‘Primal’ is not a series similar to other animated works that we have seen recently. It is sparing in dialogue and absolutely devoted to action and violence, to such an extent that it is grotesque, but it also treasures one of the best visual storytelling that has been seen in any medium in recent years. But this should not be surprising coming from his creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, who in 2022 premiered the second season on HBO Max of the best work of his career.
The animator was responsible for the also very epic ‘Samurai Jack’, and here too there are many shades of that dark fantasy, which returns after a brutal end to the first group of episodes. The story does not beat around the bush and begins right where the final episode of the previous season left off, with the caveman protagonist Spear and the dinosaur Fang without her friend Mira, kidnapped by slave traders who have taken her on a ship.
The beginning, focused on how the kidnapping of Mira leaves Spear touched, is the prelude to a much more emotional journey than the previous one, even more than the recovery of Fang, revealing the first real connections that we have seen between the barbarian and another human being. This makes the drama of Spear’s hopelessness or Fang’s dogged determination to reunite with him after a nasty storm become more action-packed, as dynamic and present as ever, but with more elements at play.
Conan’s cousin’s fantasy on top of a dinosaur
The best thing about ‘Primal’ is that you never know where it will move, from the chase in search of Mira, we will go through adventures that always have more than expected, and throughout the 10 episodes we will see ancient Celtic warriors, Vikings, demons, Egyptians and even an amazing flashback to the future in episode 5, a 180 degree turn where we go to London in the 1890s, where we meet Charles Darwin, who reveals a theory to his academic friends about the “primal instincts”. .
A great bottled episode that gives context to the idea of the series, the spirit of the indomitable as the key to survival, which is crowned as a small episode of animal terror, in the style of movies with primates in unexpected places like ‘Link’ or ‘Sakma’. However, the high point of the season is precisely the previous episode, a savage battle that takes the scale of the action seen to absurd levels, and the sequential approaches to a massive construction that may be the very definition of Tartakovsky’s style.
If season 1 was violent, this is much more so: entire tribes wiped out, mutilation, beheadings, limb amputations, birds feeding on corpses and lots of blood that give the essence of a very dark fantasy with a colorful style that seems as if Ralph Bakshi from ‘Tygra, Ice and Fire’ (1983) will adapt ‘The Savage Sword of Conan’ in the silent era. The hallmark of ‘Primal’ is its lack of text, something that never makes it seem like it’s downgrading the complexity of what it tells, but that’s not entirely true.
A masterpiece of animation
Part of the charm of what Tartakovsky achieves is to achieve new ways of transmitting details, feelings, plans and consequences based on editing and a wide range of expressions in his characters, but also in his composition of scenes and general shots, transmitting all the necessary sensations in a picture of rest after the battle in a plane. The actor Aaron LaPlante, continues to endow the Neanderthal with surprising emotion and subtlety, through his growls and shouts, despite the fact that he does not know how to articulate a word. The set leaves a masterful work, which communicates as much as a dialogue series.
However, compared to the previous one, this new season is not so compact. The three-part Egyptian plot is stretched too thin, considering that the essence of the series is the monster-of-the-week structure, although both that and the revenge substory are important in the finale, which could work as a conclusion. of the series, at least until an unlikely season 3 is confirmed.
In any case, it is difficult to see ‘Primal’ as something separated in seasons, as a whole it is a brutal representation of a fantasy prehistory in which Genndy Tartakovsky draws on traditional sword and sorcery to make something like ‘In Search of Fire’. ‘ with dinosaurs, which replaces the camp idea of ’A million years ago’ with the brutality of the ‘Predator’ saga or survival horror movies, 2000 AD comics and everything that can be asked of a series of action: a barbaric protagonist on top of a dinosaur against witches, monsters, demons and vikings.