If you thought a housecat staring straight into the camera and then crawling in bed with a sleeping kid after returning from a feline gang meeting was creepy, then just wait until you see a crow staring down an infant in a stroller just moments after its crow posse have pecked the baby’s mother to death. Talk about sinister. Did I mention that the crow’s beak is covered in blood? WELL, IT IS.
Zoo has come a long way since its premiere; as the stakes have risen—the Animal Avengers are freely tossing around that it’s up to them to save the world now—the series has simultaneously gotten both scarier and sillier. I make a lot of allowances in the name of the show’s campy but original premise… but a person has to draw the line somewhere, and this person is drawing it at random Boston bars having sixth grade Geography world maps on the wall.
They’ve still got me, even with the icky crows. But consider me more than amped that tonight’s plot suggests bringing big cats back into the picture as Jackson and the gang try to chase down a cure for the animals before two of the most powerful forces in the world track them down. Turning the Animal Avengers into fugitives following the death of Agent Shaffer and subsequent FBI tracking is a lot to take on, but it’s an exciting pivot for the pacing of the show. At this point in the season, I’ve become a little too comfortable with the fact that all of the animals of the world are about to turn against humanity. Because my faith that Mitch can figure this out with nothing but a leopard, a few test tubes, and a killer pair of spectacles is considerably high. The Avengers needed an enemy beyond the animal kingdom, and they found it.
Add Reiden Global as yet another active antagonist, and this narrative is fit to burst. “Murmuration” picks up right where last week’s episode left us hanging: Mitch is about to betray the crew by forking over the Mother Cell to Reiden Global to get the meds that will save his daughter Clementine’s life. But while he still has his surly grip on the Cell, who does he lock eyes with across the Reiden offices, but Delavenne: the boss man who put the Animal Avengers together; the man who has supposedly been funding their mission to take Reiden Global down… the man who, in fact, works at Reiden Global. Mitch slams a chair through the locked glass door and manages to make it out of the building where he then has to…
Go tell his loyal friends that he was about to kamikaze all their hard work to save the world. But it was in order to save his cute, sick daughter so everyone just kind of agrees to keep moving forward because they have a big problem—scratch that—two big problems: The man who funds their project in fact works for the corporation they thought they were working toward taking down; oh, and the FBI agent played by Xander Berkeley—who it must be noted is named “Ronnie ‘Dogstick’ Brannigan” in the IMDb credits—who’s after them has discovered Chloe’s identity and put a warrant out for her arrest as an accessory to Shaffer’s murder.
So there’s only one solution: “Now we’ve got to save our own asses and the world.” Dramatically but aptly stated, Jackson. Jamie calls a friend at a big Boston newspaper to work toward getting the word about Reiden out independently, Mitch and Abe go to deliver Clem’s medicine, and Jackson and Chloe head straight to Delavenne’s house because, frankly, those two are kind of irrational and have a permanent case of crazy-eyes.
Delavenne, who is apparently the Head of Global Security for Reiden and has been instructed to find his renegade team and get the Mother Cell back, finds them as soon as he steps into his mansion. But Jackson and Chloe tell him they have other plans for the Mother Cell. They’re going to find a cure for all the damage that Reiden has cause in the animals, and if he continues to support them, if Reiden helps with the solution to the problem they caused and come clean to the world about the Mother Cell, then maybe the public will go easy on them… for almost accidentally bringing about the animal apocalypse. Delavenne is pretty much like, “Naw, not gonna happen,” and Jackson is all, “You’ll be sorry,” and Chloe defiantly swishes her ponytail.
Basically, everyone, from global corporations to animal detectives to pedestrians, is completely in over their heads; the animal revolt is looming, and no matter who does or doesn’t know about it, everyone is at risk. On their way to Clem’s house with the medicine, Mitch and Abe come across a flock of birds making a cicada-like screeching noise. And then when they get to Clem’s house, neither she nor her mother, Audra, are there. But there are birds—a different species of bird—making the exact same noise.
Audra calls Mitch from the park where the noise is deafening. She and Clem are hiding out under a playground while a huge flock of crows attack all the pedestrians in the park. We—and 10-year-old Clementine—watch as a mother tries to fend off the crows from her baby in its stroller, but there are too many, and she’s left pecked to death on the ground. All but one of the crows fly away, and the aforementioned bloody-beaked stare off commences.
