With “Peaches,” The River shifts its focus to concentrate on Lena Landry and her father, Russ, who was also aboard the Magus when Emmet Cole and the crew went missing. While the relationship between Lena and Russ is touching, unfortunately, the episode suffers from leaving the Cole family so far from the center of the conflict. The soul of the series, Emmet, is almost entirely missing in “Peaches.” Sure, he appears on screen from time to time, but his presence is no longer felt. While the supporting cast is brilliant, Lena, Clark, and now Jonas, its the Cole family that drives the show: Emmet, Tess and Lincoln. With its weak ghost-ship story and underdeveloped emotional conflict with Russ and Lena, “Peaches” proves just how expendable the rest of the cast is and how important Emmet is to keeping the Magus and The River afloat.
For the first time, The River does not open with a flashback to Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood); instead, it begins with Lincoln (Joe Anderson), Lena (Eloise Mumford) and Tess (Leslie Hope) trying to get more information out of Jonas (Scott Michael Foster) about Emmet and their mission. Jonas reveals more about the source and “the people” Emmet was looking for. When Tess says “that’s where we will find him,” Lena corrects her by saying “them. Where we will find them,” referencing her father.
The episode continues to focus on Lena and her missing father. What he means to her and his role in Emmet’s expedition. A brief interview with Lena is cut with archival footage with a young Lena and her father, Russ (Lee Tergesen), where he calls her “Peaches.” Lena is now hopeful that they can find everyone including her father now that they know where they are going. Unfortunately progress is slowed by a thick, dangerous fog, making it difficult for the Magus to safely navigate the Amazon.
Before long the Magus runs upon an oncoming ship heading in their direction. Tess is forced to avoid the boat by nearly running aground. As the boat scrapes the side of the Magus, it disappears. Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) and Jahel (Paulina Gaitan) inform the team that the accident has damaged the engine. They need replacement parts; the damage cannot be fixed. Tess begins sending out “mayday” distress signals for the remainder of the night.
While the Magus is stranded, Jonas shows Lena some archival footage he found where her father, Russ, recorded a personal message. While Lincoln quietly watches from outside the room, Lena breaks down into tears.
The following night, another ship, the Exodus, arrives in response to Tess’s distress signals. The ship only has four passengers – four activists running block against logging companies. They provide Emilio with the parts they need and Tess invites them to stay for dinner. Jonas interviews Lena on the deck asking about her and Lincoln until they notice someone on board the Exodus – a fifth member of a four man crew. They decide to take the dingy over to the Exodus to look around.
Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann) overhears a few of the Exodus team whispering about taking the Magus hostage sooner than later. He goes to his cabin and loads his firearms. Kurt confronts one of the foreign crew members, a confrontation that results in Kurt firing upon him. As Kurt examines the body, it springs to life and throws him across the room.
Once aboard the Exodus, Jonas and Lena follow noises down into the ship where they find the ship dilapidated, infested with rats and nearly bare. The noises draw them further into the ship. They find a barred room with someone – or something – knocking on the other side. Breaking in, they are shocked to find Lena’s father, Russ chained inside. Soon, Kurt is tossed in as well and they are all locked inside.
Russ explains that the crew of the Exodus are spirits trapped aboard and they cannot leave unless they find replacements. Now they only need one more and they only have until dawn; once the sun rises, they cannot leave. What they don’t know is that another member of the Exodus team has already convinced Tess to accompany her to the ghost ship to look at their maps, claimed to be more detailed. Soon Tess finds herself trapped as well.
Lincoln discovers most of his friends missing from the Magus. He grabs Clark (Paul Blackthorne) and A.J. (Shaun Parkes) and they make their way to the Exodus believing Tess, Lena and the rest have been kidnapped. Before they can leave, the Exodus takes flight down the river. With only 10 minutes to sunrise, Lincoln and the others prepare to leave, to chase down the Exodus all the while missing the message Lena broadcasts back to the Magus using their film equipment.
With only three minutes to sunrise, Lincoln and Clark sneak aboard the Exodus while Kurt manages to break the imprisoned member free from below. They all meet on the deck facing the crew of the Exodus. Kurt quickly discovers that fire will kill the spirits. He traps the crew inside and set the ship on fire. As Lincoln and the others climb down to the dingies, Russ grabs Lena explaining he cannot leave; it is too late for him. He gets the time to say his goodbyes before Lincoln forces Lena to leave. The fire consumes the Exodus as Lena is left screaming and crying for her father.
While the opening paragraph seems to trounce “Peaches” with its shift in focus, the show still contains some strong touching moments. Lena’s heartbreak about everyone forgetting that other people are also missing along with Emmet and her watching her father’s message left behind on Emmet’s archive footage is about as strong as The River gets emotionally. Regrettably, it turns hollow when they discover Russ on the Exodus and the characters don’t feel as strongly connected as they did in the exposition itself. The conclusion then undermines everything the episode seemed to be trying to point out. Instead of illustrating that they shouldn’t forget about the others who are missing, it only solidifies how expendable anyone other than Emmet really is. The emotion Lena’s displays in front of the monitor earlier turns overwrought and histrionic during the final moments of the episode.
The blossoming love triangle between Lena, Lincoln and Jonas continues to be interesting and well developed, at least within the framework of this series. Lincoln obviously cares for Lena and is quite jealous of the attention Lena give Jonas and the the connection those two have. Their exchange on board the deck of the Magus is purposefully superficial to make the second exchange far more relevant. When Jonas cues up the message Russ leaves on the archival footage with Lincoln later quietly realizing how powerful the connection Lena and Jonas have is poignant and important to building Lincoln’s character. The flirting Lena and Jonas share is a delightful contrast to the stronger – almost brother and sister – bond Lena and Lincoln have together.
While all the emotional bonding and sentimental conflicts are interesting and solid steps toward getting the characters closer to the conclusion of this season, the conflict of the story itself is weak and disappointing. The Exodus and the characters aboard the ghostly ship are far too underdeveloped, are never frightening with a silly “ghost” effect, and have nothing near a satisfactory back story or purpose. It simply isn’t scary and it has no tension. This is mostly due to the fact that the threat itself is never clearly defined with any of the new characters or their theme. Even the suspicions the Magus characters have of the Exodus characters are lackluster. Worse, once their purpose is revealed, it is soiled by the odd developments aboard the Exodus, especially between Lena and Russ.
Sadly, “Peaches” is a huge misstep for the series and by far the worst of the episodes so far. It is almost as if the show is running out of ideas or, perhaps, padding between the stronger opening broadcasts and the forthcoming concluding chapters of The River. Hopefully this is just a lull, a small hiccup, as the show shifts through its season’s second act.