The first season of Primeval: New World reaches the eleven episodes mark with this episode, "The Inquisition", and for me personally it was not an enjoyable episode of television, though it certainly had a lot of things going on, raised the stakes of the tv series, and changed the playing field of the show in some remarkable ways. The plot of this episode goes something like this: Ken Leeds is subjected to an off-the-books court martial by Colonel Henderson Hall. Evan is brought in to testify against Ken, but soon finds himself under interrogation by the manipulative Colonel. Convinced that the world is in terrible danger and that Anomalies could hold the solution, Hall is determined to get Evan to share his knowledge and his technology, by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Mac and Dylan penetrate a secret lab where Project Magnet scientists have been conducting experiments on captured dinosaurs.
Right off the bat, as I said above, I can't say that this was enjoyable television nor was it my favourite episode of this first season to this point, though I will say that it was an interesting episode, somewhat boring in its feel and style. "The Inquisition" did not come across as a Primeval: New World, let alone Primeval UK, manner at all, feeling more like one of the more talky episodes of Sanctuary, definitely like an X Files episode, and oddly enough, reminded me of the Babylon 5 episode, "Comes the Inquisitor". And that episode was more interesting than this one, and definitely had more action. This episode made a lot of sense, picking up from the events of the previous episode, but it wasn't a Primeval episode in that there were no dinosaurs, other than in some flashbacks, not a lot of action (that's being kind), and a few other things that just didn't make this episode appeal to me.
From the point of view of what I really didn't like in this episode, there were a few highlights. First off, I was totally disappointed and felt completely cheated by the opening sequence, with Mac and Dylan running away from "three, maybe four" somethings. My hope that these were dinosaurs was dashed when what was chasing them wasn't seen until the last twenty minutes or so when the teaser sequence was resolved. The fact that no dinosaur was shown chasing them in the teaser made me know deep down that it wasn't dinosaurs, but it still let me down and made me feel cheated. What bothered me the most in the episode was the matter of temporal damage to the timeline. When the reveals were made about what Project Magnet was really doing, all the creatures and other samples from the past in the lab, and the reveal that Ken Leeds had led 53 missions through the Anomalies, I was just...annoyed. The kind of damage that they must have done to the timeline by all those trips to the past and all those creatures moved and slaughtered should be... incredibly manifest, but it isn't (at least not that we've seen, though the two-part season finale of "The Sound of Thunder" may prove me wrong).
So, what about the episode itself? In a lot of ways, "The Inquisition" was a pretty good episodes as a part of the ongoing story arc (no pun intended) that Primeval: New World is engaged in. With a mere two episodes remaining in the first season of the series after this one, you would expect the story arc of what's going on here to start heading for some sort of first season conclusion, opening up new questions and a new set of plots for the second season (assuming we get one). And that’s exactly what we get in this talky, plot-driven scattergun of an episode which abandons the monster of the week format completely to deliver something a little more tense, revelatory and character-driven. This episode is void of new CGI or new creatures, but makes up for it by answering some of the questions we have and lifting the shroud off Project Magnet, Canada’s secret paranormal investigations department (and whatever else they do).
While the opening teaser offers us something, in that Mac and Dylan are being chased by something, the post-credits opening instead takes us to the cells of a government building, to where a group of soldiers are taking a bright orange-clad jumpsuited Ken Leeds to an investigative room to be questioned by the mysterious Colonel Henderson Hall, who has been mentioned but not yet seen on screen, as he plans to get to the bottom of Leeds's actions over the previous episodes. So much for action. But things shift to Cross Photonics, where Evan and Toby are also trying to get to the bottom of Leeds's actions, and whether there is redemption for this character masterfully played by Geoff Gustafson.
When it comes down to it, this episode focuses really on truths. The truth about what Ken Leeds has been up to all these months, and the truth about what Project Magnet, the organisation that he works for, has been doing all these months. And to be honest, the viewer gets the shocks of their lives with these reveals. Colonel Hall is shown to have an agenda and is quite insane, but Leeds sways with the situation and the questions, being somewhat evasive, though finally admitting that he sides with Evan Cross on matters, despite everything that he's done in the past months. With Cross Photonics on the verge of collapse (if not having already done so), and the betrayal of Ange Finch near the end, Toby moving the Anomaly detection systems to an unknown location as Hall's troops invade the Tank, and Evan caving in and agreeing to help Project Magnet, if not work for them directly when all is said and done to protect Mac and Dylan, the episode ends on a rather shocking set of moments, climaxed by Ken Leeds being imprisoned and the keys being thrown away.
The characterisations and performances in this episode of Primeval: New World are very strong, notably on the parts of Geoff Gustafson as Ken Leeds, and Louis Ferreira as Colonel Henderson Hall. Geoff Gustafson's performance as Ken Leeds is disarming, as the episode concentrates on where his allegiances lie. This all ties in with Colonel Henderson Hall, and his twisted logic that allows him to justify his utterly insane plans. Gustafson does a masterful job in the episode, as one is never sure where he stands, and to be honest, this just goes to reinforce the whole mystery around Lieutenant (formerly Major) Leeds. We learn about the heinous activities that Leeds has performed off-screen during this current series, and are horrified for it, but this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Leeds truly believes that what he did was right. Or at least, believed, because by the time the episode comes to its startling conclusion, Leeds has come to side with Evan Cross in the matter, though Cross himself is forced to compromise with Colonel Henderson Hall because of his caring about Mac and Dylan and what could happen to them if he doesn't cooperate. While one truly feels sorry for Leeds at the end, as he is led back to his cell and imprisoned again, seemingly for good this time, whether he is friend or foe to Evan and the others remains up in the air, and I suspect the final two episodes of the season will reveal more about this - or perhaps just confuse us even more. But it definitely makes for good television.
