Despite the problems I'm having with my back and all, I managed to watch last night's episode of Primeval, the fifth episode of the fourth series of the show, and thought that I would share my thoughts with folks here on my journal. Bear in mind that because of the body pain, these thoughts may be a bit...disjointed. Since this entry could be quite long or perhaps not of interest to folks reading my journal, they are behind the cut.
My lasting impression of this episode when it was all over is that this show represented what is best and worst about Primeval as a tv series. While I liked the story overall, and it definitely had its good and bad moments, what stands out for me about Episode 5 is the manner in which the story was executed, and the humourous elements of the episode, as well as some of the revelations that we learned in this story.
The main plot of the episode, the village of Witchfield being home to some creatures, in this case Labryinthodonts, was one that was intriguing. Primeval is set so frequently in an urban environment that we forget that Anomalies can appear anywhere, and that the characters may be forced to go to more rural settings where life occurs at a different pace and where the exotic beasties that we see so often in the series are more...folkloric than anything else. Such was the case in the village in this story, but this main plot was marred by how the plot developed, and for this I blame the writers. The first scene, when Connor, Abby, and Matt arrive in the village, seems to bring to the forefront that everyone in Witchfield was in on the plot and knew all about the creature and stuff. I thought that all the people were hostile to outsiders, and the whole business with the legend of the wyrm lent itself to that. Then we find out that it's just this mother and son, a small farm family basically, who are behind everything that's going on in Witchfield. The story was ideal to have a "town conspiracy" of sorts on which the whole business with the Anomaly and the labyrinthodont could have been based, but instead it's about an older woman and her son selling bootleg petrol (what North Americans call gasoline), and the son using the creatures from the Anomaly as a weapon to protect his mother's interests even though it means resorting to murder. It's just the mother and son who have reason to be hostile, and the rest of the villagers fade into being totally irrelevant. So much more could have been made of this set-up, and yet it was all wasted. While the plot was enjoyable to watch, it was one of those agonizing, head-scratchers that one watches because one wants to see the carnage rather than for the sake of a good storyline.
The second story that was actually quite intriguing in its own way, and much too brief in the episode, was the sub-plot going on with Burton and Connor. While Burton's desire to have Connor work full-time in the lab on the Anomalies for Prospero, rather than work in the field with the "animals", makes a lot of sense, it seems as if the writers want to turn Connor back into the techno-geek that we saw in the first series of the show. It seems odd to turn Connor's character in this direction, as he seems to have forgotten all about his promise to Nick Cutter, but perhaps one can equate some of the change to the time that he and Abby spent in the Cretaceous (though I can't figure out how or why for the life of me!). What makes this plot of interest is that it shows that Burton has more than a passing interest in the Anomalies, and that there's more going on with this than meets the eye. Perhaps even so much as to make me think that it's Burton who's the villain of the piece, in terms of Matt and Gideon's mission, rather than Ethan (more on him below). Burton's ability to get a proper fix on the Anomaly in the cave using Jess's co-ordinator console (much to her annoyance) made me realise for the second time in the series that Burton knows more about the Anomalies than he's letting on. When coupled with some of the new technology at the ARC these days, it makes me wonder even more about Burton's origins. What disturbs me about Burton's technology is that with the reference to Prospero's work on Anomalies in this episode, my thoughts turned to Helen Cutter for some reason. She had some definite (future) knowledge about the Anomalies by the time she died, and one has to wonder if Burton has/had some relationship to Helen somehow. Hmm...
Finally, there was the plot with Ethan and Emily, which was continued from the previous episode in which Ethan captured Emily right out from under Matt's protection. One of the things that has been irritating me about the whole Emily/Ethan sub-plot is, very simply, the formulaic nature of it: Something happens to Emily, but as usual there is nothing that binds or ties her to the audience's affection, so why should we care? The fact of the matter is that Emily feels almost like a distraction, especially in terms of her relationship with Matt, as he's seemingly not concentrating on finding the person or persons that Gideon has him trying to find and deal with. Gideon thinks that it's Ethan, since, after all, he's shown up at just this right moment, but the whole thing feels like a red herring to me. More to the point, as I mentioned in the review of Episode 4, the whole Ethan/Emily/Matt plot seems to be being dragged out, and I find that it's suffering for that.
