‘Zoo’ Season 2 Premiere: The Day of the Beast is Nigh

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Ah, CBS. We can always count on you to bring the crazy in the summer. Between this show, “Zoo,” the now-departed “Under the Dome” and “Extant,” and now, “BrainDead” and “American Gothic,” there’s a whole lot of crazy to go around on the so-called “Tiffany Network”- though “Zales” might be the more appropriate moniker at the moment.

No matter. The whole point is, in a barren landscape of reality TV, game shows and competition-driven shows, at least someone is trying to deliver new content, even if it’s the TV equivalent of a B-movie. But hey, I’ve always been a B-movie friendly kind of guy, so I’m good with that. It doesn’t hurt that most of these shows have surprisingly solid pedigrees, at least in terms of the level of talent behind and in front of the cameras.

“Zoo” is a perfect example of this. You’ve got your best-selling author James Patterson, providing the inspiration, with a producing and writing staff drawn from the likes of “Alias,” “Fringe” and “Revolution.” In the director’s chair for at least the first two episodes, shown back-to-back as the second season premiere, you’ve got old-hand Michael Katleman, who’s directed/produced everything from “Gilmore Girls” to “Rizzoli & Isles,” to say nothing of “The X-Files” and “The Last Ship.”

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Meanwhile, the cast runs the gamut from longtime pros like Billy Burke (the “Twilight” saga) to likable relative newcomers Kristen Connolly (“The Cabin in the Woods”), James Wolk (“Mad Men”) and Nonso Anozie (“Game of Thrones”), while allowing for the occasional name guest star/victim-of-the-week. We’ve also got a few new faces this season, including Josh Salatin (“The Carrie Diaries”) and Alyssa Diaz (“Ray Donovan”).

In short, it’s a quality enough crew, even if what they are delivering is completely ridiculous and unbelievable at times. I’m not even sure Patterson really knows what’s going on here, much less the people adapting his source material, but not unlike “Under the Dome”- at least at first- it’s a fun ride, nonetheless.

We pick up right where we left off, with the team, sans Jamie (Connolly), faced with the impressive sight of a vertible Noah’s ark of animals about to trounce them good and proper. Needless to say, a quick reverse is in order, but a strategically-placed rhino puts a stop to any hope of escape in the short-term.

Thinking quick on his feet, Jackson (Wolk) uses the leaking fuel line to form an ad-hoc bomb, setting it on fire and jumping out at the last minute as the truck explodes and gets rid of the immediate threat. Would it have taken them all out at once? Probably not. What happened to the rhino after the first attack? Who knows? Best not to ask questions such as these and simply sit back and enjoy the ride, if you can.

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The fact that a tiger sniffs around Jackson without munching down on him would seem to indicate something is afoot, and we get the answer to that much later on, though at the time I was just willing to let it go as one of those things TV shows do because they know they can’t eliminate a leading character, or just plain don’t want to. Still, he did have that bite from last season, so you can’t say some thought wasn’t put into it, so there’s that.

The entire team makes it back to IADG headquarters, where the animal threat is being actively dealt with for the time being. Last season viewers will recall that there was a military-driven action on the table called the “Noah Objective,” which, despite that Biblical-sounding name, is actually all about eliminating the threat, not trying to save the animals, which is what our heroes are trying to do.

A new boss has taken over for the absent and presumed-dead Amelia, Eleanor (April Grace, “Sons of Anarchy”), who informs them that they only have so much time before the military overrides their efforts and initiates the aforementioned objective. An emergency team is sent out to secure Jamie and the leopard she has, which could be the key to unlocking the problem at hand and making the animals go back to normal.

Alas, though they do successfully retrieve the leopard, Jamie is forced to leave the, ahem, cabin in the woods she’s in when a bunch of animals attack it, killing the owner in the process. As such, she’s long gone when they arrive, and Mitch all but has to dragged out of there when the main team balks at going to look for her.

The Day of the Beast

Mitch holds the others responsible, with most of his ire directed at Abraham (Anozie) in particular, whom he amusingly dubs “Bubble Bath” for his habit of leaving others behind to sit back and relax in safety. Meanwhile, Jamie lays low in a nearby woods under some fallen trees and the like, hiding from the wolves actively hunting her. Once again, one has to suspend their belief that these supersonic animals wouldn’t be able to find her.

Upon their arrival back at HQ, Chloe (Nora Arnezeder, “Mozart in the Jungle”) checks out the result from Jackson’s blood test, where it is determined that he is not infected or contagious, but that his blood type seems to have mysteriously changed somehow. Chloe is convinced it has something to do with his bite and covers it up in the meantime until they can find out more.

The tests involving the leopard fail, even when Mitch tries them himself, and it’s realized that the animals have all mutated, and what would have worked before will no longer work now, taking them back to square one again. Eleanor suggests they seek out a doctor in Argentina, who is concurrently working on a cure there, also with a military team.

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No sooner does one soldier start talking about what he’s going to name his forthcoming baby than you know that they’re all probably dead meat. He might as well have said, “I’m so glad this is my last day at work, and soon I’ll get to go back home and sit back and relax and enjoy my retirement.” Either way, I’m right, and everyone gets slaughtered en masse, including the doctor, save one: Dariela (Diaz), who manages to stab the human-like creature responsible.

Before this, the doctor refers to “Stage 2” mutation, and they find a camp strewn with a bunch of dead people, and he says they need to find the animal culprit, as it may hold the key to curing this new mutation. When the other team arrives, Dariela communicates this, and they sedate and patch up the creature, taking it back to the jet. Abraham stays behind with Dariela to bury the dead, probably still feeling the sting of Mitch’s criticisms, while Jackson and the team have a look around, despite Dariela’s warnings that it’s not safe.

