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Hunt. Kill. Survive.

"All Earth was but one thought — and that was death."
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Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal, also known simply as Primal, is a ten-episode action-adventure animated series produced by Cartoon Network Studios for [adult swim]. It is Tartakovsky's second series created for the station (following the 2017 revival of Samurai Jack) and his fourth overall.

The limited series follows Spear, a caveman at the dawn of evolution, and Fang, a tyrannosaur on the brink of extinction. Bonded by similar tragedy, the duo form an unlikely friendship that becomes their only mutual hope of survival in a violent, primordial world.

While Tartakovsky's work is famous for being light on dialogue, this series is notably his first project to not have any dialogue whatsoever, the only human vocalizations being animalistic grunts and yells.

The first trailer was released on May 14th, 2019, while the second was showcased on August 27th. The first five episodes of the series ran from October 7th to October 11th, 2019, the first four of which were later repackaged into a theatrical film entitled Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal — Tales of Savagery. A second batch of episodes started airing in October 2020, the first of which aired early on April 1st, 2020. A second season consisting of another ten episodes was also confirmed in August 2020.

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Not to be confused with the video game of the same name. Or the 2019 action film.


Tropes:

  • 1 Million B.C.: The show's setting is "the dawn of evolution". Cenozoic creatures like cavemen, ape-men and a woolly mammoths exists alongside Mesozoic animals such as non-avian dinosaurs and pterosaurs, as well as fantasy creatures like giant spiders. However, the end of the Season 1-finale suggests that this may not be the case...
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • Spear's... spear, which is seemingly just a regular chiseled rock tied to a normal stick, but always cuts cleanly through all meat and bone with little effort (in the first episode it pierces straight through an entire tyrannosaur) and even after all its use, apparently never dulls.
    • Fang's... fangs are also astonishingly sharp, enabling her to bite clean through snakes as thick as tree trunks, cleave through heads of bats bigger than she is, or even just tear chunks out of a mammoth's leg with zero resistance. If she can get her jaws around it, it will come loose. Although it probably has more to do with her incredible jaw strength as a T. rex rather than the sharpness of her teeth.
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  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: The Night Feeder's talons are sharp enough to reduce a ceratopsian dinosaur to Ludicrous Gibs with a single strike.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Between the gory fight scenes, the show has several quiet and somber moments. The first episode has one where Spear stands on the edge of a cliff, contemplating suicide, and one where Fang, after losing her family, follows Spear on a beach for comfort.
  • Adult Fear: the first episode has Spear return from a fishing to find his whole family—his wife/mate and two children—being attacked and eaten alive by a group of theropods; the same happens to Fang later in the same episode. "Plague of Madness" has the rampage by the infected sauropod start as it smashes every one of its herds nests and all the eggs in them. And "Coven of the Damned" shows us a flashback to the past of a witch who helps Spear and Fang escape in the end, showing that her adoptive daughter fell off a ledge to her death while they were playing in a field of flowers.
  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Spear, the show's protagonist is a stereotypical neanderthal-like caveman with a bulky physique, hunched posture, thick arms and enormous fists, as well as thick brows and a flat forehead. He also seems to have Super Strength, considering that he fights animals far larger than him with his bare hands.
  • All There in the Manual: Since the show has no dialogue, the names of the characters are only known from the episode titles and supplementary materials. This goes for various species represented, too—the sauropods featured in "Plague of Madness" are obviously never identified by any scientific name on-screen but are supposed to be Argentinosaurus.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The giant bats Spear fights in "Terror Under the Blood Moon" are blood-red.
  • Androcles' Lion: In "Terror of the Blood Moon", an ape man carrying food breaks his leg and is vulnerable to the giant bats that prey on them. Spear runs out and manages to carry the ape man and his food back to the safety of the rocks, albeit forgetting his spear. At the end of the episode, the rescued ape man had taken in the weapon and gives it back to Spear while he and Fang flee from the bats.
  • Animals Not to Scale: The show features some animals far larger than in real-life, including woolly mammoths twice the size of African elephants, a moose-sized Syndyoceras (the real animal was about the size of a large goat), bats larger than humans and a Giant Spider that can toss a Tyrannosaurus aside like a ragdoll. Zig-Zagged with the large snake in the second episode which is about the correct length for the extinct species Titanoboa, but its width makes it much bigger than the ancient snake, considering Fang bites onto it and only seems able to grab about a third of its neck. Averted with the Horned Tyrannosaurs in the first episode which are accurately sized, but played straight with the alpha who is about the size of a sauropod; it's so big you would be forgiven if you thought the smaller T. rex were its children. Justified with the King Kong-sized ape monster in the 5th episode as he is under the effect of a magic potion that increases his size and strength. Without the potion, he's more or less the correct size for a Gigantopithecus.
  • Anti-Hero: The main hero, Spear, brutally kills his opponents, but considering that this is a dog-eat-dog world where our moral standards don't exist yet, it's justified for his situation. Spear is even shown preparing to attack Fang and her family before being interrupted by the horned tyrannosaurs.
  • Anti-Villain: The mammoths in episode three attack Spear and Fang remorselessly, but its only because they ate one of their own and took away its tusk. Once they're given it, they retreat to ceremonial grounds.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The show depicts many overly aggressive animals fighting to the death when in reality the opposite is true. Animals in real life will actively avoid fights because even if they win any major injury will almost certainly kill them.
    • Even if you ignore the fact that a Giant Spider would be impossible due to the Square-Cube Law (the long, spindly, spread-out legs wouldn't be able to carry such a bulky body), the spider has a toothy lower jaw under its chelicerae, and its silk glands in its mouth rather than at the end of its abdomen.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: From the outset Primal makes no bones about it being fantasy, not fact:
    • Mesozoic reptiles are shown living alongside Cenozoic mammals.
