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10 January 2011 @ 08:51 am
Primeval 4.01  
It's generally acknowledged that the season opener in any genre series is a tough job. You need to introduce new characters, re-introduce the show in general and deliver enough short term whizz and bang to make viewers check back next week. Primeval, this time around, had also saddled itself with a number of loose plot threads that needed tying up.

Even so I was surprised by the extent to which nothing much was happening. At the halfway mark the ARC people were still in the ARC and Abby and Connor were still in the Creteceous. There had been a lot of scene setting but nothing that constituted even so much as a monster-of-the-week plot. We then crammed that into the final twenty minutes or so, complete with convenient disposal of Helen's anomaly opening device. Even making allowances for it's need to be the run-around season opener I thought this episode was uneven and patchy. That said I did prefer it to the season 3 opener which, structurally speaking, was more accomplished. Several people have suggested that the dialogue this season is much livelier than last which may account for it. Moreover the new characters at least have something that passes for a character (and Becker has found one someplace) where many of the characters in season three were just plot devices that spoke from time to time (of Danny, Becker and Sarah only Danny ultimately had any character to speak of though Sarah had a strong start which then fizzled).

Speaking of the new characters we have Matt Anderson, a man with a secret and who is quite buttoned down as a result. I've seen Ciaran McMenamin's acting written off as bland and uninteresting. I'll concede he's not adding much to the character beyond what's there on the page but he is competently conveying the fact that Matt wants to both like and trust his team but feels unable to open up to them which instantly makes him more interesting than Becker and Sarah were last season. I'd like to see how his character arc plays out before passing judgment. Jess, on the other hand, is all over the place. This isn't really Ruth Kearney's fault since she's asked to be ultra-competent one moment and an air-head the next and it would challenge a much better actress to pull of that kind of emotional switchback convincingly but the net result is an irritating character, one who appears to use bubbling girlishness to manipulate those around her when, I suspect, the powers that be were more interested in some kind of female version of Connor who mixed social incompetance with technical genius (with the added benefit of extremely short skirts). I'm being a little churlish here because I prefer the thought that has been put into Jess to the blanks that were season 3's Becker and Sarah but the net result, at the moment, is clumsy.


In summary I didn't think much of the story or pacing here, but I did find much to like in the episode and, in retrospect, it bodes far better for the rest of season 4, than the structurally more competent, but otherwise lacklustre introduction to season 3.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/30641.html.
 
 
 
Susanlil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 09:30 am (UTC)
I don't think I can argue with much of that, though I am less impressed by Matt than you appear to be...
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 10th, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
I like Matt, but I if he continues to be this, well, minimal in facial expression once he start opening up (assuming he starts opening up, but I'm not really anticipating more than the obvious character arc here) then I may revise my opinion...
fredbassettfredbassett on January 10th, 2011 09:41 am (UTC)
There's not much I'd argue with her. I'm actually quite liking Matt, but Jess is definitely all over the bloody place.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 10th, 2011 10:23 am (UTC)
I wish I could put my finger on whether I think the problems with her arise from the acting, the writing, the direction or a mixture of all three. At the moment I'm mostly blaming the writing since the character summary: 19-year-old renowned field ops genius is totally bonkers even for Primeval.

I was re-reading my review of 3.01 where I praised the writers for their handling of female characters and realised that was an opinion I've largely dropped, partly because of the very short shrift the women got in season 3 but also because, if I'm being uncharitable, Jess's character looks like the ideas "bit of skirt", "girly" and "field operations genius" were mashed together in the most thoughtless and misogynistic way possible.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 10th, 2011 10:32 am (UTC)
I think Primeval's one of those shows where you can't delve too much into the details like ages or everything starts to unravel. Jess's age and the way she's been scripted is definitely a thread best not tugged too hard at.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 10th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
The ages in the character profiles have always been bizarrely low. I didn't worry too much about Cutter, Helen and Stephen because a) it was just about possible for them all to be that young and b) you need to know academia to realise how odd the timescale was but with Jess you do have to wonder how they thought she would have a reputation as the best (even if she was) when she'd probably been working in the field less than a year.

But yes, I realise the age could be some publicity person having a brain-fart. The scripting in show, I'm less forgiving of.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
The directly comparable characters in other shows are all a good bit older, and their youth is still complained about. If computer/general geniuses are still too young to have got all the qualifications they have when they are in their late 20s and early 30s (like Abby in NCIS or Garcia in Criminal Minds) then what are we to make of Jess??????


I had enough problems with Connor suddenly becoming an engineering genius in Season 2!
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 11th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
parrot_knightparrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 11:14 am (UTC)
Jess's skirt length in 4.03 made me feel sorry for the character as well as undermining her credibility. Such outfits in this context are curiously unsexy - Seven of Nine syndrome.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 10th, 2011 11:24 am (UTC)
I think there is a wardrobe problem as well. I recall reading a blog post somewhere commenting that Claudia was very realistically dressed in season 1, where Jenny was dressed as a caricature in season 2 and all the women (Claudia excepted) have, on occasion, been put in very odd and unflattering clothes. Jess's pinky orange get up is simply horrible but it's hard to blame the writers for that.

I can think of ways the character might work, girlishness and short skirts included, which would involve playing up the social inadequacy more and underlining perhaps, that she is good at solving problems but worries too much about what people think of her when not actively engaged by a problem but at the moment she just feels incoherent rather than interesting.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 11:30 am (UTC)
More characterization in general would benefit Primeval. I think this season has lost a sense of place, too - and that struck me before I remembered that it had been made in Dublin.
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 11:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabcd86 on January 10th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 12:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 12:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabcd86 on January 10th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on January 10th, 2011 12:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 12:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on January 10th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 12:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - telperion_15 on January 10th, 2011 12:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on January 10th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabcd86 on January 10th, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 12:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabcd86 on January 10th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gabcd86 on January 10th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on January 10th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2011 10:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
reggietate: casualjennyreggietate on January 10th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)
Jenny's S2 clothes sere kind of barmy, but they worked somehow, at least for me. So much so that while I liked her more sensible S3 look, I missed the old inappropriate-clothes version - and I'm still awaiting any explanation for why they decided to make her look more like Claudia at a time when the only character to whom this was significant was about to get pointlessly killed by his missus!

Jess doesn't make sense. As you point out, she's far too young for a start.
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 01:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on January 10th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 10th, 2011 01:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Susanlil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
I have fond memories of the TV series Logan's Run, where the actress playing Jessica wore a skirt that barely covered the essentials.

They acknowledged this in the last episode. Logan and Jessica were, I think, in the middle of a desert. Anyway, they came across this block complaining about the cold.

Jessica: I don't think it's cold.

Logan (eyeing her up and down): Jessica, if it gets cold you'll be the first to know.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on January 10th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
Having checked the internet for images of the said actress in the part, I do see what you mean, though Jenny Agutter in the film of course would have had an even better idea of the cold!
Susanlil_shepherd on January 10th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
Indeed. We shall see if she will run around in her underwear, whereas Hannah wised up.
(Anonymous) on January 11th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
re:
What do you mean?