Review: Primal “The Red Mist”


Spear and Fang’s long-awaited reunion with Mira quickly transforms into all-out warfare. These two apex predators tirelessly conquer an entire civilization and their committed efforts to not leave empty handed bring some disturbing revelations to light. Spear and Fang are ready to properly turn their duo into a troika, only for Mira to experience understandable revelations over her new companions.

Our Take:

Primal has depicted hundreds–if not thousands–of vicious fatalities courtesy of the series’ main characters, Spear and Fang, and yet there’s never been much of a compulsion to question their role as the show’s heroes. The budding teamwork and evolving emotional complexity of these two barbaric characters is part of the inherent charm of this prehistoric narrative. Primal has never made claims that Spear or Fang are perfect, let alone even good, but “The Red Mist” is an important turning point for their characterizations and the series’ point of view. It’s an episode that asks the audience to consider who are really the good guys in Primal and if it’s not in fact Spear and Fang then they might actually be unstoppable monsters from hell, not heroes. For a show that’s made a reputation off of being brutal, bold, and beautiful, “The Red Mist” is Primal at the peak of its game and as good as it gets.

This is such a busy episode of Primal between the axes, arrows, dismemberments, and decapitations. There’s promo art for this season that shows Fang completely punctured with arrows that initially seemed like an exaggerated spectacle that speaks to the show’s hyperbolized nature. Remarkably, “The Red Mist” ostensibly brings that visual to life during the height of Spear and Fang’s bloodshed. Spear and Fang don’t really face any genuine obstacles here, but their carnage is depicted as increasingly disturbing by those around them. It’s not hard to imagine this episode being filtered through the perspective of the young warrior who watches his friends and family get slaughtered around him. “The Red Mist” is arguably more a grueling origin story for this Viking child who’s christened on the battlefield  than it is an extension of Spear and Fang’s bloodlust.

Primal never shortchanges its aesthetic elements, but “The Red Mist” does exceptional work with its sound design. This episode lets the free, raw sounds of nature resonate in their own explosive ways, whether it’s the roar of bears, chirping of birds, or Spear’s inhuman battle cry that further blurs the line between his lingering humanity and animal instincts. The deafening shriek of death rattles become so omnipresent that it begins to sound like ornamentation to the episode’s musical score. 

“The Red Mist” is amazingly economical and it truly feels like it’s accomplished an entire episode’s worth of content before the entry’s crimson namesake even shows up. This is an emotional and bloodthirsty episode before it shifts into more frightening genre territory. It initially feels like “The Red Mist” might be a flowery reference to the spurts and sprays of blood that Spear triggers on the battlefield rather than the literal red mist that grows into a common problem for man and monster alike. Alternatively, the second-half of “The Red Mist” almost feels like a totally different episode from the tonal whiplash that’s experienced. The follow-up to the blood-soaked first act is considerably more somber, moody, and muted once Primal takes a step away from Spear and Fang. “The Red Mist” morphs into a gutting Viking narrative that’s able to hold its own against other recent texts that tackle comparable subject matter, like the gory Viking anime Vinland Saga or the bloody theatrics of Robert Eggers’ recent period blockbuster, The Norseman.

“The Red Mist” makes it essential for the audience to understand this. Once the episode burns bright at its Viking funeral apex it’s almost impossible to not be moved from all of this unnecessary death and briefly wonder, “Spear and Fang who?” The ambitious nature of Primal means that it wouldn’t be that shocking if the series were to use this revelatory episode to properly change gears and turn these wronged Vikings into the new protagonists as Spear and Fang shift into the role of villains that need to be conquered rather than heroes to admire. Genndy Tartakovsky’s recent comments about the grander scope of Primal indicate that this bold storytelling pivot is ultimately not likely, but at the least Fang and Spear have made formidable enemies. “The Red Mist” establishes such a high mark of excellence that it’s easy to picture “Volume II” of this violent saga specifically focusing on a Viking revenge epic.

“The Red Mist” is a celebration of top tier action, emotion, and world-building as the series’ broader themes of pain, sacrifice, and rebirth continue to grow stronger throughout Primal as a whole and not just in relation to its two central characters, Spear and Fang. On that note, “The Red Mist” is Primal at its absolute biggest and most responsible with its storytelling and what lies ahead. It’s a thrilling, exciting look for the series, whether it inevitably returns to Spear and Fang in the spotlight or decides that their purpose has been served. “The Red Mist” is the perfect encapsulation of not just what Primal does best, but also the type of series that it has the potential to be.