    • Although Spear and his family seem to be neanderthals, his wife is slender and has the general body proportions of a modern Homo sapiens. In her brief appearance she also seems to be a meek and stay at home type, when hunter-gatherer societies are known to be more egalitarian.
    • The generic pterosaur in Episode 1 is a weirdly mixed bag. It launches bipedally, lacks a fuzzy covering of pycnofibers, bipedal launching, has four digits excluding the wing finger including the wing finger and seems to have a good sense of smell note , not to mention resembling a mix-match of different genera. That said, it is a quadrupedal walker, is hunting terrestrially as many larger pterosaurs did and has correct non-columnar forelimbs.
    • Dinosaurs have pronated hands.
    • The raptors are featherless, although the creators confirmed they wanted to put feathers, but had difficulty with it.
    • Woolly mammoths, a species which was smaller than the modern African elephant, dwarf Fang.
    • Three of the enemy Tyrannosaurus rex in the first episode have enlarged horns similar to rhinoceroses or Ceratosaurus. The last one, however, looks more like a real tyrannosaur (specifically Alioramus) with smaller hornlets on the snout.
    • The snakes in Episode 2 appear to be Titanoboa due to their size, but they have fangs similar to a venomous snake. And yet, they seem to be non-venomous like the real Titanoboa.
    • The bats featured in Episode 4 are orders of magnitude larger than the biggest species in the fossil record.
    • The large bug that Spear eats in Episode 2 resembles a trilobite in size and general body shape (including the large number of legs), but trilobites were strictly marine creatures with no terrestrial species known (not to mention they went extinct long before either dinosaurs or cavemen walked the Earth), though to be fair there are terrestrial trackways of trilobites indicating they might have come ashore occasionally like crabs. However, it could also have been an unrelated arthropod that merely happened to resemble a trilobite (which is Truth in Television for some land-living arthropods even today, notably the aptly-named "trilobite beetles").
    • The Argentinosaurus in "Plague of Madness" are shown chewing their food, which sauropods can't in real life. They are also seen galloping and leaping like horses. Even elephants are unable to do either of those due to their massive weight, and sauropods of the size seen in the show must weigh about 15 times as much as elephants (Argentinosaurus have an estimated weight of 90 tons).
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Both Spear and the various animals tend to keep attacking and fighting even when they suffer serious injuries and it would make sense for them to back down.
  • Badass Normal: Spear, who is just a caveman who can fight and win battles against prehistoric beasts several times his size. If he isn't using a stone spear, he is bashing them to death with a rock or just his fists.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Spear sports shoulder-long black hair, and he's a powerful, savage hunter struggling to survive in a primordial world.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Spear fights a flock of gigantic red bats in "Terror Under the Blood Moon".
  • Beastly Bloodsports: The ape-men release Fang into an arena to fight their champion one-on-one as the other ape-men cheer him on, which is reminiscent of gladiatoral games.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Spear beats the ape-men's champion Krog by drinking a huge dose of the same potion that made Krog supersized, turning Spear into an even bigger Hulk-like monstrosity who then makes short work of Krog and the rest of the ape-men.
  • Behemoth Battle: The series features brutal fights between giant beasts at least Once an Episode, with Fang usually being one of the battlers. In the first five episodes, Fang gets to fight a horned tyrannosaur, a giant snake, a few mammoths, a Giant Spider and a giant Killer Gorilla. The fifth episode also features Spear turning into a monstrous giant and fighting said Killer Gorilla. Subverted in the seventh episode, where neither Fang nor Spear can combat the zombie sauropod — the only thing they can do is Run or Die.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: it's not a sword or anything like one, but the effect is the same when Spear knocks off the triceratops skull helmet of Krog (the Ape-Man champion in "Rage of the Ape Men") and it lands upright with the beak stuck in the ground.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to Genndy's other works. It builds on the greater violence allowed for Samurai Jack season 5 and then some.
    • We see Spear's child swallowed whole by a tyrannosaur, only for the blood to leak out of its mouth and over its jaw. This scene would be mirrored later on, involving Fang's children.
    • During the fight with the tyrannosaur pack, Fang rips the snout off of one. Spear dislocate's anothers ankle before smashing it's horn and ripping out a tooth to stab it with. The alpha is killed with a spear to the brain, causing blood to fill its eye.
    • The kills in episode 2 are milder but include beheading a giant snake.
    • Spear and Fang bring down an elderly mammoth with Spear repeatedly bashing it's eye with a rock before caving in it's skull.
    • Episode 4 has bats being stabbed, poke and bisected continuously. It also features a giant spider being stabbed through the brain.
    • Episode 5 really gets into the gore. It features a fight to the death between five gorilla-men, the winner of said fight drinking a potion that turns him into a giant and giving a pummeling to Fang, then Spear also drinking that potion, tearing off the gorilla-champion's arm and beating him to a pulp with it, then slaughtering hundreds of ape-men in the most gruesome way.
    • Episode 6 is also no slouch when it comes to gore. It shows Spear killing a swarm of giant arthropods, and then Spear and Fang slaughtering an entire pack of wild dogs that tried to eat them.
    • Episode 7 has a zombified sauropod slaughtering its entire herd, trampling and biting them to death.
    • Episode 9 has Spear coming across the carcass of the Night Feeder's first known victim, a saber-toothed cat reduced to a skull, some ribs, and a pile of mutilated flesh and blood. It was destroyed so quickly that its stance, lying on its back, is still plainly visible.