While Ken Leeds continues to be the best and most interesting character in the series, his foil in this episode was a multi-dimensional character as well, with a pretty straightforward agenda. Louis Ferreira does an excellent job as Colonel Henderson Hall in this episode, and while it's clear by the end that he's insane, the cold logic of the man's plans, the fact that he has seen the future (more on this below) being what makes him tick makes him an interesting villain of the piece (though he's no Helen Cutter or Philip Burton, but it's still early days). The dialogue between Hall and Leeds was sparkling, had some wit, and was a game of cat-and-mouse between the two, though one is never sure which is which. The really sad part about Henderson Hall is the chintzy moustache that Hall had. I don't know if that was Ferreira's own moustache or a prop, but...ewww! It constantly distracted me during shots of the actor from the dialogue and story that was going on. The banter between the Colonel and Evan Cross was also very good as well, and the three actors in question played very well off each other. How much of Ferreira's Henderson Hall we'll be seeing in future remains to be seen.
On another front, it was a pleasure once more to see Miranda Frigon as Angelika Finch in what, to me, was a bit of a surprise appearance though all the viewers should have seen it coming. Ange's betrayal of Evan came as something of a shock, but it's obvious that the deaths of Samantha Sedaris and the Cross Photonics security officer at the claws and bite of the Lycaenops (back in Episode 1.5, "Undone") - not to mention the tumultuous relationship she has had with Evan - is the trigger for what's happened to Ange and the reason for her behaviour. However, Ange doesn't know the full extent of Henderson Hall's plans, and even she seemed somewhat surprised and a little worried about this. While she's relatively cold towards Evan, except when she's trying to get him to work with Henderson Hall, Ange showed some remarkable emotion in the final sequence when she passes Ken Leeds in the hallway as he's being returned to a cell. There's something between the two, and I hope that this element of the story has more light shed on it.
Danny Rahim turned in another decent performance as Mac Rendell, and had some of the best lines during his sequence with Mac and Dylan investigating the laboratory building and finding out the secrets that Project Magnet has been concealing. One of the moments in the episode that really gets lost in the shuffle of everything else is the bit where Mac was revealed to have been investingating the ARC symbol on his alternate self's shoulder, but that the internet has been "scrubbed clean". I really hope that the whole "What is the ARC?" subplot gets a bit more time, but that likely will happen in the second season (when, not if, the series gets renewed).
Interestingly enough, the matter of time travel and the concerns over the affects that it can have on the timeline came to the fore somwhat in this episode. Connor’s words to Evan back in the first episode continue to affect the plot, with Evan concerned about the actions with Leggy having an unknown effect on time, whereas Leeds is convinced anything done before the major catastrophic event that killed the dinosaurs compensates for anything they’ve done. The fact that, in a huge reveal, Leggy was the tip of the iceberg and the Lieutenant has been regularly skipping through Anomalies with teams to bring back many specimens and this is confirmed by the discovery of Mac and Dylan of a room full of creatures including many seen in the series so far, was shocking, and visibly disturbed Evan when he learned of it, notably in relation once again to what Connor told him. Colonel Henderson Hall suggests he has seen the future – whether it’s the same one witnessed in Primeval UK Series Three, Four or Five we don’t know – and he tries to curry favour with Evan with some emotional blackmail over his wife. But his plan is also revealed. Colonel Henderson Hall wants to specialise in geo-engineering, going back into the past to put plans in place to fix global warming and the mess humans have made, coming across as a weird combination of Helen Cutter, Oliver Leek, and Philip Burton. Someone who wants to make a difference to the world but going the wrong way about it, not considering the impact this could have on the timeline. It’s a neat revelation that goes a little beyond what the original series dealt with, but it does feel as if it’s just a composited plan taken from earlier series. And Hall certainly isn't planning anything we haven’t seen before from the villainous side of the concept before. It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, but Project Magnet definitely comes across as the threat in this episode, and given the ominously titled "The Sound of Thunder" two-part season finale, one has to wonder what's next for our heroes. Add to that the matter of Howard Kanan's trip to the Cretaceous and the implications of that, and... well, let's just say there's a lot of stuff that can still go wrong and cause some temporal problems.
All in all, while I didn't like "The Inquisition" from a personal perspective, the episode was a refreshing change for the show in a lot of ways, relatively good to watch and easy to follow considering the amount of jumping around both in space and time. The development of the plot, in particular with Colonel Henderson Hall, is interesting but nothing new, with most of the issues having been tackled by the original series. They take the idea of dinosaur experimentation a little further, but it’s essentially what we got with Helen Cutter and Oliver Leek in Primeval UK Series Two.
Now that the kids gloves have come off and new alliances have been forged (and forced), it will be interesting how the protagonists of the series come to terms with the new situation and whether history has or will be (or should that be was?) changed by events. The final two episodes of the first season of Primeval: New World should be interesting to say the least, and the ramifications of the events of this episode seem to be set to be dealt with in the second season of the series (if that comes to pass).