This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s introductory episode to the Canadian spin off to Primeval, a show focussing on anomalies opening up and spewing out creatures long extinct, the sister Canadian show hits its stride more in its second story.
With its title taken from the name of a mythical Native American creature, Sisiutl sees Evan Cross and his team come together to stop a large sea serpent from killing any more people.
Just as in the first episode, the opening scenes set up the story and once more feel a little like a sci-fi version of Casualty, where you can see the setup happening – oh, two people in boats, the silhouette of something large approaching, he disappears, she gets dragged into the water – knowing it will lead to the crux of the episode. That said, the opening is filled with suspense and sparing with the creature shots, making use of its props and the actors to fill in the gaps.
After this, we actually get a full credit sequence. It’s a little more complex than the UK version but keeps the shard motif and features clips from the first episode amongst the shards; I can only assume these images will change from episode to episode as the series continues? Graphically the opening credits are great but the musical theme is not a patch on the powerful, cinematic UK score – an issue I have throughout the show – and it’s a shame that the traditional theme was not re-employed here.
The second episode then hits its stride proper and feels more like it’s nodding back to the original series. Here we get a reference to ‘convergence’ and an example shown of it, suggesting that the events of UK series five haven’t passed the team by, but surely they would know more about it from the media coverage with creatures spotted all over? Either that or the marks are false positives, as mentioned, and that’s just a nod for the fans.
The one thing that does surprise me about the series is how fast they’re progressing with their technology. It took the UK ARC team until series two to discover how to track anomalies. Here Toby Nance, played by Crystal Lowe, morphs into a weird cross between Connor and Jess, building the ARC detector and then operating it. I can see why they’ve done it, so fans aren’t seeing the same progression all over again and it speeds up the action, allowing them to find anomalies and creatures easier, but it seems rather rushed. Then again, Nick Cutter and his team didn’t seemingly have the budget that Cross’ company has. From the dialogue it also seems that the anomaly locking mechanisms may not be far behind.
Another neat connection is to series three where the idea of anomalies being behind legends was first mooted and shown by a dragon and Egyptian God coming back. Here we have Ogopogo, or the titular Sisiutl, as the giant sea serpent from mythology and old copies of Fortean Times.
The plot of the second episode moves along at a nice pace. We get a subplot about the Native American residents of the town protesting against the expansion of an oil refinery which adds a little bit of depth to the piece and also ties neatly into the plot at the end, but it’s the character development that really shines in this episode. Lt. Ken Leeds lights up the screen whenever he’s on and there’s a developing situation with Angelika Finch who seems to be moving away from being this series’ Lester character to more like Oliver Leek, wanting to get Evan off the case and taking over. We also have some interesting grounding in Dylan Weir being sent for psychometric testing after confessing to seeing dinosaurs and her subsequent decision to join the team. The group also comes together more by the end, hopefully rounding the ‘let’s get the band together’ aspect of the show. The characters certainly seemed to be more fleshed out here, away from the stock stereotypes that you could argue existed in the UK series.
Though the script has some great one-liners and sassy dialogue, there is a strange feeling of déjà vu and coincidence. Evan’s back story of his wife being killed by a dinosaur is very Nick Cutter; there appears to be just one police officer in the area who investigates crimes, and the plot just happens to pull Evan and Mac together with Dylan and her former pupil Leo, who just happens to be the nephew of the Native American protestors. I’m all for the need to pull things together but it does smack of one too many coincidences.
Graphically, the episode is not as strong as the first, with the use of bullet time in one scene and more character-following cuts (though they are less intrusive here). Once more, considering the suggestions that the budget is larger, the creature of the week is very much implied for much of the episode and though the shots are undoubtedly well done as the Titanboa attacks Ethan and Leo in the storm drain, they are no more impressive than we saw in the UK original and, if you take the nearest sister episode from Primeval being series one episode three with the giant Cretaceous Mosasaur which interacts a lot with Connor, the set-pieces seem less adventurous. Though the UK Primeval is not innocent of it, they also seem fond of the anomalies closing straight after the creature has passed through.
The more adult nature of the show does, however, show its face in this episode with a decapitated head covered in goo discovered by Evan, though I wouldn’t say the prop was particularly convincing or disturbing for kids. There are certainly a few moments you wouldn’t have seen in the British Primeval, though the deaths remain off screen and, aside from one call of ‘Jesus’, the language is kept pretty family-friendly.
The show is certainly growing on me. There are enough developments in the episode of the overall arc to keep me interested with Angelika Finch’s motivations coming under question and Evan and Dylan’s blossoming relationship and the script is filling up with witty lines and some interesting dialogue. The CGI is great if not spectacular, and if you ignore the plot-by-numbers, lack of any truly massive set-pieces, and quite a bland creature of the week it’s an enjoyable episode that neatly establishes the set-up and advances what we know about the characters.
Read Philip’s review of the previous episode, The New World, here.
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