Zoo is the Only Thing Holding my Life Together
“Wait, there’s a serial killer in Zoo?” My significant other, raising his hand to stop me mid-flow as I talked about the show I’m working my way through at the moment, furrowed his brow. “I thought it was about animals.”
“Well, it is,” I rolled my eyes impatiently. “But the serial killer was the reason the wolves burned down that prison-“
And that’s when I realized I had a problem.
When I’m depressed – not the crushing, immediate-medical-attention kind of depressed, but the low-grade, apathetic, “am I just lazy or is there something wrong with me” kind – I latch on to bad television. The last time I had a phase like this, I went through Gotham end-to-end, a cry for help so blatant I’m surprised none of the people who claim to love me intervened. This time, as the summer reaches blazing new heights and my apathy reaches blazing new lows, I turned to something to get my mind off the void and on to something, anything else. One day, when idly checking out what Kristin Connolly (of Cabin in the Woods fame) had been up to lately, I stumbled across Zoo: a three-season science-fiction sliver of pulp following a world that is consumed by a pandemic of violent animal attacks caused by a mysterious, evil company. Sure, right, perfect: pulpy, silly, something to jam my face into until the worst of this has lifted and I can get back to real life.
And you know, I wasn’t wrong. Because Zoo is silly, pulpy nonsense: the performances are patchy, the characters tropey, the writing sometimes downright daft. The direction is nothing stunning, and the special effects leave something (read: everything) to be desired. If I had to come up with a decent explanation of this show as a whole, I would say it was the shit that stuck to the wall – by the markers by which we judge prestige television, this is a show that’s just not good. And yet. And yet.
I think I’ve made it clear over the last few years of writing this blog that I have a real soft spot for trashy television: whether it’s American Horror Story or Riverdale, I’m here for shows that lean into their campier edges. But Zoo? Zoo takes that to levels I’ve never seen before, and for that, I have to recommend you see it for yourself.
The premise – of animals turning on humans – is open enough that Zoo can just go hogwild with the attacks meted out on the hapless homo sapiens. Wolves deliberately burning down a prison? A sloth hijacking a plane? A wave of flesh-eating rats pouring out of a hotel lift in a direct reference to The Shining? None of these are made up – hell, none of them are even exaggerations:
But the true beauty of Zoo is that it somehow does just enough to carry you along, to stop you questioning the howling insanity of what’s going on in front of you. It’s not until I’m talking about the show with people on the outside that I realize that no, it shouldn’t make logical sense for bats to destroy an Antarctic research base by covering their solar panels and freezing everyone inside to death. Zoo presents complete insanity, looks you dead in the eye and goes “prove me wrong”. And while I could certainly find plenty of holes to jam my fingers into, why the fuck would I?
There’s so much joy to be found in a show as deranged as this one, and one that is so committed to it’s central cause. It piles oddness on contriavance on bizzare narrative choice, but what it comes up with is frequently so brilliantly, maddeningly cool and different that I don’t even notice everything they took to get there until the normies come sticking their noses in. Throw in some animal rights overtones, which appeal to the crunchy vegan within me, and I’m knuckled in for the long haul. Is Zoo a good show? By all measure of what we mark a good show to be, probably not. But it also fills me with a great, deep, abiding joy for it’s commitment to the batshit (pun thunderously intended) madness of it’s world, and for that alone, I heartily recommend it.
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(header image courtesy of TV.com)