River episode 2 review

Was Stevie a corrupt cop?

River

(C) BBC/Kudos

Written by Deborah Halsey.

Of all of the new shows starring Nicola Walker as a police officer – there are currently two – River is my favourite.

Surly, mono-syllabic policemen who find relating to people difficult and rely on their more dynamic partners is nothing new but River is different. River’s dynamic partner is the impossibly upbeat and cheery, banana milkshake drinking Stevie. And she’s dead.

Last week we met hulking cop-in-mourning, River. He’s a mountain of cop-show cliché. A John Wayne-like figure. Says little. Scowls a lot. Ignores his superiors. But despite this, the show is fresh and emotionally complex. A lot is probably to do with the ‘manifestations’ of dead people with whom River is contending – his recently-murdered partner, Stevie, is the more welcome of his visitors.

This week we learnt a little more about both of them. Stevie’s family are of Irish decent. They have a history with the police and it’s not exactly friendly. River’s attempts to pay his respects to his friend are blocked by a family who, it seems, didn’t know her as well as he did. And whilst the circumstances of Stevie’s death are being investigated and increasing doubt is cast upon the integrity of her character, River is trying to avoid thinking about a conversation the two shared on the night of her death. Was Stevie a corrupt cop? I really hope not. Not just because I love Nicola Walker’s carefree, disco-anthem-singing, milkshake-slurping cop and the breath of fresh air her character brings to such an emotionally charged drama, but also because it’ll be the undoing of River. He holds her on a pedestal, she was the human face of their partnership, her manifestation constantly reminding him to engage in small talk and cajoling him into socialising with his new partner, Ira.

Meanwhile River is under investigation for his role in the death of a young drug dealer in last week’s episode. The scenes between River and the drug dealer’s pregnant girlfriend, Tia, are lovely and demonstrate that River’s ability to connect with other human beings is not in question, it’s more his willingness.

River is a dark, complex series which is dealing with some interesting issues – mental illness, grief and cycles of crime and poverty in inner cities – but it is in the human interactions that it shines. Last week I had a problem relating to River’s looming, stony-faced anti-hero, especially in contrast to Stevie’s overly cheery disposition, but this week has shone a light on his torment, and more importantly his humanity