This review contains spoilers.
1.10 The Great Escape
Primeval’s Canadian spin-off is back for a second week in its post-season-break return to, possibly coincidentally, come back to a character that is first seen in the episode shown on the same day in the UK, currently six weeks behind.
The Great Escape, though not as well constructed and enjoyable as the previous week’s episode, showcases more of the quality script and plotting that was lacking from many of the earlier episodes and though the big development of last week is not touched on or indeed referred to here, and it’s light on additional characters, it’s still an enjoyable romp, albeit one that needs a little bit of suspension of disbelief in parts due to some clunky plot advancements.
The episode opens in a lab with a scientist preparing to perform a rectal biopsy on the angry contents of a metallic cage, which is a sentence I thought I’d never have to write. However, the angry creature briefly hinted at pre-credits finally breaks through the frankly shoddy locks and escapes the laboratory and out into the wider city, not actually killing the lab hand who had the smell of red-shirt about him. He does, though, get trampled on via the door.
Post-credits, and we return to Cross Photonics and Evan and Dylan are doing target practice on a variety of materials to test what their tranquilisers can and can’t shoot through. We find a team here very much at stretching point with Angelika still absent, Mac also conspicuous by his absence after his contribution the week before and even Toby missing from the cast list due to a bad case of RSI, in an episode that seems to be keeping the wages of the actors down. Dylan is very much in convincing mode as she tries to get Evan to recruit more for the team but he rightly questions the sort of interviewing process this would require.
Whilst most of the regular cast are away, a semi-regular face does return in the form of Adrian Holmes as Detective Harlow, back after his last appearance in episode two. Here he has called on the team to investigate a weird attack in a car park and enjoys a brief, but wittily-scripted appearance. Alarm bells ring though by the fact no alarm bells have rung, with no anomalies picked up by the machine.
Before Evan and Dylan investigate the scene to confirm Harlow’s suspicions of a creature incursion, we get a brief glimpse back at Project Magnet with the increasingly dodgy Lisa Merriweather snooping around files with Leeds mostly unaware, and even some flirty Star Trek analogies between the pair can’t shake the feeling she has a hidden agenda.
Back at the car park, and Evan and Dylan speak to the druggie car owner – drugs seem to make a regular appearance in the stories involving this creature – who describes an attack by a big bird in an amusing visual way. There’s still no anomaly detected though but they figure the creature is still trapped in the area, though further investigation shows a clawed-at stairwell door and a possible escape route for the monster of the week.
With a statement of ‘it could be anywhere’ a scream suggests it’s not and leads Evan and Dylan to a scavenging terror bird, which Dylan immediately recognises as ‘Leggy’ from episode four, a creature supposedly returned to its own time by Lieutenant Leeds but we know to have been kept in the present, a neatly connected nod back to a previous storyline but one that advances the plot. The only issue is with Dylan’s recognition of the bird. The last time she saw the creature it was an infant – how could she recognise it as the same creature? It’s all there to advance the plot along but doesn’t quite sit well with me. You can make a show fantastical with the creatures but keep these elements grounded please!
This aside, they spot the bird has been tagged and operated on but before they can capture it the army turns up, headed up by Major Douglas, a gung-ho operative, but even they can’t stop it from making an escape.
Evan and Dylan clearly need answers and so head to Project Magnet where they come up against Ken Leeds, once more proving himself to be the best character in the new series, with some fun coffee jokes and some funny one-liners around a card game.
The cat – or should I say Terror Bird – is out of the bag and Leeds confesses to his actions, done to ensure that they could get the support from the military. There’s even time for a subtle joke from Dylan about ‘invasive torture – my arse’, which takes us back painfully to the earlier biopsy performed on Leggy.
The plot thickens as we find Ken has lost his access privileges and can’t pick up the radio frequency emitted by the bird’s leg brace. In another piece of disbelief suspension, Evan hacks into his computer and gives him the security clearance. As with the bird recognition, this smacks of plot advancement with little logic behind it: we are told Evan is clever but this seems an unlikely possibility. Elsewhere in the episode Evan’s technological know-how is hinted at that he’s been working on a way to open anomalies. It’ll be interesting to see if this is true and what he’s designed, and whether it’s anything like the technology last seen in the hands of Helen Cutter.
