Saturday, March 31, 2012

Primeval: My Latest Obsession

I don't normally find it necessary to mention spoilers; however, I will be dividing this post into two sections. The broad commentary, then the spoiler-ridden part that assumes you're already familiar with the plot-lines. This will also be rather a long post. Just so you know.

On with the broad commentary: I tend to watch a random assortment of things on Netflix, as one does. Genre only defines things to a certain degree, which is evidenced by the fact that Netflix will suggest things to me in which I am not at all interested based on other things I watched that are supposedly similar. But sometimes I take Netflix's random suggestions. Primeval was getting thrown at me, so I eventually added it to my instant queue. It seemed like it would be a little . . . tacky.

Which I suppose you can say that it is. It's interesting to look at comments on this show. Everyone admits faults in the first episode, particularly concerning the CG, but many of us were quickly able to move past that. Most people feel the need to state outright that the show isn't perfect, but those who like it really like it.

So let me say that I agree with some of this: the CG starts off weak (though you have to admit that 2007 is a long time ago in terms of computer effects, and TV effects are never going to be the same as movie ones). There are some plot holes in the writing, though it's sometimes hard to distinguish the plot holes from things that just haven't been revealed yet. But it's okay: I enjoyed the show, anyway. There's a little action, a little drama, a little suspense/conspiracy/whatnot. And it's the characters you want to see and learn more about. It's British sci-fi; I admitted to myself from the start that I probably wouldn't be as interested if it weren't British, but what's wrong with that? A show being British means more than just what the accents sound like (which are wonderful in their own right, of course). To imagine Primeval not being British is to imagine a completely different show.

Moving right along, let's bring in the spoilers.


I think Connor became my favorite character from episode one, based off of such traits as his nerdiness, his nerdy fashion sense, his smile, his accent, and did I mention the way he dresses? Abby slowly started to win me over, too, until the pair became the show in my mind. And they do end up becoming the constant factor, the only members of the team to be there from start to finish. Their character arc is handled nicely: they never change, but they do develop. Outwardly, they gain more knowledge/awareness, but they also grow a little wiser about serious issues. They came back, in particular, from their year in the Cretaceous completely altered (yes, I am using altered as different from changed). Abby smiles less and Connor chickens out less (which probably only happened most in the first season, anyway). They're also officially a couple, which is . . . cool. Talking clothes again, Connor lost a little of his weird way of dressing when they got back, but I also noticed that he and Abby started wearing almost identical outfits. My theory is that neither of them cares much about material things anymore, so when they returned from a year away, they just went together on a quick shopping trip and bought the same items in men's and women's versions. I love Connor and Abby; if they had a two person show together, I would be happy.

Not that I don't have opinions on the other characters, too. Cutter reminds me of the western hero in the way that he stands off on his own. He's a very reactionary character. Connor initiates more action than Cutter: he's the one who brings everyone to the first creature investigation and the one who invents the devices to detect anomalies, close anomalies, and create anomalies. Cutter just thinks about things, assesses the situations, tries to help, sometimes tries to look for Helen and sometimes to stop Helen. Because he kept so much to himself, I don't think the show necessarily lost much when he died.

Stephen is different. I sort of liked him at first: he and Cutter had a nice partnership. When they were working together as friends, their characters complemented each other. But bring Helen into the picture and Stephen loses something. He and Cutter at odds was sad to see, and the more Stephen lets Helen draw him in, the less sympathy I have for him. He became sort of useless by the end of the second season: all he did was avoid the team and let Helen know what they were up to, it seems.

Ah, Helen. I'm split on her. She's played quite well and makes a convincing baddie. But she always appears to know (and be hiding) more than we ever find out she knew. Again, this is, if anything, an issue with writing. But she was a good antagonist for the show, while she lasted (you almost want to admire how many characters die in this show--that's a failure Star Trek never overcame, though no one really cares/complains). Fan theories about her reappearing remind me of those in Narnia-dom that argue about whether or not the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair is actually the White Witch.

Two characters that came to have more importance at a slow, nice pace were Lester and Becker. They were just the bureaucrat and "action man" (to quote Connor) at first, until I found myself pausing to realize that I liked their characters. Contrary to their slow integration were the characters introduced in Season 4. From Lester's intro, I was scared that Abby and Connor were gone--that would have been too much. Even when the two came back, still I was reluctant about the newbies for a while. Jess (I know, this is a childish criticism) I didn't like at first because I thought she was flirting Connor, though that's really just her personality. Matt I didn't much like because there was so much suspicion set up around his character; even after he gained Abby's trust, there was just something distant about him.


Understand that I grew up watching Star Trek, from an early enough age that I'm still forming my opinion on it. I don't consider myself a fan of sci-fi, but I think there are certain traits in it that draw me in. Sci-fi is an opportunity to combine action and drama. I like a little action, but I need more than just straight action or I get bored. So if sci-fi adds in that drama element, I get both. Primeval has both. There is the Abby/Connor sweet relationship, also whatever is going on with Helen, Matt/Emily, and Jess/Becker. Plenty of couples there, but none of it is over-the-top (some of the stuff with Helen is a little random, but, oh, well).

And while you have action, it's integrated with nerdiness. Cutter and Connor looking in such awe at the creatures that they recognize from fossils, a little distracted from any danger. The nerdiness is a big factor on this show: it's the reason most of the first characters are a part of everything and it's what allows them to take steps forward.

I think TV shows used to be more about individual episodes of similar events; now they are more about continuing plotlines. Primeval does both. The problem with the overarching stories here is that they have to come to an end; then you have to either stop or invent new ones. That's why Seasons 4 and 5 are so different from Seasons 1-3. And that's why:

Future works:

It's strange coming into this show with five seasons already out and just the slightest possibility of a sixth season dangling in the air. But it seems very slight. In any case, it won't be until next year and we know that they would have to reintroduce yet another reworking/new overarching plot. The show, as it is, came to a nice ending. I can leave the story there. But I really want just one last lap, one last chance to finish up with Abby and Connor.

Because of that last sentence, I'm hesitant about Primeval: New World. Set in North America, it will have new characters, although Andrew-Lee Potts will return in a cameo of Connor in the first episode. But can the show have strength without the characters we've come to love? Will it be at all the same? The Britishness will be gone, too, after all. Will anomalies be all we have left, and will they be enough?

The same goes for the rumors of a Primeval movie. We know Warner Brothers bought the rights a long time ago now and that it's still in the works as a possibility. But once again, it very likely will have no Abby & Connor. I would be so excited if it did . . . that could make a nice way to end five seasons (assuming that, after all, they won't make more). But with different characters, it would just be another sci-fi movie that I may or may not enjoy.

Final statements:

Whatever is coming for the series in the future, I have enjoyed these five seasons and found their no-more-than-ten-episodes-each too short. It's a silly show with fun humor that just happens to coincide with action about dinosaurs and future predators and drama about character relationships and developments. Pure, fantastical entertainment.

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