The River season finale recap: Emmet Cole Lives, but Lincoln Cole Dies
And so we come to it at last. The final episode of The River’s first, but hopefully not only, season. How this show has matured and deepened beyond its initial, gimmicky premise has been a beautiful, delicate thing to behold. Where other series with initially promising concepts like FlashForward, V, or Invasion, started strong, then quickly fell apart, The River has gone in the other direction. It started weak, but every episode since the pilot has shown marked improvement. And so I’ve titled this final recap after Carly Simon’s Oscar-winning song as a message to ABC to put a little faith in this series, even if it’s only averaging a weak four million viewers per episode.
Last week ended with what could have been the season-capping image: a revived Emmet Cole blasting a zombie with a rifle. But since this is a show first and foremost about character, last night’s finale, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” gave us the satisfaction of seeing how the crew of the Magus, especially Lincoln and Tess, dealt with their long-awaited reunion. Not to mention the price of bringing Emmet back, which so far has included Cam, Russ, Sammy, Manny, and Rabbit—and, finally, Lincoln.
It’s Day 35 of the mission up the Boiuna, and everyone figured that their journey had come to an end. Clark decided that The Final Voyage of the Magus would make for a terrific title of his series. He figured he had enough for about eight episodes—funny, just like The River!—and this would give the viewing public the happy ending it had waited for, with certain bits left out of course relating to his operating table confessions and unrequited love for Tess. Lincoln figured that nothing much would change with his father’s return; they didn’t have a relationship before, so why would they have one now? Jonas announced that he forgave Emmet for hanging him up to dry (sure, Jonas) and realized that if Emmet hadn’t left him behind they’d both be dead. He really seemed like a good sport about the whole affair—being left to hang from the neck on a jungle vine, it’s all good, right? Now he just wanted to have sex. “Not even picky,” he said. “Just sex.” Ah, but Jonas definitely had more on his mind than a return to Phuket…
Clark asked AJ who was the “David” he apologized to in the cave when he thought he was going to die. Turns out, AJ plays for the other team, and he wasn’t about to explain himself to a producer he hoped to never see again. Clark could “sod off” for all he cared. Honestly, I have no idea what “sod off” means. I only know it’s what British dudes say to one another when they’re pissed.
Having Emmet back brought out the nostalgic side of Lena. She reflected on how she used to have Lincoln sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to her. The episode even opened with a three-year-old Lincoln’s impromptu shipboard recital. It was the summer of 1988, so they were really anticipating that “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” would become a huge hit the year later in that great existential epic, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. To her, the song meant that life back home was real, while life on the boat was the dream. “But the time on the boat, on the stream, on the river, that was real life,” she said. “Then I grew up.” Somewhere, if Cormac McCarthy watches The River, he’s smiling right now.
NEXT: Emmet has answers. Oh my, he has answers. But that doesn’t mean he’s gonna tell.
Ultimately, Clark, reading the minds of all of us out here in TV Land, like any good producer should, decided he just wanted answers. But Emmet had very little to say. For his first real conversation with anybody in the present, he said that he came to the Boiuna because he thought he had to find something. But he was wrong, and people died because of his mistakes. Boy, did they ever! He especially apologized to Lena for abandoning her dad and leaving him to die. She just had to believe, though, that he died for something. That mark on the back of her neck, meant she was special, right? Surely she had a purpose to fulfill here? He said he thought it meant that she was special too, but those “signs of the impossible” out there were in fact just warnings to leave. Better she just hate him than carry the burden of knowing what The Source is.
Emilio must have been slacking off in the excitement following Emmet’s return, because he let the generator overheat. Everything was going to lose power, which was good for Clark since he was going to destroy the edit bay in his frustration over finally losing Tess. And it was good for someone else too…
Lincoln and Emmet finally got down to their heart-to-heart. Emmet said he wanted to actually be a part of his son’s life for once, that he could come to Chicago, they could spend Christmas together. All the Currier & Ives niceties. He said that, whatever had come between them—like that little matter of Lincoln swearing never to set foot on the Magus again, which Emmet clearly won–he knew that Lincoln had been his own man ever since he was nine-years-old.
That heart-to-heart abruptly ended when Lincoln saw someone preparing to shoot his dad, threw himself in the way, and got shot instead. Right in the jugular, it looked like. He started bleeding out all over the deck. And before they could stop the bleeding, Emmet announced that Lincoln was gone. This was the price the Boiuna asked for giving Emmet back to his family. One Cole for another.
There was an odd symmetry to Lincoln’s death that made it feel permanent. Or maybe it was just the sense that, now that we have Bruce Greenwood back in the present, who needs Joe Anderson? But with the fact that only eight episodes had been produced, it seemed entirely likely that the series might go out on an Amazonian limb and end this way.
NEXT: Who shot Lincoln Cole?
Anyhow, the shooter had to be Kurt, right? We knew all along that he’d been plotting to kill Emmet, so it only made sense. Whoever it was, though, was a sadistic motherf—er because everyone onboard ran out to render aid to Lincoln at once, including Kurt, and other possible suspects Lena and Jonas.
