It's been a long time since I published a television review on the blog. In fact, checking back through the list, the last one was Happy Valley in June last year. I suppose it's only right that my review this time should be the outstanding hit of 2015, while Happy Valley was undoubtedly the 2014 equivalent.
River begins as a typical crime drama. There are two officers in a car, vastly different in personality but very at ease with each other. It turns into a chase with a suspect that results in the young man jumping from a balcony. Then, ten minutes in, the twist emerges and you realise this isn't your typical crime drama with a love story thrown in for good measure: it's so much better than that.
The twist is that DI River (Stellan Skarsgård) is talking to a manifestation of his dead partner DS 'Stevie' Stevenson (Nicola Walker) as he attempts to find the person who brutally gunned her down in the middle of the street. From childhood, River has struggled with these manifestations, a recurrent one being the nineteenth-century poisoner Thomas Cream (Eddie Marsan). River is quick to point out to his therapist Rosa Fallows (Georgina Rich) that these aren't ghosts he sees and this is evident in the narrative - Stevie never gives River fresh information that aids the case but we see her reacting to the secrets he uncovers about her life in a way that says more about him than her. It's exquisitely clever and, from the pen of Abi Morgan who also wrote The Hour, I expected nothing less.
At the heart of River is an eccentric man trying desperately to solve the murder of one of the few people in the world who he ever allowed himself to be close to (though not close enough). It's a love story about closing the chapter with Stevie but it's also about him opening up to other people in his life such as Rosa, DCI Chrissie Read (Lesley Manville) and DS Ira King (Adeel Akhtar). While the twists and turns of the actual murder investigation held my interest, the focus on River himself was far more riveting and the entire cast is phenomenal.
Ultimately, while River startled and unsettled me at times, it also made me smile. The final minutes of the first and last episodes are stunning and I'm not ashamed to say I ended this one in tears. It was one heck of a rollercoaster ride over six weeks and I loved it.