    • Episode 10 Fang and Spear give a group of ape-men who had kidnapped Mira, a well deserved Curb-Stomp Battle, crushing them and tearing them to shreds.
  • Body Horror: The plague in "Plague of Madness" is horrifying and disgusting. Symptoms include eyes turning blood-red, Blood from the Mouth, large, pustule-covered chunks of sickly-green skin either missing or rotting and sloughing off, and violent madness — essentially turning the infected into living zombies. There's even a Gross-Up Close-Up of the infected Argentinosaurus' skin when Spear and Fang have to quietly sneak behind it.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Inverted. The thing that bonded Spear (a caveman) and Fang (a tyrannosaur) was that they both lost their families. One day while hunting for food for his family, Spear hears screaming and runs to see his wife and children being eaten alive by a pack of Horned Tyrannosaurs. Then after some time has past, he sees the same Horned Tyrannosaurs attacking Fang and her babies. Spear steps in and teams up with Fang to fight them. When it appears that they have slain all the Horned Tyrannosaurs, Fang's babies come and gently play with Spear's hair. Then the Horned Tyrannosaurus alpha appears and before Spear or Fang can do anything, it eat Fang's babies alive, to their shock and horror. Spear and Fang fight together and kill the alpha. Nether of them are satisfied, having both failed to protect their families. Fang just lays down while Spear sadly walks alway. Later, while walking on a beach, Spear sees Fang following him, and after a moment of consideration, Spear accepts Fang, and the two head off into the night as a new family.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • Spear demonstrates almost superhuman-level feats of strength at times. Probably the most prominent example in the very first episode is when he throws his spear straight through a fully-grown T. rex like a bullet.
    • Spear's wife, who looks more human-like than Spear, for the briefest moment she's seen is shown throwing small boulders at the T. rex so strongly it shatters on impact.
    • The Night Feeder seems to possess exceptional strength and speed in a show full of powerful predators, being able to easily bisect a ceratopsian skull and completely topple a giant sequoia tree trunk in a single blow.
  • Cliffhanger: Episode 5 ends with Fang mortally wounded and on the verge of death, leaving her fate ambiguous. The second half of the season starts off with Spear making a makeshift sling and carrying her to a remote location to let her heal.
  • Cue the Sun: "Terror Under the Blood Moon", appropriately, ends this way, with Spear and Fang running towards the sunrise after surviving the night.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Fang's fight against the Giant Spider in Episode 4 plays out like this. The dinosaur has little chance against the monstrous arachnid until Spear interferes, driving a Triceratops horn through the spider's head.
    • Fang becomes the victim of this again in Episode 5, against the ape-man champion who has been physically enhanced by the black serum. She seemingly dies from the fight.
    • The tables then get turned on the gorilla champion in his fight against Spear, who has also been physically enhanced. It is so one-sided in Spear's favour it actually comes across as darkly humorous.
    • The infected sauropod commits one against its own herd after it succumbs to the titular disease in "Plague of Madness", brutally killing all of them with the only one that really tried to put up a fight getting its throat ripped out for its trouble.
    • All of the victims of the Night Feeder are capable beasts—but until it chooses Spear and Fang, none of them stood a ghost of a chance, not even an entire herd of battle-hardened ceratopsians, tearing through their bodies like they were made of paper.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to many previous works from Genndy note . Primal is the darkest of his projects to date, taking place in a primordial Death World, being excessively gory, and centering around the tragedy of a man losing his family (including his children).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The gangly, albino cave-dwellers seen in episode 4 are very much team players, giving Spear back his spear when he and Fang evade the furious bats.
  • Darkness = Death: The Night Feeder, as its name suggests, is an insatiable monster which only hunts after the sun sets because it's extremely sensitive to light. Fang and Spear unknowingly manage to avoid being attacked by the creature because they kept their campfire lit through the night.
  • Death of a Child: Spear's children get devoured along with his wife in the first episode. Fang's children don't fare much better. And in the eighth episode, it's revealed that Lula (the witch who helps Spear and Fang) had lost her own daughter when the child had carelessly chased a butterfly over the edge of a cliff, falling to her death.
  • Death World: The second trailer begins with a quote from Lord Byron, saying that this is a time of death, where all living things are struggling to survive and will do so at almost any cost. Mercy to the enemy can mean suicide.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Happens to Spear in the first half of episode 1; His wife and two children are devoured by a group of tyrannosaurs. He climbs a large rock and stands at the edge, clearly about to commit suicide because he has lost everything. He manages to bounce back after seeing a vision of his wife and children in the rising sun, motivating him to continue living.
  • Dire Beast: Many animals in the series, such as the crocodile or the snakes, fit this trope, being larger and more monstrous than their modern-day equivalent. The ones that absolutely take the cake are the bats from "Terror Under The Blood Moon", being similar in size to the largest pterosaurs. Also, the horned tyrannosaurs (especially their leader) can be considered "dire" versions of a T. rex.
  • Driven to Suicide: After losing his wife and kids to a pack of horned T. rex, Spear climbs a tall cliff and ponders whether or not he should just step off of it. He ultimately doesn't go through, but he did spend many hours at the edge of the cliff thinking if he should.
  • *Drool* Hello: Of the most nightmarish kind imaginable. The 'drool' is toxic effluvia from an infected Argentinosaurus announcing its presence to Spear and Fang.
