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19 February 2011 @ 04:14 pm
Primeval 4.07  
Oh Primeval! How can you get so much right and so much so wrong all in the space of one episode!

Let's start with the things I didn't like.

Did Not Like for Good Reason

Emily Merchant. I really liked the character outline we got for Emily and I thought she came across well in her first episode but, umm, she was basically a damsel in distress wasn't she? She had no real desires or agenda of her own ("Catch Ethan" was only ever invoked as an excuse to keep her around or get her into trouble, she never actively did anything about catching Ethan), she behaved in no way as anything other than a 21st century woman (apart from one joke about team-building in 4.06). She existed entirely as a plot device for Matt to rescue, confide in and finally get angst-ridden about when she left. If she'd been killed and stuffed in a refridgerator I would have been entirely unsurprised. I realise I'm being a little harsh here, but when you strip away a few moments of "fiestiness" (and I did like the bit with the bone) she was primarily a plot device whose purpose was to make Matt look worried or sad from time to time. The writing team have consistently shown an inability to view a woman has having any plot function away from a man (Helen and Jenny both written out because Nick went, as if they had no narrative purpose beyond providing motivation for him) but this was more blatant than usual.

The special forces soldiers. Muppets the lot of them. Even Becker. Armed with stun guns and therefore less anxiety about shooting someone, there was really no excuse for them being as incompetent as they were being. Ethan's ability to overcome them had become farcical by the end of the episode.

Did Not Like for No Good Reason

I don't like the evil!Burton and Connor sup-plot. I'm not sure why beyond I feel it makes Connor look weaker and stupider than he should be at this stage. I suspect part of that is that Siddig isn't bothering to try and make Burton likeable, but I'm more than a little turned off by the whole plot thread.

Did Like. A Lot

Connor and Abby. Why, oh why haven't we seen them like this before now in the season? It's like their character arc is being played backwards or something. Here we had an Abby showing both appreciation and support for Connor, rather than the embarrassed awkwardness we'd been having up until now. It looked like a functional relationship which it frankly hasn't for the previous three episodes, but I don't understand why we are seeing this now, as Connor falls deeper into Burton's clutches, rather than at the start with their estrangement building through the series. However I was grateful to see it, even if I didn't understand the character reason behind it appearing at this point.

Danny Quinn. I was quite `meh' about Danny in season 3 but I thought he was great here. It may be that he was such a good contrast to the rather more regimented ARC set-up we've seen this season. I think he showed up the lack of a real maverick on the team but it was a welcome breath of fresh air to see him turn up, stand up to Burton, ask Abby direct questions about her relationship with Connor, and generally look as if he wanted to shake things up and was enjoying himself. In short I thought he was great. The plot twist about Ethan, I had genuinely failed to see coming and I liked that (I thought Ethan's entitlement "you didn't come to get me!" was a bit rich, but I'm not sure that we were supposed to take it seriously, Ethan was just saying it to make Danny feel bad).

I thought the scenes with the Terror Birds in the prison were well set-up and played out as well. The episode in general was much pacier than many this season and seemed to have a much clearer idea what it was doing.

In the end this episode, like much of the season was strangely frustrating, as if I kept getting glimpses of a much better show. The complaints aren't new: general lack of imagination when it comes to female characters and the military and organisational set up they have. I did think this was much better than season 3. I thought both the character work and the arc plot were more consistent and better thought out, but the show would definitely benefit from lightening the tone a bit and, frankly, investing a bit more effort into the set-up of the ARC and turning its supporting characters in actual people.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/35629.html.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on February 19th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
S4 was better than S3. Just. But I didn't much enjoy it and doubt I shall re-watch or write fic with the characters.

1) Women characters were definitely short-changed. Again. Jess showed flashes of being a character I'd like to know more about, but not nearly enough. I was never convinced that someone of that age was as much of a computer genius as she was claimed to be.

2) I wanted to like Matt, but again, the brief flashes didn't convince me. I'm not sure if that was CMcM's very understated acting or the writing or both. But I do want to know more about the return from the future plot thread.

3) Burton was one-dimensional writing and acting and might as well have been twirling a moustache a la panto villain.

4) I was rather excited by the thought of the Emily and Ethan plotline, with people coming through anomalies, but it was an anti-climax for the reasons you state.

5) Abby and Connor bored me spitless. Driving the wedge between them was artificial and very tedious. I don't care if they're together or apart -- just don't drag it out across four bloody series! Abby did have much more to do in this series, but it felt at times like Connor had reverted to the annoying S1 geek . . .

6) I loved Danny's reappearance and Lester continued to be awesome. But it was too little, too late.

I shall watch S5, but it's not the show I fell in love with. I just tell myself it's another programme that's moderately diverting viewing!
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on February 19th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, Matt's very odd. Hard to tell if it's acting or direction or both. At some point he's going to have to open up a bit, maybe we'll tell then. Another thing I didn't buy though was that he was so prepared to open up to Emily. I actually wonder if we lost some material there. All the business about Emily being a new bride and stumbling into an anomaly felt like it should have come earlier in some conversation when she was getting to know Matt.

