Was this the shooter? These questions propel us into an unhappy and unrewarding world in which River appears to be trapped, and the biggest question of all hangs over them all: Is this man sane?

River takes classic hallmarks of a criminal drama – the tough boss who actually cares and wants to help, the partner who knew him like no one else, the new partner he doesn’t like, the teenage daughter he doesn’t even try to get along with – and makes them feel fresh and compelling. Some of this is stylistic, in the pacing of the shots and the solid acting, but the biggest element that the story has going for it and that you’re not always sure who is alive and who is dead? And even once you figure it out, you can’t be sure that River has the same understanding.

Characters and cast of River include:

John River – Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Thor, Cinderella, The Railway Man, Ronin)

Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson – Nicola Walker (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Beyond the Gates, MI-5, Touching Evil)

Chrissie Read – Lesley Manville (Another Year, Maleficent, Secrets & Lies)

Thomas Cream – Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, Ray Donovan, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, God’s Pocket, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Red Riding Trilogy)

Ira King – Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions, Pan, The Night Manager, The Tunnel)

Rosa Fallows – Georgina Rich (Dimensions, Public Enemies, Cuffs, The Game)

Marcus McDonald – Owen Teale (The Last Legion, Game of Thrones, The Children, Torchwood)

Frank Stevenson – Turlough Convery