  • Dwindling Party: Halfway through Episode 9 is a scene in which the Night Feeder fights an entire herd of ceratopsids. It quickly kills them, one by one. Even when they assume a Spartan-like formation, face-shields outward, they are torn apart one at a time. There are enough of them in the herd that the battle is rather drawn out, and it catches Spear's attention. By morning, the entire herd has been wiped out and left to the scavenging animals.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: The Night Feeder attacks only creatures with great strength, speed, or cunning, and kills far in excess of what a predator its size would eat, suggesting that it's a hunter of some sort who kills for pure entertainment.
  • Elephant Graveyard: One appears in the third episode. The mammoths take the tusk of their fallen herd member there and perform a funeral-like ritual for him.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Spear coming home to witness his family being devoured by tyrannosaurs sets up the kind of setting the series takes place in.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Technically a case of everything trying to kill everything. The world of Primal can't be a nice place to live if even the predators hunt each other.
  • Evil Is Bigger:
    • Fang, the sympathetic Tyrannosaurus, when shown side-by-side with the human Spear, appears to be around 8 meters long, which is relatively small for her species. The antagonistic (although more "predatory" than "evil") horned tyrannosaurs are slightly bigger and their leader is humongous with a body length between 20 and 30 meters.
    • The elite warriors of the villainous ape-men are huge gorilla-like people a lot larger than the heroic caveman Spear. The black potion their champion drinks turns him even bigger and even more evil.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: In the 4th episode, the bats carry Spear to the prehistoric equivalent of this trope, a cave on top of a tall stone spire. It is the home of a Giant Spider who seems to control the bats.
  • Eye Scream: In "A Cold Death," Spear uses a rock to smash the eye of a woolly mammoth into a bloody pulp. Subverted in the show proper where it turns out the eye was left intact.
    • In "Wrath of the Ape-Men", he similarly plunges his fist into the eye socket of the Ape champion's skull helmet. Despite the spray of blood, moments later we see he still has both eyes.
  • Fantastic Racism: Briefly. Spear is willing to kill Fang and her family, not because she's a threat but because she's a similar dinosaur to the ones that took his loved ones away.
  • Frazetta Man: Beside Spear's species, who looks like a neanderthal, there are at least two other, more primitive type of hominids that both fit this trope. One is a tribe of sparsely haired, pale, cave-dwelling people (listed as "monkeys" in the end credits) that show up in the 4th episode, the other is a tribe of hairier, even more ape-like people that are the main antagonists of Episode 5.
  • Genre Shift:
    • The first three episodes, despite all the Artistic License – Paleontology (creatures from vastly different time periods living together and having inaccurate size or features), are relatively grounded in reality. The fourth episode introduces absolutely unrealistic animals such as monstrous bats and a Giant Spider who seems to rule over the bats, and the fifth episode features explicit magic (or mutagenic science) in the form of a Super Serum that increases size and aggression.
    • Episode seven is like a mix between a zombie film and a monster movie as Fang and Spear are chased by an unrelenting sauropod that's been infected by a disease that rots its flesh and sends it into a murderous frenzy.
  • Giant Flyer: Both the pterosaur in episode 1 and the monster bats from episode 4 fall under this trope, with the latter being strong enough to carry off full grown dinosaurs in pairs. (The former's case is justified as real-life pterosaurs really did get that big).
  • Giant Spider: The main antagonist of episode 4 is a spider that's similar in size to a sauropod, towering over Fang.
  • Gorn:
    • While every episode has lots of blood and graphic injuries, the last act of "Rage of the Ape-Men" really takes it Up to Eleven, when Spear takes a Psycho Serum, turning into a hulking beast that reduces dozens of monkey-men into Ludicrous Gibs with his bare hands onscreen.
    • The victims of the Night Feeder are absolutely shredded to bits instantaneously. A sabre-tooth cat and several ceratopsids are reduced to widely splattered Ludicrous Gibs, each in one strike, while another ceratopsid is cleanly sliced in half, lengthwise.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • Spear does this to several of the ape-men in different ways, up to punching them or throwing some against a rock hard enough.
    • One of the titular Night Feeder's ceratopsian victims gets sliced in half lengthwise.
  • Heel Realization:
    • After losing his family to three T. rex, Spear is ready to go in for the kill when he spots Fang near a river. Following her to her home, he sees her children and after a moments pause is driven into a seeming infantacidal rage. Before he can act, the dinosaurs that killed his family attack Fang. Spear very quickly sees the parallels.
    • Similarly, when Spear and Fang are attacked by the mammoths, Spear realizes that they are after the tusk of their fallen herd member that he has taken with him. Once Spear returns the tusk, the mammoths leave in peace.
  • Hidden Depths: Spear is a powerful warrior with a tenacious will to survive. In quiet moments, he tends to enjoy cave painting and shadow puppetry.
  • Honorable Elephant: The mammoths are presented as particularly intelligent prehistoric beasts who mourn for their dead.
  • Hope Spot: After a long and perilous journey, Spear and Fang find a seemingly safe oasis in Episode 5, where there's plenty of fish to eat and no dangerous predators. Then the ape-men show up and kidnap them.
  • Horns of Villainy:
    • The Tyrannosaurus that kill Spear's family have Ceratosaurus-like horns, which the more sympathetic Tyrannosaurus Fang lacks.
    • Krog, the ape-man champion, wears a Triceratops skull as helmet.
  • Horrifying the Horror: When Spear and Fang are cornered by a large pack of raptors in the fourth episode, the rise of the blood moon causes the raptors to scatter, as it means the giant bats are out to hunt.
  • Hulking Out: The Super Serum used by the ape-man tribe turns the person drinking it into super-strong, mindlessly aggressive giant. First, their champion Krog drinks a single drop from it, turning into a King Kong-like monster that easily defeats Fang. Then Spear drinks the whole bowl, becoming a prehistoric version of The Incredible Hulk, curb-stomping Krog and the entire ape-man tribe.
