I don’t know if Zoo is finding it’s groove, if it’s so hot that my brain is fried, or if I’m just all out of f*cks to give, but I’ve legitimately enjoyed these last two episodes.
Let’s bitch it out…
Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of problems with the series. Lots. The special effects are pretty bad, the writing is horrible, and the plot is hilariously dumb, but dammit, I’m having fun. If Zoo was up against more serious competition in the fall lineup I’m sure it would struggle, but here in the heat of late July, it’s just stupid fun. I’m ok with that now. And it seems like others agree because the show pulling in pretty decent ratings so far.
What this week’s episode lacks in terms of a unifying theme, it makes up for in bats. Chloe (Nora Arnezeder), Abraham (Nonso Anozie), and Mitch (Billy Burke) travel to Brazil to find out why bats are swarming the skies of Rio de Janeiro. The team is lured there, disappointingly, by a phone call to Chloe. This is becoming a disappointing trend for Zoo. Why not open the show with a short scene set in Rio that backgrounds the ‘bat situation’ for us? That way the phone call beckoning the team to Brazil would seem less deus ex machina-ish. Right now it seems like when the writers want to move us around, someone just gets a call, the group packs their bags, and off we go. What ever happened to the old writing adage of ‘show, don’t tell?’
Anyways, the Brazil team begins to suspect that the bats are drawn to technology/radio-waves/no-contract cellphone plans. They head into a favela to use an unprotected cell tower to lure the bats before the Brazilian government carpet-bombs the city with toxic pesticides. The logic here is fuzzy for a bunch of reasons, but let’s not dwell on that. In the favela they are attacked by a gang (maybe they’re working for the bats!) and we are left in suspense about their fates in one of several cliffhangers.
Meanwhile the rest of the team – Jackson (James Wolk), Jamie (Kristen Connolly) and new-to-the-party addition FBI Agent Schaffer (Geoff Stults) – track down the titular ex-Reiden Global chemist, Leo Butler (Jay Paulson). Leo’s name is written throughout Evan “The Wolfman” Hartley’s (Marcus Hester) bible, and, in the show’s intro, Mitch discovers Leo’s “signature” in the bacteria found in last week’s wolf blood samples.
Through some more deus ex machina malarkey (this time it’s Jamie’s “blogger and hacker” connections), they locate the skittish scientist in the Alabama bayou. It turns out Leo is running scared because he knows about the “Mother Cell” – Reiden’s secret formula for success. It’s a molecule/cell/vector (??) that is used in all of their products to make them.. better? It’s never really explained why it’s in everything, and the science is wonky at best, so let’s just move on. Mother Cell + Reiden = bad and scary, ok?
Jamie convinces Leo to take to her to retrieve a sample of the Mother Cell he has stashed in the woods. This bit is a snooze, but on the drive home – during a real turkey of a conversation – Leo realizes he’s being tracked and they are crashed into by a mysterious attacker, Hartley, who steals the sample. Leo’s presumably killed, while Jamie appears injured, but alive. I honestly can’t blame Hartley for taking out Leo; the dialogue in that scene is really, really bad. I think it’s better for everyone that it ended when it did.
The episode’s real “oh snap!” moments come from, surprisingly, the vignette. We meet Clementine (Madison Wolfe) a sweet terminally-ill girl whose epilepsy dog is hit by car (‘gotta make sure the sympathy knob is turned up to 11, eh?). Her cash-strapped mother Audra (Anastasia Griffith) and stepfather Justin (Cory Hart) manage to pay for poor Henry’s vet bills, but the dog is prescribed with Reiden meds. Meds with the Mother Cell. Oh snap! Oh snap! number two: Mitch is Clementine’s father.
What’s with all these vignettes trying to cram in the most overwrought emotional blackmail ever seen in TV? Parents adopting a child from Eastern Europe, lesbian doctors dying alone together in the Antarctic, and now terminally ill children whose parents can barely afford treatment? I know you only have a few minutes to tug the heart strings, Zoo, but holy crap.
Overall, not a bad episode. The show is still unfortunately lacking a sense of urgency or an ‘edge,’ but we’re starting to see some storylines that are compelling beyond a single episode. Hopefully Zoo can start weaving more of these threads together. The story, plot, and writing may all leave a lot to be desired, but at least tonight’s episode is engaging.
- The best part of this episode is easily “Bat Facts! with Mitch Morgan.” Zoo definitely needs more Bat Facts.
- Poor Kristen Connolly. She’s a great actor given the right material, but my god, she has to deliver some of the most ham-fisted dialogue I’ve ever heard. Tonight’s car scene with Leo is the perfect example of that. Absolutely horrid.
- On the other hand, I think Mitch is this show’s greatest character. It seems like Burke’s character acts like a kind of pressure valve for the writers for when the show’s science/logic/plot gets dumber than normal. He almost always comments on it, and I dig that. Plus Bat Facts. Long live Bat Facts.
- Seriously, lets cut it out with the deus ex machina phone calls here. Mitch’s colleagues who ID Leo’s bacteria signature, Chloe’s Brazil call, Jamie’s blogger friends tracking Leo, and that’s just from tonight’s episode!
- Of course the black guy is the one to hotwire the car. Of course. Great job, Zoo.
- Still no real sense of urgency, aside from the whole Brazilian government carpet-bombing thing. Even this doesn’t make sense, though; what government would douse its own citizens with pesticides to clear out a bat infestation that doesn’t appear to be attacking anyone?
- Definitely a weak episode in terms of animal attacks. A bat attacking a smartphone is as exciting as it got on that front, which is kinda sad.
- Abraham didn’t make a weird comment tonight about women! Progress?
- Chloe: “Is it possible the bat was attracted to my phone, or technology? Is that crazy?”
- Mitch: “Hey. We’re actually just trying to solve your bat problem.”
Favela gang-leader: “Yeah? Well it looks like you’ve got a bat problem all your own.” <Mitch is attacked by a thug with a baseball bat.>
Your turn: Were you also disappointed by the lack of animal attacks this epsiode? Did you see the twist with Mitch’s daughter coming? Is Zoo just stupid summer fun, or do you think with careful work it could become something more? Who do you think attacked Leo for the Mother Cell? Sound off below.
Zoo airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on CBS. Next week it looks like we’re going for maximum ocular damage and possibly a bear attack. Here’s your preview