This review contains spoilers.
1.6 Clean Up On Aisle Three
After last week’s emotional ending to a character’s short but poignant arc, episode six Clean Up On Aisle Three – possibly the daftest title in this thirteen-episode run – picks up neatly from the plot strands started and developed in the previous episode and runs with them, creating an episode much more focussed on character development and drama, whilst not neglecting the creature-of-the-week.
The episode opens in a branch of Canadian Tire, a large warehouse-based retailer and not a fictional shop (would their appearance in the show be a boon to trade or not, I don’t know) where a Bollywood-watching security guard has his television viewing interrupted by a pack of Daemonosaurus, small, sharp-toothed raptor-like creatures. Returning to the very short pre-credits sequence, we see a fair few of the POV shots that have become this series’ trademark, something lacking from the original series in any big way, but that really benefits this production. We also see the guard stumble across the foot prints and then the creatures, in some nice understated CGI.
As with last week we are delivered post-credits back to the headquarters of Cross Photonics where boss Angelika reveals to Evan over a takeaway Chinese, that she has been offered a lucrative job offer elsewhere and though, as he points out, this isn’t the first time this has happened, she fears the company has lost focus as Evan chases after the anomalies and wants to leave. But this conversation is cut short by an anomaly alert and the team re-assembles outside the aforementioned store: Evan still digesting that news, Dylan preparing for a date, and Mac visibly wearing the scars of the previous episode’s developments and being a changed character, his humour now darker and bitter and his relationship with Evan, who through his actions led to the death of Sam, is much more awkward. Evan further morphs into the original series’ Matt to Mac’s Becker by unveiling a new taser-shotgun that fires cartridges in the gun sense rather than the traditional cables, demonstrating it on a CCTV camera.
With the CCTV further disabled the trio enter the building with no reference to where Toby is in the proceedings. This entry is balanced against a video message sent to Angelika from the eccentric Lieutenant Ken Leeds who captures his off-key manner perfectly and continues to highlight his character as one of the stand-out performances of the series. He asks for a secret liaison with Angelika, which is done in his now familiar over-the-top style as if he’s a secret agent organising a top secret mission.
Back in the warehouse, the props team continues its good work with a gruesome pair of legs pulled out from the anomaly, belonging to the unlucky security guard. With a blood trail smeared across the floor of the store it’s clear they’re up against something vicious.
Angelika meanwhile meets up with Ken Leeds in a quiet location in a scene that balances nicely between their commitments to the anomalies and Leeds’ awkward reading of situations, their meeting looking like an ill-fitting date complete with hors d’oeuvres and wine smuggled out from a vault in the governmental headquarters.
Angelika is the focus of the conversation back in the store as Evan and Dylan discuss her reasons for leaving whilst they and Mac continue to track the creatures, with a dog-carrier proving a handy trap when connected with a trail of food.
Back at the awkward date, in an episode that regularly flicks between the two scenarios, Angelika gets a taste of Leeds’ cold and matter-of-fact side and isn’t sure what she thinks of it. The episode continues to throw these topics into the mix and balances well between the drama and action but does feel a bit soap-like at times, like Eastenders with dinosaurs.
At the store, with the dinosaur captured, it sends out a distress call and Evan and Dylan realise it’s calling for help and they would be better off keeping the size advantage and sticking together, then proceed to split-up in a plotting decision that I can see the advantage of, but left me scratching my head after the dialogue they’d literally just had.
Though the episode has a lot of strengths in its dialogue, some of it seemed very anachronistic and out of place, such as the big conversation between Evan and Dylan about the creatures’ pack-habits, distress calls and being descended from birds, like Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park 3 never happened. I know there will be lots of viewers watching it that haven’t seen that famous trilogy, but I’m pretty sure dinosaurs being descended from birds is pretty wide knowledge now, and surely Evan would have known this?
Aside from this, the plot continues and Evan and Dylan plan to capture the alpha male and send it back through the anomaly, which should make the others follow. But as the cracks start to appear in the team, as Mac in particular branches out on his own and goes after revenge, the location starts to come into its own with it allowing some dramatic scenes to build, supported by CGI that isn’t as in your face as in previous episodes but works just as well, even if a slow-motion scene at one point involving balls falling off a shelf sticks out as if they had to do it for technical reasons.
But there is a lot of drama built up through the creatures and their stalking of the individual team members with falling boxes in place of creature sightings adding to the action on a budget. Only a scene with Mac in a small store room cornering a creature seemed out of place, either supposed to build tension by suggesting he might be in trouble, or coming across as too comical, resembling the scene in the first Johnny English where Rowan Atkinson is attacked an “assailant” in a side room.
There is a nice conclusion to the scene though, with fears that Mac may have been killed but, to the relief of Evan and Dylan, he has sealed the alpha male in a box which can be pushed through the anomaly and back to its own time. To a time, one presumes, where there are dinosaurs that can open taped-up boxes.
The de-creaturising (I may have just invented that phrase) of the building continued with the trio donning ice-hockey suits in a smooth reference to its Canadian origins) to attack the creatures with hockey sticks, their nest being found in a magpie-like plot point that has been lifted straight from the opener of series four of the original Primeval, and then the alpha male being pushed through with the others following.
With Leeds now having provided a soldier or two to guard the anomaly, the team can leave but it’s Leeds that once more is back in focus, taking a phone call from his superior who reveals he is sending officer Lisa Merriwether to support him. Where she comes into the plot we’ll soon find out.
There are a few neat epilogues to the episode, which leads me to a question. The first sees Dylan telling Evan ‘not everything waits for tomorrow’ which, to me, was her suggesting that, in the light of her failed date, she was following up their flirting with the offer that they should get together. But, it seems, through a chat between her and Mac and then a short conversation between Evan and Angelika over another Chinese takeaway, that Evan’s heart lies with Angelika. Have I been mis-reading the chemistry between Evan and Dylan or is this going to lead into some weird, dinosaur-fighting, love triangle? We’ll have to wait and see.
Overall, episode six was an enjoyable forty-five minutes, more heavily focussed on the drama and not afraid to carry over the plot developments of the previous episode, with many references to the two deaths from Angelika’s displeasure at having to file a report linking them to an industrial accident, to Ken Leeds’ cold comment about him being able to cover up the “ten deaths” so far. In many ways the creature-of-the-week was over-shadowed by the more human side of the plot, something that it could be argued the original UK series never got the right balance of, and it managed to border mostly on the good side of character development without going too Coronation Street on us.
The impact of the anomaly research is clearly showing on the team and the cracks appearing, especially around Angelika and Mac, make for an interesting plot progression but the series seems inconsistent on its plot strands. Six episodes in and there’s been no more allusions to the body in the freezer, or Leeds’ hiding away of one of the terror birds, or, with the absence of Toby, progression with learning more about the anomalies. Or the overall feeling that the series is heading anywhere. Sure, we’ve seen characters adapt and darken due to the events that unfold and the characters feel more developed and well written than the UK series, overall, but there seems to be lacking the sense of an arc that the inspirational television show had a lot of and that spark seems to be missing, but we’ll see how that changes as we reach the half-way point next week.
In conclusion, a fun drama-based episode that saw the personalities of the team shifting and deepening, supported by a basic, but enjoyable, creature hunt. Not the strongest episode, but not the weakest, and with just a few more feelings of a sense of direction permeating through the episodes, it should be on a good track to the season finale.
Read Philip’s review of the previous episode, Undone, here.
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