The seventh episode of the series was a pretty good one, and had a lot that made it interesting, but there was also some really...tasteless moments to the episode that I'll get into a bit below. To start, the plot of the episode: When an Anomaly opens up at a photo shoot for the alternative pin-up site Fatal Babes, Toby reveals to the others that she has a history with the group - and with one of the other models. Toby and Mac race to evacuate the models - and wind up stranded with Toby's ex-girlfriend Natalie. Meanwhile, Ange is determined to become a more active team member, and joins Evan and Dylan in the search for the creature - a deadly Ornitholestes – and the Anomaly.
First off, this episode was written by Katherine Collins, the script editor for the series, and it shows in the episode. Behind the direction of Andy Mikita, who also directed "Sisiutl" and "Angry Birds", the script was shot in a really good location, the woodlands around the Seymour Conservation area (or maybe Mount Seymour, I'm not really sure). The location had the feel of an old style forest, light and shadow playing against the camera angles, and some really marvellous vegetation and the like as well as some scenic views (especially the panoramic element on the foot bridges). The story plot itself was nice and tight, and added to the background of Toby Nance in a way that probably surprised a lot of viewers (or maybe just me, 'cause I sure didn't see parts of that coming).
One of the things that almost threw me off this episode a bit was the teaser. This could easily have been a new Cabin in the Woods kind of set-up - an old cabin in the middle of nowhere, young adults having a good time, and a creature outside ready to rip them to pieces, all staples for that style of horror movie. What made it stand out was the arrival on the scene (so to speak) of the creature for this week, and the fact that the business at hand took place during daylight hours. I needn't have worried or concerned myself about this, as to be honest, writer Katherine Collins took things in a different direction altogether.
Characterisation was a central element of this episode which was, for the most part, rather laid back. Evan and Ange have taken a step forward in their relationship, but this episode offers more of a state of detente between the two, with Evan somewhat cool towards her for most of the story. I had mentioned in a review of a previous episode that I had wondered when Ange was going to go out in the field with the team, and this was the episode. The reason she gave, ostensibly to find out more about the world Evan's currently living in, as
he seems to want more involvement with that world rather than the Cross Photonics one, and she wants to be more involved with him, was tempered by the obviousness of the fact that she wanted to check out his relationship with Dylan. Ange got much more than she bargained for here, but we also learned more about her; she's got nine years of martial arts behind her, and has some definite mettle. She martial arts kicked one of the Ornitholestes, and then shot it with the taser. One of my favourite bits in this episode was the sequence with Ange bonding with Dylan over some taser weaponry. While Dylan doesn't really get any character development in this one per sé, the clarity of the situation is brought home in the final sequence as the lonely, bedraggled Dylan hobbles off, still recovering from the dislocated shoulder that she incurred earlier (which Evan straightened out), while Evan and Ange hold each other as they stare at the Anomaly. This final bit speaks volumes, and it was one of the best scenes of the whole Primeval: New World first season so far. One of the things that I hope this leads to is Ange being more supportive of what Evan is doing in the field, and that she joins the field team more often and plays a more vital role in the Anomaly hunting and dealing with the creatures.
The character who gets the most background in the story is by far Toby Nance. Toby's past sexual behaviour/history was brought up briefly in "Undone", but she gets stripped down to her underwear here. (Yes, we've seen that before in an earlier episode, but here it's on a website devoted to Fatal Babes.) Here we learn about Toby's "sordid" past, a fact that Evan already knew about, when she attempts to tell him about her connection to the Fatal Babes, but he's unconcerned about it, a fact that surprises Toby somewhat. While I have suspected that Toby was gay since the first episode (just the way that she rebuffed Mac's advances), this episode brought home the fact that she is more likely bi-sexual, with a preference for girls (but I could be wrong about this, and she's actually meant to be lesbian). We learn that Toby's father is a preacher and that she has a Chinese mother (giving a reason for her speaking Chinese to the terror bird in "Angry Birds"). Mac is also informed that Toby's father is conservative, repressive, and probably fundamentalist, thus giving us a bit of an explanation for why Toby thought Evan might fire her over her Fatal Babes stuff. Tora Hylands, the actress who played Toby's former female squeeze, Natalie, did a terrific job in the role, and the heat between the two characters was brought off quite well by Crystal Lowe and Tora Hylands. Something else that I really liked about the character of Natalie was that she bloody well panicked quite badly when she first saw the creature, but showed later that she has a good head on her shoulders, and seriously appreciated the beauty of the Anomalies and the intriguing mystery they presented. A very nice set of reactions to the situation that she found herself in. One of the things that concerns me is my feeling that if Natalie continues to share Toby's fascination with the beauty and the nature of the Anomalies, she may share Sam's fate if they spend more time together. However, perhaps Toby has learned from that lesson and she will try to not mix business with pleasure. Only time will tell. Mac's reactions to Toby's reveals were somewhat hilarious though a bit too extreme for my taste, even if they do seem to fit well with his (nineteen-year old) character. I can't say I liked Mac's attitude towards Toby and her past in this episode, finding it somewhat tasteless, though I suppose I understand why he reacted the way he did. I've got no idea how they intend to proceed with the Mac/Toby relationship past this episode, if there is one, but if I had a problem with this development of the Toby character, it was the titillating factor that was brought into it all. I suppose that's one of the differences between the UK and the Canadian versions of the tv show, but still, that element of it all irritated me.
I was sorry to see that Ken Leeds and his new task force didn't make an appearance in this episode, but I assume that there are going to be developments with this in the next episode or two (given their titles). That said, there was the bit at the end when Evan reluctantly agreed to call Ken Leeds to get some help on hauling the hog-tied Ornitholestes to the Anomaly, though once again, we didn't see what went on with that (so there's always the possibility that the government kept the Ornitholestes as well). It will also be interesting to see how they develop the relationship between Ange and Ken Leeds in the future, given her seemingly having now "hooked up" with Evan. Perhaps they'll put him together with Dylan? Now, that would be interesting! :)
The beastie introduced this episode, the Ornitholestes, was somewhat different from what I know of the creature from the fossil record (such that exists), as they were made larger and heavier, but didn't really seem to give the team a good run for its money. Sure, there was the chase scene where the creature went after Ange, but to be honest, the Ornitholestes was more menacing when it was attacking Toby's ex in the opening teaser than in later sequences. The CGI on the creatures was pretty good, but I felt that they got short shifted somewhat this episode, as some of the creatures have in earlier episodes, though they were much more visible so the CGI had to be good. Part of this may have been that the creatures were used in an open-air environment with lots of sunlight and the trees giving good background colour to the scenes they were in. That said, I was sorry once more to see shots of "creature cam" in the story, and have to say that this is getting somewhat annoying to me, and is quite un-Primeval-esque.
Overall, I rather enjoyed "Babes in the Woods", and found the episode to be pleasant with its daylight setting, the development of several character relationships, and the revelations about some of Toby's past. Not to mention the neat creature of the week. While the episode wasn't as suspenseful or as action filled as some of the previous episodes tried to be, this was a much more balanced storyline and episode, lighter and funnier in some ways, but still with some good dramatic moments. This episode is, I feel, in some ways a turning point as to what comes next, and to be honest, the emotional intensity of this episode is certainly there and in all the right spots for the most part.
Looking forward to the next one. :)