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Primal

Entry updated 14 June 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2019-current; vt Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal). Studio La Cachette. Created and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Writers include Bryan Andrews, Darrick Bachman, David Krentz and Genndy Tartakovsky. Voice cast includes Laetitia Eido-Mollon and Aaron LaPlante. Ten 22-minute episodes. Colour.

Spear (LaPlante), a caveman (probably Neanderthal), is unable to prevent his mate and children being eaten by a herd of Tyrannosauroids (see Dinosaurs), who later devour the young of Fang, a female Tyrannosaur. The distraught parents work together to take their revenge and – after some jockeying for dominance – cooperate to survive the incredibly hostile world they live in. A trailer to the series quoted Lord Byron's poem "Darkness" – "All Earth was but one thought – and that was death" (in The Prisoner of Chillon, and Other Poems, coll 1816 chap) – an apt quote as, despite some idylls, the pair spend most of their time fighting or fleeing. There are Zombie dinosaurs; assorted and mostly hostile primate societies (see Apes as Human, Origin of Man); Magic users (who can create a Time Viewer); giant humanoid bats and the enormous spider they serve (see Monsters); and an invisible dinosaur (see Invisibility). Whilst most of the non-fantastic species are recognizable, there is some license taken with regard to size, intelligence and aggression.

Up until episode 10 this is a world of grunts and roars, without language – nor anything more technologically advanced than a simple spear. Then our pair meet Mira (Eido-Mollon), a Homo sapien and escaped slave: she has a name, speaks Arabic, and can make and use a bow and arrow. Her slavers – implied to be Vikings – are reasonably advanced in metalwork, as she has manacles: Mira is recaptured at the end of the episode.

As the previous paragraphs more than hint, this is very much a Pulp series – but in the sense of that genre's early works, lacking the campiness or inability to keep a straight face that mar later examples. The beautiful animation and impressive soundtrack helps maintain the serious tone, as does the considerable blood and violence: there is much Horror – we see children eaten – though there is a little Humour too.

This excellent, thrilling series, which won three Emmys and two Annies, still has a key question unanswered: is this world – with dinosaurs and humans co-existing, along with mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers and ape-men – a Fantasy conceit or is there a science-fictional explanation? Fortunately season two has been commissioned. [SP]

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