It must have sucked to be a caveman.
At least that’s the key takeaway I got from Primal, a show which wastes no time in hammering home just how brutal its world is. An era that functions as a prehistoric lucky packet of dinosaurs, cavemen and stone age weaponry, all fused together into one bloody package of survival and chaos in an age long since forgotten.
Primal kicks off in the most savage way possible: Wandering caveman Spear witnesses his entire family mercilessly torn to shreds by a roaming pack of carnivorous Carnosaurs, helpless to stop them and hellbent on revenge by the time their blood has soaked into the dirt beneath him. From there, Spear’s journey is one of vengeance and surprises, connections and redemption as he travels the land with a T-Rex companion who shares his grief and also knows the pain of losing family.
Throughout the entire journey, Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky weaves a tale that is incredibly emotive without the need to utter a single word. An animated nature documentary that speaks volumes in the absence of language, Primal is bloody and vicious entertainment that doesn’t hold back any of the violence that shaped an ancient era that coined the term survival of the fittest.
Being that this a Tartakovsky production, Primal is also mesmerising in how it shapes up the action setpieces that defines each episode. Every single frame of animation is meticulously crafted, there’s nary a wasted moment of movement and every scene eventually ramps up the plot and nudges it towards an explosive confrontation that has to be seen to be believed. In the first episode alone, Spear and Fang combine forces to take on a seemingly unstoppable foe, only triumphing through teamwork and unrestrained savage ingenuity born from heartache.
And that’s the real appeal of Primal. This is a limited series which believes that mankind’s more positive emotions aren’t unique to our species. Ideas of compassion and teamwork, coming together to show a newfound respect for an unforgiving wilderness where every death, no matter how small or trivial, makes you appreciate the beauty of life itself.
On a visual level, Primal wildly succeeds in establishing its world and cast with its heavily stylised animation and drop-dead gorgeous colours that makes every frame a lush painting of history. On an audio level, John Wick and Guardians of the Galaxy composer Tyler Bates pitches a serene composition towards co-composer Joanne Higginbottom, who hits the tension out of the park with her own selection of heavy percussive tracks that tie into Primal’s brutal nature.
The end result is a series which does so much with so little. By going back to the very dawn of time, Tartakovsky and his team have produced a show which is deeply emotional, beautifully tragic and a strong reminder that compassion is the emotion that allowed our species to evolve.
Primal premieres on Showmax from April 13.
Last Updated: April 10, 2020