After last week’s hilarious wolf-powered prison break, Zoo returns with an episode that doesn’t strain believability quite so much. Or does it?
Let’s bitch it out…
As quickly as our band of animal-whisperers is united in Tokyo by French Gman, Gaspard Alves (Henri Lubatti), they are off to Mississippi to investigate last week’s wolf-led prison break. After arriving in Mississippi the team splits up: Jackson (James Wolk), Jamie (Kristen Connolly), and Chloe (Nora Arnezeder) head to the prison, while Abraham (Nonso Anozie) and Mitch (Billy Burke) attempt to track the wolf pack that conducted the daring raid in the first place. By dividing the cast up into new pairings we get a bit of character development: Mitch has an ex-wife and daughter, Chloe is a tough and capable leader, Jackson knows a lot about scat, and Abraham can track any animal on any continent. Most importantly, we learn that Jackson’s father (Ken Olin) has a connection to potential new series baddy, Evan Lee Hartley (Marcus Hester).
‘Pack Mentality’ explores group dynamics in terms of both our human characters, and the wolves they are tracking. I’ve got to tip my hat to Zoo: the narrative structure of this episode works well – or at least better than Zoo normally does. On the animal side of things, Jackson explains how all wolf packs have an established ‘alpha’ – in this case, it’s apparently Evan. We see in one scene how Evan has some sort power over the wolves when he faces down Abraham and Mitch in the Mississippi woods.
In terms of Zoo’s human group, Chloe establishes herself right away as the defacto ‘alpha’ of our little group. I especially liked the scene where she shoots down the clunky advances of FBI agent, Ben Schaffer (Geoff Stults) at a hotel bar. There’s also some scientific rivalry/distrust between Jackson and Mitch that’s hinted at, but it all seems to be forgotten when Mitch ‘MacGyver’s’ an experiment in their hotel room that proves that at least the wolves have “infected blood.”
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not dealing with The Wire here, but it’s nice to see some parallels and subtlety in the themes and writing that help give ‘Pack Mentality’ more weight. This is definitely something I hope to see more of.
And that’s about it for this episode. Everyone’s in Mississippi together, Jackson’s father knows Evan, Evan is killing hunters in the woods with the help of his wolf buddies, Chloe can kick butt when she needs to, and the deviant wolves have infected blood. There’s also a side-story involving a scientist-couple in Antarctica that freeze to death when their outpost’s electrical supply is sabotaged by bats. It’s better than the awful Slovenian dog-attack story line from episode 2 (those British accents still haunt my sleep), and does an alright job of showing how animals around the world are going haywire.
‘Pack Mentality’ has raised the bar for Zoo. While this show may not have a ton of strength, this particular episode does a decent job at minimizing some of it’s weaknesses. I hope episode five continues the trend.
- One element Zoo needs to work on is its continuing lack of urgency. I don’t get a sense that “time’s running out” or that something big is going to happen. Even after the team touches down in Mississippi, Mitch and Abraham don’t work on tracking the wolves until the next day (unless I’ve got my times screwed up). Why the wait? The show still doesn’t feel like it’s moving towards something.
- I wish we got to see more of the Duck Dynasty-style hunters from the gun shop get their comeuppance at the hands of wolves. Definitely a missed opportunity there.
- There is no way they are getting the damage deposit back for that hotel room after Mitch’s little coconut/wolf blood lab experiment.
- The prison guard from this week has got to be one of the dumbest characters on TV. A “level three once over” from someone who is on loan from INTERPOL? No ID? No problem! Oh, Zoo, you’re always good for a facepalm at some point. No wonder wolves were able to break into that prison.
- I’ve been thinking about these little side-stories that have been featured since episode two that are supposed to help illustrate how animals are changing globally. I think it would be better to have a shorter vignette that serves as the “lead-in” for the show, just a little 2 or 3 minute story that culminates with an animal attack of some sort. Similar to how Six Feet Under would start each episode with a death.
- Evan was lookin’ preppy in that photo with Robert. Maybe he ran into the wolves because his boat shoes were on too tight?
- Abraham: “You know, I like this Chloe. She is what you would call… peppery.”
- Jackson (While looking at Mitch’s coconut/car battery/wolf blood experiment): “So what are we looking for? What happens to prove that you’re right?”
Mitch: “Well, the current from the battery should stimulate the growth of the bacteria. We’re looking for some evidence that the wolf’s brain was agitated. For instance, if the liquid starts to bubble up a little bit.”
Chloe: “How long?”
Mitch: “I don’t know, a couple hours?” <Experiment immediately bubbles and explodes>
Your turn: So what do you think, is ‘Pack Mentality’ a sign that there’s better episodes to come? What do you think of the vignettes? Do they add to Zoo’s story, or are they a distraction from the main events? Do those British accents haunt you as much as they do me? Sound off below.
Zoo airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on CBS