We start Zoo’s second episode in pretty much the same place we ended episode one: contemplating the latent menace of a tree full of cats.
Let’s bitch it out…
At the menacing tree-o-cats, Junior reporter Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) and animal pathologist Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke) debate phoning in their discovery to animal control. The whole thing is as low-stakes as it sounds. It’s a bizarre scene to kick off the second episode with, especially if the writers are trying to lure in new viewers. A pack of circus animals turning on their masters and rampaging would be much more compelling than an awkward conversation about calling animal control over some house cats. When Campbell is on the phone with animal control, there’s a moment where you think Zoo just might wink about how ridiculous the whole thing is, but it never happens. Shame.
‘Fight Or Flight′ sticks to the same basic narrative structure as the premiere. We follow safari-leader extraordinaire, Jackson Oz (James Wolk) in Botswana, who rescues his friend Abe (Nonso Anozie) from an apparent lion kidnapping. Oz begins to suspect that his father, Robert Oz’ (Ken Olin) kooky animal behaviour theories were correct all along, and that the lions aren’t afraid of humans anymore; he goes so far as to bill Abe’s “kidnapping” a message. We also learn that Oz’s mother Elizabeth (Bess Armstrong) works with him as a safari physician, and she sends him off to Japan in search of his father’s missing video lectures and research.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Campbell continues to seek a connection between recent lion attacks and shady bio-tech corporation, Reiden Global. (Her journalistic methods involve pecking slowly at a keyboard and looking at stock photography online.) She and Morgan ultimately convince the zoo to let them “borrow” a lion cub for some tests, where they learn that the lions are apparently communicating through “hyper gamma” waves.
This episode also adds a couple of additional storylines into the mix. One involves Chloe (Nora Arnezeder), the survivor of the Botswana lion attacks, returning to Paris. She is immediately confronted by her cheating sister Natalie (Natalie Mejer) and – more significantly – a mysterious government agent who needs her help: “the fate of the world may hinge on it.” Ugh.
The second addition is the clunky tale of Nicholas and Tara Bradshaw (played by Billy Slaughter and Valerie Boucvalt) , a posh English couple adopting a son in Slovenia. The Bradshaw’s accents are laughable, and the little boy’s overdub is awful. The best part of this storyline is that after some lacklustre attempts character building, Nicholas is lured away into a scary Slovenian alley and presumably attacked by a pack of domesticated dogs.
I say presumably because the nothing is actually shown on screen. We see some chewed up corpses in the alley, but like the premiere, all the animals attacks continue to occur off screen. For a show that tried to hype itself up as some sort of “When Animals Attack” armageddon, there are actually very few animal attacks going on. The fact that Zoo is limiting the scope of the attacks right now makes for very, very, low stakes. There’s a major disconnect between how serious the show takes itself and what it actually presents to the viewer. The writers can blab about “hyper gamma waves” or “defiant pupils” all they want, but it’s hard to buy into the mystery of what’s going on when there really isn’t that much going on. This episode featured a total of one (1!) animal attack. Talk about all bark and no bite.
Zoo is burdened by its own seriousness. It’s effort to create mystery and verisimilitude around the show’s events just reinforces how damn silly the whole thing is. I wonder if it would work better if the showrunners just dropped us into a post-apocalyptic world where animals communicate over distance and hunt humans. Just dump logic completely, folks. Lions talk to cats and kidnap humans now; deal with it. Zoo wastes valuable time developing goofy theories instead of building on the characters themselves. At this point in the show I can’t say I really care about what happens to any of the characters. I’m just not invested in them. At all.
Hopefully epsiode three will bring some over the top animal mayhem or real character development into play, because I’m going to need at least one of those elements in order to stay interested in Zoo.
- ‘Fight Or Flight’ continues Zoo‘s tradition of horrible dialogue and cringe-worthy conversations. (See examples below.)
- It’s good to know that in the world of the show, you can just “borrow” lion cubs from a zoo to run experiments on. They don’t even supervise you!
- I am definitely still cheering for the animals.
- The most laughable part of the episode is when the lion dials Oz from Abe’s phone. Oooookkkkkkkaaaayyyyyy. Although that is exactly why I password protect my phone: keeps the lions out.
- My favourite bit of clunky “character building” is when Tara Bradshaw, while watching the tigers performing at the circus mentions to her husband that it’s unnatural to “force a creature to do something that doesn’t come instinctively” while staring dead-on at their adopted son. Subtle much?
- How the hell did the Bradshaw’s hope to successfully adopt a child from Slovenia without speaking even a modicum of Slovenian?
- One last thing about the Bradshaws: they kind of remind me of the Swans from Best in Show. This is funny, but not necessarily good for Zoo.
Jamie Campbell (while looking at a tree full of cats): “Mitch, there’s something going on here.”
Mitch Morgan: “I can assure you there’s a rational explanation for it.”
Jame: “Okay, then explain those lions from the zoo.”
Mitch Morgan: “Those lions did what lions do. They acted… lion-y.”
Robert Oz (while looking at an otter on a table): “They no longer need to fear mankind.” (Hits table.) “See? It knows that all they need to do is fight, and they can take down the human race.”
What do you think: am I being too unfair on Zoo? Are you connecting with the characters? Does the mystery of the “defiant pupil” interest you at all? Did you enjoy the second episode more than the premiere? Let us know in the comments below!
Zoo airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on CBS