Of the four episodes of the series so far, "Angry Birds" has to be the best of the batch to this point, and that includes the opening episode. Written by Gillian Horvath (one of the Executive Producers of the series and with a good writing resumé in the sf tv field in Canada), the episode was crisper than the previous three, had more action in it (though not enough actual tension), and some interesting aspects of personality that we'll get to shortly. The Special Projects Group investigates an Anomaly that opens up at an abandoned Vancouver trainyards that has spewed out some Terror Birds (see below for more on them), but the trainyard is also home to a cannabis grow-op being operated by Blake and Skeezer.
One of the real strengths of this episode was the location shooting in the vintage trainyard, where the set provided some really great evocative means of bringing the fear element along. The red lighting in the warehouse, the narrow aisles aboard the train cars, the narrow spaces between the train cars themselves, all of these contributed to the feeling of claustrophobia that the episode had, and made the Terror Birds more fearsome in their ability to move in and out of this area. I have no idea where the trainyards in Vancouver was shot for the live location, but it was simply marvellous. Makes me wonder if writer Gillian Horvath had a personal acquaintance with said location.
This was the first episode, after three episodes of team building (if you can call it that), that we got to see the P:NW team all together in the field and in the final sequence of the story set back at Cross Photonics. While I think it was worth the wait (finally!), it was obvious that Evan didn't believe that Ken Leeds or Toby would be useful in the field, though I think they both proved their value out there. While Toby may be inexperienced with a gun, she certainly has the drive to do what is needed, as the episode showed. As for Ken Leeds, I think the Lieutenant surprised a lot of people (including me) at his competence in the field. To this point, the character has been played as the technologically out-of-touch bumbler of a government man in a job that no one seems to want, but his grit out in the field was a total (pleasant) surprise. I also thought that perhaps Ken Leeds is more than he seems to be (Oliver Leek, anyone?), and that his manipulation of Ange to get out in the field and close to Evan, who saw him in a different light, led to a few government contracts for Cross Photonics (something that made Ange happy) as well as access to what Evan Cross and his team have been doing with Anomalies. The final sequence, that showed Ken Leeds had "acquired" the juvenile Terror Bird reminded me of Oliver Leek (there's that name again), but makes me wonder whether there will be a Canadian equivalent to the creature menagerie that we saw in the original series. I like to think his taking charge of the juvenile was due to orders from the government, and not a personal agenda. However, while I'm not sure I like the dark edges that Ken Leeds gained this episode, it's interesting to see that he is definitely more than he seems.
The character development in this episode was quite good and one of the most positive things about the show to this point. The relationship between Ange Finch and Evan Cross is starting to be strained and is showing cracks, notably in terms of his dismissing everything related to the business at this point in order to pursue his obsession with the Anomalies or the creatures coming out of them, or whatever his focus is. Ange showed some signs of real frustration and anger/annoyance at Evan, and the sub-plot is steering her into Ken Leeds arms and allowing the Project Magnet fellow deeper into what's going on with the Anomalies. Evan and Dylan are obviously attracted to each other, the fence climbing scene being the most obvious, where I thought for just a second that they were going to kiss and grope each other in the wilderness there. Fortunately that didn't happen, but once they were captured by Blake and Skeezer, the concern they had for each other was...somewhat dull and repetitive. I was glad to see that Toby finally got a chance to go out into the field, and that she didn't deal with it too well, though managed to adapt. Mac Rendell came across as almost impulsive and panicky during the fight scenes with the Terror Bird, and his pumping all that tranq into the creature when he lost it seeing that Evan might die struck me as odd. However, perhaps it explains something about what happened to Mac in the past, and I'll be interested to see if this aspect of the character develops. I was also glad to hear mention of Samantha during the Toby/Mac drive before the Terror Bird hits the vehicle they're in. Makes me think she might be showing up in another episode. Also makes me wonder if Sam might not be connected somehow with Project Magnet and/or the government.
The beastie for this episode were the Terror Birds, as already noted. These creatures were not the same type as those seen in the third series of the original UK Primeval. Titanis walleri, as Dylan named them, were bigger than the average Phorusrhacid, and were known to live in the areas between Texas to Florida. They made for an adequate "menace" here, as there were three of them in the story - two adults and a youngster. Played for humour in the early part of the episode, with the juvenile coming through the Anomaly and eating (No Brand Name) Cheetos as well as some pot in the grow-op that Blake and Skeezer had established in the old trainyard that was meant to be a museum. I was amused at the sequence with the two pot growers interacting with the juvenile Terror Bird, as it reminded me of the scenes with Tom and Duncan with the dodo from the original tv series. That said, I felt the Terror Birds were under-used for the most part in the story, as it seemed to focus more on Blake, Skeezer, and the grow-op. The creatures were mostly seen in darkness, in the reddish light that suffused the warehouse where the pot was being grown, and to be honest, were visually somewhat below par. Furthermore, they seemed to be manically focused on single actions, and not very smart ones at that, during the course of the episode, but that's possibly just me and the comparison between them and the original Terror Birds in the UK tv series. Another problem, which is similar to what I had in the "Sisiutl" episode with the Titanoboa is that birds see in a more intense and varied spectrum than humans do, and this was not the case in terms of "terror bird-vision" in the episode.
Just need to comment on something that had me laughing. It isn't very often that heroes use drugs to vanquish or beat their foes, let alone using a trap to get them high, but it actually fit the situation here quite well. Not to mention the fact that Dylan and Evan knew about Hot Pots (smoking maryjane in a closed environment and what happens as a consequence). However, is there a rule or something that says that every series that takes place in Vancouver has to have at least one maryjane-filled episode? Is it just a coincidence that Continuum, which is also shot in Vancouver, also had their green leaf experience in Episode 4? Another bit that had me laughing was when Toby shot Skeeter with the tranq rifle; totally reminiscent of Connor shooting Abby in the original series.
That said, the episode had its problems, too. There's some minor inconsistencies about a few things, but these didn't bother me at all for the most part. However, there's Evan going out to look for the Terror Birds in the trainyards without any form of weapon, again (although granted he's got an excuse this time because the pot growers have taken his and Dylan's weapons), so he picks up a long piece of rebar. It actually proves somewhat effective against the big bird, but it's no Molly. Sometimes I think that Evan Cross has a death wish; then I remember how pissed off he's getting Ange, and... What really annoyed me about the episode, however, was that the ending seemed rushed. One moment, they're talking about how to capture and get the Terror Birds through the Anomaly, the next moment we're sitting in the Tank and they're talking about it as a fait accompli. Disappointing.
Overall, I thought "Angry Birds" was the best episode of the Primeval: New World series to this point, and had some good character development, and once more, an interesting pair or guest characters. While the creatures of the episode weren't used to their full potential, the tension was definitely higher than it's been in the three previous episodes. I think the quality of this episode has a good deal to do with writer Gillian Horvath, and so for my money, I liked what I saw. But the episode should have been called "Annoyed Birds". :)