Mitch and Chloe likewise stay behind on the plane, an insane, state-of-the-art affair provided by a rich, unknown benefactor who also wants to save the animals without resorting to murdering them. Mitch talks briefly to his daughter, who has been moved to a safe house with the rest of her family, though her beloved pooch has been quarantined.

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Jamie emerges from her hiding place, sees that they got the leopard, but left the owner of the house behind, so she, too, stays to bury him before setting out on her own, leaving a message in rocks as to where she’s headed: Caraquet, which sounds like a dessert of some kind, but I assume is a place in Canada somewhere.

After doing some tests on the creature, they realize it is indeed a mutated human and Chloe worries that Jackson may be destined for a similar fate. She tries to buy some time with Eleanor to continue to hold off the Noah Initiative, in light of this new discovery, and gets it, but only for a little longer. She also continues to withhold the fact that Jackson might be in trouble himself.

After a certain point, it starts to rain in the area Jackson and the team are exploring, but the rain appears to be blood-like and acidic, and they can’t be sure what is causing it. To make matters worse, many of the bodies in the camp Dariela told them about are gone, without a trace. A native tells them he saw an elephant in the area wreaking havoc, so they go in search of it, in hopes of getting a blood sample.

Dariela gets a call from her team, which can’t be because they’re all dead and buried. She and Abraham return to the site to find that one of the men is gone, having been dug up. Abraham notes that the birds seem to be following their every move, somewhat ominously.

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Jamie steps on a nail and bleeds out, and her toe is not looking good at all. It’s looking like she might have frostbite, and she gets lucky when she finds a police car and is able to spend the night inside it. (The cop is dead and being feasted on by raccoons when she opens the door- yum!)

The engine doesn’t work, however, so it only buys her some time at best. Later, Jamie runs into another policeman. Logan (Salatin), and the two huddle up together for warmth, as he is in worse shape than she is.

Mitch goes to stimulate the brain of the creature, in hopes of getting it to talk or communicate with them somehow, but before he can, it says “Isabella,” starts to choke and they unwisely loosen the straps and it escapes. They go looking for it, finding the pilot of the plane knocked out, but still alive, thankfully.

Abraham spots the birds again, this time carrying a body, which Dariela recognizes as one of her team. She freaks out and starts shooting at the birds, which turn out to be vultures. They follow them and see that the birds are stockpiling “food”- aka dead bodies- for some reason. The vultures attack and Dariela and Abraham are forced to make a run for it.

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Jackson finds the car that the man Dariela identified as Kovacs was in, aka the “creature” before he became whatever he is now. He finds his phone, with a message to Isabella, just as the creature said before escaping. Jackson also spots the elephant and unwisely gets his blood sample, which does not go over well with it and the elephant gives chase.

Jackson manages to get to the truck while the unfortunate native is not so lucky, getting stomped on by the elephant, despite not having wanting anything to do with any of this from the jump. It’s always the innocent bystanders, you know? Poor red shirts.

Jackson and company manage to make it back to the plane, with the elephant in hot pursuit, and they drive up the open ramp as the plane takes off, snapping shut just in time to keep the angry beast from joining them.

Meanwhile, Chloe and Mitch snag the creature and put him in a jail cell for safekeeping, while they deal with the rest of the team. Alas, when Dariela sees that they still have him, she angrily shoots it in the head repeatedly before anyone can stop her, telling them it’s not Kovacs, it’s an unholy thing that should be put down.

Wild Things

Though their specimen is now dead, Mitch did discover that there was something in him that made him susceptible to the mutation where others were not. Little does he know that Jackson may also have whatever that is and might be about to mutate his own damn self. Whatever the case, that “something” might be the key to finding a cure, so good thing Jackson also has it.

That does it for this episode, or I should say episodes, but that was plenty. Granted, I could have done without the billion commercials- seriously, this thing must have had a running time of an hour and 20-25 minutes, tops, sans all those commercials. CBS could have stood to learn a thing or two from NBC, who did a viewer right with their commercial-free premiere of “Aquarius” a few weeks ago. If you’re going to do two episodes, back-to-back, maybe cut back on some of that, at least?

Anyway, that aside, this was a lot of fun, with plenty of action and some unexpected twists. Granted, Jamie’s plotline was kind of thankless, but they could have easily killed her off, and unlike last year with “The Whispers,” Connolly doesn’t have multiple other shows to fall back on this time out. (Not sure if she’s still on “House of Cards,” as I haven’t seen that one yet.) As I like her as an actress, I’m glad they didn’t, but hopefully they’ve got better things in store for her, moving forward.

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Yes, one had to suspend their disbelief a lot of the time, but that’s to be expected, given the nutty premise. The fact that they make it as plausible as they do is a miracle as it is. I can live with the occasional discrepancy, so long as the show is entertaining, and this was. (Bonus points for the use of the Soundgarden classic “Spoonman” from out of nowhere.) Looking forward to seeing what crazy stuff they come up next!

What did you think of the “Zoo” premiere? Are you in for the season? Or is it all a bit too far fetched? Do you have a fave character? How about a least favorite? Who do you think will bite it this season, if anyone? Will Jackson become a creature like Kovacs and also have to be put down? Will the military initiate the “Noah Objective”? Sound off on this and more down below, and join me for an update later in the season!