That said, the mystery of Ethan seems to be coming to something of a head, and there were some interesting revelations about him in this episode. What we've learned about him adds to the mystery, and yet it just doesn't add up. This episode, we see that Ethan can drive a car, despite that there are no cars in Victorian times! He seems to know his way around "London" (yes, it's still Ireland that's being shot in, but it's meant to be London), and was able to find the Cameron mausoleum easily enough. There were also several other things that spoke volumes about some of the mystery about Ethan, notably the fact that he's travelled through Anomalies for some time, he had been with Charlotte for quite a while, and that he'd only travelled with Emily for some three years through the "gateways". Add the comments that he made to Matt when the two of them were fighting in the cemetary, and to Emily when they were in the Cameron mausoleum, and the thought came to me that Ethan is actually Patrick - Danny Quinn's lost brother! And once the thought came to me, I suddenly could see the little things that made sense about Ethan now. I know, I know, it sounds ludicrous, but it's just the clues that have been revealed, Ethan's conversations with others, and little things like that. Anyway, I'm sticking to my belief that he's Danny's brother, and we'll see how this plays out over the final two episodes of Seris Four.
In terms of the characters and that stuff, some of the acting was really good in this episode. The scenes between Jess and Lester were wonderful to watch, and it was interesting to see Lester try and cope with handling Jess's responsibilities when he was forced into handling the whole Matt business when he went off in search of Emily. There were some wonderful moments there. Ethan came across really well this episode, and he was portrayed quite nicely in this episode by Jonathan Byrne, bringing across the madman, the child, and the reasoning sociopath really well. Connor and Abby both came across quite well this episode, although I thought that the final scene with them in the cave was a bit forced, and Abby didn't seem like the happy camper. This may in part be due to the fact that she was still angry with Connor for siding with Philip in terms of the animals of the menagerie, but I think that coupled with the job offer from Burton, she's not happy with Connor at the moment, and it shows. There was a flash of the old Abby right before the scene ended, but their relationship is just not what it was, nor what one expected it to be. The final scene of the episode, where Connor shook hands with Burton on their deal just left me thinking that Connor has just made a deal with the devil. How this turns out, I guess we'll see. While I love Ruth Bradley to death, I'm sorry but I find Emily to be a rather stiff character, with no real personality at all. Perhaps this is deliberate, since she's supposed to be a Victorian after all, but given how long she's been travelling the Anomalies (as hinted at in her conversation with Ethan), I would have thought she'd be a bit more emotional about things. Oh well, perhaps it's just me. In any event, I hope that she comes across better in the next episode or two.
In the final analysis, what threw me off about this episode the most was that it felt "off". The pacing of the episode seemed to be slow and somewhat disjointed, and even though the script storyline felt all right to me, it seemed the directing of the episode wasn't right. Too many long, establishing shots, and it seemed to take forever to get from place to place. The actors in the series, notably the leads, seemed to be trying too hard to enable the scenes with a bit of life and some urgency, but the story just seemed...slow and poorly paced. I didn't really get any sense of action or real peril from the story, despite several action scenes (Abby and the labyrinthodont in the trailer park and during the frantic drive to the caves, Matt and Ethan fighting it out in the cemetary, some of the scenes with Connor and the like), and the bit where Connor thought that Abby was dead seemed somehow forced. The episode was, however, when all is said and done, quite enjoyable and had some bits that I really did like.
Looking forward to the next episode of the series.
So, that's it for Episode 5. Hopefully my comments and thoughts on the episode made sense. And weren't as disjointed as the episode seemed to me. After this, just two more episodes before the wrap of Series Four.
Comments and thoughts always welcome, as per usual. :)