Primeval: Series 5 Episode 6 Review
Written By: Philip Lickley
*** Warning – contains spoilers ***
Sorry for the lateness of this review of this week’s concluding episode of Primeval Series Five but I have been away. So has the episode of Primeval been worth waiting for as much as, obviously, you have been waiting for this review? Well, it is an astounding yes.
After the CGI-fest of episode five that excelled in its sense of pacing, plot twists and plot development, we get what is basically part two of the story, as shown by the brief pre-credits summing up of the key points of the previous episode.
This concluding part of the series takes everything that has happened in series four and five and very neatly wraps it up and ties in some previous stories from the first three series very nicely and hints at what is to come.
Following the recap we remain this side of the credits to see Connor in the futuristic lands first seen as the opening shot of series four in Matt’s daydream. There he sees a barren almost American-Mid-West style landscape of rock formations and dust storms. Then, in one of the creepiest and most well laid-out shot I think I’ve seen in the series, we are introduced to a new twist of an old foe, a mutated future predator stood human-like on its hind-legs, scanning the area, before spotting Connor and heading over, showing the classic Predator design but with a brown twist and much more decay, with fight damage and brains peering through cracks in its skin. It’s not a pleasant sight and he’s only saved by the first appearance of a toxic sand storm that consumes everything and leads us into the credits.
We’re then back into the present for a verbal battle between Matt and Philip over the machine and its impact on the future before the leader is sent away, making easy work of the thugs holding him capture, allowing him to re-group with Abby and Emily before heading through the giant anomaly to save Connor. Whilst they have to deal with finding each other it’s not all sweet in the present with Philip’s machine suffering a problem with a large, scary looking cloud appearing over New Dawn.
In the future mutated future predators reveal the origin of their battle scars by duelling together and Abby proves to be a sweet shooter, dispatching a pair. But, a toxic storm forces them underground to a secret bunker, known to Matt, who reveals this is the time he is from when the human race has been destroyed and what he has been trying to prevent.
Connor is not in a good place and suffers problems of self-doubt but is brought round by Abby who whispers something in his ear. It’s not something kinky or that she’s pregnant as I thought, but more on that later.
Hopping back to the present and this is where the episode goes all Spider-man 2. But, if they are to borrow from any source material, the excellent second film of the web-slinging superhero, is a good place to start.
Having already lost control of an energy source which starts breaking through the boundaries of the factory, Philip starts to realise Matt was right and he is in the wrong. There’s more to this analogy later, but you can see how he, and the situation, compares to the tragic figure of Doc Ock.
The eerie cloud hanging over New Dawn fires off a electro-magnetic pulse which knocks out power all over the city including, of course, the ARC, which is plunged into darkness and the anomaly detector wiped. The prototype of New Dawn also gets activated and a new anomaly created. We get the first appearance of Becker in this episode who heads over to New Dawn.
With Connor back on the team’s side they head out of the bunker and face-off with an army of mutated future predator’s, emerging back into New Dawn, thankfully not followed by the ugly adversaries. There they find Philip in his moment of realisation and, through a series of Helen Cutter voice-overs, we hear how Helen duped him into creating such an apocalyptic scenario.
In a turn of events that is now on the side of cliche, Philip realises he has to do a Dr. Oktavius and destroy the machine, and the only way he can do it is to sacrifice himself by stopping the program from inside it whilst Connor crashes the computer in the turbine room.
In a series of shots so wobbly and blurry that Points of View would be inundated with complaints if it was on the BBC, we see Connor and Philip battling to stop the machine whilst Matt and Abby make a run for it, but not before rescuing Emily, who had previously been locked-up by Philip’s thugs, and having to convince Connor that he too has to leave as Philip will be the one making the sacrifice.
But it’s not only at New Dawn there are problems occurring. Before we get to the impressive CGI destruction of the New Dawn factory, a mutated future predator emerges through the ARC anomaly, ready to hunt down Lester and Jess, trapped in a dark powerless ARC.
Their tense escape from the creature marks the beginning of the second half of this programme, showing exactly how much is crammed into this tense finale.
Whilst the team at New Dawn realise the anomaly has grown too powerful and Philip’s sacrifice was in vain and the only possible way of shutting it down is to use the ARC anomaly, Lester and Jess have to weapon up in the armoury and in a scene that is more powerful than any room full of CGI fighting would be, a slow pan across the main ARC floor with the sounds of metallic banging and Jess screaming tells you all you need to know. And if it was to save the budget then I’m happy that the accountant took control at this time for such a powerful shot.
