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06 July 2011 @ 04:07 pm
Primeval 5.04  
In which we learn that creatures without backbones are undeserving of sympathy and that you are more likely to be condemned for doing the right thing, than for doing the wrong thing.

I actually rather enjoyed this episode, it has to be said. I always like it when Primeval cuts itself a little loose from the "Raptor in a Shopping Centre" model of story, and this was a far, far better take on the idea of a lockdown within the ARC than season 4's lamentable attempt. I even liked the preposterously invincible bugs, but I quite enjoy not-too-scary horror movies and the bugs were right out of one of those. No one, of course, suggested that the bugs should be safely corralled and returned to their own time but B tells me its a sad fact that all conservationists are well aware of: you need a back bone to elicit much sympathy.

The addition of Emily to the field team produced a startlingly unexpected new dynamic which I hadn't anticipated. The scene where Becker, Abby and Emily were taking Jess down to the infirmary was almost shocking in the way it naturally involved an action team which was predominantly female. I've become more aware of this kind of thing over the years but I'm going to give Primeval well deserved brownie points for a cast where this kind of grouping can arise naturally even if I'm going to spend much of the next few reviews complaining about how they still keep falling back on the trope of some man riding to the rescue at the last minute. It is a sign of our household's opinion of Primeval's ability to research stuff that, despite knowing very little about allergies we were watching Jess's plight and asking "do allergies really work like that?" Unsurprisingly, I've since been told the answer is "no".

The less said about "we have hardly any chance of reaching the bunker on time! However, if by some miracle, we should make it I will promptly leave, bimble around for ten minutes looking for my girlfriend and then still make it back on time" the better.

I wasn't even too irritated by the whole business with Connor and Burton. Obviously there are huge gaps of logic in both their behaviour which is more than a little frustrating. A better programme would have done something with the fact that ultimately Burton is condemned, in Connor's eyes, because he takes the right decisions. I have a feeling that the moral universe Primeval inhabits (admittedly together with a lot of genre programming) is one in which the personal always takes precedence over wider, more abstract concerns. A person who will not endanger the world in order to save their friend is almost always a blackguard of some description (or totally bonkers - Hi there! Helen!) and the scales are finally seen to fall from Connor's eyes when he learns that Philip would not endanger London in order to save Connor and his friends. Matt's journey has been shown to be one of stepping back from an obsession with his mission to save humanity in order to develop and nuture bonds with those around him. Even Abby's foolhardy decision in the episode to go looking for Rex fits into this paradigm. There's actually some really meaty stuff there which Primeval not only fails to address (but it is tea-time monster-of-the-week drama so possibly fair enough) but of which it seems woefully unaware. However on some level, even though I suspect it was entirely unintentional, I liked the fact that Philip's hold on Connor was broken precisely because Philip can so easily take the long view and is so ruthlessly prepared to prioritise. Obviously Philip continues to have non-existent management skills and a shocking lack of appreciation of the very obvious risks involved in having anomalies open all over the place but I would love to have seen these portrayed as character flaws rather than Signs Of Villainy. I do think it a shame though that Connor's revelation is not that Burton is dangerously arrogant and personally manipulative but that he doesn't care about Connor enough. In Louise-world however, Connor's realises both that Philip hasn't paid enough thought to the possible outcomes of his research, and that any attempt to reason with him is likely to result in Matt's quiet removal from the anomaly project, not any re-evaluation of the research direction, because in the light of that understanding Connor's subsequent actions appear much more like those of an adult than a child throwing a tantrum because he doesn't feel loved.

Sadly the show seems to concur with the view that Not Loving Connor is a Manifestation of Evil for which further explanation isn't required. While I know many in sympathy with that viewpoint I suspect even they would have appreciated a little more polishing of dialogue and performance. My intuition is that with relatively few tweaks, the actions of Connor and Burton could be made to seem much more nuanced and adult without any substantial damage being done to the overall plotline. As is often the case with Primeval (particularly when I pretend season 3 didn't happen), it shows signs of having put some careful thought into its characterisation only to apparently lose courage at the last minute and fall back on more simplistic cariacatures.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/47580.html.
lukadreaming: Emilylukadreaming on July 6th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)

Yes! I may well be a manifestation of evil, but I will admit that so much could have been done with the Burton and Connor relationship. As it stands, though . . .

