And so the Fourth Series of Primeval comes to an end. What a complex episode of the show. And where to start in talking about it?
Well, to start, when the episode began at an abandoned prison now used as a tourist attraction, I thought that the episode was going to take a predictable approach to things, but I was pretty glad that it didn't. The location was a good reason for the building being deserted, unlike so many of the locations that they've filmed in or at for Series 4, and the prison had a feeling of gloom and dread attached to it that worked for the episode, and definitely set the tone for the episode.
I suppose the real place to start are the various plots in this episode.
First off, we have the Anomaly (or should I say Anomalies?) appearing at the old prison site. One of the things that I really like about this tv series are the Anomalies, and the manner in which they function. The only facts that we have about the Anomalies are what we can tell and infer from the episodes of the tv series, and this is determined partially by what the series' characters inform us about and what we can observe about them. While the series has provided us glimpses of the science of the Anomalies, this episode was downright fascinating in that it presented a unique set of circumstances: two Anomalies in the same space, one from the Pliocene and the other from Emily's home time of 1867. The most interesting bit to me about the episode was the "satellite" Anomalies that kept appearing because of the manner in which the two parent Anomalies manifest, and I have to say that I was shocked at first how the Anomaly seemed to keep re-opening once Connor had locked it off. The explanation for this was quite cool, and gave us some more information about the Anomalies, though it seems to me that Connor knows more about Anomalies since he started working for Burton and Prospero Industries (more on them in a bit), as he's been able to create the date calculator (the joke about this with Abby and the humourous scene involving it and the two Anomalies with Becker weren't all that great to me, but what do I know?) and was actually able to separate out the two Anomalies, and thus get rid of the satellite Anomalies. The presence of the terror birds was certainly a nice return of the creatures to the Primeval series once more (we've only seen them before this in Series 3, Episode 6), although I had the impression that there was only one of them going through the satellite Anomalies and what have you, but that was an interesting touch.
The second plot involved the whole Ethan/Matt/Emily business. When it comes right down to it, this plot was, in actual fact, a red herring from the beginning of the current series, as Ethan isn't a threat per sé, other than in a more traditional sense, and the fact of the matter is that he ties up some loose ends from Series 3, in that we finally found out what happened to Danny Quinn's brother. The real beauty of this sub-plot was the idea that Matt has been pursuing the wrong target in his bid to succeed at his mission. This storyline ties in, as mentioned, with Danny Quinn, so more on that below. My only annoyance with this plot is that we still don't have a clear idea of the relationship between Ethan and Emily, nor do we know more about the enigmatic Charlotte (from Episode 3), who died in that one, and the definitive relationship between her and Ethan.
The third plot deals with Philip Burton and his plans. Given that the red herring was Ethan/Patrick, I suppose it was inevitable that Burton is the villain of the story. I was glad to see that my suspicions about a connection between Philip Burton and Helen Cutter were borne out, though I was surprised that it was revealed through Danny Quinn. I guess it shouldn't have been, given that he was there when Helen died and had access to her stuff. Loved the bit between Lester and Danny when the former raised the subject of Helen, and it seemed to make it clear that Helen is dead. But I wouldn't put it past the producers/writers of the series to pull a fast one on us and Helen isn't dead somehow in whichever timeline this is. (That's another matter, that can be addressed in the Comments below. That's the beauty of time travel and alternate realities in a series like Primeval, where characters can return from the seemingly dead, depending on the story and the circumstances.) Burton's knowledge of the Anomalies has hovered throughout this Fourth Series of the show, though he's been somewhat downplayed to this point, and I'm still convinced that Burton has a tamed, functioning Anomaly (or perhaps more than one) at the Prospero Labs facility. If he himself isn't from the future, and that's where some of the advanced tech the ARC teams have access to (the Anomaly monitoring system, the ID bracelets, the EMD weapons, as examples), then it may tie in to his relationship with Helen Cutter, and she may have given him the technology from the future (or at least access to it). I don't have any doubts that Connor's loyalties are about to be severely tested, and that Matt will be going after Burton and/or Connor in Series 5, but it does raise an interesting possibility. This episode made it clear that the frequency of Anomaly appearances is increasing, and Connor's work towards the end of the episode showed that it would lead to catastrophic events - most likely, the future that we've seen in Series 3, and/or the world that Matt comes from. Since the Anomalies are natural phenomena, and something is changing the way they behave (this seems obvious to me, given some of the stuff that was said), what if it's Connor's work (directly or indirectly influenced by Burton) on the Anomalies that results in the unleashing of the Anomalies and the destruction of the world? The good guy trying to do right brings about doomsday? That would certainly be a shocker to some of the fans of the series, I bet. But of course, this is just speculation on my part, since we don't know what's going on. And I certainly hope that Connor is not the one responsible for the future world that we've seen.
The big event of this episode was, if course, the return of Danny Quinn. It wasn't too much of a surprise for me, since I had heard that he was coming back through some chat on a LJ forum or three (that I really wish I hadn't known!), but the manner of his return was quite well-executed, although I was a bit taken aback at the fact that his grotty appearance and all didn't elicit any comments from his friends on his odour and the like! :) The moment when Danny came through the Anomaly and was shot by Matt with the EMD weapon wasn't all that humourous, but the scene was granted an element of levity in the manner in which it was almost a joke between Becker and Connor that Matt likes to shoot things. If I was surprised by anything, it was Danny's being pretty much himself, even after spending a year plus on his own, travelling through Anomalies, and having to contend with the terror birds and the like. Not to mention the loneliness. I liked the touch with his "big stick" being called "Molly", and the reasons for it, and could understand why he had named the staff club.