It was Agatha Christie time. And as befitting any murder investigation, it was led by a Brit: Clark. The suspects? Well, Jonas could still be nursing a grudge because Emmet left him hanging in a tree. Lena could be upset that he left her father to die. And Kurt was certainly the best trained to take the shot. Clark decided the time had come to reveal that he had footage of Kurt saying he’d kill Emmet if he found The Source. Having a villain on your TV show is all well and good, unless he starts threatening the production itself. Kurt handed over his gun as a goodwill gesture. “Whoever did this, whoever killed my son,” Tess said. “You will be found out. And, I swear to God, you will suffer.”
But her son wasn’t really gone. Life and death are nebulous concepts on the Boiuna, and Jahel started hearing some ghostly voice in the Magus’ radio static. Lincoln! She figured that the Boiuna might be able to bring Lincoln back. But Emmet resisted. The Boiuna wasn’t just a river, or a spirit. It was the god of all the demons. So if you call upon it to raise the dead, you’re messing with primal s—, man. Tess got Jahel to herself and had her perform the ritual anyway. It involved tearing a tarot card through which the Boiuna communicates and cutting Tess’s arm for her blood. I kinda thought we were entering a Harry Potter-worthy “Bone of the father unwillingly given, flesh of the servant willingly sacrificed, blood of the enemy forcibly taken” zone here, and, well, the person who was resurrected was just about as scary as Lord Voldemort. Ooh, and the Dark Lord was a mage, and the ship is called the Magus! Connections! The ritual summoned a storm that flooded the hold on the Magus where Lincoln lay, enveloping his body in the water. He awakened.
And his first words after being recalled to the living? After, “Mom,” that is? “I know who killed me.” Just like that Lindsay Lohan movie. He said it was Kurt, so into the brig he went. Lincoln had another heart-to-heart with Dad. Honestly, I think they’ve talked more in this one day than they have in twenty years. Emmet told him that the Boiuna chooses people, and that’s why they were both alive. But then “Lincoln” made a fatal mistake: he said, “I love you, Dad.”
NEXT: The most deadly words in the English language: “I love you, Dad.”
It’s pretty sad when your son says, “I love you,” and you think that must mean he’s possessed by a demon. But that’s exactly what Emmet thought. Of course, as in all matters other than treating his family members with attention and consideration, Emmet was right. ‘Cause next thing we saw, Lincoln let Jonas make a sandwich for him, then revealed he knew that the affable cameraman/surfer dude was the real shooter. So Jonas had more on his mind than sex, after all! Gesticulating with a knife, Lincoln said he let everyone believe Kurt was the gunman, because he has unfinished business with him. And because he wanted to kill El Colgado—Jonas—himself. He slashed him with that knife, and blood splattered on the camera lens.
So long, Jonas. See, Cappie, this is what comes of pledging a fraternity. “Lincoln” then went to see Kurt, who knew right away that he was talking to the Boiuna itself. Now gifted with the ability to speak German, he said that he was all the guardian the river needs, and that Kurt, also trying to act as a protector, was more than unnecessary. Meanwhile, AJ wasn’t interested so much in filming the first resurrected dude since Lazarus as he was capturing on tape Clark’s “epic self-pity.” Actually a good call, since Jonas’ blood started dripping down on them from the ceiling. Somehow, “Lincoln” had placed his body in an airshaft.
Next, Lena came to see Lincoln. He immediately tried to seduce her, something the real Lincoln would never do. She said to meet her in her cabin, the usual shipboard come-on, then plied him with a bottle of stuff lethal to demons. Emmet snuck up on him, said, “I learned a few things about demons out here,” and strapped him down to the main hold’s table.
NEXT: It’s time for a good old-fashioned exorcism.
Then began a full Exorcist routine, with Emmet in Max von Sydow mode. The demon that had possessed Lincoln, the Boiuna itself, spewed awesome taunts like “You know the camera steals the soul, Doc? Well, you’ve been on camera a long time.” He also revealed things about Lincoln that Emmet didn’t know, because he’s a terrible father. And exposed the fact that Clark and Tess had gotten it on after he went missing. Plus, he went the full Linda Blair route and upchucked some bile, even if it wasn’t the full pea-soup treatment. This was a big enough deal that they needed to summon Kurt, who said that only Lincoln could free himself, so they needed to talk to him, not the demon. Well, since every other character on this show has spent the previous seven episodes atoning for previous sins, now it was Emmet’s turn. And it was his acknowledgment of all the moments in his son’s life that he’d missed and his vow to be there for him in the future that gave Lincoln the strength to push out the demon, who I guess had jumped into his body during Jahel’s resurrection chant.
Lincoln was free, though everyone was more than a little freaked out. First, he was That Guy Who Was Raised From the Dead. Now, he’s That Guy Who Was Possessed by a Demon and Survived an Exorcism. If now wasn’t the time to get out of Dodge, when? So long, Boiuna! Demon and river, both. But…the fishing village Tess was looking for wasn’t where it was supposed to be. So AJ launched his “eye in the sky” drone to get a better look, and they saw that the tributaries of the river were redirecting just so they wouldn’t be able to leave. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?
Because if this show ever is to come back, it’s still going to be called The River. And we know that this expedition never returned, per the saga sell. However, their footage was at least able to make it out, right? Hence, the “this is the footage they left behind” concept and all that?
Anyway, I don’t know about you but I’m itching for a season two. Do you think The River has a future? Do you like the way Emmet’s now been integrated into the main cast? And is poor Salsa doomed to remain in the jungle forever?