ByDavid Fox, writer at
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David Fox

Are you bored of the same old cliched police procedurals? If so, you may have ignored the BBC's excellent new offering River, on the basis that it doesn't sound like anything new. But if you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out - and it's about to be available on Netflix.

River stars Swedish acting legend Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Thor) as the eponymous detective DI John River, an experienced and brilliant cop with a mind that even he can't trust.

Source: The Guardian
Source: The Guardian

So far, so normal. Plenty of TV detectives have a gimmick, something that marks them apart. Things take a turn for the unusual when River has visions of dead people during his investigations. River calls them "manifests" and initially it's not clear if these are genuine visions of the dead a la The Sixth Sense or symptoms of River's cracking psyche.

The show follows a grieving River working on a very personal investigation, after his long-term partner Detective Sergeant Jackie "Stevie" Stevenson (Nicola Walker) is gunned down in a drive-by street shooting.

The first "manifest" we meet is that of the deceased Stevie, who both helps and hinders the work of River and his new partner, the polite and well meaning Ira King (Adeel Akhtar). It's not just visions of Stevie that dance around River's head, though. He receives regular visits from victims of previous murder cases, including a particularly vicious Thomas Cream (Eddie Marsan), better known as infamous serial killer "the Lambeth Poisoner". Cream personifies the darkest parts of River's mind.

Eddie Marsan as Thomas Cream
Eddie Marsan as Thomas Cream

Some manifests help River find the truth, others - particularly Cream - only torment him and cloud his judgement. All the while River faces suspicion and distrust from colleagues and the public - perhaps understandable when he spends much of his time talking to thin air. River's boss Chrissie (Lesley Manville) wants to trust him, while another higher-up Marcus (Game Of Thrones' Owen Teale) wants the erratic Swede kicked off the force.

The final episode of River will air here in the UK on Tuesday night, and so far the series' excellent writing and acting has shown no signs of flagging. The traditional procedural aspects of the show are toned down, the psychological aspects are played up. In an interview with The Guardian before the series aired, Skarsgard admitted that the procedural side "bores" him. It's the same for me. It's why I've never bothered with the innumerable CSI shows, and why River gripped me. It's something fresh and different.

In the UK River can be found on Tuesday nights on BBC1, but from 18th of November it will be available internationally on Netflix. If you haven't yet seen it, or are waiting for it to turn up on Netflix, there are good reasons to tune in. It's a cop show, but not as you've seen it before. It's much, much better than that. It's about to become your new Netflix binge show!

Source: The Guardian


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