The ARC team land back at the ARC for a show-down with the creature, a sort of Alien-esque, tense walk around darkened rooms. There they discover an injured Lester and take him to a medical room, before searching for the four-or-five creatures roaming loose. It’s a tense situation only saved by Abby’s use of low-frequency sound to disrupt them, leading to a very impressive shot of Becker moving round a paralysed mutated future predator.
In a nod back to series three Connor and Matt trap the anomaly in a ‘sun cage’, a container coated in the magnetite that allows anomalies to be moved, taking it to New Dawn. Matt realises that the only way to do it is to drive the van containing the ARC anomaly into the New Dawn one and in a touching scene with Emily they realise he could be killed or wiped from history.
Thankfully, neither happens and he walks out of the wreckage alive, in the knowledge the anomaly has closed and he can see Emily once more, plus allowing Becker a cracking one-liner and an emotional re-union with Emily.
Though for a moment, as the anomaly closes, it does look like New Dawn was being re-built and I was an expecting a time-to-reverse-it-never-happened plot it didn’t, and the crew return to the ARC to cram in even more plot into the final five minutes.
We find out Abby said she would propose when she whispered into Connor’s ear, which she does and he says yes, which I’m sure will please the fangirls. We find out Lester has survived and is as funny, witty and acerbic as ever, and that the world has been saved.
The programme makers always said they wouldn’t leave the series on a cliffhanger and the last few minutes nicely wraps it up. Though they think New Dawn has closed all anomalies, a phone call to Lester reveals a train outside Kings Cross has just disappeared so off the team go to continue their fight.
Now that’s where I thought it would end, allowing the series to end if ITV decide not to put their hands in their pockets or allow for future adventures. But, in sci-fi fashion, they couldn’t resist dangling a new plot thread into a face.
As the team leaves and Matt realises he’s left comms ear-piece behind, he sees a figure walking towards him down the corridor. Is it Helen? Philip? No. It’s Matt. Ravaged from a fight.
“Go back. You have to go back” Matt – looking remarkably Tom Cruise like – tells his past self. Maybe they haven’t quite saved the future after all as Matt realises his quest isn’t over.
And on that cliffhanger, the episode ends.
Having watched Primeval since series one, series five stands up with series two and three as the strongest yet. Connected to series four they took the story of the anomalies and really expanded on them.
Following a genuinely exciting and thrilling episode five with excellent CGI, the team excelled themselves with this concluding part in building something that mixed tension, adventure, emotion and genuine scary parts into one marvellous episode.
Primeval has never been afraid to kill off its lead characters and it is a surprise that, at the end, only Philip perishes in the forty-five minutes running time. But, during the episode, there were moments when I thought Matt, Connor, Abby, Lester and Jess could have all met their makers and could easily have done, and the writers would have let them. The script convincingly led me to believe there would be more deaths and it created a tense – but enjoyable – show.
The character of Matt Anderson has come on leaps and bounds throughout the thirteen episodes and all through this episode he proved to be the ideal leading man, showing more courage and emotion in this episode than ever before.
This episode managed to cram a lot into it and never felt forced; we saw the redemption of Philip and Connor; the re-establishment of Abby and Connor’s relationship; the feelings between Matt and Emily; the introduction and effectiveness of the mutated future predators; and the future plot lines of the ARC adventures.
CGI wise the mutated future predators looked excellent and well textured, with the fights between them well done and the graphical nature of them snapping off each others arms and bleeding were amazing. The destruction of New Dawn and the sandstorms were also well pulled off.
But it was the less fanfare sections that really stuck with me. The mutated future predator standing on its back legs; the pan across the ARC room as Jess and Lester got attached; the realisation that Matt could never have existed as he looked into Emily’s eyes. It was these moments that were the stand-outs in an excellent episode.
It’s difficult to fault this episode. Sure, they lifted a fair bit of the Philip plot from Spider-man 2, but it was a change from the usual mad baddie, and some of the sections seemed recycled with the predator in the ARC an expanded version of the one in series two. But overall it was an enjoyable episode.
They managed to tie-in old plot lines of Connor’s relationship with Nick Cutter; Helen Cutter; the Sun Cage and lots more. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this has been the most tense and satisfying episode finale of all five series with another I-want-to-know-what-happens ending that I haven’t felt since the cleaner clones started appearing around Stephen’s grave.
I don’t want to go too much into the future of Primeval as that is for my next article but I hope this series does well when it appears on ITV1 later in the year. If Primeval is not re-commissioned on the back of this excellent series then it will be a loss to British sci-fi and television in general and I, for one, want to find out what happens in the future and why Matt has to go back…
A marvellous episode; a technical achievement and a master of plotting. More please!
*** See shortly for my overview of Primeval series five, where I see it going, and a look over the treatment of British sci-fi ***