Primal’s Compelling Visual Storytelling

Warning: May contain slight spoilers


Primal” is a new cartoon show that just debut on Oct. 7th this year and has been gaining popularity ever since. Interested viewers can watch it on the Adult Swim website (since the first five episodes’s airing dates have already passed). 

Many 90’s and early 2000’s kids are familiar with Samurai Jack and its fantastic visual storytelling and artistic vision. After almost two decades, the show is still highly regarded. It is a definite childhood classic for many people, and if you haven’t seen it, then you got a new show to watch in your freetime. 

The same man who created Samurai Jack (along with Dexter’s Laboratory), Genndy Tartakovsky, has returned to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim to showcase another one of his creations.

In “Primal,” the viewer is taken on an immersive trip back in prehistoric times (keep in mind that this cartoon does not follow the prehistory timeline). The viewer is first introduced with one of the main characters “Spear,” an early male hominid named simply for the stone spear that he wields throughout the first (and so far, the only) season. 

Straight away, the visual storytelling capabilities of Genndy went to work, there are two things we see in the first few minutes of the show. While fishing, a giant alligator jumped out of the water, Spear reacted, went under water and evaded the attack, the expression on his face stayed constant throughout, a calm stare.

After the exchange, he waddles home, one leg visibly limping, but there are no wounds. These two scenes established Spear as a seasoned hunter, he’s cool, calm and collected, it’s obvious from his bad leg that he’s gone through crippling (if not life threatening) brawls with the prehistoric fauna. He carries the fish home to witness a tragedy (to which I will not state), his family is gone. 

Just a few minutes later in this episode, Spear climbs a mountain, and reaches its highest point. He looks down on the distant ground beneath him, and takes one step towards its edge. It’s clear that suicide was on his mind, the loss of his family was too much, they were clearly everything that he lived for, and now this drive was gone.

With the red sky in the background and the dark mountain that Spear stands on, this creates a hauntingly beautiful scene, and made the view. Nothing happened for a few seconds, the strings playing in the background geting louder, Spear didn’t move and this lack of action was exactly what made this scene so tense. He sits down, no tears falling down, but the viewer can easily empathize with his grief. 

This tragedy led him to vengeance, and through vengeance did he meet Fang, a female T-Rex who also has two off-springs, and is raising them alone.

Right when Spear decides to ambush and kill Fang, he discovers that she is going through the same misfortune as him. Spear immediately saw himself in Fang, the pair cooperates, violence ensues as the two of them battle the perpetrators.

Genndy ensures that each move of the two characters carry weight with them, and each decision they make in this fight characterize them, blood and gore are turned into satisfying eye candy for the viewer to behold as the fight carries on and the perpetrators are killed one by one under the spear and fang.

All of this action, and drama, all powerfully created and put out for viewing in the Adult Swim website by Genndy Tartakovsky.

This whole article was written solely based on the first episode, and I assure you that the other four episodes are on a par with the quality of the first, if they do not surpass it. All five episodes are created without any dialogue, all exchanges are made using actions, bodily and facial gestures, or grunts and roars (which doesn’t quite qualify as dialogue).

It’s all in all a treat for the eye and a nice change of pace compared to other cartoons like Bojack Horseman or Rick and Morty that all depends on dialogue to convey their message to the viewer. I would definitely recommend you to view the first season of Primal using the link below.