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29 January 2011 @ 11:08 am
Primeval 4.04  
I actually found this episode surprisingly suspenseful and gripping, in spite of the fairly straightforward nature of the set-up. An example, perhaps, that sometimes it is better to do something simple well, than to try something more complicated.

I think in the grand sweep of season 4 this episode is going to be seen as filler. The first three episodes were all concerned, to a greater or lesser extent, with introducing the characters and setting up their interactions as a team. This episode was content mostly to just coast along in terms of the characters and focus attention more straightforwardly on it's monster of the week. For the first time this year, I was genuinely on the edge of my seat once or twice during the more action-based segments. I was also, in an abstract way, pleased that the production team had the guts to sacrifice the princess to the monster and the kids, as a whole, were remarkably unirritating and portrayed with a much better eye for real kids than the kind of idealised or demonised extremes you often get. I could nit pick at some of the direction but I felt the pacing was much better and the direction much clearer than in the first three episodes.

Even though it was mostly coasting in arc terms, there was also still nice character work (so far the big strength of this season - though I think season 1 still handled it even better) going on between Matt and Becker and even between Connor and Abby. Jess's reaction to the death of the girl was nicely written but Ruth Kearney, sadly, really failed to sell it at all and ended up appearing more prissy and self-righteous when she refused to help Abby, than genuinely shocked and upset. In fact I'm coming to the conclusion that Jess is the real weak link in the team. Ruth Kearney isn't a great actress and she's being handed some appalling material. In 4.03 the character was reduced to handing things to Connor, this week she's supposed to be able to randomly hack into a school security system and then lumbered with conveniently malfunctioning cameras and the less said about the outfits she's being asked to wear the better really.

I was a teensy bit upset that Abby didn't manage to save the creatures somehow, with her own resources since I like competent Abby. In the end, however, it all relied on Lester displaying his much better grasp of Burton's character than Burton's grasp of Abby's.

Burton, incidentally, has the people management skills of a muppet. Actually that's unfair to muppets. Kermit could handle people far better than Burton could. Kermit could probably design a more sensible security system too. Neither the writers, nor the actor, are really working to make the character even remotely believable. If Jess wasn't there providing the character black hole of the season I'd be complaining a lot more about Burton.

However Burton's idiocy aside, I mostly liked this episode. It wasn't attempting to do a great deal, but what it did do it well.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/33152.html.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 29th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
Pretty much spot on - though you are nicer about the plotting this episode than I was.

What bothers me is that I can't be ar*ed to comment on episode 5...
louisedennis: paddinglouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
Pretty much spot on - though you are nicer about the plotting this episode than I was.

I think I possibly am. I struggled when writing the review to pinpoint what I felt they had got right here which they hadn't previously, since I knew my gut reaction to it was more favourable but there was plenty to pick holes in (especially the whole security locks/camera malfunction aspect of the plot) and although I like the way it was gradually revealed that a whole herd of creatures had come through the anomaly, I didn't think it was quite as clear as it could have been and the fact that most of them were sound asleep most of the time wasn't well explained. But still, I liked the motw aspects better than I had weeks 1-3.

What bothers me is that I can't be ar*ed to comment on episode 5...

"You know," said B. as Abby cowered in the motor home. "I think this might be padding."
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
This was my favourite ep of the series so far. I liked the duck-shoots with the creatures, and it was a good ep for Becker, so it met with my approval for that, and his man-pain was fun, as was his hairy chest and tattoo. I was shamelessly perving at that point.

As you say, Jess is filling the character black hole previously occupied by Sarah, and Burton is a convenient plot device to come between Abby and Connor. Lester remains Lester, for which I am thankful.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Burton is merely functional. The writing is bad and Siddiq obviously can't be bothered to attempt to overcome that - however he is at least turning in a competent performance even if he's not rescuing the character from the script. We know what makes Burton tick, even if it's one-dimensional, silly and a bit dull.

Jess, on the other hand, seems to positively suck life and characterisation away. Which is a shame because I liked her in some of the webisodes and thought she had promise in ep 1 but she seems to have become a kind of walking voice-over in a short skirt since and she has skills, competences and personality strengths and flaws entirely as it suits the plot with no thought to coherency and the actress is doing nothing to overcome that. It depresses me that this is being bungled when they are handling other bits so well.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
We had an interesting dialogue in Chat two weeks ago which Lil will remember where someone was taking fans to task in general over their attitudes to Jess and stating it stemmed from misogyny. She couldn't seem to understand that criticising one character was not the same as criticising women in general.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
Sometimes female character bashing is misogynistic but sometimes, as in this case I think, if there is any misogyny its in the hands of the writers who seem to think of Jess as some kind of glorified secretary in the worst sense of the word and certainly don't think her important enough to have put any thought into her characterisation.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
It was starting to get into the realms of a het fan complaining that slashers were dissing a woman. A couple of people were gently trying to point out that no, that wasn't what we were doing, and actually, we are quite happy to have a detailed discussion without character bashing and no, we weren't hating her because we really thought the writers should give us canon Matt/Becker...

It ended up with Lil producing a dictionary definition, but the person concerned still claimed to be right, so we let that part of the discussion politely peter out.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
Also come to think of it I don't dislike Jess in the way some people dislike Helen (or in some cases Abby). I've nothing against the character, such as there is of it. I think however that the part is badly written and acted, which isn't the same thing at all.

I think Abby is patchily written, but mostly it works, and the acting is competent to good. Claudia/Jenny were broadly speaking well written and competently acted. Helen was well-written initially and very well acted. Sarah was not really written at all, but the acting was good enough to at least make her appear like an actual person. I would cover a similar spectrum talking about the men.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
Fair summary.

I think part of the problem with Matt is that he's been clearly told to play it deadpan and remote, so in consequence he only seems to come alive when he's sparking off Becker.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
I really haven't decided if Matt is an interesting character being played blandly or a bland character being given hints of interest by the acting... Something is definitely a bit flat about most of what he does, but there are hints of depths and conflict which we are just not getting with Jess.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
I think an interesting character deliberately being played blandly, but I could easily be wrong.

I certainly don't feel any urge to write any of the S3 characters, although I'm looking forward to Danny's return.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
PS. 71 icons now.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
So it's OK for me to announce icons tomorrow?
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
I've now done 75, which is admittedly me done for today. However the paper is in, so I have all tomorrow to icon.

I'll definitely reach the 100 mark by the 1st, I think. I'd still like to make 150 (because I have a plan, you know), but I'll play it by ear. I can certainly reveal further rows on the table as I make them or something.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Revealing extra rows would work very weel, and hopefully wouldn't upset The Plan.

I was wondering if we could use them to encourage readers as well as writers? Maybe try to encourage people to read and comment, rather than read and run away, and if they set a goal to say comment on everything they read in a week, then they can claim as well. Could we have a row of readers icons, maybe? Just a thought.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
Reader icons I can do. I'm not sure row-by-row since quite a few of the icons will work for either. I might just mark some, in some way, as reader only or writer only.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
I suppose the problem would be knowing where to go to claim the reader ones, unless they were in a separate row. Reader ones would be lovely if we could get some interest, but I have a nasty feeling old habits will prove hard to break.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 29th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
Maybe a couple of rows that are "reader only" with a rider that readers can claim from anywhere in the table if they wish but the starred icons say things like "1000 words" so really don't apply to readers.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 29th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yep, a couple of reader only rows sound good!

I'll trail the idea and see if we get any interest. But it might gather momentum as the month progresses. And I can keep mentioning it in the set up posts. Maybe people could set themselves goals like say reading all the P100 drabbles and commenting on all of them in a week etc.