I thought Ethan worked very well in the end, although his motivation seems to boil down to "I like killing people, mwa ha ha!" but he was shown to be cunning and resourceful and to have an agenda of sorts beyond simply opposing our heroes. Emily was much less well-served and the whole group of time-travellers thing was much less interesting than it could have been. I think the show could use a few other groups/organisations involved with the anomalies which are not directly in opposition to the ARC.

If it weren't for S3 I'd still be fairly on board with Abby/Connor I think. There's a reasonably progression through to the end of S2 but the relationship then stalls in the worst possible way in S3 and I'm completely flumoxed over what we're supposed to think is going on with them this season, but I'd have been a lot more forgiving of it without the S3 run-around.
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on February 19th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
I liked this ep, especially the terror bird scenes, and Danny's return - in fact, I liked Danny a lot more here than I initially did in S3. But it did have a lot wrong with it.

On reflection, though I liked Emily, I mostly agree with your assessment of her. At least with Jenny, even if she was mainly there to cause Nick angst, she did have a proper place in the team, and I'd quite happily have seen her continue as team leader in S3. They should have brought Emily onto the team and used her survival skills and knowledge of Ethan to help track him down - and they ought to have been more concerned about Emily's group roaming around time unsupervised. Emily seemed to forget about them rather too soon. I would have found her returning to them, rather than her own time, much more plausible.

Definitely also with you on the military side, including Becker not shooting both Ethan and Emily with his EMD the moment Ethan turned his own weapon away from Emily (while he had it to her head I could understand it, as a direct head-shot at close range with the EMD might have caused Emily serious damage, and the EMD's shock presumably could make Ethan's finger pull the trigger if Becker used it on him then). But the no backup thing just won't wash any more. They got away with in S2, and just barely in S3.

I liked Matt, but he didn't come across as team leader material, somehwo, even by default. I'd like to have seen more of him with Gideon, and learned more about where he came from, rather than the stuff with Emily.

The whole Connor-Philip thing during the series suffered for me by coming on practically out of nowhere. The show seems very bad at indicating a sensible passage of time, as I've said before, and because of that, Philip's grooming of Connor didn't really come off.

I still wish they hadn't made Ethan into some sort of multiple murderer, but at least he was vaguely interesting, and his story tied in with past plot threads in the show. They really needed to do more of that and less introducing new ideas and new characters all the time. Cast changes have been unavoidable, obviously, but that's all the more reason for not introducing too many new ones.

I actually enjoyed the whole series far more than S3, and have watched all the eps several times, and I'm hoping S5 with be a bit more coherent.

I'm sure we would have had a better series if Dougie hadn't bailed when he did, but even so, they could have done a lot better with the aftermath his departure left them.

Not at all sure what they intend with Abby and Connor, and I'm wondering if they have any idea of it either!
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on February 19th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
I was terribly shocked by the Jenny thing since she seemed so much her own person. Emily never really got to do anything, she wasn't actively irritating in the way, I'm afraid, I find Jess but she wasn't ever particularly proactive after her first episode and I really had expected her to be a lot of fun.

As for the military - this went way beyond `no back-up' which you can hand-wave one way or another even if the show has never come up with a sensible explanation. This is into, they have back up but all they do is stand around looking gormless territory. At the point where Ethan overcame two guards, both armed with stun guns, one after the other in order to escape we were shouting at the screen. You can get away with a bit of hesitating to shoot if you have a deadly weapon in your hands, especially if you are law enforcement(ish) and have procedure to follow - that definitely gives the man who will shoot first without compunction an edge, but with EMDs (especially these fantasy EMDs which we've been given to understand are basically safe otherwise Matt would never have shot Becker with one just to make a point) then you shoot first and ask questions later (except, as you point out, maybe when one is pointed directly at a head). It was incredibly frustrating, especially when some of the pre-publicity suggested they were taking the military side of things more seriously.

I've mostly gone on about the representation of women in the show but the writers are obviously also found of mad = bad. I can see that its good to have your baddies a little on the moustache-twirling side and it can be difficult to motivate them properly in that situation but I do think Ethan would have worked just as well if he'd been on a more explicit revenge trip against Emily (and they could have played up the way he blamed her for Charlotte's death) and possibly thrown in a bit of turn-of-the-century political extremism which would explain his criminal past and could easily have put him at violent odds with the ARC team without resorting to the "Oh, I'm mad, me and I like killing people" - actually that's not a bad thought, I might borrow that idea for a story... moving swiftly on...

To be honest, I think I quite liked the "fresh start" aspect of this season, with the new characters and opponents, possibly because I found S3 so disappointing and filming it back-to-back with S5 will hopefully give the two some coherency.