  • Human Subspecies: There are several human or humanoid primate species in this world. The main one is of course Spear, a neanderthal-like human. There is also a group of witches which appear to be a distinct species, much shorter, all appearing aged with black eyes. Heading towards the more ape-like end of the spectrum, we have a species of skinny, white haired humanoids with ape like proportions, a society of highly intelligent ape-men and seeming human-ape hybrids who wield tools. The finale introduces a female Homo sapiens, Mira. She is taller than Spear and speaks a form of Arabic.
  • Improvised Weapon: In episode 6, Spear notices some arthropods that were trying to swarm over the injured Fang. Spear fends them off, kills and eats them, and then later uses their spiked shells as makeshift cestii to fend off a pack of hyenas.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: While struggling against a flood filled with horde of snakes in the second episode, Spear quickly sees a waterfall with much sharp rocks at the bottom.
  • Informed Species:
    • The Ceratosaurus-like theropods from the first episode are identified as T. rex by the animatic. Somewhat downplayed in that they do possess the general body size, proportions, and two-fingered hands of Tyrannosaurus - and their alpha easily dwarfs Giganotosaurus and Spinosaurus.
    • The sauropods that feature in "Plague of Madness" are supposed to be Argentinosaurus, but they possess traits of a few other sauropods as well, especially Camarasaurus. This may well be justified since Argentinosaurus is only known from incomplete remains—just the hind legs, the hipbones, and a few vertebrae—but the end result is essentially that they're basically just generic "biggest dinosaur ever" sauropods.
  • Instant Illness: It takes mere seconds for the Argentinosaurus to start showing signs of the zombie plague after being bitten by an infected hadrosaur. In Spear's Nightmare Sequence where he and Fang are bitten by said zombie Argentinosaurus, they immediately start turning as soon as they're bitten.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Between Spear, a neanderthal-like caveman and Fang, a tyrannosaur.
  • Kill It with Fire: When Fang and Spear figure out that the Night Feeder has an extreme aversion to light, they trap it in a ring of fire and burn it to cinder with a flaming spear to the heart.
  • Kill Steal: A major plot point in the second episode. Spear and Fang try to hunt together, but each time they find prey, the Tyrannosaurus takes all of it, leaving nothing for the caveman. For example, when Spear successfully kills a warthog by throwing his spear, the dinosaur gets there first and eats the warthog whole before the caveman can get a piece of it. Initially it's Played for Laughs, but soon it turns more serious and almost drives the duo apart.
  • Killer Gorilla: The strongest warriors of the ape-man tribe resemble enormous gorillas. The Super Serum that their champion drinks makes him bigger and more aggressive, turning him into a King Kong-like monster.
  • Lady Land: The witches in Episode 8 capture men and sacrifice them in order to create children from their harvested life force. Since all the infants are implied to be female and no male witches are to be seen, it's safe to assume that this is an all-female society that doesn't allow men to casually wander into their borders and walk back out alive. The official description of Episode 8 plays with this idea, even though witches are actually a group of elderly women who can't have children biologically:
    "A tribe of mysterious, primitive women seek to further their coven by using dark magic on Spear and Fang."
  • Lava is Boiling Kool-Aid: Fang and Spear get chased into a crusted over, but still definitely active, volcanic caldera by a zombie titanosaur in the seventh episode, and the spraying lava acts more like boiling water than molten rock, with high fluidity, only steam coming out, no convection, and only singing the characters when it sprays on them.
  • Light Is Good: In a rather beautiful sequence Spear sees his wife and children in the rising sun, inspiring him to not commit suicide.
  • Loincloth: The only piece of clothing Spear wears (except in the third episode where he crafts a vest out of mammoth fur to avoid getting Exposed to the Elements). The hairless cave-dwellers also wear loincloths, but the ape-men don't, as they are covered by their own fur.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Most of the Night Feeder's ceratopsian victims explode in showers of blood and gore, while a few are bisected lengthwise or decapitated instead.
  • Made of Iron: Spear and Fang both qualify for this. Each of them endure ungodly amounts of punishment over the course of the series; particularly noteworthy is episode four, in which the Giant Spider throws Fang around like a rag doll yet she doesn't seem to suffer any long term effects afterwards. Averted after her savage beating at the hands of Krog, the ape-man champion. He visibly breaks her leg, and it's left up in the air if she's even alive at the end of the episode.
  • Made of Plasticine: As typical for a gory series, making the mooks into paste seems very easy. The crowning example is Spear throwing a spear through a horned tyrannosaur torso like a bullet.
  • Mama Bear: Fang fights tooth and claw to save her children. When both she and Spear ultimately fail, she launches herself at a monster ten times her size without hesitation.
  • Medieval Prehistory: The season 1 finale implies that there may be civilizations in the world which fit this description.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: Or rather dinosaur-mashing. The Giant Spider grabs Fang by the tail and bashes her to the wall of its lair several times.
  • Might Makes Right: Since the series takes place at the very dawn of human sapience, everything living follows the instinctual imperative of survival of the fittest. And then this gets Subverted when we see the first instance of an interspecies bond that transcends the rule of "eat or be eaten".
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Despite its overall Darker and Edgier feel, it fits the bill. The show features no dialogue from either the caveman or the animals, only grunts, roars and other animalistic sounds. All emotions are conveyed through the characters' expressions and body language as well as the background music.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter:
    • The first episode feature a pack of T. rex with horns like rhinoceroses, Ceratosaurus, or Alioramus.