Major Douglas and his team meanwhile find themselves at the Thunderbird Ice Arena (see what they did there) on the hunt for the Terror Bird, and start putting an evacuation into place until it’s only them in the building, with a little bit of tension thrown in from an ice-skater ambivalent to their calls for exit.
Naturally Evan and Dylan also turn up and break into the building, with a nicely plotted hiding-in-the-toilets trick. But it’s not all light-heartedness with Corporal Turner getting on the wrong side of the Terror Bird and coming a cropper, plus the team realising they have an unsuitable tracker for their requirements.
There is a great piece of character animation in the bird on the ice in an episode that doesn’t really shout out about its CGI as Evan and Dylan break into the broadcast centre to try and jam the signal from the leg brace to the soldiers so they can get to it first. In the third leap of logic, Evan just happens to have done some work for the company and happens to know the codes needed to break in.
Things aren’t going too well either at Project Magnet with Leeds put firmly in his place by Major Douglas, who is acting on Colonel Hall’s orders. Though the bandying around of military names sounds like a Cluedo game gone wrong, it does show Leeds is being shut out of the investigating and losing his power.
Back in the Thunderbird Arena and it’s hunt time for the bird with the creature’s sounds echoing around and the soldiers distracted by Evan’s jammer. But it’s Leeds that is still getting it in the neck – ironic for a man who cracks his neck twice in quick succession, perhaps suggesting he needs more calcium in his diet – both from Dylan who blames the soldier’s death on him – which they’ve discovered – because he kept the bird and from Douglas who questions his loyalties in another funny bit of dialogue from Leeds, and a line that seems to sum up his character perfectly: “I don’t know whether you’re extremely stupid or extremely smart.” I’m not sure either, but the end of the episode does sort of suggest the latter.
The hunt, which perhaps drags a little in this episode, is still on with Evan and Dylan discovering the bracelet has come off, meaning the bird could be anywhere. Meanwhile, in a sudden and awkwardly paced shot, another soldier – Corporal Gibbons – is killed by the bird and Douglas seemingly injured. But Evan and Dylan manage to find the creature and tranquilise it, but this is not enough and the creature escapes under its own adrenaline.
In a tense scene Dylan tries to lure the creature out with cheese puffs – apparently the lab hand’s snack of choice for captive prehistoric birds – and it’s taken down with a tranquiliser, but on investigation is badly wounded from a bullet in the leg. Dylan considers the best option is to put it out of its misery but neither her nor Evan have enough tranquiliser to do the job.
But before they have chance to act Major Douglas is back and threatens to shoot Dylan but they are saved by Leeds who knocks out Douglas and allows Dylan to use Douglas’ gun to end the life of the badly injured Terror Bird, in a scene that poses some moral issues but doesn’t quite tug at the heartstrings as much as you’d expect.
The episode ends in dramatic fashion, creating one of the few interesting cliff-hangers of the show. Leeds proves to finally be on the side of the team, giving them his car keys to escape, while he lets himself be arrested by his colleagues, something watched by Evan and Dylan, who find something labelled ‘Welcome to Project Magnet’ in his vehicle.
“What’s he up to?” Dylan asks. “We’re going to find out” replies Evan.
The Great Escape is one of the better episodes of the series so far and following on from the previous one proves that the mid-season break has triggered an improvement in the episodes. The lack of progress with plotlines regarding Mac or Howard echoes back to the quietness of plot lines raised but not developed in previous episodes, but hopefully this will be resolved as we reach the conclusion in three episodes time. The hunt for the terror bird in this episode does drag a little at time and the progression of the story does require you to ignore certain forced plot points, but the witty script and character development make up for it.
It’s not the best episode so far and doesn’t really get the opportunity to show off any major CGI or twists, but the dialogue and development of characters, Leeds in particular, is well worth seeing and I look forward to see where New World goes from here as they discover what Project Magnet is actually up to…
Read Philip’s review of the previous episode, Breakthrough, here.
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