This was easily the best episode of series 5 and possibly Primeval's most satisfying finale yet, despite the story feeling stretched to twice its natural length. Steve Bailie and co-creator Adrian Hodges are two of the show's best writers, and you can usually expect an increase in quality for the episodes they're behind. This was certainly the case here, as the finale delivered the action and jeopardy you demand of a monster-hunt show like Primeval, but also reduced the idiocy, delivered a few scenes of real emotion, and restored something the show lost this series: camaraderie between the characters.
Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) was last seen vanishing into Philip's (Alexander Siddig) super-anomaly, appearing in a barren future-Earth contaminated with a thin, noxious atmosphere, pummeled by erratic storms, and crawling with mutated Future Predators. Matt (Ciaran McMenemin) opted to go through the anomaly to rescue Connor, later joined by a gun-toting Abby (Hannah Spearritt), giving them both first-hand experience of his home: the dystopia Philip's "New Dawn" project is destined to cause. Back in the present, egomaniac Philip began to lose control of his man-made anomaly as it started to grow exponentially, eventually causing a bizarre atmospheric change in the skies above his facility, and a vicious Future Predator appeared in ARC for Lester (Ben Miller) and Jess (Ruth Kearney) to contend with.
There was a great deal to enjoy here, surprisingly, forgiving the fact Primeval lacks the budget to do a few ideas full justice—like the trip to the future. More importantly, I was surprised to see a genuinely good performance from Spearritt (her tearful reunion with Connor in an underground bunker was possibly the actress's best moment on this show), and even the terribly dry relationship between Emily (Ruth Bradley) and Matt was given some spice when Matt decided to sacrifice himself by altering history and potentially erasing his own timeline. The show works better, dramatically, when it’s less about wandering around trying to capture CGI monsters (that the actors can't see) and more about the characters facing things that test themselves. Siddig also looked more comfortable somehow, finally given a script that gave him something to play—as Philip realized the error of his ways and sacrificed himself to try and reverse the damage he's caused.
It's also worth mentioning the direction of Cilla Ware, who pulled off some decent sequences this week—in particular, there was a lovely shot when the camera pulled back from Lester and Jess to reveal the snarling jaws of a Future Predator before it started to prowl the ARC. Never underestimate how much a good camera move or choreographed action sequence can boost a show like Primeval, which demands a level of care and attention it rarely receives. The effects sequences of the intensifying super-anomaly, causing bizarre cloud formations and dragging entire buildings into its twinkling heart, were also notable highlights from a visual standpoint.
The story was largely unsurprising and could have ended a good half-hour early with some trimming, but overall series 5's finale was a great deal more exciting and watchable than every episode that's preceded it this year. I'm not sure what to make of the last-minute twist, however, when Matt encountered a bloodied doppelganger of himself in a darkened corridor who implored him to "go back". Primeval just broke a time-travel rule it established in series 1's finale (when meddling with history had an immediate effect on the present-day, and didn't result in an alternate timeline), so are we to assume there are two timelines now vying for existence? It doesn't make much sense right now, and to be honest I don't expect to provide a solid explanation from a show like Primeval, but I'm sure fans are just happy the ending suggests the writers expect to be recommissioned.
Whether the show deserves to come back after this frustratingly limp series is another matter.
- I never did understand Helen Cutter's motivations, or have forgotten whatever we learned over three years, so WHY did she manipulate Philip into causing the end of the world with his New Dawn project? How is causing the apocalypse in her interest?
- I seem to always mention this whenever the Future Predators make an appearance on the show, but they really are a great creature design. If you enlarged them, you almost end up with the Cloverfield monster, a good few years before that Lovecraft-inspired beast was conceived. The mutated versions here were perhaps even creepier because they sometimes moved around with a more human posture.