    • The pterosaur from the first episode looks like a cross between Pteranodon, Pterodactylus, and Quetzalcoatlus.
    • The third episode features wolves with Smilodon-like saber teeth.
    • The sixth episode has predatory carnivorans that resembles a cross between a spotted hyena and an African wild dog, but with lion-like tufted tails.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: Spear thinks Fang is a predatory dinosaur similar to the ones that killed his family. Then he discovers she has two nestlings which she also tries to protect from predators.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The horned tyrannosaurs are either the same species as Fang, or at least a closely related species. This does not stop them from seeing Fang's offspring as prey.
  • Mood Whiplash: The show can quickly switch from a quiet and calm moment to a brutal, violent one and back.
  • Mook Horror Show: The climax of "Rage of the Ape-Men". Spear gulps down the mystical elixir that the ape-men created, which turns him into a giant monstrosity comparable to the Incredible Hulk. The ape-men attempt to Zerg Rush Spear, but he is not affected the slightest, and slaughters the ape-men left and right, tearing them in half and crushing their heads with his bare hands. The scene ends with the surviving ape-men running for their lives, with Spear ruthlessly chasing down and killing those that attempt to flee.
  • More Predators Than Prey: In "Terror Under the Blood Moon", the only living creatures Spear and Fang encounter (the raptors, the primitive men, the bats and the Giant Spider) are all carnivores, and the only prey are the boar carried by one of the primitive men and the piles of corpses in the spider's lair. The trope may be justified by the bats overhunting the savannah to feed the spider, which also explains why the raptors are so desperately ravenous and why the primitive men are so thin and sickly.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: A gigantic crocodile, possibly a Deinosuchus, attacks Spear in the beginning of the first episode.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The main antagonist of "Plague of Madness" is a sauropod that has been infected and driven mad by a zombie plague.
  • Noisy Nature: All the characters and animals roar and screech very often, up to and including the human character Spear, often just because. In an early scene in the first episode, Spear is menaced by a large pterosaur, and just as it takes off it screams loudly at nothing in particular before it does so.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: As usual, predatory animals are just that. However, the T. rex Spear injures does bear a grudge against him.
    • Averted with the Ape-Men and the Night Feeder, both of whom apparently kill for sport and/or entertainment.
  • Nostalgia Heaven: When Lula dies, she is reunited with her daughter in an afterlife identical to the field of flowers they used to play in togther.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "The Night Feeder" plays this up for all its worth, relying mostly on Impending Doom P.O.V. to portray the titular beast, only revealing the titular monster at the end as its immolated by Spear and Fang; it appears to be some kind of theropod dinosaur with huge claws. Its "motivation" (so to speak) is also left unclear, since (despite its name) it doesn't actually seem to eat its victims, and just seems to live to kill.
  • Not So Different: Ultimately why Spear helps Fang. Just like him, she just wants to protect her children. Also like him, she is ultimately unable to.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Both Spear and Fang sport a look that personifies this when they see a wall of giant snakes right next to where they are fighting in the second episode.
    • The monkey-men in the fifth episode all have this expression at once when they see how brutally a mutated Spear is tearing through all of them.
    • Both Spear and Fang sport this expression several times in their encounter with the plague-infected Argentinosaurus.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Spear bashes one of the horned tyrannosaurs' legs in with a rock, resulting in a compound fracture, but after a few seconds of screaming it just snaps the leg back into place and keeps attacking like nothing happened, though it does seem to have a limp for the short period it survives after fixing its leg.
  • Outside-Context Problem: While many creatures are somewhat plausible, given the somewhat fantastical prehistoric setting the show takes place in, beings like the infected dinosaurs or the Coven are just outright otherworldly and supernatural. Appropriately, Spear and Fang have zero idea of how to deal with these sorts of opponents.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The various monsters that cross Spear and Fang's path usually end up brutally slaughtered. The crowning example of this is in Episode 5, where, upon seeing the ape-men seemingly kill Fang, Spear drinks their Psycho Serum and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, tearing them to pieces.
  • Playing Possum: In Episode 4, after Fang is unable to climb up to the rock spire where the bats took Spear, she pretends to be dead so that the bats carry her up onto the spire as well.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Most animals appearing in the show are exaggerated in size and are given monstrous features. The first episode alone gives us a giant crocodile, a large and toothy pterosaur and a pack of Tyrannosaurus rex with Ceratosaurus-like horns. The show also contains mammoths twice the size of African elephants, human-sized bats, saber-toothed wolves, vicious ape-men, and a Giant Spider as large as a sauropod dinosaur. Taken Up to Eleven with the seventh episode, which gives us what are essentially zombie dinosaurs.
  • Predation Is Natural: Spear is a hunter and Fang is a carnivorous dinosaur, so both of them kill a lot of animals to survive. Some of the animals they slay, such as the mammoths, show some signs of sapience. However, it is shown that Spear shows respect towards at least some of the animals he kills, looking the mammoth and the Syndyoceras in the eye as they bleed out. There are plenty of antagonistic predators, but that is because many of them see Spear and Fang as potential prey. Only the ape-men and the Night Feeder are shown to kill for sport.
  • Pretty Butterflies: Spear and Fang encounter a swarm of butterflies in Episode 5. They are among the few animals in the show that are not monstrous, and their presence indicates the peaceful nature of the oasis.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Pun not intended. In episode 4, an ape-man pounds his chest while screaming as he charges to the rescue of a tribe-mate. Episode 5 has two chest-pounding moments: first, one of the gorilla-like ape-man warriors does it before clashing with the other combatants, then Krog, the champion does it directly after transforming into a King Kong Copy.
