Russian-American Genndy Tartakovsky has done it all: he’s been a director, producer, animator, writer, voice actor, storyboarder, and comic artist. His name has been attached to numerous highly-praised pieces of media, having created notable shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars in addition to helming the Hotel Transylvania films. Known for his unique animation and art style that prioritizes action while minimizing dialogue, he’s made an impressive legacy for himself in the animation industry. Most recently, after returning for a fifth—and notably mature—season of Samurai Jack that aired on Adult Swim to wrap up the show’s story once and for all, Tartakovsky turned his attention to an even more intensely mature Adult Swim series: Primal.
The premise is deceptively simple. Set in an anachronistic, fantastical prehistoric world, Primal follows a caveman (dubbed Spear behind the scenes) and his unlikely friendship with a T. rex (referred to as Fang) as they fight for survival in a hostile world packed with monsters, magic, and horrors. The primary cast itself is small, consisting only of Spear and Fang. Each of the 22-minute episodes of the first season, which ran for a total of 10 episodes, consists of the duo facing a different challenge as they journey in search of a new home. Due to the setting and the characters themselves, there is minimal spoken dialogue throughout the majority of the show. Instead, Tartakovsky relies on colorful visuals, dynamic music, and expressive body language to convey entire conversations with only a handful of cues. This approach allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the strange, dangerous world Spear and Fang must navigate. They face all kinds of enemies, from other dinosaurs and early humanoids to more fantastical beasts and primitive magic. The show isn’t one to skimp on gore and horror, and even with its TV-MA rating is not for the faint of heart. Celebrated by critics for its accomplishments in animation, pacing, and visual storytelling, the show has won three Emmy Awards for individual achievements in animation.
Perhaps most compelling is the focal relationship between Spear and Fang. Spear, a caveman with as much heart as muscle, lost his family to a pack of ravenous horned T. rexes. Vowing revenge, he soon comes across the hornless Fang, who shortly loses her two offspring to the same pack. Teaming up to take down the gargantuan alpha T. rex, the duo soon decide to travel together despite their obvious differences. It’s a unique dynamic, as both display high levels of empathy and intelligence despite their savage appearances and perceived behaviors, able to communicate through roars and grunts to solve problems and navigate disagreements. Despite the lack of words between them, audiences can clearly see
the love and respect they grow for each other over the course of the season, creating something utterly unique and profound. Season 1 is available for streaming on HBO Max, and Season 2 is due in 2021.