Abi Morgan’s ‘River’ is a BBC success


Stellan Skarsgård mesmerised BBC viewers in the new crime drama from the Oscar-winning scribe.

From the outset, Swedish star Stellan Skarsgård lures us into a touching series opener which delivers both comedy, drama and a chilling premise for the series. Metro.uk honoured the show by pronouncing: “BBC crime drama River hailed as ‘epic’ and ‘engrossing’ as it spooks TV viewers.” The first episode will surely entice viewers to see more, including karaoke scenes of Skarsgård passionately singing to pop music which is more powerful than any love ballad.

The first episode places detective John River (Skarsgård) in the wake of a tragedy. As he struggles to mourn the death of his former partner Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson (Nicola Walker), the cracks are showing in his professional life. From the outside, new partner Ira King (Adeel Akhtar) and boss Chrissie Read (Lesley Manville) are concerned for River’s wellbeing and state-of-mind as a functioning police officer. However, the visceral truth is that River is still seeing and interacting with ‘Stevie’ as an entity he has not let go. While River continues to hunt down her killer, he begins to see visions of other victims that help substantiate his 80% crime-solving rate. Although, the presence of past murderer Thomas Cream (Eddie Marsan), threatens his grip on reality.

Watch the BBC trailer here.

The Arts Desk offered praise for the supporting characters: “There are some attractive performances: Lesley Manville as River’s worried boss and Adeel Akhtar as River’s baffled sidekick.” Not to mention the appeal of River’s partner ‘Stevie’: “You watch Walker’s enchanting performance and wish her character were still alive. Admittedly that is the point.”


River has received an overwhelming five star review in the Daily Mail and The Telegraph to add to its accolades.

“Everyone loves a twist at the climax of a crime thriller, but RIVER delivered a jaw-dropper in the opening 5 minutes. All praise to Nicola Walker for making her character so vivid from the very start” – ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail, October 14, 2015

“Abi Morgan’s RIVER was superlatively creepy TV… a dense and thoughtful police procedural. Every one of the I-see-dead-people twists in RIVER had me squirming on the sofa in unease. Skarsgård’s performance here was a revelation, switching in seconds from remoteness to fury, from twinkling avuncularity to withering scorn – and the emotional punch at the end of the episode, when River finally admitted the extent of his psychological distress, was the most moving thing I’ve seen on television for some time” – ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph, October 14, 2015

“It’s more than just a crime drama, it’s about personal tragedy, demons; it’s a study of loss and grief. Abi Morgan, the creator of the series, brings a characteristic human-ness to it all; it’s as much about who the people are as about what they do to each other”” – Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, October 14, 2015


In an interview with Radio Times, Skarsgård confirmed the ambiguous genre of the series: “There’s nothing superstitious about it – it’s not ghosts, nothing metaphysical or anything.” Initially seen to be a supernaturally focused narrative, the actor has quashed the ethereal rumours by stating how River is a character-driven drama at its core. “He’s got some psychosis or something, there’s something a problem with him. But there’s no condition we know of that is exactly – it’s a fantasy in a way. But it resembles a sort of schizoid behaviour, [where] people hear voices and stuff.”

Skarsgård also revealed his reasons for taking on the role with Digital Spy: “I’ve worked with Lars von Trier on many films, and there’s always a female character that’s like an open wound – everything just pours out of this person. For the first time I saw a male role that had that opportunity.”

Prior to the first episode airing on BBC One, the cast and crew, together with star Stellan Skarsgård and writer Abi Morgan, gathered for a special screening at the Barbican Centre. One of the stars from the show, Fady Elsayed, shared his excitement: @iFadyElsayed Just finished the screening for @RiverTheSeries at the @BarbicanCentre can’t wait for yall to see it! So so so proud.


Series distributor Endemol Shine Group also shared reviews from the show via Twitter:

‘This is a crime drama to stand out from the herd’ The Observer #BBCRiver@RiverTheSeries

“It does what so many fail to do, pulsing with a humour that induces all-out love from the start” @guideguardian @RiverTheSeries #BBCRiver

“The magnificent Skarsgard offers a masterclass in the complexities of grief” @telegraph @RiverTheSeries #BBCRiver

The BBC premiere of River attracted an excess of positive responses from fans, including applause from TV presenter and radio broadcaster Gaby Roslin: @GabyRoslin What a show! Brilliant and a must see. Truly mesmerising such fantastic acting, writing & direction. @BBCOne #River

@BBCOne Brilliant story, great acting/characters from #AbiMorgan. BBC paving the way again for quirky, edge-on-seat drama. Hurrah! #River

Can’t recommend @BBC#River enough. Brilliant TV!

My word I have not been gripped like that by a cop drama since Cracker. I think we have another classic here #River

#River is my kinda telly, and Stellan Skarsgård is rather brilliant. Bloody brilliant, actually. #BBC1

River is produced by Kudos Film and Television and distributed by Endemol Shine Group. Due to its successful reception on BBC, the series will soon be available to stream courtesy of Netflix.

River continues Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC One