Zoo, Season 1 Episode 1: “First Blood”

Year-round programming is slowly becoming a thing for the American broadcast networks, wit CBS of all networks leading the charge. Two years ago we had Under the Dome, and last year saw the premiere of Extant, both of which are currently airing subsequent seasons. CBS’ latest effort in summer programming is an adaptation of James Patterson’s thriller Zoo, in which animals begin to hunt humans – or at least that’s what I was able to get from “First Blood”, the series premiere. I watched the premieres of both Under the Dome and Extant, so it only made sense that I should check out the Zoo premiere. I was surprised to find what ended up being an enjoyable show. The characters aren’t fully formed, but there’s an interesting premise, and also James Wolk, aka Bob Benson from Mad Men.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Zoo premiere, other than to be terrified to leave my house. Animals reasserting themselves as apex predators over humans is a concept that’s only just outside the realm of reality. I’m not looking up how plausible it is, because then I will actually be too scared to leave the house. “First Blood” follows Jackson Oz (James Wolk), a safari guide in Botswana, and Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly), a Los Angeles-based journalist, as they investigate lion attacks on humans. In Los Angeles, Jamie is working on a theory that the change to animal food containing genetically modified organisms at a local zoo was the cause of a lion escape and attack. The lions attacked their handler of over ten years, then escaped, murdering two people. In Botswana, Jackson visits another safari camp an undetermined distance away, to find the place abandoned. A conveniently dropped video camera allows him to determine that there was an animal attack.

Both Jamie and Jackson investigate the killings in their own way. Jamie, being the nosy reporter that she is (I hate this archetype) goes over to the zoo owner’s house to confirm whether or not he changed the food for budgetary reasons, after she was fired from her newspaper for having an anonymous blog railing against the GMO company, which is a subsidiary of the same organisation as the newspaper. The zookeeper tells her to go and investigate the missing cats in the neighbourhood, assuming that there’s a catnapper afoot. Instead, Jamie contacts an animal pathologist, who says that the food shouldn’t be a problem. Jamie mentions the cats to him, and he contacts her a few hours later, having found the cats.

Jackson, meanwhile, investigates what happened to his friends, finds a French woman, and the two of them are immediately beseiged by lions. They get away briefly before some more (or possibly the same) lions find them after their car’s radiator is busted (by the lions of course). Before falling down a river bed, Jackson looks a lion in the eye and sees what he believes to be “the defiant pupil”, something his father mentioned as part of his manifesto. Jackson’s father was a famous zoologist (Oz backwards is close to “zoo”, you see), who had a theory that the animals would come to reassert their dominance, and the defiant pupil was part of that theory. We know this because someon back at Jackson’s camp is watching his father’s old videos, and asks Jackson about them. Jackson says they’re the nonsense ramblings of a madman, but after he sees the lion, he’s wondering if his father’s theory might be true.

Zoo isn’t a great show, but it’s one I’ll keep watching for at least a couple more weeks, or until I get too scared and/or bored to continue. It’s a show defined by plot rather than character, and the premise is enough to keep me interested for the time being. If you’re looking for something that’s not too serious, you could do a lot worse.

Other thoughts:

  • All the people who were attacked in Africa were black. I give any pilot the benefit of the doubt, but it’s worth noting.
  • My thing about the nosy reporter: it’s almost always a woman who is the annoying person. Remember Zoe on House of Cards? (This is probably where you recognise Jamie from). It could also be the fact that I watched The Newsroom that I have a problem with this because the female characters on that show were so grating, while the men were always right. Bradley Cooper on Alias is another character that comes to mind, but my main problem with that character was that for a long time he was just the guy who had a crush on Sydney. He was immediately more interesting once he found out about B613. I mean SD6 – that was my first confusion between the shadowy spy organisations in Alias and Scandal.
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