Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous Season 5 Review: A Rushed, Cruel, Somewhat Satisfying Conclusion

After five seasons, "Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous" is officially closed for business. In its final episodes, the animated "Jurassic World" spin-off needed to accomplish two things: successfully conclude the story of the campers who got trapped on Isla Nublar, and also provide a satisfying tie-in to "Jurassic World Dominion" after years of teases from the showrunners and Colin Trevorrow.

So does it achieve these two things? The answer to both is ... kind of? There are some very satisfying elements, and the last episode leaves us on a high note, but the season gets somewhat bogged down by a rushed pace to the finish line, and a gloomy tone caused by forced tie-ins to the live-action movies that feel contradictory to the overall tone of the show.

After finally escaping Isla Nublar in season 3, the kids — Darius, Ben, Yaz, Brooklynn, Kenji, and Sammy — end up at yet another island full of dinosaurs controlled by an evil corporation. This season focuses on Daniel Kon, Kenji's dad and CEO of Mantah Corp, who wants to profit off the dinosaurs by making them fight for anyone willing to pay for a ticket.

Welcome (and goodbye) to Jurassic World

After spending so much time together on a remote island, the Nublar Six (by this point they are basically the castaways from "Lost" complete with dealing with monsters, villains, and animals that should not be in the jungle) continue to be the highlight of the show. In between running for their lives and saving dinosaurs from abusive humans, "Camp Cretaceous" knows when to hit the brakes and just have the characters talk about their problems.

After last season tackled anxiety, this season ponders the question of what going through a series of traumatic life-or-death situations does to a person's psyche, with Darius wondering if months of having to pick the lesser of two evils have just desensitized him to the horrors of the world. It's a fascinating question that the show explores in a nuanced way, as it does queer relationships, acts of betrayal, and how forgiveness has to be earned over time and not just with one single act.

The problem here is that the new season has so many loose ends to tie up, and so many ongoing storylines that the second half of the season works double-time to speed past them to reach a conclusion. The result is a rushed finale where character arcs are forced to reach resolutions even if they don't feel totally earned. That being said, the conclusion to the story of the campers, their journey out of Isla Nublar, and their quest to protect dinosaurs from those who would exploit them end as satisfyingly as they could have. There are losses, there are victories, and for a relatively smaller scale story than the films — even if the characters face arguably bigger threats than Owen and Claire, they were never meant to go on globetrotting adventures like them — the show ended in the best place its format and scope realistically allow.

Save the dinosaurs

"Camp Cretaceous" has always been about the conservation of dinosaurs and a not-so-subtle allegory for our own treatment of animals, and season 5 brings that to a boiling point. The season deals with Mantah Corp wanting to use a mind control chip that allows someone to control a dinosaur using a remote control like they were a robot, and the kids wanting to stop that barbarity.

Sadly, new episodes continue the trend from last season of needlessly introducing animal cruelty even when it's unnecessary. It's not enough to show dinosaurs being forced to fight one another, now we have to see them be violated by having their every move controlled by someone else, with extreme close-ups of the dinos' eyes to drive their pain home. Not that the show shies away from showing mature content, or going fully into horror territory, but do we seriously need this level of animal abuse in a cartoon mostly aimed at kids? Haven't the dinosaurs suffered enough by having to stand next to Chris Pratt in the live-action movies?

But not all is lost, with this season expanding what we know of the dinosaurs in the franchise in fascinating ways that would make Alan Grant proud.

With some fascinating developments in the show's portrayal of dinosaurs. Indeed, something the first film excelled at was making the audience feel awe not just about dinosaurs walking among us again, but about the chance to discover what they were actually like. The key to Grant's reaction to his first look at a dinosaur is not about seeing a giant creature in front of him, but realizing that all his years of research were wrong, and his scientific fascination with the creature having warm blood, and moving in herds.

But don't let them eat you

"Camp Cretaceous" carries on that legacy by showing characters like Darius and Dr. Mae being constantly fascinated by discovering new things about the dinosaurs, from their watering hole habits to protecting their elderly, and more. "Jurassic World" tried and failed to replicate the archetypes of the original characters, but "Camp Cretaceous" nails what made those characters special, and managed to give us a new Alan Grant in Darius, making him feel familiar in his love for dinosaurs, but also distinct and new.

Likewise, the show, especially this season, understands that you actually can make dinosaurs sympathetic while still making them dangerous. "Jurassic World Dominion" also tried to focus on the protection of dinosaurs, but also wanted the audience to treat the dinosaurs as villains and cheer whenever the heroes punched, kicked, and otherwise hurt the dinosaurs. That is not "Camp Cretaceous," which shows the dinosaurs as just that, dinosaurs. They try to eat the kids at every chance they get, just because they can, but they are also capable of being quite nice and empathetic — even the T-Rex. The kids understand this and they fight for the dinosaurs to be able to live their lives and fight, play, and eat each other because that is their nature.

Forget about the locust

The unfortunate side effect of being released so close after "Jurassic World Dominion" is that season 5 of "Camp Cretaceous" now carries the weight of that movie's massive failure. Those who hoped for cameos or a substantial connective plot between the show and the film that would make the latter better may be disappointed, but there are tie-ins between the two. Indeed, the season centers around providing context to a seemingly throwaway part of "Dominion," the control chips that Biosyn uses to give directions to the dinosaurs in the film.

While "Camp Cretaceous" does a good job of making the chips feel like a big deal, it does make "Dominion" somehow worse than it already was because of how little attention is paid to the fact that the dinosaurs were being brainwashed, focusing instead on a stupid plot involving giant bugs. "Camp Cretaceous" also includes answers to the unnecessary question of how Lewis Dodgson got his hands on the Barbasol can from the first movie, and the answer is as unsatisfactory as anything Dodgson does in "Dominion."

The most curious connection to the movies, however, is a weird subplot that tries to give a reason for the increase in volcanic activity that would one day destroy Isla Nublar. It's a strange development that casts a large and gloomy shadow over everything the kids do, since we know all the dinos on Nublar will one day die.

Despite a rushed pace that undermines some of the character arcs, and needless animal cruelty, "Camp Cretaceous" delivers a satisfying conclusion to what is the best "Jurassic Park" sequel, one that understands what made the original film and novel so good, and builds upon it. Is the season perfect? No, but it's the best we could have hoped for, and it makes the movies even worse by comparison.

"Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous" season 5 premieres on Netflix on July 21, 2022.