With the return of Danny Quinn, I knew that I had been right about Ethan being his brother, and the revelation that Ethan was indeed Patrick was handled nicely in the scene where the two met. The scene between the two of them could have been dragged out, and I'm glad it wasn't. I was also pleased that it came to an end with Abby explaining both to new Series 4 viewers and to Matt that the Patrick being referred to is Danny's brother, as it brought folks up to speed rather well. Once Ethan's background was explained some more through the scenes with him and Danny in the interrogation room back at the ARC, it confirmed and explained for me his sociopathic nature, and why he is the way he is now. He's definitely not the brother that Danny remembers, but there's still some family feelings there for Danny (otherwise he would have killed him when he escaped from the interrogation room). What makes things even more interesting is that Danny's return through the Anomaly highlights the fact that he could have been the one that was trapped in temporal wandering and dealing with creatures and the like; it was an interesting mirror that was held up for both Ethan and Danny to look at, and Ethan's desire to go back through an Anomaly and to be left alone makes sense, given the way his life has gone, but his violent tendency or perhaps his frustration at what happened in the sequence at the ARC (and his seemingly inability to kill Danny, whom he had vowed to kill) manifested itself in his shooting Becker, not once but twice. Whether Becker is alive or dead is another matter, as the episode didn't resolve this much to my annoyance and frustration, but I have to say that given some of the...poor decisions that Becker has made through the course of Series 4, the man may have deserved to die here. I hope he isn't dead, as I still like the Becker character, but this will have to wait until we see Series 5. Maybe he's taken so many EMD stun bolts this series that he's developed a tolerance for them! :) However, back to Ethan and Danny... When the truth came out about Ethan's (lack of) purpose and Matt realising that he was after the wrong person, I felt somewhat relieved that Ethan had been a red herring all along, although it shouldn't have been that surprising; after all, he didn't have any resources to give him the ability to influence the Anomalies enough to destroy the world as Matt described it to Emily. I did like and appreciate the notion of Danny pursuing Ethan through the Anomaly, as he vowed not to leave his brother alone again. It takes Danny out of the series again (presumably Jason Flemyng has other commitments), but leaves the door open for his return in some other tale, perhaps dealing with the Burton stuff.
Speaking of Matt, this episode was the first one where I actually came to like the character. After a discussion with a friend of mine recently, I've come to see Matt in a somewhat different light, and this has made me change my mind about him. In retrospect of this series, Matt is very much more of an "action man" than Nick Cutter was, but he was much less an "in your face" type of character than Danny Quinn. I regret the death of Gideon, his father (if that's true, of course, though we have no reason to believe that he isn't), as the two of them had an interesting relationship from what we saw of it, and I would have liked to see more of their interaction together. Much of the backstory pertaining to Gideon and Matt didn't really come out properly, due I suspect to the writers/producers desire to not reveal things too quickly. (Of course, when the Series is only seven episodes long, I don't know whether you can keep it concealed for longer than that.) That said, I would have liked to have seen something of Matt's world, or at least learned more about it, as well as finding out and seeing more of Gideon.
When it comes to Emily, I have mixed feelings. In some ways, I was sorry to see Emily go back to her own time in 1867, simply because it was here and in Episode 6 that she finally gelled into a three-dimensional character for me. Part of this is due to the fact that there were too many characters to focus on in this Series of the show, and with only seven episodes, the writers couldn't do justice to any of the characters they had. It would have been hard enough to develop the three newcomers - Jess, Philip, and Matt - without the addition of Ethan and Emily, but... I think that Emily would have done better staying in the 21st Century if even she doesn't fit in (as she admitted to herself and Matt), and I suspect that Matt can do with someone to help and support him in his mission, given that he tends to cut himself off from people. I'm not clear on how long she'd been married before she went through the Anomaly, from her small admission to Matt about that, but it's clear to me now that she didn't love her husband at all and may have gone through the Anomaly as a way out of her marriage. At least Matt admitted that he has feelings for her, even though he can't act on them because he's got to devote/dedicate himself to the mission he's on. In many ways, the episode clearly explained Matt's stony manners and attitude, as the only real emotion he's shown in the series has been when Gideon died, though there was a flicker there as well after Emily went through the Anomaly. The closing of the Anomaly after Emily had gone through it seemed so...final. I'm not sure whether she will be back for Series 5 or not, but I think she's an interesting character in some ways, and would certainly make an excellent member for the ARC team. The way things were handled, making Emily a (potential) love interest for Matt, seemed very contrived, and could have been handled much differently, if nothing else.
Just so much that could be discussed about this episode, but I think that covers it. Overall, I liked the episode, and thought that it answered quite a few of the questions I had about what was going on. It left things on the cliffhanger, of course, and certainly didn't resolve the plot pertaining to Matt and his mission, but it seems to have made it clear that Philip Burton is the enemy we've been looking for all this time (shades of Oliver Leek through Series 2, though Leek didn't appear to dream this big!). What remains unclear is Burton's motives, but I wouldn't be surprised if Helen Cutter figures in this somehow. One of those two seems to have been influenced by the other, but Helen's sanity towards the end remains questionable; Burton doesn't have that excuse, I think.
And what about the overall Series 4? Well, I think I liked it better than Series 3, but that's only because the death of Nick Cutter and the departure of Jenny Lewis changed the ARC team dynamic to the point that it wasn't really the same series it had been. With Series 4, at least we knew what we were getting...sort of. Many of Series 4's faults were more due to budget restraints than anything else, I suspect. I'm not going to go over them again in detail here, but I do think these little sorts of things (especially the passage of time between episodes) needs to be addressed. Suffice it to say, Series 4 is done, and now we await Series 5 and I would assume the struggle to prevent the destruction of Earth and the future(s) we have seen.
Definitely looking forward to it.
And so that's the review of the Series 4 finale.
Comments and thoughts welcome, as always. :)