NEXT: How many beers does it take to save the world?[pagebreak]
All of the birds have lined up on the telephone wires above, seemingly waiting for something, and when the stroller-dwelling bird finally flies away to join them, Clem runs out to get the baby. And Audra runs after Clem. And the birds go after both of them. But just as they start to get their first pecks in, Mitch and Abe arrive, and through some forced connection to the local Boston fire department, have brought a huge fire hose with them and blast away all of the birds.
So, that’s one flame thrower and one fire hose that we’ve seen successfully take down a group of mutated animals in the last few episodes—the Avengers are going to need some better resources if they really hope to save the world. What they have instead is a Boston pub with educational wall-hangings. Jackson and Chloe have met back up with Jamie for some recreational day drinking during this very casual time in their lives. But because Mitch has previously told them that in order to find a way to reverse the Mother Cell’s effects in mutated animals they need to find an animal who has mutated but hasn’t been effected by the Mother Cell to experiment on, they’re able to make this a productive happy hour.
They rip a map off the wall and start cross-referencing Leo Butler’s ledger of all of the places in the world that have been exposed to Reiden Global products that contain the Mother Cell to find which parts of the world might possibly have animals that haven’t been exposed. And while they get pretty far in drawing various sized circles on their map, and Chloe even has time for a small existential crisis about being able to trust her secret agent instincts, the threat of Reiden knowing exactly how much they’ve discovered about their secret apocalyptic distribution tactics is looming.
It’s time to start playing offense, so they head to meet up with Jamie’s friend at the Boston paper to see if he’s willing to take the story. He’s definitely interested, and even had a warehouse on hand where they could secretly meet up and easily walk through without anyone minding. But even though they told him all about the evil corporation that’s actively working to destroy them, they may have forgotten to mention that they’re also in a bit of hot water with the FBI. Which is why the journalist is particularly surprised when Agent Brannigan shows up, having tracked Chloe and Jamie through some lucky cell phone and surveillance breaks, and is prepared to avenge ol’ square-jawed Shaffer’s murder with his drawn gun. Jamie dopily tells him she’s sorry, but Chloe starts distracting him with the details of Shaffer’s (probable) dirty connection to Reiden long enough for Jackson to knock a bunch of crates on him while everyone escapes, locking Brannigan inside the warehouse.
The Fantastically In Trouble Five meet back up at Audra and Clementine’s house and, frankly, don’t seem too worried about quickly escaping the one place in Boston it would be pretty obvious they might go to. Mitch takes the time to have a tender moment with Audra while he hands over Clem’s life-saving medicine, but it’s lucky that he does, because as Clem packs up her stuffed animals, he spots a panther. Naturally, that triggers the memory of the list that was on the wall of Jackson’s dad’s workshop. It seemed random at the time to find a list of big cat taxonomy that had a particular emphasis on leopards… but what if Dr. Oz was trying to find a cure too? What if he knew where to look for a mutated animal that hadn’t been infected by the Mother Cell?
Jamie immediately starts looking up where leopards are indigenous and Jackson takes out their beer-stained map; they find that Zambia, where there have been numerous random leopard attacks, has no Reiden activity, most likely because its largest agricultural company is owned by one of Reiden’s biggest critics. So it looks like the Avengers have just found the foundation for their cure, and maybe even an ally.
But they’ve still got even bigger enemies—cue an entire SWAT team, led by Brannigan crashing into Audra’s house. But Mitch and the gang are long gone, cruising around watching a murmuring of starlings tear through the Boston sky, trying to figure out how they’re going to travel the 7,000 miles to Zambia before those birds spread a message to the three billion other birds around the world: The humans are losing.
And the Avengers have more to be afraid of than a few crows. The Reiden exec that originally met with Mitch, looking like the scotch-swilling baddie of this silly show’s dreams is telling Delavenne that he obviously put together a strong team: they found the Mother Cell after all, and even think they can use it to find a cure—“it’s a shame they won’t live to find out if they’re right.”
Dun-dun-freakin’-dun. How on earth do these five fugitives plan to make it to Africa? And what exactly was Reiden’s long-term goal in putting together this team? Were they expecting to pay them off? Do they know just how noble Abe and Jackson are? If the Animal Avengers really do only have each other to rely on—what the hell is their plan moving forward with the FBI and the world’s shadiest corporation just inches behind them?