  • Primal Stance: Pun, again, not intended. Spear has a somewhat hunched posture stereotypically associated with neanderthals, and occasionally uses his hands during locomotion when charging into a fight. The more primitive hominids appearing in episode 4 move pretty much constantly like this.
  • Primate vs. Reptile: Episode 5 has a fight between the ape-man warrior Krog who is under the effect of a strength-inducing serum and the tyrannosaurus Fang. The roles are very much inverted, as Fang is sympathetic and one of the protagonists, whereas Krog is the cruel champion of the evil ape-men.
  • Psycho Serum: The Ape-men in Episode 5 keep a black goo they use to ritually enhance the strength and ferocity to incredible levels. The Ape Champion drinks a single drop and gains enough strength to easily beat Fang in a fight. Spear in turn downs the whole bowl and he turns into a murderous prehistoric version of the Incredible Hulk who can literally rip the apes limb from limb.
  • Ptero Soarer:
    • A pterosaur (called a "Pterodactyl" in the animatic) appears in the first episode. It can stand bipedally and is five-fingered (it has an additional thumb along with the wing finger and three small fingers).
    • A second pterosaur species is seen being used by the matriarch of the witch coven in episode 8 as a mount. It looks like a stereotypical oversized, toothy Pteranodon, although close-up shots show it has pycnofibres (or very sparse ones, at least).
    • More accurate-looking pterosaurs appear briefly on episode 10 (they still appear to lack pycnofibres and have pointed wings, but both of those could be on account of the art style).
  • Raptor Attack: A pack of Jurassic Park-styled dromaeosaurids appear in the fourth episode.
  • Rated M for Manly: This is a Bloodier and Gorier show about a muscular caveman fighting Prehistoric Monsters.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Spear and Fang seem to be good terms, but as mentioned in Kill Steal above, Fang is still a much larger dinosaur and would definitely need to eat more, even if that meant Spear wouldn't get any share of a kill.
    • In the second episode, Spear's attempts at using a snake's body to hold him and Fang atop a waterfall quickly fails due to Fang's heavy weight pulling Spear's grip off the body.
    • In "Rage of the Ape-Men", Spear massacres the ape-men to a one after they seemingly kill Fang. In "Scent of Prey", the episode immediately after it, tons of vultures show up to scavenge from the carnage and would certainly go after the critically-injured Fang as well, making a whole new problem for Spear to deal with while he tries to heal her.
    • While both Spear and Fang are smart and strong, they are still just a normal caveman and a normal dinosaur—they stand zero chance against more supernatural threats like the witches or the infected dinosaurs, leaving them with no other option but to Run or Die.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The horned tyrannosaurs that eat Spear's family and later Fang's are a dark shade of red with prominent black stripes. Of course, they're just predators targeting what they think are prey.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: After someone drinks the Psycho Serum in Episode 5, their eyes become completely red (among other changes), signifying that they are now filled with unrelenting bloodlust.
  • Reused Character Design: Spear looks almost identical to the caveman in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Old Flame", which was also directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.
  • Roar Before Beating: Happens a lot, and it often ends up being a fatal mistake for the Monster of the Week as it gives Spear or Fang an opportunity to get a hit in.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: With the "roaring" often being literal.
    • In the first episode, after Spear's family is devoured by the horned tyrannosaurs, the caveman follows Fang with the intent to avenge their deaths (despite Fang not being involved in his family's death). Then the horned tyrannosaurs attack Fang and her offspring, and Spear joins the fight slaying two of the tyrannosaurs.
    • In the third episode Spear and Fang end up on the receiving end of this after they kill an elderly mammoth for food. The mammoths almost crush Fang to death, but when Spear gives back the old mammoth's tusk to their matriarch, they stop attacking.
    • In the fourth episode, after the giant bats see that their Giant Spider leader has been killed by Spear and Fang, the entire horde immediately sets off after them.
    • In the fifth episode, after the ape-man champion appears to kill Fang, Spear drinks the ape-man shaman's potion, turns into a Hulk-like monstrosity and slaughters not only the champion, but dozens of the smaller ape-men as well, even when they turn around and start fleeing.
  • Run or Die: The diseased sauropod in "A Plague of Madness" is so massive and rapid that Spear and Fang both know they can't fight it and spend the episode running and hiding in places it can't reach them.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: The sixth episode has Spear helping Fang recover from being beat to near-death, an effort made more difficult by the antagonistic and bloodthirsty hordes of vultures and hyena-dogs which are waiting for Spear to drop his guard.
  • Scenery Porn: The oasis that Spear and Fang find themselves in at the beginning of the fifth episode is absolutely beautiful.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Credit being due where it is, this might be the only animated work to feature Syndyoceras (even if it's a somewhat oversized one). Also, the giant bats look like Necromantis (although it was nowhere near the size of the bats in the show). The giant crocodile may be Deinosuchus, and the giant aquatic snakes can be either Titanoboa or Palaeophis (their large size fits the former whereas their aquatic habits fit the latter). Elasmotherium, Synthetoceras, a thylacine and what appears to be a chalicothere are among the dead animals in the giant spider's nest. The wild dogs resemble borophagines, and the swarm of arthropods resemble euthycarcinoids. The sauropods are apparently supposed to be Argentinosaurus. The herd of ceratopsids somewhat resemble Medusaceratops. The season one finale features Liopleurodon, Meganeura, Tapejara, Anzu, and Kulindadromeus.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Chased by a horde of bloodthirsty giant bats in Episode 4, Spear and Fang lead them into the tall grass where they are set upon by the raptor pack that had been menacing them in the beginning of the episode.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: While the show seldom censors any violence, the horned tyrannosaurs eating Spear's wife and children is only shown in shadows.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In episode 4, Fang and Spear are chased by a group of raptors through a field of tall grass, just like in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
    • Spear and Fang finding the slaughtered herd of sauropods during "Plague of Madness" brings to mind the aftermath of the Indominus rex massacre in Jurassic World.
