River episode 3 review

Did you think you were the only one?

River

(C) BBC/Kudos

Written by Deborah Halsey.

For two weeks now we’ve been falling in love with Nicola Walker’s Stevie. She’s been bubbly, sarcastic and a much-needed vein of cheerful exuberance in an otherwise dark drama. But now we’re finding out things about her, and they’re not exactly endearing things. The ominous discovery of a second mobile last week came as a surprise, as did the somewhat sordid discovery that, along with a sex chatline, the most frequently dialled number in her phone was a kebab shop.

Other avenues of enquiry reveal that Stevie may or may not have had a boyfriend that she’d never mentioned to River (Stellan Skarsgård). “Did you think you were the only one?” She snaps at him, and we’re reminded that Stevie – our Stevie – is really just River’s manifestation of her. An edited version; all the bits he liked, all the bits he’s still holding on to. It’s his own voice he’s hearing, as she mocks him for believing he was special to her.

And as River’s memory of Stevie becomes tarnished, his new partner, Ira, begins to shine. Ira is good. He demonstrates his loyalty to River by having Stevie’s second phone unlocked, all the while imploring River to disclose this new information to the people investigating Stevie’s death. Ira wants things done properly, but he won’t go behind River’s back to achieve that.

One of the most touching scenes this week sees Ira (Adeel Akhtar) showing up at River’s flat with his baby, Hank,
in tow. River – steely eyed, furrowed-browed River – greets them both with his usual brand of uncomfortable silence and one-word answers. But when Ira leaves Hank in River’s care for a moment whilst he visits the bathroom, River softens and engages with the baby whilst Stevie looks on, smiling. It’s quite moving.

Also establishing herself in the pro-River camp, we have his therapist, Rosa. She passes River on his psych evaluation much to the surprise of, well, everyone. The pay off is that he has to continue to see her for 12 more sessions. But this seems to pique his curiosity in her, leading him to follow her across London to a date he knows she has. When it’s revealed that her companion is Marcus, the high-ranking officer gunning for River, it becomes yet more clear that Rosa is a woman with her own agenda, and very likely someone River can trust.

Throughout this series, some of the most disturbing scenes have been between River and Eddie Marsan’s Victorian murderer, Thomas Cream. Finally we see River’s mental state deteriorate as Cream torments him. River cowers in his flat as Cream yells at him from beyond the door. But we are only to aware, at this stage, that Cream is just another facet of River’s mind and that the hardwood door is not going to keep the demons out.