Primal—Season 1

primal season 1 poster review episode guide list
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking and interesting designs, completely original feeling

Don't know if I like the change set up for season 2

primal season 1 title card episode guide

Traumatized dinosaurs and cavemen…

Life can be difficult.  Sometimes it is dog eat dog…or dinosaur eat dinosaur.  When a Neanderthal named Spear meets a tyrannosaur named Fang, they are bonded through loss and loneliness.  Travelling the dangerous and deadly prehistoric world, they must learn how to work as a team if they hope to survive and flourish.  Bat-like creatures, invisible monsters, ape-men, and plagues are just some of the threats that Spear and Fang will face…but just when they think they’ve seen it all, everything can change.

Primal—Season 1 is an animated action-adventure adult cartoon and also goes by the title of by the creator title of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal.  The series first premiered with “Scent of Prey” as part of the Cartoon Network’s April Fools’ Day programming on April 1, 2020 and later aired from October 8, 2019 to November 1, 2020 as part of the Adult Swim.  It received Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (“A Cold Death” (Stephen DeStefano—Character Designer), “Spear and Fang” (Genndy Tartakovsky—Storyboard Artist), and “Spear and Fang” (Scott Wills—Art Director)).

primal seaosn 1 episode 4 terror under the blood moon spider fang

Fang takes a lickin’ and (usually) keeps tickin’

With things like Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, Genndy Tartakovsky has made a name for himself…but Primal feels completely original.  It feels epic and big and as the Cartoon Network Studios first adult series, it feels distinguished from some of the other entries on Adult Swim.  Tartakovsky actually repackaged the first four episodes of Primal as Primal:  Tales of Savagery as a potential Oscar contender…but Primal is special regardless if it was not selected.

The story plays out very strange.  There isn’t any dialogue, and it is grueling.  Blood, guts, and gore are combined with a rather sad story of loss and friendship…without having the conversations surrounding them.  You have a caveman who can only roar “talking” to a dinosaur who is sometimes smarter than the caveman…but it isn’t a funny Flintstones type tale.  It is two characters dealing with trauma, and that trauma does not go away after an episode.

primal season 1 episode 7 plague of madness infected zombie dinosaur

Me: “Zombie Dinosaurs are dumb!”
Also Me: “Ok…now I’m scared of zombie dinosaurs”

Instead, you have a tone set that feels like a cross between Marvel Comics’ Devil Dinosaur meets Heavy Metal.  The stories are often extreme and like a sword and sorcery Conan comic, you are never sure what you might get each episode.  Instead of Spear and Scar simply fighting dinosaurs and mammals, you have things like a zombie plague, a monster that is invisible, witches, and apes that use a chemical that causes them to Hulk-out…but everything has to be told in a way that can be explained through imagery.

As a result, the series is very visual.  While sometimes Spear and Fang feel rather cartoony in their structure and design, they can also feel very organic.  There are episodes that feel like Ralph Bakshi art but there is also imagery that is reminiscent of Princess Mononoke.  Tartakovsky makes a point of emphasizing the mundane in the series such as swatting flies and day to day life of a caveman.  This is especially prevalent in the early episodes before the tone and direction of the series begins to set.

primal season 1 episode 5 rage of the ape men hulk spear violence

I don’t think this ape-man will be back for Season 2

Due to aspects of the story, a *******spoiler alert******* is in effect for the last part of the review.  The tenth episode of Primal changes everything.  While when you start watching Primal, you immediately say “Neanderthals didn’t live with dinosaurs”, you go with it because it is fun and ferocious.  The final episode of the series introduces a character named Mira who comes from beyond the land that Spear and Fang has been exploring, possesses language, weapon making, cooking, and comes from a world where slavery is a reality…something far more advanced than what has been shown thus far in the series.  This raises questions about the land of Primal and if it is simply a dinosaur and a guy exploring a world or something more…plus, the introduction of real language (Mira speaks Arabic) might mean that Spear and Fang might live in a hidden kingdom only accessible by boat…as seen just before the credits role.

primal season 1 episode 8 coven of the damned witches ritual

All of them witches!

I don’t know that I like the change and “bigger story” aspect of Primal which seemed perfect as a Conan-esque exploration type series with episodic events.  To change all that up is somewhat worrisome, and I don’t know that the “rescue Mira” storyline is what I want…but the series’ skill and craftsmanship has earned it a pass.  I trust Tartakovsky and his plans for Spear and Fang…I look forward to see where they go next.

Primal—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

primal season 1 episode 1 spear and fang fight

“Spear and Fang”

1.1       Spear and Fang Airdate:  10/08/19

A Neanderthal caveman named Spear finds his family destroyed by tyrannosaurs and contemplates his future.  When he encounters a female tyrannosaur and her young, Spear must make a choice…but fate could intervene.

primal season 1 episode 2 river of snakes fang

“River of Snakes”

1.2       River of Snakes Airdate:  10/09/19

Spear and Fang find themselves competing for food…and Fang is winning.  When they encounter a nest of snakes pushed out by a flood, the danger for both Spear and Fang grows.

primal season 1 episode 3 a cold death wooly mammoths spear

“A Cold Death”

1.3       A Cold Death Airdate:  10/10/19

The killing of an old mammoth by Fang and Spear has provided warmth and food in the cold winter, but the mammoths don’t let their own go so easily.

primal season 1 episode 4 terror under the blood moon bat creature

“Terror Under the Blood Moon”

1.4       Terror Under the Blood Moon Airdate:  10/11/19

Fleeing from dromaeosaurs, Spear and Fang discover themselves on a great plain and under a blood moon.  When terrors attack from the sky, Fang must go on a rescue mission to free Spear.

primal season 1 episode 5 rage of the ape men hulk spear

“Rage of the Ape-Men”

1.5       Rage of the Ape-Men Airdate:  10/12/19

Spear and Fang have discovered a hidden oasis in the jungle, but they aren’t the only ones who know about it.  Attacked by ape-men, Spear and Fang are locked in a battle of death with a gorilla charged with superhuman strength.

primal season 1 episode 6 scent of prey spear fang

“Scent of Prey”

1.6       Scent of Prey Airdate:  10/04/20

Beaten and dying at the hands of the ape-men, Fang clings to life.  With Spear trying to help him, he finds the new danger of a pack of wild dogs circling the dying prey could mean the end of Fang.

primal season 1 episode 7 plague of madness zombie dinosaur

“Plague of Madness”

1.7       Plague of Madness Airdate:  04/01/20

Something is infecting dinosaurs and turning them into mindless killers.  When an argentinosaurus catches the bug, Spear and Fang find themselves running for the lives.

primal season 1 episode 8 coven of the damned witches

“Coven of the Damned”

1.8       Coven of the Damned Airdate:  10/18/20

Coming upon a magical ceremony, Spear and Fang are ensnared by the magicians who intend to use them to create life…at the cost of death.

primal season 1 episode 9 the night feeder spear fang

“The Night Feeder”

1.9       The Night Feeder Airdate:  10/25/20

Something is feeding in the forest and it cannot be seen.  The creature begins to hunt Fang and Spear and won’t stop until it is killed.

primal season 1 episode 10 slave of the scorpion mira spear

“Slave of the Scorpion”

1.10     Slave of the Scorpion Airdate:  11/01/20

Fang and Spear encounter a strange woman calling herself Mira and practicing strange behavior that Fang and Spear don’t understand.  When Mira is taken by ape-men, Spear and Fang set to save her…but everything is about to change.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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