    • The titular plague in "Plague of Madness" clearly takes several cues from the Rage Virus in regards to its effects and how rapidly it infects its hosts.
    • The true form of the Night Feeder bears a resemblance to the Indoraptor from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
  • Shown Their Work: With all the Artistic License – Paleontology around, the series gets at least some details right. For example, the pterodactyl, while a mish-mash of different genera, has the correct quadrupedal stance, the brontosaurs have only a single claw on their forelimbs, and the Smilodon has a short tail and muscular build. Some fully feathered dinosaurs also make short appearances in the season one finale.
  • Silence Is Golden: Tartakovsky has described it as being his first completely dialogue-free series. Through the series, there is no dialogue, only feral shrieks, grunts, and roars. Makes sense, since there's only one human character of note and the series takes place in a time before human languages were developed. "Slave of the Scorpion" does introduce a human character who speaks, albeit untranslated Arabic.
  • Skeleton Motif: In the 4th episode, Spear and Fang come across a stone pillar with carvings resembling human skulls. They were presumably made by the primitive albino hominids that dwell in the area.
  • Sliding Scale Of Silliness Vs Seriousness: While some of Tartakovsky's signature humor and slapstick is present, this is for the most part a bleak, deadly serious show.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Giant snakes, likely Titanoboa, are the main antagonists of Episode 2.
  • Stuffed in the Fridge: Spear's wife and children get eaten by dinosaurs in the first episode.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Every predator that menaces the duo will put their bloodlust over self-preservation every time. Those that attack in groups (such as the raptors and giant bats in Episode 4) will keep on attacking no matter how many of their horde is slaughtered.
    • Special mention goes to the sauropod in "Plague of Madness", which after being infected by something spends most of its appearance chasing Spear and Fang, not even stopping falling off a cliff, having most of its skin ripped off, or falling into lava several times seems to affect it much until Spear and Fang are no longer within reach.
  • Together in Death: When Lula dies saving Spear and Fang, she is reunited with her daughter in the afterlife.
  • Token Good Teammate: Lula is this to the rest of her Ambiguously Evil witches coven. Once she sees that what Spear and Fang have gone through in life closely mirrors what happened with her own family, she turns against the matriarch and helps the pair to escape.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Since Spear and Fang are the Deuteragonists of the show, it was outright impossible to not spoil the fact that Fang survives from nearly being killed at the end of episode 5 when Adult Swim started airing commercials for new episodes. The commercials even show Spear tending to Fang's wounds in the aftermath.
  • Theme Naming: Spear and Fang are both named after their primary weapons.
  • Thick-Line Animation: The animation has thick black outlines.
  • Through His Stomach: In "Slave of the Scorpion", Mira is able to gain Fang's approval using a stewed and seasoned tuber which the tyrannosaur chomps with great gusto (but Spear finds unpalatable by contrast).
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Fang, the show's deuteragonist is a Tyrannosaurus with one particularly large lower fang, which provides her name. The antagonists of the first episode are a pack of T. rex with horns.
  • The Virus: The plague in "Plague of Madness" turns living things into zombie-like versions of themselves, and it spreads via bites.
  • Walking the Earth: After losing their respective families, Spear and Fang have no home to return to. They end up travelling the prehistoric world together and ending up in a different place in each episode.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Spear is an ordinary human and is able to take on dinosaurs, mammoths, and other dangerous creatures due to his tool making and cunning.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Night Feeder would have easily finished off both Spear and Fang with enough time were it not for its extreme sensitivity to light. When Spear accidentally creates spark by hitting the tip of his blade against a flint-like rock, it causes the Night Feeder to instantly run away for a moment, resuming chase only once the spark goes away. Spear realizes he could easily defeat it by creating a perimeter of fire, which it cannot cross. It also explains why Spear and Fang were not attacked the previous nights despite it being in close proximity to them: They slept around a campfire, which didn't go out until morning the first two nights. It's only on the third night, when the fire goes out when it's still dark out, that the Night Feeder targets them.
  • Wham Episode: the Season 1 finale, "Slave of the Scorpion," reveals that there's a more advanced, Bronze Age-type civilization somewhere across the sea which seems to mostly be unaware of the main setting of Primal, and is populated by Anatomically Modern Humans in contrast to the Neanderthal-like cavemen which have featured up to this point. They have metal tools and weapons, religion, ships, a genuine language rather than whoops and grunts, and hints at a proper Big Bad. Just when you thought this was only a simple 1 Million B.C. setting....
  • The Worf Effect: Fang is established in the first few episodes as a formidable fighter who can kill beasts larger than herself. So when she's easily beaten by the mammoths in "A Cold Death", the spider in "Terror Under the Blood Moon" and the ape champion in "Rage of the Ape-Men", it demonstrates how powerful and dangerous these opponents are.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Almost drowning and being eaten by snakes in "River of Snakes" has left Fang with a pathological fear of anything that even resembles a snake. Even a worm, to Spear's bemusement.
  • Your Size May Vary: There are some inconsistencies about the size of a characters. Fang, in particular, can sometimes appear only 5-6 meters long, while sometimes she's as big as a fully-grown Tyrannosaurus rex.

Alternative Title(s): Primal, Genndy Tartakovskys Primal

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