There’s plenty to worry about while watching Zoo — in addition to being concerned that the horses with the carved out eyes might bite a few fingers off of your favorite character at any given time, there’s also the more meta concern that a show about animals slowly plotting to destroy humanity could go off the rails at any moment. You know… more off the rails than cats waterfall-ing out of trees and a bunch of bats taking down an entire plane near an island chock-full of radiation and science shacks.
But the fact that in only its third episode, Zoo has assembled its leads in one room and is attempting to put them all on the same page about the imminent animal takeover, whether it’s a page they want to be on or not — looking at you, Mitch — is oddly comforting. Both on the level of the series moving along at a pace that seems to indicate it has plenty of compelling story to roll out, and for the series’ narrative tone; because about the time the pack of wolves overthrew an entire prison, things were starting to seem a little hopeless in the Zoo world. So, assembling the animal Avengers as its potential saviors was a nice touch. (This analogy holds up… should we talk about how Jackson has total Captain-America-face?)
While establishing a little more of that pesky science that the series so needs to establish in order to ground its premise, this episode introduced a few new locations much more successfully than last week’s slow Slovenia plot. I have no idea what was happening in Biloxi but, boy, was I interested. And the addition of Japan is clearly a hot spot (literally) for figuring out how to — now, how did that Mystery Man in the expensive suit put it? Oh, yeah — save the world.
And that’s where this episode picks up: with Chloe apparently having bought that “the fate of humanity depends solely on your unique set of skills, Chloe, including your proficiency in Microsoft Excel” pitch the mystery Frenchman was putting down in the alley last week. She’s accompanied him to Slovenia to look at the victims of what he calls the “massacre by dogs,” and though she tells him over and over that this isn’t her area of expertise, he insists that what experienced in Botswana makes her the only person who can do… whatever it is that he needs her to do.
The story quickly zooms over to Jackson and Abe who have made it to the address in Tokyo where Oz Sr. last resided only to find that he had a second wife Jackson never knew about; then, it’s immediately over to L.A. where Jamie is still stalking Mitch and telling him that the paper — the one she was fired from weeks ago — wants to fly them to New Orleans to meet with a senator who she knows has a vested interest in taking on Reiden Global’s harmful pesticide practices. The third episode really sets a break-neck pace zipping back and forth through storylines, settings, and timezones; and either the timeline in which these initial animal attacks and the assembling of the core five characters is unimportant, or time travel is about to be added to the list of things to be concerned about while watching Zoo. (Or that Mystery Man is a sorcerer. I’m not ruling out anything on a show about homicidal terriers.) Either way, once it becomes evident that there is one entity working to unite all these disparate storylines, there is a mounting cohesion that makes the constant switching feel a little less like watching Wimbledon.
But we’re also introduced to Biloxi this episode, which has a big ol’ wolf lurking around it, and a big ol’ question mark over its goings-on. You see, in Biloxi, there is a prison, and that prison contains a man who is one day away from being executed; a man who likes to recite verses from Genesis about when God created the beasts of the land; a man… who has a drippy pupil. Or, a defiant pupil, if you’re a science-type. The prisoner is meeting with the warden who tells him that he should give the widow of the man he murdered what she’s asking for before his execution. The man refuses to speak to her for what seems to be not the first time, but as he looks out into the particularly lush prison yard, he spots a wolf staring straight up at him… and abruptly changes his mind: “It’s time to make amends.” H’oh boy.
NEXT: Take it to Tokyo…[pagebreak]
In Japan, Oz Sr.’s second wife, Minako (Tamlyn Tomita), is excited to finally meet Jackson and talks about his father and his work much more fondly than any other accounts we’ve heard. Jackson tells her that he thinks his father might have left behind additional research that could help shed light on the Botswana lions’ “um…changing behavior.” But my girl Minako doesn’t need his coded language: “So, it has begun — the awakening of the animals’ cognitive acuity.” Indeed it has, so Minako takes Jackson and Abe to the place where she says Oz conducted his research after he was fired from Harvard: an island 30 kilometers outside of Fukushima that’s full to the brim with radiation that he called “his Ghost of Christmas Future.” Y’all just keep telling us how maybe he wasn’t crazy, OK?
But we all know this is stacking up to have Oz’s seemingly unhinged animal research reveal something, and the new intel starts pretty immediately when the small plane they’re traveling in gets close to Radiation Island and is suddenly swarmed by bats in the middle of the day, 500 feet higher than bats should be able to fly. The next thing you know, the plane is down, and the pilot and Minako have both died. That’s the kind of pace we’re working with tonight. Abe says the pilot sent out a distress signal as they were going down, so help should be on the way, but they both agree that there’s probably enough time to travel the three kilometers to where Dr. Oz conducted his research and get back before help arrives. And off on our little world-saving adventurers we go, into the radiation pit.
Things are just never as exciting for the Jamie-Mitch duo, whose discoveries are generally a little less tangible than Abe and Jackson’s constant near-death experiences. When they arrive in New Orleans, Jamie admits that she was fired from the paper and lied to Mitch to get him there. Which is, you know, really not cool, but Mitch is kind of just a shrug-and-bear-it-for-this-pesky-journalist-who-I-find-oddly-endearing kind of guy, so after Jamie takes him to her mother’s grave — one of 26 people from her farm community who died because of Reiden Global — and explains why she’s fighting so hard to find the truth, he agrees to still go to the meeting with her. Jamie, with her Reiden Global blinders and pushy tendencies, is still a lot to love, but her admission that she’s “just very, very angry” gives a much needed layer of self-awareness to her character.
