Imagine a world where disgruntled animals have had enough of centuries of human oppression and have decided to fight back. That’s the premise of Zoo, CBS’ trashy and ridiculously entertaining TV show about an impending animal apocalypse that sees critters of all shapes and sizes mounting co-ordinated attacks on humans week after week. With Season 1 to 3 now available on Netflix, now is the perfect time to catch up.
Here are just a few reasons why you need to be watching:
1. It’s based on a trashy page-turner by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
That’s essentially what Zoo is: the equivalent of a trashy paperback where the plot is undeniably silly but you keep reading (or, in this case, hitting ‘Next episode’), because you just can’t help yourself. Here, the plot is deceptively simple: a genetic mutation involving something called a “defiant pupil” (not to be confused with a naughty schoolkid) is causing animals to rise up and attempt to take over the world. Oh yes, the stakes are that high.
2. It hands fun lead roles to seasoned supporting players
Our heroes in the face of the impending animal apocalypse are a team of five familiar TV faces, all of whom are usually relegated to supporting roles. So, animal expert Jackson Oz is played by James Wolk (Bob Benson from Mad Men), his best friend, safari guide Abraham Kenyatta is played by Nonso Anozie (Xaro Xhoan Daxos from Game of Thrones), journalist Jamie Campbell is played by Kristen Connolly (Christina Gallagher from House of Cards), French intelligence agent Chloe Tousignant is played by Nora Arnezeder (Anna Maria from Mozart in the Jungle) and animal pathologist Mitch Morgan is played by Billy Burke (Bella’s dad from Twilight).
3. The pilot episode has cats conducting secret meetings in a tree
The key pleasure in Zoo lies in the way it matter-of-factly serves up animals exhibiting deeply unusual, super-intelligent – and, indeed, homicidal – behaviour, because, hey, that’s the crazy premise, so let’s go crazy, yeah? This gets off to a great start in Episode 1, where cats appear to be secretly meeting in trees to hatch clandestine murder plots. It’s sinister and hilarious at the same time and that’s Zoo in a nutshell. They even scatter once Jamie calls the authorities. (“You don’t think they… heard me?”)
4. The second episode has dogs forming covert hit squads
Cats in a tree not enough for you? Try the second episode, which has a ludicrous yet terrifying sequence where a cute little dog leads a man down a dark alley, only for it to turn out to be a vicious canine ambush, whereupon the man gets chomped to death by snarling mutts. The kicker? It turns out that the dogs have been pulling this little trick repeatedly, judging by all the other bodies strewn around the alley.
5. The third episode has wolves staging a prison break
That’s the thing about Zoo. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly top the latest spot of outrageous animal behaviour, they go ahead and do exactly that. Witness Episode 3, which has a group of wolves organising a prison break to spring a criminal who just so happens to have one of those defiant pupils our heroes keep going on about. The thing is, they make it look surprisingly easy. Eat your heart out, Michael Scofield!
6. The show is a fun source of animal facts
Who knew, for example, that bears like wine? You could be forgiven for thinking that this scene of a bear invading someone’s kitchen in search of some fine wines probably takes place somewhere like California, right? Wrong. It’s Paris. Yep. Paris. Amazing.
Every so often in Zoo, an unexpected attack will happen. A leopard pouncing on one of the minor characters? That’s fairly ordinary. Several of the others are far more devious, such as the bats that take out a pair of lesbian scientists in the North Pole, by deliberately blocking out their solar panels until they freeze to death. Or an entirely different group of bats in Brazil who have an inexplicable hatred for technology and keep destroying mobile phones. (Zoo gets a little bat-obsessed in its middle section.)
8. Some of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud terrible
To be fair to Nora Arnezeder, she can sell any line, no matter how dreadful. Just look at the face work she’s putting into this particular howler. Magnificent.
9. For all its silliness, Zoo has moments that will give you nightmares
Remember that bit in The Shining, where blood comes pouring out of the elevator when the doors open? Well, Zoo has a similarly terrifying elevator sequence, only instead of blood… it’s rats. Ewww!
10. The action scenes are frequently awesome (and occasionally disgusting)…
… and sometimes both. In the episode with the elevator rats (entitled The Cheese Stands Alone), the Zoo crew discover that said rats have taken over an entire hotel (by this point in the series, you will have learned not to question these things). Worse, the rat population is rapidly increasing, thanks to a single, bloated rat queen, who’s suckling her young in the hotel basement. Chloe’s kick-ass, yet repulsive solution? She busts out a flame-thrower and sets fire to everything with four legs. Cue lots of panicked squeaking and some horrible rat-burning noises.
In conclusion: watch Zoo. It’s glorious TV trash of the highest order and it ends on the mother of all cliff-hangers.
Zoo Season 1 to 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.