*Disappears behind the sofa to rant*

I liked the incorporation of Emily a lot. I still feel it's almost like there was an ep missing to get her assimilated. But hey, this is teatime TV *g*. I did a lot of shouting and eye-rolling when Abby went after Rex.
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on July 6th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
Re Rex, I'd have been surprised if she hadn't gone after him, no matter how dangerous it was, though - he may only be a flying lizard, but he's always meant a lot to Abby, and he's regarded more as a character in his own right than just as a creature. And it may have been daft, but the kids would cheer, I'm sure, when she found him. I know I did ;-)
lukadreaming: Abby and Rexlukadreaming on July 6th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
LOL! I must be a hard-hearted bastard, as I just chuntered and rolled my eyes!
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on July 6th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
Hee! I'm very fond of Rex ;-) After all, how can you not like a flying lizard that drops bright green poo all over Lester's suit?
lukadreaming: Abby and Rexlukadreaming on July 6th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
That was a great scene!

I tend not to be into cute critters (although I do admit to owning a Rex of my own *g*).
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on July 6th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
I agree that on one level it made sense for Abby to go after Rex, and then logically for Connor to go after her. It does make one wonder a little what happened to all the other animals in the ARC though. I also thought the way Rex just flew into the cage at a convenient moment was lazy, but I thought quite a bit about that specific sequence was rather lazy.
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on July 6th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
I think they were in their leadlined bunker or something - someone, possibly Abby, mentioned it.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on July 6th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
I've had the wierdest feeling for the latter half of season 5 that I'm watching two shows. The saturday tea-time show where everything is rather black-and-white and some kind of echo of a more interesting show under the surface where more complicated stuff is going on. The business with Connor and Burton is the clearest inidicator of this but it crops up in the other relationships as well.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on July 6th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
It's almost like what you get with Have I Got News For You - we need an uncut adult version later in the evening!
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on July 6th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
It was a great fun ep, but yes, it had its hopeless moments. I do think if they'd worked a little harder they could have done better things with Burton and Connor, too - probably if Adrian H had been a little more involved in the writing than he seems to have been, it might have worked better.

S4 and 5 suffered somewhat from having to introduce new characters once again, and give them all something to do. S1 and 2, and to some extent even S3 seemed to handle this better. They also had a slightly better grasp on the passage of time - half the trouble with the Connor-Burton thing is that if you observe the series carefully enough, it appears to have developed in a very short space of time, rather than the weeks or months that would have helped it make more sense.

I'm not sure they'd have had much chance to corral the bugs, even if they'd wanted to - there were far too many. But yeah, on the whole, I'm not going to waste too much sympathy on a horde of beetley things! ;-)

louisedennislouisedennis on July 6th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
Season 3 remains my least favourite of the seasons, and I think the character introduced by it have had far shorter shrift characterisation-wise than those introduced before and after. It must be said I think season 5 is a leap in quality better than season 4 and I'm not sure why that is, given they were produced back to back, but maybe it is, as you say, that season 4 was trying to do too much heavy-lifting with the new characters. I didn't have too much trouble with the time scale of the Connor/Burton thing. If Burton were a better manager he wouldn't have put so much effort into separating Connor and Abby, and in preventing Connor from having a life outside the job. While it seems slightly surprising that Burton should have risen as far as he has without such skills, as a character point it's quite interesting and potentially would have allowed him to be an antagonist but not a villain.
reggietate: nu_arcteamreggietate on July 6th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
S3, though I enjoy it more now, is definitely not my favourite either. I tend to think of it as 3a and 3b, the 3b being the eps post-Jenny. Most of it isn't that bad, really, eps 6 and 8 were highlights in 3b for me, it's just the hangover from losing Cutter a lot of the time

Definitely S5 has been better than S4, almost as if they held back their best work till last, possibly a dangerous strategy given the ITV audience won't see S5 till sometime next year.

Burton actually started getting interesting in ep 5. April, on the other hand, annoys me. I suppose there was no getting round having someone for Burton to discuss/do certain Villain-type things with, but for me she was just one character too many.