All of that kind of melts away again though when she storms into her meeting with the Senator with a whole lot of confidence and seemingly no presentation plan except to pass the mic to Mitch who notoriously hates people and only believes about 10 percent of what Jamie’s theories. The Senator, who has a giant moose size head mounted on his office wall, probably wouldn’t have listened anyway; even though he’s tried to go up against Reiden Global in the past, he’s now come around to understanding that there’s just no beating them and their army of lawyers. But he doesn’t have to be a jerk about it: “Knowing when there’s no longer any sense in a fight, Jamie, is what separates the proud from the pathetic.” Mitch’s parting barb — “Senator, I did my grad school thesis on the inverse proportionality of taxidermy wall mounts to their owner’s penis size… my condolences to your wife” — is perhaps a little clunky, but that visual of the Senator standing under the moose head, which seems to have doubled in size since they entered the room, is really something else.
So, with Jamie at a dead end and without money or an outlet through which to go up against Reiden Global (who we still know basically nothing about, mind you), it’s a good thing Jackson and Abe are out there making getting intel. Even if it is in the middle of a death trap island that they soon realize has animals roaming around it that have not only had extended exposure to radiation, but have also been experimented on by Jackson’s father, as evidenced by the horses they come across who have had their eyes removed. Jackson realizes that his father probably chose this island for his research headquarters precicely because of its high radiation levels which could accelerate the changes in the animals’ biological makeup and behavior — “the island was a petri dish.”
When they get inside Oz’s research quarters, the jars full of horse eyeballs make it a little clearer what he was trying to do to fight against those accelerated changes. A projector plays footage of Oz’s research assistant, who is soon revealed to be Minako, getting her fingers bitten off by a horse with a defiant pupil and Oz saying that a change must be made. Jackson wonders if his father saw the defiant pupil as a signifier for animals that were suddenly experiencing a shift in their perception of the world — “what used to be a friend is now an enemy” — causing their behavior to change. And he wonders with a little more skepticism if his father’s solution to that small problem… was to blind all the animals in the world.
NEXT: Potentially crazy conspiracy theorists, ASSEMBLE![pagebreak]
But there’s no time to think about that daunting task of removing every animal’s eyeballs because the rescue chopper has arrived and Abe and Jackson have to make a mad dash to the beach. And you’ll never guess who ends up being in that helicopter: Mystery Man in suit, of course. I would like to state for the record that I’ve been calling him some version of Mystery Man — actual name, Gaspard Alves — since he popped up last week, but it’s also the name appointed to him by Mitch when he sidles up next to him at a bar in Louisiana right when Jamie has given up on the prospect of ever getting justice against Reiden Global. Alves knows all about their findings on the lions’ cognitive functions and wants Mitch’s help, but Mitch only agrees on the condition that Jamie can come too. Here’s hoping Mystery Man is offering a benefits package.
But don’t think we’ve forgotten about ol’ Drippy Pupil McCreeperson over in Biloxi who’s taking his meeting with the widow of the man that he killed, and something tells me she’s not going to get the peace of mind out of this she was hoping for. She asks if he still maintains his innocence like he always has, and that ends up being a pretty firm “no.” He tells her that he was out in the woods looking for a cure for the “horrible price” humanity has paid for playing god when he saw her husband and his friends hunting: “Watching men celebrate murder… they made it easy — easy to kill.” The wife storms out, upset, telling the warden she got exactly no closure out of that, and the guards take the prisoner outside for his last 10 minutes in the glowing green prison yard before he’s to be executed. You know, the prison yard? Rhe one where we saw that wolf roaming around, looking through windows, deep into prisoners’ defiant pupils? Hold that thought…
Because timelines and storylines have finally aligned, Alves brings Abe and Jackson into a conference room in Tokyo where Jamie and Mitch are sitting and waiting. Apparently, they’re all about to meet the heretofore unseen Monsieur Delavenne (Carl Lumbly). He apologizes for all the mystery and tells them that they’ve been brought together because their suspicions about the odd animal behavior they’ve all witnessed is correct. He fills them in on some unusual attacks they haven’t heard of: Rhinos luring a family out of their car and trampling them, brown bears attacking and killing children on a playground in Germany, etc. But the one that even the omnipotent Monsieur Delavenne doesn’t know about is happening in Biloxi right now.
If you ever went through a “wolf phase” in elementary schhol, you might have already guesed this, but… that wolf circling the prison was not traveling alone. And after the warden steps outside to see the widow off, the lead wolf attacks while his cohorts storm the other guards and somehow immediately gain access to the whole building. I speak about them like criminals with a plan because, well… over the course of about the next 10 minutes, this pack of wolves takes over an entire prison: maiming the guards, starting a kitchen fire, and releasing the doors on the prison cells, leaving the exposed prisoners feeling anything but free. Because have I mentioned the homicidal wolf-pirates are terrorizing an entire structure with presumably many hundreds of people inside it?
This scene is excellently interspersed with Delavenne telling his newly assembled task force what the kind of animal behavior they’ve observed means: that the global pandemic Jackson’s father predicted has arrived. As resident skeptic, Mitch says that this is all disturbing, sure, but “certainly not the coming of an animal apocalypse,” there’s a nice little shot of a wolf eating a guard’s whole face off. Delavenne tells them that they’ll mostly be led by his proxy, and in comes Chloe with a clipboard and barely even a glance for her old pal, Jackson. She looks like she’s really come around on the idea of helping out this mysterious project, and it’s a good thing, because her team has a pretty hefty assignment: “Something is most assuredly going on out there. All we want is for you to figure out what it is… before it’s too late.”
Do you fully trust that Delavenne and Alves are telling the truth about their goals? What do you make of the look that the prisoner, still in the yard, gave the wolf as the prison burned behind him? He certainly didn’t look happy, like he was in on the wolfy crime spree. And what exactly are we to think of a human with a defiant pupil? Share your thoughts on the third episode of Zoo and the assembling of the Animal Avengers in the comments!