A caveman (Spear) and a Tyrannosaur (Fang) bond after the deaths of their families and roam through a fantastical prehistoric world together, savagely taking on anything that opposes them.
PRIMAL is an animated television series created and directed by the brilliant Genndy (SAMURAI JACK) Tartakovsky and, boy, is it good! It comes across like an utterly brutal Hanna-Barbera cartoon, full of bloody action, horror and fantasy, with no dialogue.
The world the series is set in is populated by dinosaurs, ape-creatures, cavemen, Ice Age mammals, monsters, bugs and other beings, such as witch-like characters and other types of humanoids.
Imagine Brock Samson (from THE VENTURE BROS) mixed with Conan the Barbarian, then jammed into the chunky body of a caveman, and you’ll get a good idea of what Spear is like. Fang, the Tyrannosaur, is a feisty she-beast who does some great double takes and can go into killing frenzies just like Spear.
Some of the episodes are brutal action stories, whilst others lean more towards horror, such as ‘Terror Under the Blood Moon’, which features huge bat-monsters and a massive spider. The episode ‘Rage of the Ape-Men’ has savage simians, including gorilla-like brutes that battle each other, and involves the use of a dark liquid that causes one of the apes to grow much larger. Spear also drinks this fluid and he temporarily transforms into a mega-aggressive hulk-esque killing-machine!
Another horror-themed story, ‘Plague of Madness’, is a really cracking episode, focusing on a disease transmitted by bites that turns a once-gentle sauropod into a kill-crazy, hideous, relentless zombie-saurus! Great stuff!
‘Coven of the Damned’ is, perhaps, a story that’s a little too convoluted compared to the other lean, mean and efficiently-told episodes, but it is interesting in that it does look again at the theme of loss – as we watch a small hag-witch go back in time to witness the awful moments where Spear and Fang (and herself) lose their offspring.
The episode after this, ‘The Night Feeder’, switches back to a more linear, pacy yarn, as an unseen super-killer wipes out anything it encounters in the night. The only slight letdown is when the briefly-seen Feeder is eventually revealed and it turns out to be a pretty standard-looking dinosaur.
‘Scent of Prey’ shows Spear’s commitment to Fang, as he cares for the injured Tyrannosaur, patching-up her wounds with mud, dragging her around on a makeshift stretcher and battling prehistoric wild dogs.
‘Slave of the Scorpion’ introduces a slave-girl character who could, maybe, become a recurring character if we get another season, includes some bloody showdowns, an aquatic reptile attack and also features Spear uttering his first word!
PRIMAL’s storytelling is top-notch, managing to convey the tales clearly despite the lack dialogue, the two main characters, even though they indulge in bouts of total carnage, are a likeable double act and, visually, the series wonderfully balances scenes of visceral mayhem with gorgeous background designs by Christian Schellewald.
With an effective score, an unapologetic focus on savage action and a love of pulpy storytelling, PRIMAL is a wild, glorious feast for the eyes.